Located in the
Lyman F. Anderson
5201 Fen Oak Drive
Madison, WI 53718-8827
Map to Fen Oak
Rain gardens are shallow depressions (3-4
inches to two feet) planted with native wildflowers and
other plants that soak up rainwater or melted snow from
your rooftop, driveway and lawn. The gardens allow water
to infiltrate into the soil rather than becoming runoff.
A rain garden can soak up to 30% more water
than a traditional lawn. This helps to protect the quality
of water downstream by preventing runoff from getting to
the storm drains and helps reduce the chances for local
Why is that important? Because the water
from rain or snow fall that runs off our roofs and off our
yards, into our streets and eventually through the storm
drain system to our lakes is untreated, and carries with
it all sorts of pollutants like fertilizers, oil from the
street and pet waste. Holding back the runoff by allowing
it soak into the ground in rain gardens, helps improve the
water quality in our lakes, can reduce the chances for local
flooding and also helps reduce bank and shoreline damage.
Such a complex and important mix of environmental
benefits is accomplished by devoting a small amount of space,
time and money to the creation of a rain garden. There are
only a couple of key decisions you'll need to make: the
size of the garden, its location, the mix of native plants
and vegetation you'll put in and whether you build it yourself
or hire a professional landscaping company to help you.
Rain gardens should be positioned to receive
water from downspouts or at a low-point in the lawn where
drainage naturally occurs. While the plants grow, you'll
need to weed a bit, but a mature rain garden is delightfully
easy to maintain. The simpler you keep your design the more
involved you can be in both planning and building the garden.
But increasingly, driven by consumer demand and interest,
there are many professional landscapers and horticulturists
who are in the business of designing and building rain gardens.
Visiting well-designed gardens can give
you ideas and talking to folks who have them can provide
helpful tips on how to do it right.
Rain gardens are aesthetically pleasing
to look at and provide habitat for birds, butterflies and
beneficial insects-including dragonflies that eat mosquitoes.
Once the plants mature, maintenance is relatively low, and
beats mowing! Just think-no noise, no gas, and all that
The Office of Lakes and Watersheds currently maintains a discussion group for those interested in rain gardens in Dane County. To subscribe, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To email the listserv, send email to
The Yahara Waterways Water Trail Guide is a great resource for exploring our area waters.