Thankful for the New Rain Garden

See an update on this post here.

One day during a high school English class, here in Southern California where I grew up, it started raining. The entire class spontaneously got up and ran to the window to view the downpour. Our teacher, a transplant from the East Coast, having just lost control of her classroom, looked confused. A moment later I could see in her face that she realized she was dealing with a room full of kids to whom rain is a novelty, something worthy of news reports and, these days, hashtags. Regaining control of her classroom, she patiently explained to us that she came from a place where not only does rain fall from the sky more frequently but that there was something else called “snow.”

This past summer our landscaper, Laramee Haynes and crew installed a rain garden in our backyard and Kelly and I cant stop checking it now that the rainy season has returned. The garden takes the water from the back half of our roughly 1,000 square foot roof. Using this handy online rainfall harvesting calculator, in an average year we could send almost 6,000 gallons of water to our backyard.

We ran a pipe from the rain gutter way back into the yard along a fence. The pipe terminates at a simulated gravel filled stream bed that spills into the rain garden. Kelly has just started planting the wet lower part of the rain garden with native plants including water loving Douglas irises (Iris douglasiana). She planted the dry outer edges with desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and assorted grasses.

Alas, my hopes of building a little boat in which to row back and forth across our new seasonal pond have been dashed by the fact that our soil drains quickly (which is a good thing). We’ll post periodic updates to let you know what worked and what we killed.

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  1. Beautiful! Would like to see Kelly’s planting when they are established. Today here in the high desert we experienced some of that white stuff your teacher called “snow”. We do have it on occasion. Personally I’m not found of it (at least it turns into water which we need), but my daughter called it ‘festive.’
    Trying to figure out what will survive high wind, 100*+ summer temps, and winter freezes is a challenge. The coyote mint looks lovely but apparently would not grow here. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

    • Yeah, we can see a lot of snow on the mountains here–and pretty low, so I image the high desert is cold!

  2. We bought a fixer 15 years ago here in the Midwest. Our basement flooded constantly. Then we banked dirt near the foundation and installed 3 rain gardens. Wow! What a difference. No more swimming laps in the basement. Can’t believe how much water the rain gardens can handle.

  3. Would love to hear your updates and also maybe more design details of your rain garden. We would like to do something similar to redirect water from our rainwater tank overflow.

  4. I’m just going to send you monthly update reminders, LOLOLOLOLOL. I have kept one long stretch of my Planting In a Post-Wild World garden. It has really taken hold and looks pretty good most of the year and wildlife activity is genuinely increased. There have been some edits and rearranging, but it’s definitely an actual established thing. But other similar efforts crashed and burned and I ended up just surrounding some trees with mulch this fall. Win some, lose some.

  5. Looks like your average rainfall is close to our area. Except that we also get snow! I just finished putting in over 100′ of PVC pipe along my fence to direct all my water back to my rain barrels near my garden. I had them by the house but there was a lot of pressure loss by the time they got to the garden. With them right beside it they should work a lot better.

    I’d love to have a way to let the overflow go to a rain garden but for now it’s just out the alley and to the storm sewers. Maybe a project next fall …

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