What is a rain garden?

So… What exactly is a rain garden?

Do you have a spot in your garden that seems to collect a lot of rain water? Then you may be interested in the concept of a rain garden. A rain garden can be built around a space in your garden that already receives a lot of stormwater runoff during downpours, and often includes a range of plants that like to grow in wet, muddy conditions.

In today’s article we take a look at what a rain garden is, some of the benefits of having one, and tips for creating this landscape feature in your space.

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is an outdoor landscaping feature that is designed to collect and manage water runoff that happens during heavy rain and storms. Runoff can often contain chemicals and sediments, and a rainwater garden allows for this water to be collected, and soaked into a designated space. It’s the perfect spot for excess rain to gather and soak in.

What are the benefits of a rainwater garden?

There are several benefits to creating a rain garden in your backyard.

Filters pollutants and nutrients

Rain gardens are designed to filter pollutants from the water, which helps reduce the amount of chemicals in local waterways and in the rest of your garden. Pollutants can include fertiliser, oil, and bacteria. A rainwater garden can also provide a place for excess nutrients to be deposited.

Helps stop erosion

During heavy rains, water can pick up sediment from your lawn or garden and distribute it to different spots. By creating a rain garden, you can lower the amount of erosion happening throughout your garden by giving the water a place to stop and soak in.


Rainwater gardens are often filled with Australian-native plants, and as such, tend to be relatively low-maintenance. In the first few years, you may need to water your rain garden during particularly dry periods, however, once your rain garden is established it shouldn’t require too much attention.

Somewhere for water to go

Building a rain garden means a place for rainwater to gather. When built right, rain gardens are great for absorbing water. It is also helpful for homeowners who don’t want this excess water draining into their drainage systems and potentially causing damage.

A space for birds and butterflies

When filled with lots of flowering Australian-native plants and trees, rainwater gardens provide a wonderful spot for birds and butterflies. You might notice nectar lovers stopping by your garden to visit the flowers in your rain garden, or butterflies gliding past more often!

Tips for building your own rain garden

So, now you’ve learned some of the benefits of having one of these landscape features, you may be wondering: how do you make a rain garden? Below are a few tips for getting started.

Think about positioning

Generally, a rainwater garden should be placed in a spot that holds a little bit of water after storms have passed. This might be a lower point of your garden, somewhere that already has a natural dip, or you may even want to install an embedded planter box. A rain garden should be built away from your house – ideally at least 10 feet from the building, plus away from any utilities or septic tanks. To avoid particularly swampy conditions, and give your plants a better environment for growth, build your rainwater garden in a position that receives full or partial sunlight during the day.

What plants can be included?

There are lots of different potential rain garden plants that you may like to choose. We recommend adding Australian natives, as these plants are particularly hardy and naturally cope well with Australian climates. Some native plants you might like to add to your rainwater garden include tall sedge, mat rush, and westringia. Other water-loving, non-native plants can also be added, such as cardinal flower and yellow iris.

Getting the soil and build right

A big part of the success of a rainwater garden depends on the preparation of the soil. A rain garden’s purpose is to absorb water, so sandy soil is not the best option here. Ideally, your rain garden should be created in clay soil, and dug to around 6 inches deep. You’ll also want to create a gradual slope within your rain garden with the deepest point being in the middle and the edges at a higher level. This can help to keep the water within the garden.

Rain gardens can serve many purposes. These landscape features are great for filtering chemicals and excess nutrients, and helping to prevent garden erosion from heavy storms. They also provide a space for native and non-native water-loving plants to grow, which can also help attract birds and butterflies to your yard. Building your own rain garden can be a fun and rewarding experience – especially once you see how it changes the way water runs through your yard, and the beautiful critters it can attract!

If you’re unsure about whether a rain garden is the right choice in your area, get in touch with your local Jim’s Mowing representative for some expert advice today!

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