Add Beauty and Manage Rain with a Rain Garden 

Rain gardens are a great landscape feature that helps slow, collect, infiltrate and filter storm water. They are the best solution to turn a “problem” wet area in your yard into a real benefit. Designed for a low-lying area that collects rainwater you’ll find there are many benefits to a rain garden like transforming a bare, wet area into a green, blooming habitat that provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.  

Problem Solvers 

Increased stormwater runoff is the real problem. Add soil erosion to that and the result is vulnerability to flooding. Rain gardens can prevent both, helping to conserve water and soil.

Consider the water cycle shown above and then add human development to the picture. Humans create stormwater runoff when natural areas are developed, replacing them with a sea of impervious surfaces fragmenting our green spaces.  Within a developed residential area, pollutants such as fertilizers, herbicides, pet waste, and oil are washed from lawns, streets, and parking lots into local streams and drainage systems. 

How Rain Gardens Help 

While a single rain garden may seem inconsequential, it has great value. Rain gardens slow the water down allowing for it to be collected in the garden’s depression. Settling soil, silt and organic material that are washed by the water from higher ground are also captured and prevented from washing away. The captured water slowly filters back into the soil where it is needed most.  

As the water soaks into the soil, the deeply rooted plants in your rain garden act as a filter, removing pollutants from the stormwater. Now your rain garden has become a beautifully designed space in your yard with stunning plants that captures and treats stormwater!   

No need to worry that your rain garden will become a breeding area for mosquitoes. When designed correctly you should not have standing water that lasts longer than 72 hours. This is a much shorter time frame than the 7 required for most species of mosquitoes to develop and hatch from eggs laid in standing water. 

Rain garden basics 

Choose a site. Locate your garden in a low lying area of your landscape that tends to collect rain water and is at least 10 feet from your foundation. Choose a sunny or partially sunny spot. Also consider how it can be incorporated into your existing landscape replacing an area of traditional turf grass where the lawn slopes toward the street. An area that would catch roof run off or water from a down spout is perfect. If the rain garden is located on a slope, create a berm on the low side to retail water and soil. 

Compared to a patch of lawn, a rain garden allows 30% more water to soak in the ground. 

Test drainage. Test the location’s drainage before you create the bed. Dig a hole 8 to 12 inches deep and fill the hole with water. The water should soak in within 48 to 72 hours. Soils heavy in clay will drain much more slowly than soils heavier in loam, silt or sand. Amend sites heavy in clay with organic compost to improve the soil and help drainage. If the site doesn’t drain within 72 hours, choose another site. 

Start digging. Rain gardens can be any size, but a typical residential rain garden ranges from 100 to 300 square feet. The depth of the garden can range between four and eight inches. Anything too deep might pond water too long and if too shallow, it will require greater surface area to effectively manage water. 

Add plants. Choose a variety of native forbs and grasses, planting those with higher water tolerance in the middle of the garden. Include plants of varying heights and bloom times to maximize the garden’s depth, texture and color. Plant in groups of three to seven plants of a single species.  Go for diversity. In natural areas, a diversity of plant types not only adds beauty, but also creates thick underground root network that keeps the entire plant community in balance. 

The chart below includes plants for our area suitable for a rain garden. Planting zones are indicated as: 

Margin: the high edge around the rain garden that is the driest zone 
Median: the area between the margin and center 
Center: the middle of the garden that is deeper and will stay wet longest 

Help it flourish. Rain gardens can be maintained with little effort after plants are established. Weeding and some watering during dry periods will be needed the first two years. 

Need more information? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Run from water waste with good habits

Do your kids turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth? It can save about 4 gallons of water! These habits add up – over the course of a week a family can save enough water to fill a regular trash can. Wouldn’t you rather use that water? Give the kids a hug and encourage their pride in being good stewards of a vital natural resource.

Kids seem to do better than adults at maintaining good habits when they understand the benefits and their actions are rewarded with praise. The rest of us may need a sticky note on the ‘fridge! Consider this your sticky note.

At least once a year, check for dripping water. Even a small leak makes a big impact on  your water bill. Over time you could be paying for hundreds of gallons of water you aren’t using.

