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RiverSmart Homes: Rain Gardens

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A rain garden is a landscaped area that is strategically placed and connected to a downspout to collect and absorb stormwater from your rooftop. Directing the downspout to the rain garden allows stormwater to flow away from your home’s foundation and holds it in the garden area until it can naturally absorb into the ground. The rain garden dips slightly into the ground and has soil that is modified to increase infiltration. In addition to improving drainage, rain gardens also help keep polluted stormwater out of local streams. 

Rain gardens are designed to be site-specific. They can be customized to meet a properties  characteristics, including topography, soils, drainage patterns, and sun exposure. 

RiverSmart Homes Rain Gardens 

RiverSmart Homes offers assistance to residents to install up to two (2) rain gardens per property. Each rain garden installed on a property costs $100. The standard rain garden size  RiverSmart Homes installs is approximately 50 sq. ft.

Installing a rain garden through the RiverSmart Homes program includes the following: 

  • Being paired with a trained landscaper 
  • The design of the garden 
  • The installation of the garden; including all plants, mulch, and labor. Labor includes connecting a nearby downspout to the garden underground, modifying the soil in the garden and planting.  

Participants should note that plants included in RiverSmart Homes rain garden installations are very small when they are first planted. It takes about 1-2 years after the installation of the garden for the plants to fully mature. 

How to Get a Rain Garden Through RiverSmart Homes 

The steps for getting a rain garden through the RiverSmart Homes program are: 

  1. Sign up for a RiverSmart Homes audit. 

    - Once the application is submitted, participants are added to a waitlist. Participants will be contacted when they are at the top of the waitlist to schedule their RiverSmart Homes audit. 
  2. A RiverSmart Homes Auditor will schedule a time to visit the property and conduct a site-specific assessment (or “audit”). This audit will determine if RiverSmart rain gardens are possible on the property, as well as other features offered through RiverSmart Homes. 
  3. If an auditor determines that RiverSmart rain gardens are possible on a property, participants can sign up through their auditor. 

    - The auditor will then add participants to a waitlist for rain garden installations. When at the top of the waitlist, participants will be paired with a RiverSmart Homeslandscaper who is trained to install rain gardens. 
    - Participants can receive a maximum of two (2) rain gardens through the RiverSmart Homes program. If they would like more gardens for their home, or if they would like to install a rain garden on their own or with their own landscape contractor,   participants can take advantage of the Rain Garden Rebate Program
  4. Once paired, participants will coordinate with the landscaper to design and install the rain garden(s). 

    - The participant must submit a one-time $100 copayment before meeting with the landscaper 
    - The landscaper schedules an on-site consultation with the participant.  This consultation allows  the landscaper an opportunity to see the property and meet with the participant to discuss garden specifics, such as types of plants and the shape of the garden.  
  5. After a rain garden is installed, it is the participant’s responsibility to properly maintain the rain garden (maintenance information below). 

Rain Garden Maintenance 

Once RiverSmart Homes installs a rain garden on a property, the program participant is the owner of the rain garden. Program participants are responsible for properly maintaining their rain gardens so they last as long as possible.  

Rain garden projects need to be cared for regularly, especially during the first two years. 

Basic maintenance for rain gardens includes: 

  • Watering plants regularly if there has not been enough  rain  
  • Weeding, pruning, and mulching the garden regularly 
  • Cleaning the downspout connection to the garden to prevent it from getting clogged 
  • Removing trash or other debris from the rain garden 

The RiverSmart Maintenance Assistance Program  assists program participants with the maintenance of their RiverSmart rain gardens and BayScapes for free.  Receive free advice: 

  1. Submit a question by filling out the online form, emailing [email protected] or calling (443) 449-8230. Please provide as much detail as possible regarding the issue you would like help with and, if possible, include the original plant installation plan. 
  2. A qualified team member will respond to your inquiry within 3 business days. More complex issues may require additional questions or photos. 

Please watch the video series below to learn more on how to properly maintain a rain garden! 

You can find more information on how to maintain RiverSmart rain gardens by contacting our providers, reviewing the maintenance documents below, or by going to

If you have any questions or comments about RiverSmart Homes rain gardens, please contact Arielle Conti at [email protected] or (202) 420-0645.

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