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Rain Gardens

Rain garden cross section

Rain gardens are shallow, sunken gardens that are designed to collect, capture; soak up, absorb and filter stormwater runoff from roofs, roads, and driveways.

What are the benefits of rain gardens?

  • Reducing flooding
    Provides storage for flood water and helps prevent ditches and sewers from being overwhelmed.

  • Water quality
    Improves water quality by filtering pollutants such as fertilizers, oil, and sediment.

  • Habitat
    Attracts birds, butterflies, other pollinators.

  • Community
    Adds beauty to the community.

Local Contractors

Local Contractors Who Have Taken Rain Garden Design and Construction for Professionals Course Endorsed by Landscape Ontario:

Questions about funding

To find out if grants are available, for rain gardens, contact Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician, at

Enhance your property, protect your community

You have a chance to protect your lake and make your property even more beautiful by planting rain gardens or installing a soakaway.   

Soakaways (or 'soakaway pits') are similar to rain gardens in that they collect water from downspouts and/or rain barrels. The main difference is that rain gardens are filled with a sand/compost mix, and soakaways are filled with stone or stormwater crates. Soakaways can be used in tight spaces, or locations that are not suitable for plants. 

“By capturing stormwater in rain gardens or soakaways, homeowners can help with localized flooding as rain gardens and soakaways can actually absorb more water than a grassed lawn,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation.

Local people suggested rain gardens, in the community-based Main Bayfield Watershed Plan, as a management solution for dealing with urban runoff, said Hope.

“Homeowners can install a rain garden, or a soakaway, and help protect Lake Huron,” she said. 

To create a rain garden or soakaway on your property you are invited to contact a local landscape professional who has received a Landscape Ontario endorsed rain garden certificate.

Contact Hope Brock at 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610 or consult the list below.

A single downspout rain garden typically costs between $1,000 and $3,000, but will vary on the size of the garden.

Soakaways are typically less than $1,000.

Rain gardens are shallow, sunken gardens. They collect, absorb and filter runoff and help prevent polluted runoff from reaching storm sewers and, ultimately, the lake. Rain gardens are low-maintenance gardens that can be designed to match existing landscaping, formal gardens or natural gardens. Homeowners can choose plants specifically to attract birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. 

Rain gardens - Helping protect Lake Huron

Why use native plants?

  • Native plants grow naturally in a region and are therefore suited to local growing conditions. 
  • Native plants have deeper root systems that absorb more water. 
  • They are easier to maintain once they are established, and require little to no watering.

How does the rain garden work?

  1. Rainwater and stormwater collect in the depressed garden bed.
  2. Plants absorb water.
  3. Water filters through soil.
  4. Plants grow, providing beauty and habitat in your yard.

Help us monitor the rain garden

  1. Stand in line with the rain garden sign. 
  2. Take a photo of the garden.
  3. Post your picture on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #PioneerRainGarden.

Funding for this project has come from the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund of the Province of Ontario.

Plant a rain garden

Rain gardens are a great way to green your garden, preserve soil, and reducing water running off of land during storm events.

Planting a rain garden can not only help make your home look beautiful but it can also help to protect the quality and quantity of water in your community.

A rain garden has been described as a shallow, sunken garden designed to collect rainwater. It can collect that rainwater from your roof, shed, driveway, or patio.

A well-designed rain garden that has loose, deep soil can capture water that would otherwise run off of land and carry soil, sediment, and possible pollutants with it.

Rain gardens give homeowners a chance to help protect creeks, rivers, and Lake Huron even if their property is not big enough for a wetland.

A single rain garden may seem like a small thing to do but if more people in the community create these natural gardens they can make a collective difference.

Landscapers with experience in rain garden design can help with the design or you can be creative and do it yourself.

Native species of plants should be used in the rain garden. There are local nurseries and businesses that can have native plants available for purchase.

Local residents creating a rain garden could consider moist perennials that can tolerate drought such as:

  • Swamp Milkweed;
  • Joe-pye Weed;
  • Boneset;
  • Green-headed  Coneflower;
  • Blue vervain;
  • and New Jersey tea.

You might also consider dry perennials that can tolerate rain events such as:

  • Butterfly Milkweed;
  • New England Aster;
  • Sky Blue Aster;
  • Sweet Ox-eye;
  • Wild Bergamont;
  • Black Eyed Susan;
  • Wild geranium.

Your rain garden can help prevent runoff during storm events and that helps to keep contaminants out of your local storm sewer or creek.

Here are some of the benefits of rain gardens:

  • Absorb much more rainwater than a regular patch of lawn
  • Can save money on water bills and lawn care
  • Lower strain on municipal infrastructure
  • Outdoor landscaping features can increase the value of your home
  • Help improve water quality in your local water bodies and reduce flooding and erosion

Rain gardens “work with nature” to manage stormwater as close to its source. 

More rain gardens will help improve and protect the community’s water by reducing the amount of water running off of lawns, fields, driveways, parking lots, and other surfaces. Runoff takes away your soil and it can carry bacteria and chemicals with it. Rain gardens prevent that runoff.

Much of the information contained here is courtesy of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and their workshop booklet called Greening Your Grounds – A Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Landscaping Projects. Contact Ausable Bayfield Conservation for a copy of this booklet.

Keeping water and pollution away from storm sewers helps keep sediment, pathogens, and chemicals out of your local water supply.

To learn more visit our Wetlands section.

Other Best Practices in Urban Areas
If you live in a village, town or other urban area there are actions you can take to protect water quality and to manage water running off of land during storms

One practice you can do to help is disconnecting downspouts from storm drains:

Disconnecting Downspouts

Take a look at the downspouts fact sheet 'How to Get Disconnected' (from Credit Valley Conservation; Region of Peel; and Mississauga).

Disconnecting your downspouts from municipal wastewater drainage systems and storm drains is often required by bylaws.

Benefits when you disconnect your downspout include preventing overloads to stormwater systems (and subsequent flooding and basement backups), and protecting local waterways.

Wondering what downspout disconnection is and why we do it?

Read this article which may answer your questions:

Building Natural Green Infrastructure

Building, protecting and enhancing natural environmental features help us to adapt to extreme weather and our changing climate. Learn about natural infrastructure and green actions you can take in this video presentation by  Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician; and Tommy Kokas, Water Resources Engineer, both with the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA). 

Watch the video now:

Learn about urban initiatives that improve water quality with rain gardens, rain barrels, tree planting, permeable pavement, and more in the Stormwater Stroll brochure on this page: 

You may also want to a look at this video on ‘How to Make a Soakaway Pit’: