Rain Gardens

Rain Garden Design Guide Cover
You can reduce water runoff from your yard by planting a rain garden. A rain garden is a small depression planted to flowers and ornamental grasses. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water from a roof, driveway or open area. A rain garden is not a pond or wetland. It is dry most of the time and holds water after a rain. Water collected in the rain garden slowly soaks into the soil and disappears in less than 48 hours.

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Common Pollutant Types

Sediment (sand, silt, and clay particles): Bare spots in lawns and gardens, lawn and landscape renovation projects, sloping areas, soil washed from vehicles, roof tops and other hard surfaces like driveways, pond or stream bank erosion, home construction.

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Key Tips for Reducing Pollutants

Water pollution can come from a variety of sources. Soil, grass clippings, fertilizer, pesticides, paint thinners, and motor oil can pollute water if picked up by stormwater runoff.

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Landscape Management Practices

  • Aim downspouts towards planted areas or pervious hardscape and away from impervious paved areas.
  • Collect rainwater from rooftops in rain barrels or cisterns for reuse in landscape irrigation.
  • Amend soil with organic matter. Core aerate lawns to help avoid or reduce soil compaction, increase water infiltration, and promote healthy root systems.
  • Follow University and label recommendations and calibrate spreaders when using fertilizers and pesticides.  Only use these products when needed. Read and follow label directions for all lawn chemicals.

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Landscape Design Practices

  • Install rain gardens in locations where they catch and temporarily hold rainwater.
  • Use natural drainage patterns, site grading, berms (planted earth mounds) or other methods to channel rainwater away from impervious surfaces (i.e. pavement) onto planted areas such as grass swales, filter strips, or rain gardens.
  • Plant and maintain healthy plant cover, especially on slopes to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. Select plants adapted to the site and maintenance level.

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Sustainable Landscapes

A sustainable landscape

Landscapes which are sustainably designed, installed and managed conserve water, lower the rate and volume of runoff water from rain, snowmelt and irrigation, and help reduce the amount of pollutants reaching surface water. Water related benefits achieved with sustainable residential, business, and community landscapes include:

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Stormwater video thumbnail
What is stormwater? It's water from rain or melting snow. Watch the video and learn about rain water runoff and why it can be a problem.

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Publications and Resources

Nebraska Extension Educators and Specialists have developed many resources to help you use water more efficiently and help keep it clean. Nebraska Extension has also developed materials to help youth learn about water and how to save it and keep it clean. Read on for a listing of all of these great resources for your landscape

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How and Why to Separate Turf from Ornamentals

Regardless of the mix, the goal for green minded gardeners is to grow, plant and care for healthy landscape plants and turf. One of the most important factors in the success of these endeavors is getting to know specific needs of the plant material and how they can be combined effectively in a landscape without compromising the needs of each component.

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Separate Turf and Ornamentals

Landscape Photo

Do you have trees growing right in the middle of your lawn? Do you swear under your breath every time you mow, having to trim around them and practice some fancy footwork trying to maneuver the mower around the trunk? If so, perhaps it's time to redesign your landscape, separating the grass and all of the other plants. If you are building a new home, or moving to one with little or no landscaping, you can avoid this maintenance nightmare by simply thinking of turf as a part of the landscape unto itself.

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