Earlier this month, I was lucky to have Friends of the Rappahannock design and install a custom rain garden in my front yard as a part of their Rainscape Retrofit program funded by a grant through the Dominion Foundation. A rain garden is an amended landscape feature designed to capture and infiltrate stormwater runoff. For this project, we disconnected my downspouts on the front of the house and directed them to the two rain gardens. Thanks to the man power of FOR volunteers known as the Rappahannock Restore Corps, we were able to transform my front yard from dirt fill to green infrastructure. Between the two phases of the project, when only one side of my yard had been completed, we got a torrential downpour that dumped almost 2 inches of rain. Near the peak of the storm I snapped this photo, which perfectly illustrates the effectiveness of a rain garden at managing stormwater runoff. The side without the rain garden (top) flooded over the retaining wall onto the sidewalk, while the half with the rain garden (bottom) effectively absorbed the rainwater. FOR programs manager Bryan Hofmann explained that a rain garden replaces a compacted landscape with pervious materials like sand and gravel to catch and clean stormwater runoff and allow it to infiltrate into the ground. The amended soil medium acts like a filter, removing pollutants and improving water quality by catching runoff which would otherwise be piped directly into the Rappahannock (which is literally right across the street from my house). The native perennials on the surface help absorb water and pollutants, prevent erosion, attract pollinators—and their colorful flowers look great in my front yard. I can’t say enough about the FOR staff and volunteers. They were organized, efficient and professional, and at the end of the day I got a beautiful rain garden that helps the environment and the Rappahannock River. I would recommend FOR to anyone!

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