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Water Quality

Starting a Raingarden

​If you aren’t able to attend the Blue Thumb workshops, you can get started on your own raingarden, by following the steps below.

Draw a base map of your property
Using graph paper, draw your house and property lines (1 box = 2 feet).

Add details to the base map
Add the following:

  • Existing buildings and structures (showing roof ridges & downspout locations).
  • Hard surfaces (driveways, sidewalks, patios, etc.) and their “pitch” direction.
  • Existing substantial vegetation (trees and shrubs).
  • Landscape areas (retaining walls, shrub & perennial beds, etc.) .
  • Nearby storm-drains / drainage-ways (street-side catch basins or other inlets).
  • Existing topography / slopes (how much does the grade drop in 10 feet/20 feet).


Locate utilities and easements
Call Gopher One-Call at 800-252-1166 and request locations for all buried utilities
(electrical, gas lines, telephone, cable, other) and add them to your map. Locate any irrigation lines, sprinkler heads, invisible fencing and drainage easements.

Identify potential locations for raingardens
On base map, draw where existing runoff water flows (Does runoff “sheet-flow” evenly across your property or is it concentrated through certain areas?). Identify areas on the lawn that you frequently use for recreation and areas that are pathways that you want to keep and plan around. Identify views you want to screen or accent.

Identify sun exposure
Observe your yard on a sunny day. Label sun exposure for potential raingarden areas. Identify:

  • Full sun: At least 6 full hours of direct sunlight
  • Partial sun: 3–6 hours of sun each day, preferably in the morning and early afternoon
  • Full shade: Less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day.
  • No Sun


Take a soil sample
After Gopher One-Call has marked all underground utilities and you have located a potential area for a raingarden, take a soil sample following directions from the University of Minnesota.  

Plant selection
Pick attractive plants that you like. Keep in mind the sun exposure. Most of the plants like full sun to partial shade. Raingardens can also work in shady areas, but need a little more careful plant selection. 

A raingarden is not a wetland. It is not intended to hold water permanently. Plants that like average to moist conditions typically do well. If you choose plants that prefer wet to saturated conditions, you may need to water them during the summer.

Last updated: 3/4/2014 9:48 AM