Meet your Chicagoland Stormwater Storage Requirements with a rain garden!

Finding your rain garden location – Part 1

Sump PumpSo now that you have located and calculated your water sources, you need somewhere to put them.

Experience and creativity are invaluable when selecting your rain garden location.

But what’s that you say?

You have no experience?

You are in luck.

In this post series I’d like to share what I have learned in my experiences to help you with your location selection.

In Part 1 I will cover the safe distance you will want to put your rain garden from your house and then go over the checklist I use when evaluating a site.

In Part 2 I will go over how I evaluate the drainage of my prospective location.

So let’s begin with figuring out the proper distance for your rain garden from your house.

If your rain garden is not residential, you can skip this section.

Distance From House

For a residential setting, you will first need to make sure that your rain garden is a safe distance from the house.

You want to keep a rain garden a little bit away from the house in order to keep the water from being constantly recirculated by the sump pump or from damaging the foundation.

You may have heard before that 10′ is the recommended distance.

This is a good guide to follow but I think that this number has been created as a general suggestion and that sometimes 10′ is not necessary or not enough.

I have come up with a formula that I use that I believe gives a more specific distance depending on the site conditions.

This may seem like overkill, and it probably is, but a lot of times ever foot matters on a property.

The formula is:

Elevation of top of sump pump pit to grade at house + 5′ = Distance from house + Elevation change from house to rain garden location.

So to put that in English, you measure the elevation from the top of your sump pump pit in your house to where the ground is at the side of your house and then add 5 feet.

This number will equal the distance from the house you should go plus any elevation change from the grade at the side of your house to the rain garden location.

*NOTE: Elevations that go down are negative, so although you are “adding” the elevation from the house to the rain garden location, you may be subtracting and therefore allowing you to go closer to the house when the terrain slopes down and away from the house.

This distance you come up with should be the closest point you want any water being retained, not the center of your rain garden.

Once you know the distance you want to keep your rain garden away from your house, you can begin to look at specific locations.

Location Checklist

Below you will find a general checklist of things to note when evaluating a location:

Do you have enough distance from the house?
If you don’t you shouldn’t put in a rain garden.

Is the location over on a Septic Field?
Shouldn’t put in a rain garden.

Does the location have a High Permanent Water Table?
Shouldn’t put in a rain garden.

How easy is it for the water from my source to get to that location?
The easier the better, gravity is our friend.

Is there positive overflow?
You need somewhere for the water to go safely off the property after the water fills up the rain garden.

Is there enough space for your rain garden?
Here is a quick little guide on space:
5’ x 10’ x 6” = 25 cf
10’ x 10’ x 6” = 50 cf
15’ x 10’ x 6” = 75 cf
20’ x 10’ x 6” = 100 cf

Does the location have a High Seasonal Water Table?
If so you can design in a longer saturation period or use a Filtration or Engineered Filtration rain garden.

Is there some nice sun in this location?
The sunnier the better, but shady can be done.

*If you are looking for more information on any of the above 8 situations you can find it in more detail in my post series “Will a rain garden work for me?”

Is the location in the right-of-way or easement?
You may not want to, or be allowed to, put a rain garden in public ways.

Is there a convenient spigot for watering?
Even rain gardens need to be watered in the first year or two.

How does the rain garden work with the existing landscape?
This is a personal preference, but you probably want it to blend in.

Are there any existing public utilities in the area?
Most can be worked around, but they need to be located first.

Are there any underground drain tiles, sprinkler systems, landscape lighting, dog fence, old stumps, old foundations?
Some are easier to move or work around than others.

All done? Still have a location that works?

Now let’s take a look at how well that location drains in “Finding your rain garden location – Part 2”.

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