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Don’t Complain, Let It Rain! – Newsletter #9

More rain in the forecast? Not to worry, we can put it to good use in our gardens while at the same time reducing the strain on our storm drains. In many cases, small modifications in our landscapes can result in the creation of eco-friendly “rain gardens.” As a bonus, keeping rain water on our property can reduce pollution of our rivers from landscape chemicals and other pollutants, decrease erosion, help recharge underground aquifers, and lower the risk of local flooding.

Creating small channels that meander away from the house and through the landscape, then sculpting the land with slight hills (berms) and shallows swales) can help to retain the rain on site and reduce the run-off to the gutter.

A rain garden can be as simple as the extension of the downspout by a trench or tubing to an area where the water can seep into the ground. Or, it can be a luxurious small patch of water loving plants amidst your water conserving garden.

One caution for those of us who have heavy clay soils and poor drainage, the rain garden should be designed to absorb the rain within 24 to 48 hours in order to avoid creating a “mosquito pond garden.”

As an additional incentive, some agencies such as the Sacramento County Water Resources Agency will soon be offering rebates so that homeowners can recoup half the cost of installing their rain gardens.

While rain gardens are quite common in the Eastern and Midwest U.S., they are just recently finding their way to mainstream California. Many University of California Master Gardener Programs throughout the state from San Diego to Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma and Sacramento are offering workshops this year to help citizens create their own rain gardens. See: to find your local Master Gardener program.

For more information about rain gardens, go to:, or

Marsha Prillwitz

Josh Hurd