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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Learn How to Construct a Rain Garden at Farm Science Review

August 17, 2009

LONDON, Ohio – When installed properly, rain gardens capture water, reducing irrigation needs and storm water flow, while beautifying the landscape. Visitors to Ohio State University's Farm Science Review can get more information on the construction and maintenance of rain gardens, which are becoming more popular in urban areas across Ohio.

Dave Dyke, an Ohio State University Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources, will present "Rain Gardens" at 11 a.m. on Sept. 23 in the Utzinger Garden. The Utzinger Garden is located on Friday Avenue of the Review's exhibitor grounds. Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 22-24 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

Dyke will provide an overview of rain garden installation and maintenance focusing on selecting a location, design, plant selection and weed control.

"There are many misconceptions about rain gardens, from what a rain garden should look like, to plant selection, to misinformation about soil amendments," said Dyke. "Part of the presentation is designed to clear up some of those misconceptions."

Dyke said that one of the biggest mistakes people make is visualizing what a rain garden should look like.

"People like to think of rain gardens as wetland or bog habitats. But rain gardens are just like any other garden; they should be an attractive landscape feature," said Dyke. "The only difference between rain gardens and standard gardens is that rain gardens are designed into the contours of the landscape to capture water. If constructed properly, the water will drain away in less than 40 hours."

Another misunderstanding people have about rain gardens is that they have to be high maintenance and utilize mainly native perennial plants.

"You can use any plants that you want that do well in your area under the soil and site conditions found in your rain garden -- annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs. Both native and non-native plants should be considered," said Dyke. "What you should be really concerned with is selecting plants that will thrive in the different ecosystems that can be created in your rain garden. These can vary widely, as in any other landscape situation."

Dyke said that some of the most effective rain gardens are those that are practically maintenance free.

"Shrubs and trees often work the best because they capture large amounts of water and require very little work to maintain," said Dyke.

However the rain garden is designed or what plants are used, ultimately the best rain garden is the one that captures the maximum amount of rain water from a specific area, such as from a rooftop or a driveway. "The No. 1 use of a rain garden is to capture that excess water. It helps to manage storm water runoff, cut irrigation needs, reduce water bills, and keep your landscape looking lush and attractive," said Dyke.

Dyke and his colleagues have developed a rain garden handbook, "Rain Garden Guidelines for Southwest Ohio." The handbook provides detailed information on construction, installation and maintenance of rain gardens, and can be applied to any area throughout Ohio – although some of the recommended plant materials might not be suitable for all locations.

For more information, log on to

Other topics being covered at the Utzinger Garden during Farm Science Review include cover crops, fall planting, Emerald ash borer updates, galls, backyard fruits, bees and wasps, perennials, disease management and herbs. For a complete agenda, log on to

Farm Science Review is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. It attracts upwards of 140,000 visitors from all over the country and Canada, who come for three days to peruse 4,000 product lines from 600 commercial exhibitors, and learn the latest in agricultural research, conservation, family and nutrition, and gardening and landscape.

Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 22-23 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 24.

For more information, log on to Farm Science Review is also on Twitter (, Facebook (, and Ning (

Candace Pollock
Dave Dyke