Highlights From Conservation Halton’s Homeowners Workshop: Rain Gardens & Low Impact

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“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” –John Updike

With the amount of rain we’ve been getting here in Oakville, the timing of the Rain Gardens & Low Impact Landscaping Workshop was perfect. In the final Oakville Conservation Halton Homeowner’s Workshop, attendees learnt about a basement flooding prevention subsidy, rain gardens, and how you can design your property to minimize the risk of water damage. Michael Albanese, the evening’s presenter, did an incredible job sharing tips and advice on how to practice low impact landscaping while keeping your house safe from external water damage. Check out the rest of the post for the highlights.


Enhanced Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidies

Before Michael came up to speak, a representative from Halton Region informed the audience of the Enhanced Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidies. The subsidies range from full to partial coverage and vary from city to city. For more information visit the Halton Region website or call 1-866-4HALTON


Why Low Impact Development and Rain Garden’s Matter

Michael explained that in urban areas there is less water infiltration in the soil than in natural areas, which can lead to an increase in runoff and potentially cause flooding. Designing your landscapes to better retain rainfall can help to filter water before it goes into the sewer. In addition it also offers the possibility of reducing the risk of water build up when effectively designed.


How Can I Start?

During the presentation Michael offered the audience the following formula for creation action at home:


Keep properties safe from water damage


Manage rain where it falls


Create beautiful, innovative, and sustainable landscapes


Increased resilience to climate change & increased property values



Things to consider

When deciding where to put in a rain garden, and what may be needed to avoid further property damage due to water, there are some things to consider. The following will outline what to keep in mind when surveying your yard.


1)     Grading: Does your property have a slope? If so, in what direction?

2)   Downspouts: are they far enough away from the house? Where do they deposit the water?

3)   Pipes: Is there an issue with them backing up? Where are they located?

4)   Sewers/ Catch Basins: Where are they located?

5)   Utilities (gas, electric, water, cable, etc.): Where are they located? Could any of the plant’s roots interfere with them?

6)   Soil Erosion/ Deposition: What is the soil like? Are there areas that are eroding?

7)   Neighbouring Properties: Is there something on a neighbour’s land that could impact mine? Could my plan affect my neighbour’s property?


While these questions are by no means the only ones to keep in mind, they do serve as a starting point in evaluating the potential of your land.


Down Spouts

When considering changing your yard to work with the rain it gets, it may be necessary to look at your rainspouts to see if they need to be disconnected and moved. While this will vary from yard to yard, Michael did offer some great advice on the matter.


-Downspouts should end about 8-10 feet from your house to ensure that there is a ‘dry zone’ around your home. This helps to ensure that the foundation doesn’t receive additional strain.


-If possible, having the downspouts at the front of your house is best since the water needs to end up on the street.


-Putting a garden between your downspouts and the curb can help to absorb some of the water


Rain Barrels

Rain barrels can be a fantastic green addition to your garden since they help to reuse some of the water that falls on your property. However, not all rain barrels are created equal. Check out Michael’s tips below on adding a rain barrel to your yard.


-Keep it simple. The barrel should have a spigot at the bottom, overflow on the top, and a filter at the downspout entry point.

-Make sure to drain the barrel before the next storm

-Any overflow needs to be directed 8-10 feet downhill from the house to help protect the foundation.

-Bigger is always better with the overflow hose, if the entry hole is 4 inches, the exit hose should be at least the same.


Rain Gardens

Now for the moment, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to talk rain gardens! Throughout the presentation, Michael offered some fantastic tips on starting a rain garden, and while we don’t have room for everything in this post, we’ve summarized some of the key points bellow.


-The garden space should be dug out in a shallow bowl shape where the plants will be.


-Make sure the soil drains well. One way to do this with the existing soil is by adding in leaf compost.


-The size of your rain garden should be determined based on the amount of water in the area and the drainage of the soil.


-Native wildflowers such as the New England Aster or Black-eyed Susan’s are helpful in rain gardens as they tolerate stress well.


-Deep root plants can be a fantastic addition to your rain garden as they will go deeper into the soil than turf will, which helps with drainage.


-Remember, the garden doesn’t need to be big to be effective, and have fun with it!


Hopefully, this blog post has given you some ideas on where to start with creating a rain garden on your own or managing water on your property. The incredible part of all of this is there are countless ways to customise rain garden initiatives to your interests and property. Try searching online for ideas, resources, tips and tricks. Finally, a huge shout out and thank you to Conservation Halton for hosting this incredible workshop series. While they may be over for the year, both Conservation Halton and Oakvillegreen hold a variety of events and workshops throughout the summer. Visit the Conservation Halton and Oakvillegreen websites for more events, resources, and workshops. Happy gardening!


Fun Facts: Looking for some examples of great rain gardens online? Try searching for the “Blue House Rain Garden’ in Minneapolis or check out the rain garden Ecosource created in Mississauga!


Fun Facts: Rain gardens can be created in just about any city, even New York or Toronto. It just goes to show that all it takes is getting creative with the existing infrastructure.