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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rain Gardens: Home

This guide contains various resources about rain gardens. A rain garden is a planted depression that allows rain water runoff to slowly soak into the ground instead of storm drains and surface waters.

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a plant bed that collects rain runoff from your roof, driveway, patio, or other waterproof outdoor surface. A pipe connected to a downspout or an above-ground channel conveys the water to the garden. In a rain garden, the excess water is absorbed quickly into the soil.

A rain garden is built in a shallow depression, usually about six to eight inches deep. The slight depression allows the garden to hold water for a short period of time while it is absorbed into the soil. The down-slope side of a garden built on an incline will also have a low earthen berm to help the garden hold the collected water for less than twenty-four hours.

Steiner, L. M., & Domm, R. W. (2012). Rain gardens: sustainable landscaping for a beautiful yard and a healthy world. Voyageur Press (MN).

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Benefit of Rain Gardens

  • Help keep water clean by filtering storm water runoff before it enters local waterways.
  • Help alleviate problems associated with flooding and drainage.
  • Enhance the beauty of individual yards and communities.
  • Provide habitat and food for wildlife including birds and butterflies.
  • Recharge the ground water supply.

Rzepka, A., United States, Environmental Protection Agency, & Great Lakes National Program Office. (2006). Rain garden manual for homeowners : Protecting our water, one yard at a time (pp.1) Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District. 

How to Build a Rain Garden

Search Strategies

Here are some terms related to rain gardens selected by our librarian with links to the library catalog that you may look for books and journals. 

Bio-infiltration systems: a system designed for infiltrating, filtering, storing, evaporating,and detaining runoff close to its source (view more).

Bioretention areas: shallow depressions filled with sandy soil, topped with a thick layer of mulch, and planted with dense vegetation (view more).

Bioretention basin / Storm water retention basins: are landscaped depressions or shallow basins used to slow and treat on-site stormwater runoff (view more). 

Bioswales: linear channels designed to concentrate and convey stormwater runoff while removing debris and pollution (view more).

Ecological landscape design: a method of designing, building, and maintaining landscapes that considers the ecology of a site and creates gardens that enhance the surrounding environment for the benefit of humans and all other life in the ecosystem (view more).

Stormwater infiltrationthe process by which rainfall and stormwater runoff flows into and through the subsurface soil. (view more).

Gardening / Gardens / Gardens-designGardens-irrigation / Rain gardens

Water conservation: includes all the policies, strategies and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water, to protect the hydrosphere, and to meet the current and future human demand (view more).

Water harvesting / Rainwater harvesting: the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse on-site, rather than allowing it to run off (view more). 

Runoff / Urban runoff: is surface runoff of precipitation created by urbanization. This runoff is a major source of flooding and water pollution in urban communities worldwide (view more).

Runoff-Management / Urban runoff-Management