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Rethink your Garden
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Image courtesy Kate Longfield.

You can use a portion of your lawn to create a garden that is attractive and designed to manage stormwater.

Rethink your garden by considering bioretention. Bioretention systems consist of a dug-out space for settling water, grass buffer strips, and layers of sand, mulch, organic matter, soil, and vegetation. Bioretention is a Best Management Practice (BMP) that can be used on both a large and small scale within communities looking to capture, absorb, and treat potentially polluted stormwater.

The plants that are selected for a bioretention system must be able to survive in both wet and dry environments. These systems are effective at reducing runoff volume and rate, increasing groundwater recharge, improving water quality, reducing impacts of flooding, and are more cost-effective than piping, while enhancing the natural aesthetics of an area. A common example of a bioretention system is a rain garden.

Rethink your garden by integrating bioretention practices and redirecting water towards them.

Rain gardenS

A rain garden is a bowl‐shaped bioretention practice designed to capture, treat, and absorb stormwater. If stormwater is directed into a rain garden, it can soak into the ground and recharge the groundwater supply at a rate 30% greater than a lawn.


Rain gardens are particularly effective if stormwater is directed to them from a roof, driveway, other impervious surface. Rain gardens are a great way to integrate both stormwater management and colorful native shrubs, grasses or flowers into your property and neighborhood. 

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Image courtesy Kate Longfield.

Here is how you can get started:


  • Test your soil! Watch our straightforward video on Soil Testing at Home to discover what your soil type is and what that means for gardening.



  • Use the VT Rain Garden Manual. It is a great resource if you want to learn which plants will do best in your rain garden based off of soil type, exposure to sunlight, and more. This guide will also provide step-by-step instructions for building your garden.


Grass or rock-lined swales are an intentionally engineered landscape feature designed to move stormwater from one point to another. Swales can be used to move water away from building foundations and to manage runoff along property lines or beside roads. This practice is typically used as a connector to direct or convey water into another practice like a rain garden.


Swales should ideally be sloped at a 2:1 ratio (1 ft fall for every 2 ft across) and may be designed with built-in rock check-dams, strategically placed to slow the water down.  Swales are a low cost and low maintenance stormwater solution that are extremely effective at encouraging infiltration, catching sediment, and redirecting / slowing runoff.

Considering a swale for your property? Here is how you can get started:


  • Conduct a site assessment. Identify where your stormwater runoff currently flows, where it pools, and where you would like to direct it.


  • Consider your property layout. Create a couple conceptual designs of where you could use a swale to redirect water. If you have a garden or a rain garden, a swale is a great way to transport water directly to it.


  • Learn about what practice you can use to control and manage water at the end of your swale. This is a great place for a small, medium, or large rain garden. It is important to test your soil at this stage.

  • Construct and maintain your swale. Take a look at our deeper dive resources for information on designing, building, and maintaining your swale.

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Image courtesy Kate Longfield.

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