City of Bettendorf, Iowa

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Rain Gardens

Storm Water Hotline (563) 344-4084
What is a Rain Garden?

A raingarden is a landscaped area that is slightly sunken or depressed (also called a dip or a swale) that is planted with water tolerant plants which collect and soak up rainwater.  Anyone can create a rain garden with the use of as little equipment as a garden spade.

Benefits of a Rain Garden:

  • Allows infiltration of water into the ground, recharging groundwater and reducing the amount of pollutants washing into lakes, streams and rivers;

  • Helps to sustain adequate flows in streams during dry spells;

  • Provides valuable wildlife habitat;

  • Enhances the beauty of yards and the neighborhood;

  • Helps protect streams and lakes from damaging flows and reduces erosion of stream banks and shorelines;

  • Reduces the need for costly municipal storm water treatment structures; and

  • Requires less maintenance than grass lawns.

Creating a Rain Garden
A rain garden can be placed almost anywhere as long as it doesn't interfere with underground utilities.  A good place to locate the garden is close to driveways or near downspouts.

Designing a Rain Garden

The fun is in the design of the rain garden.  The garden should have a wet zone and an upland (dry) zone.

Design Tips

Keep it simple and affordable!   For a low maintenance garden, choose a naturalistic style rather than a formal style.  Integrate the rain garden into  existing landscape.  For example, a rain garden could be added to an existing garden and expanded to include a larger area.

1)  Use a rope to lay out the boundary.

2)  Dig three to four inches in depth, making sure the bottom is as level as possible.   (With the lawn sloping gently upward to the house, the garden is positioned to trap water from a downspout).

3)  Recruit friends or neighbors to help with the plantings.

Examples of Typical Rain Gardens
Butterfly & Friends Garden:

The plants in this type of garden are attractive to butterflies and birds.  This garden is for sunny areas.

Day Lily Garden

This garden is a low maintenance garden for sunny areas.

Easy Shrub Garden

This is a low maintenance garden for sunny or partly-shaded areas.

Prairie Garden

The plants in this type of garden should be native Iowa flowers and grasses.  This garden is for sunny areas.

Digging the Garden
Rent a sod cutter or use a spade to remove the existing sod.  Some people like to kill the sod first because it is easier to remove.  It can be killed by covering it with black plastic for several weeks or by using an herbicide.

Planting and Mulching

Once the garden is dug, it is nice to give it a trial run.  Put the sprinkler on the garden for 30 to 60 minutes to see how well water infiltrates.  Keep in mind that once plants are mature, infiltration will be much quicker.  Be sure to  let  the garden dry out before planting.

Maintaining the Garden

Caring for the  garden the first several weeks after planting is critical to its success.  The most important tasks the first year are watering and weeding.

Questions and Answers:
Will a rain garden provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes?

No, because the water in a properly constructed rainwater garden will typically infiltrate in less than 24 hours after a rain event.  According to information on mosquito control the development of the mosquito from egg to adult takes 10 to 14 days.  It takes 24 to 48 hours for an egg to hatch.  After an egg hatches, the mosquito larva must live in the water for 7 to 12 days.  By reducing the time that water is allowed to stand in these depressions, the chances of providing a mosquito habitat have virtually been eliminated.   Rain gutters on homes are much more likely to provide mosquito habitat than a rainwater garden.

Do all rain gardens have a wild and messy appearance?

No.  Rain gardens do have a natural rather than a  manicured appearance, but do not look messy.   A rain garden can be kept looking neat and attractive by keeping the edges defined.  Taller plants often have a more unkempt appearance; so use shorter plants to have a cleaner look.

Would a rain garden cause flooding in a basement?

Not if they are properly located and designed.  Rain gardens should be located at least 15 feet away from buildings so that water does not drain along foundations.  The rain garden should drain away from rather than toward buildings.

Should a rain garden be watered during dry periods?

Maybe.  How much water the  rain garden needs will depend on the plants chosen.  Native plants are adapted to a wide range of conditions, so they will only need watering during very dry seasons.

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4403 Devils Glen Rd
Bettendorf, IA 52722
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