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Rain Gardens in Washtenaw County

Learn how to design your own rain garden by taking our Master Rain Gardener Certification class. Or plant a rain garden on your property with technical advice from the Washtenaw County Rain Garden staff. As a rain gardener, or Master Rain Gardener, you can become your neighborhood's expert and spread the word about the benefits of rain gardens.

Jessen Rain Garden spring 2012What are Rain Gardens?

Rain gardens capture stormwater runoff before it pollutes our local rivers - while providing beautiful gardenscapes throughout the growing season.

Mother earth creates the rain - but we create the runoff.  When rain hits the roofs, streets and driveways of our neighborhoods, it washes pollution into the river. A rain garden captures the rain water runoff and filters it clean. One inch of rainfall means 600 gallons of water will be captured by a typical rain garden.  This is water that won't go to municipal pipes, won't add pollution to the river, and won't contribute to flooding. This water will recharge the groundwater.  But before it does, it keeps the garden looking green and lush. 

Master Rain Gardener Certification

MRG LogoMaster Rain Gardener class registration is open!  REGISTER HERE.

Master Rain Gardeners have earned their Master Rain Gardener certificate by taking the class and building a rain garden. The class trains people to design and install rain gardens - and to serve as their neighborhood expert.  Master Rain Gardeners help friends and neighbors to learn about, design and plant rain gardens. Recognize them by their Master Rain Gardener t-shirts!



Rain Garden Design Assistance for Homeowners

 harry and francineThe Office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner and staff work with several homeowners each year to design and install rain gardens on their property.  Our office offers a personalized visit and design advice - the homeowner builds the rain garden. The result is residents all over the county are happy with their new gardens, and the Huron River receives less fertilizers, chemicals and other harmful runoff.  For a site visit to your property in Washtenaw County, contact our Rain Gardens Coordinator, Susan Bryan at

The rain gardens planted through this program are capable of capturing 60,000 gallons of water - an inch of rainfall.    


How Can I Participate?

  • Install a rain garden in your yard.  A stormwater rate credit is available for gardens constructed within the City of Ann Arbor.  See a list of rain garden plants.
  • Train as a Master Rain Gardener, build your own garden, and become the rain garden expert in your neighborhood.
  • Get Help. If you’re interested in getting help with the design and implementation of a rain garden on your property, or would like to learn more about this effort and how you can become involved, contact our Rain Gardens Coordinator, Susan Bryan at or 734-730-9025.
  • Hire help.  If you are looking for a landscape contractor or professional gardener to implement your rain garden for you, here is a list of qualified contractors.
  • Visit our Rain Garden Events page to see this year's volunteer days and plant order dates.
  • Laugh.  Check out "I was a Teenage Raindrop" for some rain garden humor by David Zinn.


Where can I see Rain Gardens in action?

"The Washtenaw County Water Resources people were great ... For me, it was an easy choice ... an opportunity to experiment with a new way of gardening and help the environment."

 - Fran Alexander, Avid Gardener & Allen Creekshed resident

Rain Garden How-to Manuals

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Washtenaw County Water Resources Rain Garden Guide for Homeowners

Center for Watershed Protection - How to Install a Rain Garden (1 page)

Central Ohio - Rain Garden Manual for Homeowners

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Rain Garden Manual 

Vermont Rain Gardening Manual:  "Gardening to Absorb the Storm"

Natural Resources Conservation Service, Backyard Conservation

Matthaei Botanical Gardens - Stewardship At Home 




Wet Basements

Some homeowners that seek rain garden help are experiencing wet or flooded basements and are looking for a way to reduce the amount of water that ends up inside their home. If you have rain water flowing towards your house, we can provide technical assistance to determine if a rain garden can help alleviate your problem. More information on the causes and solutions to wet basements can be found through Kingston Utility.

You may be able to solve the problem simply by clearing debris off the nearest catch basin, or storm drain. Make sure your downspouts are clear and any cracks in your foundation are repaired. If simple solutions do not solve your wet basement problem, then consider the grade of your yard. If your grade is sloping towards your house, then the area may need to be re-sloped because water will always follow gravity! A rain garden could alleviate your wet basement problems depending on the groundwater table and your property characteristics. Contact Susan Bryan, for more information.

Hear about it. (WEMU story by Daniel Long April 7, 2015) 

Program History

Sally Richie's Rain Garden 2012Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program began in 2005 with MDEQ grant funding.  We have worked with homeowners to plan, design, and install over 105 rain gardens.  Today, the program continues to assist homeowners in creating and installing rain gardens on their property.

Hear about it. (WEMU Interview on the "Issues of the Environment" show)

See about it. (CBS Street Beat Detroit story April 18, 2015)

Read about it. (Old West Side News article April 2015)

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