Summer in Florida means daily afternoon showers. If you have a low spot in your yard where water collects after a good rain it would make the perfect spot for a rain garden. What is a rain garden? A rain garden is a low-lying area that you plant with native plants that allows rainwater runoff from nearby roofs, driveways, lawns & walkways to soak into the ground instead of flowing into a storm drain or creating puddles in your driveway. The area should range from 4” to 12” lower than the rest of your yard. Rain is diverted from your roof gutters or paved areas to the garden.
Your rain garden should contain Native or Florida friendly plants. You can vary your selection of plants to include wetland type plants ranging from wildflowers, sedges, rushes, ferns, shrubs and even small trees. Florida native plants are best because they are tolerant of the Florida heat, soil and water conditions and will attract native birds and other wildlife. The plants in your rain garden will act as sponges taking up the excess water that flows into your garden and will filter the water that returns to the groundwater system through their roots. By doing this, rain gardens help reduce the amount of pollution reaching streams & other bodies of water by up to 30% improving the quality of the bodies of water.
Even though a rain garden may seldom need watering and never need fertilizing, you may still need to weed and mulch your garden. Eventually the mature plants will push out the weeds. Rain gardens are inexpensive to create, easy to maintain and help give back to the environment by conserving water, attracting birds and filtering pollutants.
Another option to remove standing water is to install a “French drain”. You will need to plan where to route the water starting at the point where water is puddling. It is best to follow a natural slope but you can create your own slope. Where the drain ends is also important. You want to make sure it will not damage your property. An option would be to have it end in a rain havesting system. The French drain trench should be between 6 to 12” wide and 12” deep. The bottom of the trench should be lined with gravel about 3” deep and covered with landscape fabric. A drainage pipe may be placed in the hole and covered with gravel until the trench is full or simply fill trench with gravel. You can leave the gravel exposed alternating with larger rocks and boulders, giving the appearance of a “dry” stream.
Here are a few informative sites for more info on rain gardening and Florida friendly plants:
(Tips for Florida friendly gardening UF extension for Manatee County)
(Rain garden manual from UF)