6 ways to start rainscaping for water conservation.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
One important element of a more sustainable yard is water conservation. Here are some helpful tips you can use to reduce the ecological footprint of your yard with a rainscape.
What is a rainscape?
A rainscape is simply landscaping that is intentionally designed to conserve water and protect water quality. Rainscaping helps reduce stormwater runoff from your property by putting it to work in more productive ways. There are many options for implementing rainscaping into your residential property – while you might not be able to make all these changes at once, it’s never too late to get started by choosing one project to make your yard more eco-friendly.
1. Add rain gardens
Rain gardens are a fun DIY rainscaping addition to your yard that helps collect and purify rainwater rather than allowing it to pick up chemicals and pollutants as it flows on a straight path to the sewer system. The best spot for a rain garden will depend on your yard – the next time it storms, look out the window to see where rainwater runoff exists. Often, water runoff travels down hardscaping like driveways and decks or builds at the end of downspouts. By diverting this runoff with a pipe or path of river rock to a shallow depression at least 10ft from your house, you can easily create a rain garden that has an added benefit of protecting your home’s foundation from pooling water. Learn how to build a rain garden here.
2. Harvest rainwater
One of the easiest rainscaping ideas to use at your home is to collect rainwater runoff from a roof or other surface. By channeling your downspouts to stormwater runoff rain barrels, you can store rainwater to replace a large amount of your water needs. This environmentally responsible choice gives you more control over your organic water supply and can add up to significant cost savings, especially if you are paying for city water for landscaping needs.
3. Landscape without water
Landscaping for your location can be tricky, especially if you live in a dry climate where plants can require a lot of supplemental water to survive. No-water and low-water landscaping allows you to rainscape even if your location doesn’t see much rainfall because you are intentionally conserving water. The first step is to choose plants that can tolerate drought – looking up a list of plants native to your state or region is the easiest place to start. Its also important to think about the density of plants in a landscaping bed. When plants are permitted to run up to one another, the soil is shaded from heat and sun, preventing moisture from evaporating too quickly.
4. Make your lawn drought tolerant
To survive dry spells, your lawn needs a deep root system. While it is tempting to run a sprinkler on a consistent schedule or at the first sign of any wilting grass, it is better to wait to water your lawn when closer to 50 percent of the grass is wilting. Once these conditions are met, you want to give your lawn a thorough soak of 1/2-3/4 inches, but make sure to stop before creating any wasteful run-off. By giving your grass a long watering only when it absolutely needs it, you are helping establish a deep root system that will develop more and more drought tolerance and require less and less watering.
Another management tip to motivate your grass to develop deep roots is to never mow grass shorter than its highest recommended height. Longer blades of grass have more surface area to photosynthesize and store energy to endure drought. If these methods don’t work and you still find yourself having to frequently water your lawn, it might be time to reduce the amount of turf in your yard. Native gardens and groundcovers are a more sustainable use of your property, and there are lots of creative ways to reduce lawn space in a way that is beautiful and appealing from the curb.
5. Create a rain swale
Water that quickly runs over the surface of your yard or driveway on its way to the sewer collects pollutants rather than benefitting the ecology. Rain swales are a rainscaping tool that slows water down and spreads water out, giving it a chance to actually sink into the soil. You can create a rain swale by digging a shallow ditch where water runoff typically builds in your yard. Line the depression with material like gravel, native plants and mulch that will help filter water. Rain swales can be a fascinating focal point for your yard that creates year-round aesthetic interest.
6. Move to permeable pavement
You’ve likely noticed a rainscaping theme: reduce rainwater runoff. Impervious pavement like cement and blacktop are the most common surfaces for residential driveways, patios and sidewalks, but they act as a slide that moves valuable rainwater away from the soil and into the sewer. If you are adding or replacing any hard surfaces outside your home, look for porous, permeable options that filter rain runoff into the soil beneath. For example, a patio with a sub-base of gravel and topped with permeable pavers is a much more eco-friendly option than pouring an impervious concrete slab.
While the options above only scratch the surface of the many ways to add rainscaping features that conserve water outdoors, we hope they inspire you to make a small step towards a more environmentally friendly landscape. For all things home improvement and DIY, check out the Schlage blog, Instagram and Pinterest!