Maintaining a healthy landscape may be difficult in drought conditions so just imagine what happens when the weather runs to the opposite extreme.
That’s why it’s important to consider ways to manage heavy rain in your landscape, especially if you live in areas where rain is prevalent all year long.
Too much rain can weaken or even kill the plants in your landscape. Read on to find out how to plan and plant with an excess of water in mind.
5 Ways to Manage Heavy Rain in Your Landscape:
1. Plant for a deluge
Any time you have water running across a landscape, erosion is a potential concern. One of the best ways to prevent erosion is to establish an extensive network of plant roots to keep soil in place.
While grass establishes a root base across the entire breadth of your yard, shrubs and trees hold the big picture together. Rain gardens, or shallow depressions, can also help keep the rain draining, instead of collecting, so it doesn’t become a mosquito breeding ground.
When planting for a deluge, steer clear of cacti and succulents. Often, these type of plants collapse and disintegrate when waterlogged, so you’ll want to make sure you plant these on higher ground. Instead, plan your landscape around varieties of plants that can withstand wet and soggy conditions. See planting suggestions at the end of this story.
2. Working with slanted landscapes
Decreasing the grade of slanting landscapes can help decrease erosion. Lawns or gardens that tilt sharply in one direction will add momentum to the flow of exiting water, increasing its power to carry away soil and plants.
Hills can sometimes be terraced to slow runoff. In addition, well-placed plants can help prevent runoff in the first place.
Another option is leveling uneven areas of your property. Depressions in your yard can collect rain faster than the ground can absorb it, drowning more water-sensitive plants.
The water that flows off of your landscape when it rains or when accumulated snow melts is often referred to as stormwater runoff. As it washes across your land and down storm grates or into nearby bodies of water, runoff can carry away soil, chemical lawn treatments and debris.
This runoff not only erodes your landscape and frustrates attempts to treat your lawn, but it can also pollute the local water supplies on which you and your neighbors rely. Some yards are so prone to runoff that very little water actually makes it into the soil itself, making it difficult to adequately nourish grass and other plants.
3. Reduce impermeable surfaces
The next time it rains, go outside and trace the water flowing around your property along ditches and gutters back to the points where it leaves your yard. Chances are, it’s cascading off of a solid surface, like a roof or driveway, which prevents rain from soaking into the ground. Those barriers, also called impermeable surfaces, are a major cause of stormwater runoff, particularly in urban areas.
One way to curb runoff is to reduce the number of impermeable surfaces in your landscape so the ground can absorb the water. Try building walkways with groundcovers or landscape rocks between pavers. See our story on different types of walkways and instructions for several types of DIY garden paths.
Another way is to look at your driveway in a new light. Instead of just laying concrete, consider adding a grassy area in the middle or use a permeable grass pavers system to create a grass driveway.
4. Redirect the flow of water
Managing the flow of water is not always so easy. If your landscape or lawn is sloped, consider building up earthen barriers called berns, or excavating swales, or gradual depressions, to slow and redirect the flow of water from your land.
See our story on how to build a dry creek bed.
5. Catching rain
Many homes use drain spouts attached to the gutters on your roof to catch rain and move it away. However, if the spout opens over a paved surface, like a walkway or driveway, you can almost kiss that water goodbye. It’s likely to flow down that impermeable surface and right off your property.
Adjusting gutter downspouts to empty onto vegetated ground will ensure that more of the water flows where it’s needed, letting thirsty plants reuse the rainwater. Rain barrels are another useful option. The rainwater collects in the rain barrel so you can later reuse it in your garden.
If you don’t have downspouts, consider a rain chain to help direct the flow of water. See our story on catching rain.
Trees and plants for rain gardens
When selecting trees and plants for rain gardens or ponding areas in your landscape, be sure to check how much sun or shade the particular area gets and for how long, then read your plant tags to find the right fit.
This will help determine what trees, shrubs or plants to incorporate. Also look for varieties that can take periods of occasional flooding as well as dry periods. See our suggestions below.
- River birch
- Water Oak
- Bald cypress
- Spice bush
- Ornamental grass
- Copper iris
- Liatris ‘Blazing Star’
- Black-eyed Susan (pictured above)