Rain Garden Tip Sheet

Garden tip sheet, grades 3–12

About Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a shallow depression with deeply rooted native plants for the purpose of absorbing and filtering runoff from rain. They are best placed at the bottom of hills, near driveways, or around any runoff source in order to filter the maximum amount of water possible. Rain gardens naturally keep water clean.

Resources for Planting Rain Gardens

  • The Family Handyman provides a solid overview on the function of a rain garden and how to build one. The process is explained on how to build a rain garden in the backyard of a home, but the same principles can be applied to school gardens.
  • This rain garden handbook (PDF) for Western Washington is a guide for the design, installation, and maintenance of a rain garden. While geared toward Washington State, it provides great background on rain gardens that can be applicable to anyone interested in this topic.
  • This rain garden handbook (PDF) is a detailed description on how to properly plan, design, and build your rain garden. It also has a list of plant species native to northern Virginia for schools located in the DMV area.
  • This rain garden calculator is an excellent resource to anticipate the impact of the rain garden you are planning to build. It addresses aspects such as soil quality, downspouts, slope and surface area to determine garden costs and rain water capture.
  • PlantNative has an extensive list of native plants by region. Native plants are key to the function and success of a rain garden.

Nature Works Everywhere Lessons for Rain Gardens

  • Gardens Activity Guide: Water: By filtering rainwater and slowing the movement of water to rivers, lakes and oceans, your garden works as a mini-watershed. In this lesson, students calculate the permeable surface area of their garden and periodically measure rainfall amounts, acting as junior hydrologists. Using the collected data, students determine how much water their garden filters and explore the relationship between their garden and water quality in the surrounding watershed.
  • How Natural Areas Filter Water: Nature works to filter water and to release water over time, thereby reducing the amount of artificial treatment needed to filter water and helping to prevent flooding. In this lesson, students learn about the importance of water quality for human health and agriculture.

Published April 2016, updated July 2016