Why Build a Rain Garden?


Choose from a spectacular, fulldome show in state-of-the-art Sudekum Planetarium; hands-on, interactive, science exhibits; or one of our award-winning programs like daily Science Live! demonstrations, 3D Printing Workshops, ScienceQuest Camps, Science Cafes, and other special events.

  800 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville, TN 37203

 OPEN DAILY: Mon-Sun, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 CLOSED: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day

Get Tickets


Adventure Science Center Blog

Science Educators and guest authors exploring our world and the science and technology that connects us.



WHY BUILD A RAIN GARDEN? by Anna Goolsby, Marketing Assistant

A good rainy day is perhaps one of my favorite things. The dreary weather encourages you to get cozy, read a book, brew some tea and enjoy the peaceful patter of the rain on your roof.

Rain can also be… problematic.  

About three and a half years ago, my husband and I bought our dream house in East Nashville – a cute little 1950s ranch-style home tucked away in a quiet neighborhood with a great yard. There was only one problem: our gravel driveway, which, embarrassingly, would inevitably melt into the street with each healthy rainfall. Not only were we contributing to the storm debris that cluttered our thoroughfare, but our driveway was quickly becoming an off-road experience that neither of us enjoyed at the end of the day.

Enter the power of the rain garden.

What exactly is a rain garden? According to Cumberland River Compact (CRC), a rain garden is “a shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses.” This landscaping feature isn’t just about looks, it’s about collecting, utilizing and infiltrating (or returning) rainwater naturally back into the ground. By replacing some of the surface area taken up by driveways, roads and sidewalks, rain gardens offer a much-needed outlet for rainwater instead of letting it sit on the surface, creating pools and run-off. After reading the CRC webpage and some articles on the subject, it was clear; a rain garden is exactly what we needed!

After signing up for a rain garden consultation, Heather Listermann, CRC Program Manager, contacted me with some helpful and necessary next steps to prepare for my rain garden…

First, before you do any excavation in your yard, call 811 to confirm there isn’t any underground utility lines where you want to dig. Whether you plan on digging the rain garden yourself or enlisting the help of a professional, it is always a necessary step. Can you imagine digging before calling and accidentally unearthing a water line? Talk about one step forward and ten steps back!

The second important prep step is testing your soil’s infiltration rate. Simply dig a hole 12 inches deep in the area where you are planning to install your garden, fill it with water and allow that water to drain before refilling it again. If it drains again in less than 24 hours, your ground is all set to collect run-off effectively. However, if it takes longer than that, you will need to amend your soil to prevent ponding. You can easily do this by mixing imported soil, compost and/or sand to the tilled area to get it ready for planting.

Before long, it was time to pick up my plants. This step is the most fun, but it is also important because you must be careful to choose plants that are…

  1. Compatible with the sunlight they’ll get in your rain garden location
  2. Hardy enough to handle fluctuations of heavy rain and dry spells
  3. Indigenous to your area and appropriate neighbors for the other plants you choose

I was lucky enough to have these plants donated to me through CRC’s Green Alley project, which not only helped me financially, but also offered a personalized plant collection based on my rain garden consultation. With about 25 gallons of fresh plants, a bale of pine mulch and some helpful hands, I was ready to install my rain garden!

A rain garden is something you can definitely install yourself. In fact, CRC offers a handy guide to anyone interested in planning, installing and maintaining a rain garden of their own. Everything is more fun with friends though, so make a day of it and invite some people you know to help you dig! Better yet, invite your neighbors to take part in a rain garden “block party” where you help each other improve the sustainability and water control of your neighborhood with these simple and beautiful features.

After the installation was complete, I was so excited to see how this new addition to my back yard would improve our run-off issues. Luckily, Mother Nature was eager to test it as well and offered us a wonderfully torrential rain the very next day. To my delight, the once raging river of run-off is now reduced to a trickling rivulet and there was no pooling in sight in my previously waterlogged lawn! I ran over to my rain garden to see how it was fairing; all the rain that it had collected had already absorbed into the freshly turned soil and the plants were the brightest green, completely content in their new home.

Inspired to build your own rain garden? Don’t forget to contact 811 before doing any digging in your yard and go online for helpful resources from our local rain garden experts and friends, Cumberland River Compact. Happy planting!

- Anna Goolsby, Marketing Assistant

Did you know that Adventure Science Center has its very own rain garden? Check out this amazing feature in our Galactic Gardens outdoor exhibit during your next visit!
Posted by Anna Leigh Goolsby at 11:05 AM
Share |
800 Fort Negley Blvd. Nashville, TN 37203
Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
© 2020 Adventure Science Center. | Sitemap