Water quality is a big concern here in Pinellas County. We must do everything we can to protect our precious water resources: for our health, and for our tourism-driven economy. Storm water runoff is one way the residential landscape can contribute to the pollution of our waters.
Rushing rainwater picks up and carries pollutants and debris into our storm drains where it is carried to streams, lakes, the bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. Among those pollutants are things like automotive oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and leaf litter. Yes, even yard waste is a problem when it ends up in the storm drain. Leaf litter and other yard waste contain nitrogen and other elements that can be detrimental to a body of water.
One way you can reduce the amount of pollutants that reach our watershed is to install a rain garden. A rain garden is a landscape feature that is designed to hold rainwater and the materials it may carry temporarily. A rain garden allows the water to percolate into the ground, thus reducing the amount of storm water runoff.
To begin you will want to locate an area in your yard that you can direct storm water from a rain event. This may be somewhere between a downspout and the street, for example. A rain garden is going to be an indentation in the landscape that will be planted and will allow for temporary collection of rainwater. Be sure to choose an appropriate location for this, taking into account your landscape design, your mowing pattern (if it will be located in your lawn), and making sure to keep it out of high-traffic areas (to avoid tripping).
After you choose the location you will want to select the plants for your rain garden. These plants should be able to tolerant flooding, while also being drought tolerant. You can find a list of rain garden plants for Central Florida here:
There are a number of websites that give design and installation instructions; here are a few to get you started:
A Guide to Understanding and Protecting the Southern Coastal Watershed: