WSU Extension Snohomish County

Puget Sound Rain Gardens

Welcome to

Puget Sound Rain Gardens

Goal: 12,000 Rain Gardens by 2016


Rain Garden Counter

Register Your Rain Garden


Rain Garden Workshop for Professionals

When: November 12 and 14 (half-day), 2014
Location: TBD
Cost: $85 early registration before October 31, $100 after October 31

What is a rain garden?

Photo of rain garden

A rain garden acts like a native forest by collecting, absorbing, and filtering stormwater runoff from roof tops, driveways, patios, and other areas that don’t allow water to soak in. Rain Gardens are simply shallow depressions that:

  • Can be shaped and sized to fit your yard
  • Are constructed with soil mixes that allow water to soak in rapidly and support healthy plant growth
  • Can be landscaped with a variety of plants to fit the surroundings

(Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners, Curtis Hinman, Washington State University)

Cleaning Up Puget Sound

Photo of a rain garden

Rain gardens can help clean up the Sound and protect aquatic life. When it rains or snows, more water flows from developed areas than undisturbed areas, carrying oil, fertilizers, pesticides, sediment and other pollutants downstream. In fact, stormwater is the #1 polluter of Puget Sound according to the Puget Sound Partnership - the state agency responsible for the health of the Sound. The added volume of water and associated contaminants are damaging water resources and harming aquatic life. Rain gardens, by infiltrating stormwater into the ground, clean the water and slow its travel to the Sound. View the WSU Rain Garden Video. (EPA Storm Water Technology Fact Sheet: Bioretention, 1999)

Photo of rain garden

Low Impact Development

Rain gardens are one of the most versatile and effective tools in a new approach to managing stormwater called Low Impact Development (LID). A LID project may incorporate several tools to soak up rain water, reduce stormwater runoff, and filter pollutants. Examples of these tools are permeable paving, compost-amended soils, vegetated roofs, rain water collection systems, and rain gardens. (Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners, Curtis Hinman, Washington State University)

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Build Your Own

View Our Video

Read Our Rain Garden Manual

Blogging for Rain Gardens

October 14, 2013 - The new Rain Garden Manual for Western Washington is out. It has the step by step information that you need to build a rain garden.

June 5, 2013 - A list of landscape professionals that have completed a training workshop jointly sponsored by WSU, Snohomish Conservation District and the City of Everett is posted on the Homeowners Resources page.  Click on the apprpriate button on the left hand side of the page. Professional help can make the job easier.

October 18, 2012 - Today is the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.  Oregon Public Broadcasting looked back on the Act to see what has happened to water quality. Their article called How Did We Get Into Such a Mess with Stormwater has video and pictures of their investigation. Another very relevant article is titled If Green Roofs and Rain Gardens are so Great Why Aren't There More?

August 17, 2012 - The Kitsap County Conservation District has sent over their list of rain garden installations. The county is up to 56 rain gardnes! Congratulations on the good work over the last few years.

The weather has been hot.  Remeber if you have installed a rain garden in the last year, it likely needs some supplemental water. Gardens need a few years to get established before they can stand on their own.

February 7, 2012 - