All about rain gardens: What they are and how to build one

City of Madison Engineering Division is inviting all residents to take part in reaching its renewed 1,000 rain garden goal.
City of Madison Engineering Division is inviting residents to reach its 1,000 rain garden goal.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 5:32 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Green thumbs itching to get back into the garden this spring may consider lending a hand to create a cleaner community. One way to do so, begins in the garden.

The City of Madison Engineering Division is inviting residents to help reach its renewed goal of 1,000 rain gardens across the capitol city. The latest map shows that more than 600 residents already have a blooming rain garden. But what exactly is a rain garden and what does it do? A rain garden is a landscape of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a shallow depression, that soaks up rain water, mainly from the roof of a house or other building.

Rain gardens are often designed to capture and infiltrate water into the ground. Following a storm, the rain garden fills with a few inches of water and then slowly filters into the ground rather than running off to a storm drain.

Hannah Mohelnitzky with the City of Madison Engineering Division said this is one way to further the conversation and movement toward green infrastructure. “We have permeable pavement we have terrace rain gardens, private rain gardens all sorts of different areas of green infrastructure we’re trying to implement. So rain gardens is just one tool of many that we can use and one way that especially our community can get involved.”

The benefits of rain gardens range far and wide, including the following provided by the City of Madison Engineering Division.

  • FLOOD PROTECTION: Rain gardens direct storm water to infiltrate into the ground rather than allowing it to run into the storm sewer or backing up in basements.
  • POLLUTION CONTROL: Rain gardens trap and filter pollutants such as chemicals, fertilizers, oils, yard waste and sediment that might otherwise end up in our lakes.
  • HABITAT CREATION: Gardens provide nectar for pollinators, foraging for birds, and winter habitat for native insects.
  • WATER CONSERVATION: Rain gardens rarely need watering once established.
  • BEAUTIFICATION: Rain gardens provide colors, textures and scents for all to enjoy.

Madison homeowner Steve Holaday so kindly lent The Morning Show his yard for the morning to showcase his rain garden. Holaday has not one, but two! “It’s just a lot of fun and it provides entertainment year-round especially when we get our thunderstorms.”

With a background and extensive career working with the DNR and forest hydrology, Holaday decided a year ago he wanted to have a greener yard, both in color and substance. “I’m really interested in how water works in our environment so I wanted to be a part of that and do my little part for the community.”

For a how-to guide on how to get started with a rain garden this spring, see here!

“Knowing that it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be daunting it can actually be quite easy and quite fun so why not help the environment in the whole process as well,” said Mohelnitzky.

Homeowner and Madison resident Steve Holaday speaks to the benefits of his two rain gardens recently implemented to his yard.

Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.