Indoors:

  • Look at faucets and taps in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Check under sinks and inside cabinets for wet spots
  • Remember to check faucets in tubs and shower heads
  • Inspect clothes- and dishwasher connections that can develop leaks over time

Outside:

  • Check  spigots and hose ends
  • Ditto for sprinklers attached to a hose
  • For automated systems, check sprinkler heads for leaks, one sign is taller or greener grass, another is places where the ground is perpetually wet
  • Install a rain sensor, if your controller doesn’t have one, to keep sprinklers off when it rains – what a waste that is

Leaks and dripping faucets are easy to ignore but costly.  How about checking right now to be sure it’s not happening right under your nose. Good habits prevent wasted water, so thank you for being a good water steward! Here’s a virtual hug for you.

How can you help conserve water in dry times?

Say yes to more and say yes to less!

Keeping our water clean, healthy, and available is a full-time job for anyone who uses water. Right now is the best time to assess any gaps in your water-saving activities.

Say YES TO MORE

Start by saying YES TO MORE when you only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Same goes for washing your clothes. YES TO MORE cold water washes that conserve energy while being gentler on clothes. Time to upgrade your washing machine? Select one that is smart enough match the amount of water to the load size.

Say YES TO LESS

Fall is a time for less: less fertilizer on the lawn. Our St Augustine grass won’t be able to take up many nutrients, especially nitrogen, once it enters dormancy (mid October – mid April). Adding fertilizer after the first of October won’t help the grass, and it’s more likely those fertilizers will simply run off into waterways during the next rain.

Speaking of rain, does your sprinkler system controller have a rain sensor? The next few months are forecasted to bring strong chances of large rain events. A rain sensor helps you say YES TO LESS irrigation by communicating with your sprinkler system that your lawn has received adequate rainfall and overrides a scheduled watering. Again, your lawn is dormant from mid-October to mid-April and requires not only less fertilizer, but less water too.

Consider yourself a bit of a DIYer? Installing a rain sensor is pretty simple and we’ll help you get started. Send an email to enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov with the subject line: Rain Sensor Request.

The first 10 Township residents to email will receive a free rain sensor.

Just provide your home address so we can verify residency. We’ll be in touch with details on where to pick up your rain sensor and help with any troubleshooting.

Ready to say YES TO MORE AND YES TO LESS? Think about other simple ways your actions can reduce water use. Each YES means we have the water we need in the future.

For questions about water use, visit our Water Conservation webpage.

How much water are you using?

It’s time to evaluate your water use both indoors and outdoors.

Did you know that 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day? Taking 10 minutes to check for leaks can not only save water but prevent future water damage within the home.  

Audit your home for leaks 

  • Turn off everything in your home that uses water. 
  • Read your water meter. 
  • Wait 15 minutes, and then read the meter again. Did the numbers change? If so, you may have a leak. 

If you’re a Woodlands Water customer, the recently installed Smart Water Meters allow you to view your bill, monitor water usage, identify potential leaks, get notifications about excess water use or weather events that might impact your water use.  Get started today with the WaterSmart Customer Portal here. 

Possible leak?  

Look around and check that outdoor faucets aren’t dripping. Look under sinks in all bathrooms and kitchen. If you can’t identify the leak, call a professional for help. 


How many inches? 

Lawn watering accounts for over 50% of water usage by Woodlands residents. If you’re watering more to account for our current drought conditions, you might be doing more harm than good. St. Augustine grass needs only one inch of water per week. Any more than that can lead to disease, pests and weakened lawns. Not to mention wasted water running off the lawn and into the street grows mosquitoes when it enters the storm drains.   

Audit your outdoor water use 

Have questions about reducing water use indoors or outdoors? Contact our water conservation specialist at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Care about water? Become a water specialist!

Get certified this summer! Join the corps of well-informed volunteer specialists who provide education, outreach, and service to keep our local water bodies healthy. This unique certification program, made possible by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, is offered to both students (grades 9 – 12) and adults.

You can be certified as a Texas Waters Specialist after completing just 8 hours of training based on the Texas Waters curriculum guide. You’ll receive a certificate and an official pin designating you as a certified waters specialist. Then volunteer with The Woodlands Township and other local agencies to educate and work beside your neighbors in protecting local aquatic resources.

The good news: you can attend classes to obtain the needed training hours right here in The Woodlands! The Environmental Services Department has several class dates scheduled through the summer. If you need more information, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov with the subject line: water specialist inquiry.

Get started today and register as a TPWD volunteer here. For more detailed instructions on how to register, follow along with this document.

To earn your hours through The Woodlands Township, register for an upcoming class here.

Upcoming water lab classes are scheduled for Saturday, July 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday, August 20 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Bear Branch Recreation Center.