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The Hidden Value of Rain Gardens

What is a rain garden?

Rain gardens are a simple way that you can beautify your yard and attract wildlife – all while benefitting Arlington’s streams, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Rain gardens are bowl-shaped gardens that allow  runoff to soak into the ground.

Why are rain gardens important?

Stormwater is rainwater or snowmelt that flows over the land and into Arlington’s curb and gutter system before being released into the nearest body of water. The heavy bank erosion that has occurred along Arlington’s streams is due to the large quantities of stormwater that enter the storm drain system in a short period of time. The water is released like a fire hose into the stream, washing away bank sediments and depositing them downstream. The sediment that is washed away contributes to the pollution that plagues the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

How do rain gardens work?

The bowl-shape of a rain garden provides a place for water to collect and soak into the ground, thus keeping the water out of the storm drain system. A properly functioning rain garden drains in less than 48 hours. Native plants are the best choice for a rain garden because they are adapted to this region and provide the best wildlife benefit. The plant selection of your rain garden can reflect your favorite colors or the types of birds and butterflies that you wish to attract to your yard.

What can you do?

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission recently hosted a how-to rain garden workshop in Arlington that provided information on steps to design, build, and select plants for a rain garden. The workshop’s presentations also provided resources on maintenance of rain gardens as well as examples. Additional information on rain gardens can be found on the Arlington County Rain Garden Page and in the Northern Virginia Homeowner’s Guide for Rain Garden Design and Construction.

Written by Jen McDonnell