Building a Rain Garden: The Digging!

We have been immersed in our first Master Rain Garden Workshop the past three weeks! This weeks class was all about digging! If you are building a rain garden this year here are some tips we teach in the class to help make sure your rain garden is the right depth, that it is level, and that you amend it correctly for plant health!

  • If you are removing lawn you will first have to remove the sod. This is easier if the grass is cut low or killed first. Or rent a sod cutter (warning these are heavy - but they work so well!)!
  • Depending on your slope, digging and leveling can be tricky. The rain garden should be level to prevent water ponding in only some locations. You can use a large board and carpenters level or line level and stakes to verify if the rain garden is level.
  • Michigan and Ohio guidance vary of depth of digging. Ohio guidance has you dig to the planned rain garden depth. Michigan guidance has you dig an additional 6 inches down for addition of soil amendments. Both sand and clay soil benefit from the addition of compost. We say: use more compost! Give those plants a healthy soils to start life in!
  • Another area where the guidance varies is that Michigan recommends the use of an overflow area where large flows can be directed away from the rain garden, whereas no overflow is included in the berm design in the Ohio guidance. This will be fixed in our fall update! You must have a safe place for overflows in rain events that are more than half an inch!
  • Always Call OUPS (811) before you dig to make sure to avoid utility lines!

We are working with our partner conservation agencies this fall to update our Ohio manual - so expect this to match up more closely to our counterparts from the north. We have gotten good feedback from our class on the new model and can't wait to get it out to the wider Northeast Ohio community!

Check out our coursepack if you are interested in what we have been up to in Master Rain Gardener Class!

Check out our series of rain garden blogs as well!

Why Rain Gardens? Why Now?

Planning your Rain Garden

Earning My Master Rain Gardener Stripes by Justin Husher

Blog Author: Elizabeth Hiser, Euclid Creek Watershed Program Manager

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