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Rain Gardens – Putting Your Yard to Work for You (And Your Community)!

February 21, 2024

By Jill Martin, Interpretive Services Supervisor


Think back to the last time it rained, how did you feel? Were you pleased that the grass was being watered, or were you concerned about flooding on your sidewalk, driveway, or maybe even basement? In the days before Southeast Michigan was as developed as it is today, when rain landed on the ground, it gradually soaked into the soil, grass, and wooded areas, nourishing the plants and replenishing groundwater. During the 1950s, few people would have worried about the effects of a typical rainstorm. Fast forward to almost 75 years later, and it’s a different story. Many people feel their pulse quicken when rain is in the forecast. Over time, the built environment of houses, roads, businesses, and parking lots has become dense enough to block much of the precipitation from reaching the soil where it could soak in. In cities, rain and snowmelt that land on these hard surfaces flow on top of them, picking up pollutants, sediment, or litter, before being funneled to storm drain grates in parking lots and roadsides which move the water and everything it picks up directly into our local rivers. This runoff water moves fast over impervious surfaces into the rivers and it can cause flash floods and decrease the quality of wildlife habitat. Runoff from roofs, sidewalks, and driveways can also flow back toward homes, causing flooding issues for basements.

Perhaps you are thinking “But, I love the river, enjoy wildlife in their habitat, and don’t like flooding! What can I do?”.  Luckily, there is something you can do – build a rain garden! It could be built at a home, or a public location like a school. A rain garden is a small-scale working garden that is built like a bowl about six inches deep to intercept the water coming from roofs, sidewalks, or driveways, and hold it until it has time to soak into the soil, relieving the burden on storm drains to prevent floods, reduce pollution and improve habitat. At the same time, a rain garden is designed to add beauty to a landscape, with many designs incorporating native plants that help pollinators, like butterflies and bees.

A newly built Rain Garden designed to slow the flow of water (photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office)

Since mid-January, 92 students have taken part in the largest-ever Online Southeast Michigan Master Gardener Training Course through the collaboration of the Huron River Watershed Council, Friends of the Rouge, River Raisin Watershed Council, Saline Be Green, City of Ann Arbor, Clinton River Watershed Council, Oakland County Water Resources, Friends of the Detroit River and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks.  The class takes participants through all the steps of building a rain garden, and by the end, each person leaves with a garden design and plant list that they have created for their particular situation. To see all the rain gardens in our area, check out the RainScaping in Southeast Michigan Map. The rain gardens listed on the map allow 16.2 million gallons of rainwater to be soaked in and filtered each year.

Water in the Rain Garden (photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office)

If you missed the winter class, don’t worry, the Metroparks will be leading more this year. You can find details at

Mature Rain Garden (photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office)


Here’s a list of upcoming Metropark-led Rain Garden classes:

Master Rain Garden Class

Lincoln Park Library

1381 Southfield Road, Lincoln Park, MI 48146
Tuesdays, March 5 – April 2; 1-3:30 pm


Detroit Public Library- Wilder Branch

7140 Seven Mile E, Detroit, MI 48234

Thursdays, August 8th– September 5th; 12-3pm


Online Only Class

Tuesdays, August 6th – September 3rd; 4-6 pm


Rain Garden 101 – Introductory Class

Detroit Public Library- Franklin Branch

13651 E McNichols Rd, Detroit, MI 48205

June 13, 6pm


Detroit Public Library- Sherwood Forest Branch

7117 W Seven Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48221

July 16, 6pm


Detroit Public Library- Wilder Branch
7140 Seven Mile E, Detroit, MI 48234
July 11, 4pm


Detroit Public Library – Main Branch
5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
July 23, 6pm




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