Make use of wet area with rain gardens

Stephen R. Borel, LSU AgCenter

Homeowners are frequently faced with areas of their landscapes that present special challenges.

Problem areas may be low and wet and stay damp much of the time. The common inclination is to try to change the area to make it easier to be successful with the plants you want to grow there.

A lot of the stress and effort involved in gardening can be reduced by learning to cooperate with existing natural conditions. Work with them instead of altering or changing them. Choose plants that are adapted to the type of soil pH and texture (sandy or clay) you have.

For areas that are damp, and soggy select plants that prefer those conditions rather than changing the situation. Rain gardens are a great way to take advantage of low, damp areas.

They hold water on site and allow it to filter into the soil rather than run off into the street. It’s a way homeowners can help deal with runoff water after rains.

To construct a rain garden, identify a low area that stays wet for extended periods after a heavy rain. Most rain gardens are natural, so mark off an area with an informal shape rather than a perfect rectangle or circle.

Remove the sod and soil down about 6 to 8 inches to create a catch basin that will hold water. Till the soil at the bottom of the rain garden and incorporate an inch or two of organic matter that will encourage the plants to grow well.

A wide variety of native plants enjoy wet soils and will also tolerate dry periods between rains. Plants for rain gardens or wet areas include Trees: parsley hawthorn, wax myrtle, yaupon holly; Shrubs: American beautyberry, Virginia willow, dwarf palmetto; Perennials: swamp milkweed, cardinal flower, mallow or hardy hibiscus, Louisiana iris (Iris species and hybrids), swamp sunflower; or Non-natives: canna, elephant ear, and calla lily.