Lessons learned

Experience is often the best teacher! Before you start your own rain garden project, take a look at what others are saying about their experiences.

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I set aside all of the rocks we dug up while amending the soil, and incorporated those into the rain garden.
Remove all the lawn, don't bury it like I did. That stuff is tough and will grow up through the soil. And lay the drain pipe first. I waited till the end to connect it, and realized that my outfall pipe (already installed) did not exactly line up with the downspout.
Great stimulator of neighborhood conversation! Our neighbors have admittedly loved watching our front yard transform after some initial skepticism.
Be sure the slope leading to the garden is steep enough to effectively have the water run properly to the garden area.
One of the things I didn't anticipate the importance of was slope in the garden. After excavation of the first rain, I had to reposition rocks and various mulch pieces to allow better flow of the water into the garden.
Don't be too worried about it, have fun, plan it out and enjoy.
Start with a good plan. We took the rain garden class offered and studied magazine articles and searched the web for information for our plan.
I diverted two downspouts and graveled the bed of the garden in an abstract shape. It turned out beautiful with fairly little effort.
We have started with a small rain garden in our backyard. Next year we hope to build a larger one in our side yard.
Most important lesson learned, take the Rain Garden 101 class. I gained valuable information and know-how to build a rain garden. Watching my first rain garden at work inspired me to build 3 rain gardens in my yard. They are beautiful and they perform a valuable function in absorbing rain water runoff from the house and garage roofs.
Rocks extending from the downspout add character. Mulching after the planting really helps to keep the weeds at bay 🙂
Rain garden was planted entirely with Portland native plants and is certified as part of my Bronze Backyard Habitat through the Audubon society.
A huge key for me was re-grading the soil around my house, which helped alleviate water issues in the basement. It also helped motivate me to fix gutter issues around the house.
I recommend reusing sod to construct berm and use large pieces of cardboard (Ikea dumpster dive) to edge and mulch sides.
Do not get intimidated, or over think it. Keep it simple. It is very simple and very rewarding.