Bay-Friendly Living Tip: Plant a Rain Garden

Bay-Friendly Living Tip: Plant a Rain Garden

Mackensie duPont Crowley, communications specialist

Jed Thorp, Save The Bay’s advocacy coordinator, channeling rainwater into the early phases of his rain garden.

Up to half of all polluted runoff, one of the main causes of beach closures and fish kills, comes from residential properties. The grass in your yard is not the most effective surface material to handle this rainwater, which washes pollutants like pesticides, dog waste, and yard debris into the Bay through storm drains; in fact, a rain garden soaks up 30% more water than a traditional patch of grass.

Rain gardens are shallow, planted depressions that absorb rainwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces, keeping it from running into the road and down storm drains. According to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, by trapping stormwater and allowing it to seep naturally into the ground, rain gardens not only minimize runoff, but also naturally remove pollutants, reduce flooding, and help recharge groundwater supplies.


    • Plant your rain garden at least 10’ from your foundation. Direct your gutter downspouts toward the rain garden.
    • Till the soil to a depth of 18” and add compost or sand as needed to make a well-drained soil.
    • Make sure the center of the rain garden is a 3”- 8” depression (lower than the edge). The depression must be flat, always!
    • Plant a combination of native flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses, putting tallest plants in the deepest part of the garden. Planting native also provides habitat for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.
    • Use 2” of mulch to retain moisture.


Explore this video from advocacy coordinator Jed Thorp, where he explains his strategy for installing a rain barrel to directly feed his rain garden!

For more information on rain gardens, check out these resources:

Soak Up the Rain: Rain Gardens, EPA:

Rain Gardens, URI Stormwater Solutions: 

Rain Gardens, UConn:

Urban Rain Gardens, Northern RI Conservation District:

And check out the full Bay-Friendly Living Guide for more tips on how to reduce and manage run-off pollution!