Category Archives: Eco-friendly gardening

How to create your own rain garden

 

Here, Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, tells us what we need to know about a rain garden and how we can build one at home.

A rain garden is a small garden, usually planted in a shallow dip, which collects rainwater runoff from hard surfaces like roofs. They’re an eco-friendly way to remove excess water from around your home and can even filter out the harmful pollutants that rainwater collects from outdoor surfaces. This means that less of these pollutants will enter your drainage system and make their way into local streams and ponds. Want to create one of your own? Just follow my advice to plant a rain garden at home.

Where should you plant your rain garden?

Ideally, your rain garden should be planted in full sun or partial shade on a slight incline of 10% or less and in an area where the soil can drain quite easily. You can test how well the soil will drain by digging a 25cm hole and filling it with water. When it empties, fill it back up and time how long it takes to drain completely. For a successful rain garden, the drainage rate should be between 1.25–5cm per hour. If you’re worried about your drainage level, you can mix in some gravel or stones to aid it, but if your garden has heavy clay soil, it’s probably best to find a different location.

To avoid damp and flooding in building foundations, you should try to plant your rain garden at least 10 feet away from your house.  It’s also important that you check that there are no tree roots or underground pipes or wires where you plan to build. You can check this by digging carefully in the area. If the ground is clear, you are free to plant your rain garden.

How big should your rain garden be?

The width of your rain garden will vary based on the amount of space you have to work with, but to avoid it overflowing, it should be around 20% of the size of the roof area. The depth of your rain garden depends entirely on how quickly it will drain. As a guide, it should be between 10 and 20cm deep and the surface should be level.

How do you build your rain garden?

Now here comes the fun part — start digging! It’s important to remember not to compact the soil base of your rain garden, as this will curb drainage. As you’re digging, don’t get rid of the excess soil, as this can be used as a ridge around the lower edge and the sides of the garden to keep it watertight. This ridge should be about 30cm wide and 10cm tall, and well-compacted. You should also leave a slight gap in the ridge around the lower edge and fill it with gravel to allow any excess water to drain out without washing away the soil.  Then, using a trail of bricks, create a path to guide the rainwater from the drainpipe to your garden. Again, you can add some gravel to the entrance of your rain garden to avoid washing away the soil.

What kinds of plants should be in your rain garden?

The kinds of plants you add will depend on your soil and local average rainfall. If your soil will take a while to drain or you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, your garden might get slightly waterlogged, which means you’re going to need to choose moisture-loving plants that can handle being in damp areas for a few days. These kinds of plants include yellow iris, ferns, pendulous sedge, cardinal flowers and arum lilies.

If your rain garden will drain well, but might see a few dry spells here and there, it’s best to pick plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. You could choose plants such as clustered bellflower, geranium and Siberian iris for a bit of colour. Grasses like Korean feather reed grass and tufted hair grass can also tolerate these conditions. If your rain garden is big enough, you could also plant shrubs like dogwood or hydrangea.

A rain garden is the perfect way to filter and dispose of rainwater, helping the environment and keeping your home safe and dry in the process. By following these easy tips, you’ll have your rain garden planted and ready in no time!

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 2 of 2) 

As a landscape gardener I always aim towards creating the most eco-friendly gardens as possible. Last week I wrote about how to buy and care for plants in the most environmentally friendly way. This week I’m focusing on what decisions to take when making structural changes to your garden, looking at materials and design alterations.

Timber: timber is a great material to use in the garden, as it is such a natural product. New and reclaimed railway sleepers look great as edging for beds or low level terracing. When selecting timber always look for the FSC or Rainforest Alliance Certification to ensure that it has been responsibly sourced.

Paving: so much paving is imported or manufactured using high levels of CO2 so if you’re considering laying some new paving then a good option would be to choose a UK sourced natural paving slab. Yorkstone or pennant stone are both manufactured in the UK and provide excellent quality slabs that will last several lifetimes.

If you aren’t looking to make major changes to the structure of your garden there are plenty of small changes that you can make to improve your eco credentials. The plants you choose and the addition of bird boxes and bee houses are important (and a whole other subject to be written about). But what else can you do?

Don’t be too tidy: your garden doesn’t have to look a mess but if you leave some of your dead flower stems and fallen leaves on the borders you will provide a natural habitat for insects that will then help keep harmful bugs at bay.

Capturing and reusing water: not only is this eco-friendly but if you’re on metered water it can save you money. Water butts come in all shapes and sizes and if you shop around you can find ones to suit every style and budget. Many of these are made of plastic (plastic again!) so why not repurpose your old rubbish bin, which has been made redundant by wheelie bins.

Remember little steps make big gains so by incorporating some of these changes into your garden you can be helping the environment. If you’d like some help designing and building an eco-friendly garden then have a look at how we can help you with this here.

Above all, enjoy your garden.

Brett

HOW GREEN IS YOUR GARDEN? (part 1 of 2)

As a landscape gardener I am aware that the landscaping industry could go further in promoting a more environmentally responsible way of how we create gardens. There is much information out there on eco-friendly gardening – how to encourage wildlife and what plants to grow, but I am turning my focus on the materials and methods I use to build and maintain my garden. Anyone thinking of making changes to their garden, large or small scale, could incorporate these into their schemes.

This week I’ll be focusing on how best to buy and care for new and existing plants. Next week I’ll write about how you can make structural changes to make your garden as eco-friendly as possible.

Plastic: no one can escape the damage that plastic is doing to the environment. The shocking statistic that 800 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year and more recently the news that China will no longer be processing a large percentage of our plastic waste is at last making this headline news. Hopefully this will kickstart more soul searching as to how we can do our bit towards protecting the planet. Black plastic seems to be the scourge of the plastic world as so few councils accept it for recycling and yet a high percentage of plants are sold in black plastic pots or trays. One way to avoid plastic pots is to purchase shrubs and trees that are bare rooted or root balled. These can be ordered online, delivered by post and planted when the plant is dormant in the winter. Because they are bare rooted not only do they eliminate the plastic pot but the absence of soil also ensures that they are delivered peat free. I’d encourage anyone who is growing plants from seed to try alternatives to plastic pots – make them from newspaper or even from the insides of toilets rolls.

Peat: peat bogs take thousands of years to form and create unique environments meaning they are often Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Once peat is mined the ecosystem it provides is destroyed. Garden compost accounts for 60% of peat bought in the UK so by switching to a peat free alternative you can do your bit to help protect the bogs. Peat free composts have improved greatly over the past few years and provide a viable alternative. There is talk of a government ban on the use of peat in the next few years. Nothing is confirmed as yet but watch this space.

Fertilizers and pesticides: blood fish and bone is a great organic general purpose fertilizer with no hidden artificial chemicals. A good alternative to chemical pesticides are nematodes which are microscopic worms and provide a natural 100% organic solution to pest control. They are simple to use – select the correct nematode for the pest you want to target and order them online. Then mix with water and apply with a watering can to the area to be treated. Nematodes can be used to control slugs but what really works for me is either beer traps or going out after dusk and collecting them up.

If you’d like some help designing and building a more environmentally responsible garden then have a look at how we can help you with this here.

Happy gardening.

Brett