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 Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a popular technique of building a garden bed in a low area that accumulates water after a storm. It is planted with native wetland plants that are accustomed to wet conditions. Rain gardens help to collect and filter rain water and allow it to seep naturally into the ground. This helps to reduce the amount of pollutants and rain water runoff reaching our streams. As up to 70% of pollution in streams, rivers and lakes comes from stormwater runoff, a rain garden is a great stormwater management practice that improves water quality by increasing absorption of runoff near its source.


  • Many of the streams in northeastern Illinois are affected by pollutants carried in rain water that runs off our urban landscape.
  • Pollutants from our yards include excess nutrients and pesticides from lawn chemicals and pet waste.
  • Not only are the pollutants bad for our streams, but so is the large amount of water that rushes through the storm sewers into the streams.
  • Rain gardens hold water from the urban landscape, so it is able to filter into the ground rather than runoff into the streams.

What Makes a Garden a Rain Garden?

  • A rain garden has a depression in the middle to hold rain water. The depth of the depression can range from 2” to 6” if you do not want standing water, or up to 18” if you want a pond-like garden. The amount of water that ponds will be dependent on the soil type and position in the landscape and the
  • The depression should also have gently sloping sides so the plants can take hold.
  • In our area the soils generally need to be amended with organic material and sand to improve infiltration.
  • Rain gardens are in an area that rain already drains to, or an area down slope from your downspouts or sump pump outlet. It should slope away from your house, so overflow will not flood near the foundation.

The University of Wisconsin Extension Service put together a great resource on how to build your own Rain Garden, the Rain Garden Manual which can be downloaded here in a PDF format.


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Jim Kleinwachter


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10S404 Knoch Knolls Road

Naperville, IL 60565

Phone: 630-428-4500

Fax: 630-428-4599

E-mail: Jennifer Hammer



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