New Guide Details How to Create a Rain Garden

By Lisa Halvorsen, UVM Extension
June 29, 2021

As public awareness of stormwater issues increases, so does interest in finding ways to protect local waterways. For many homeowners, schools, businesses andmunicipalities, the answer may be installing a rain garden.

Rain gardens capture, soak up and filter stormwater runoff from roofs and paved surfaces, protecting lakes, ponds and rivers from pollutants such as fertilizers, pet waste and oil leaks from cars. They also can add beauty to an area or serve as a food source for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

The Lake Champlain Sea Grant program and University of Vermont (UVM) Extension recently released an updated guide to rain garden design and installation for landowners. Rain Garden Manual for Vermont and Lake Champlain Basin can be downloaded at Free, printed copies will be available later this summer. To reserve a copy, email seagrant [at]

The 28-page manual outlines the benefits of rain gardens and provides step-by-step instructions for planning, design and installation, including factors to consider such as location, size, slope, soil type, costs, labor and maintenance. It also explains why rain gardens are a cost-effective green stormwater infrastructure practice and how they can be incorporated into a number of different landscapes.

Another section looks at plant selection and criteria including sun exposure, salt and drought tolerance, bloom time, color and seasonal interest with a focus on using species native to Vermont or the Lake Champlain basin. These plants require less watering, fertilizing and overall care as they have both adapted to and thrive in this climate. A list of recommended plants, including pollinator-friendly species, and U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone maps for Vermont and northern New York are included.

This third edition is based on the original manual that was created by the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District in 2009 in collaboration with UVM Extension, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and other partners.