Soak Up the Rain: Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground. Planted with grasses and flowering perennials, rain gardens can be a cost effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property. Rain gardens can also help filter out pollutants in runoff and provide food and shelter for butterflies, song birds and other wildlife.

More complex rain gardens with drainage systems and amended soils are often referred to as bioretention.

Note: Refer to the links in this section for important tips on how to locate your rain garden. These include areas to avoid and the need for accurate information about underground utilities before you begin to dig.

Information About Rain Gardens

Rain Gardens, Green Infrastructure, U.S. EPA

Water-Smart Landscape Design Tips, Water Sense
Information about plant selection, soils, and maintenance.

Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices, Cornell University, 2014 (PDF) (56 pp, 33.2 MB, About PDF) Exit

Rain Garden Outreach and Communication How-to-Guide, Resource Media (PDF) (20 pp, 2.4 MB, about PDF) Exit

Local resources


Rain Gardens, University of Connecticut Exit
Information on siting and sizing a rain garden, design, installation and long and short term maintenance. Also includes a series of Frequently Asked Questions and a Cost Calculator for estimating the cost to install a residential rain garden.

The Connecticut Native Tree and Shrub Availability List, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (PDF)(12 pp, 256 K, About PDF) Exit
A (January 2005) native tree and shrub availability list for locating native planting stock.

Native Plants for Landscape Use in Connecticut, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation Exit

Resident's Guide to Rain Gardens, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (PDF) (2 pp, 533 K, about PDF) Exit
Introduces rain gardens, including information about what they are, the benefits and some common questions.

Rain Gardens, Reduce, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Save the Sound Exit
Defines rain gardens, collaboration with partners, some available tools and resources.

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Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Exit
Introduces rain gardens and includes instructions and plans on how to plan, design, install and maintain.

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Rain Garden Guide, Massachusetts Watershed Coalition (PDF) (5 pp, 806 K, About PDF) Exit
An introductory guide on how to site, design, plant and maintain a rain garden.

Community Guide to Growing Greener, Massachusetts Watershed Coalition (PDF) (65 pp, 2.1 MB, about PDF) Exit
Includes a listing of shrubs and trees suited for the area.

Bioretention Areas and Rain Gardens, Clean Water Toolkit, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection pavement Exit
Fact sheet includes graphics of rain gardens and bioretention along with basic descriptions of the practices and information about design, benefits and maintenance.

Bioretention Areas Fact Sheet, Massachusetts Low Impact Development Toolkit, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (PDF) (12 pp, 2.2 MB, About PDF) Exit
Information about design, effectiveness and maintenance.

EPA, YouthBuild, Greenway Conservancy Build a Rain Garden in Boston, April 2012 Exit
Earth Day 2012 collaboration in downtown Boston

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New Hampshire

How do I build a rain garden?, Soak Up the Rain New Hampshire, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Exit
Video documents the installation of a residential rain garden. Explains why we want rain gardens, factors to consider in determining site suitability and plant selection, and many other rain garden basics while demonstrating how to dig and plant a new rain garden.

Rain Garden Do-it-Yourself Fact Sheet, New Hampshire Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management, Do-It-Yourself Stormwater Solutions For Your Home, Soak Up the Rain New Hampshire, March 2016 (PDF) (66 pp, 4 MB, about PDF) Exit
Refer to page 35 for the Rain Garden fact sheet for information about rain garden design and siting considerations, installation and maintenance instructions.

A Shoreland Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management (PDF) (16 pp, 1.4 MB, About PDF) Exit
The guide describes practices, including rain gardens, that shoreland homeowners can install to reduce or prevent polluted stormwater runoff from their roofs, patios, lawns and driveways.

SOAK stories about rain gardens around the state, Soak Up the Rain New Hampshire, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Exit

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Rhode Island

Rain Gardens, Simple Steps at Home, Rhode Island Stormwater Solutions, University of Rhodes Island Exit
Includes links to many fact sheets, including rain garden maintenance information for homeowners and professionals.

Bay-Friendly Backyards, Save the Bay Exit
Tips on how to make your yard more attractive, cut back on chores and improve the quality of your local waters. Includes information and links on planting a rain garden, selecting native plants (and avoiding invasives), and lawn care.

Rain Gardens and Bioretention around Rhode Island, LID Inventory, University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Stormwater Solutions Exit

Rain Gardens: A Design Guide for Homeowners in Rhode Island, University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension (PDF) (6 pp, 1 MB, about PDF) Exit

Rhode Island Wild Plant Society Exit
Information about native plants and native plant nurseries

Rhode Island Coastal Plant Guide Exit
A reference for those involved in the design and management of coastal landscapes

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Bioretention/Rain Gardens, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Exit
Some basics, along with photos and illustrations on design, sizing, placement, and installation.

Absorb the Storm - Create a Rain-friendly Yard and Neighborhood, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, University of Vermont Cooperative Extension (PDF) (24 pp, 2.5 MB, about PDF) Exit
Discusses a number of steps homeowners can take, including rain gardens, to help prevent the problems associated with runoff.

The Vermont Rain Garden Manual: "Gardening to Absorb the Storm", University of Vermont (PDF) (20 pp, 2.3 MB, about PDF) Exit
This manual explains how to choose a location for a rain garden, choose plants, install and maintain the garden. Includes plant lists.

Vermont Low Impact Development Guide for Residential and Small Sites, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (PDF) (54 pp, 4.7 MB, about PDF) Exit
Discusses the benefits of rain gardens with instructions on siting, designing, and installing rain gardens.

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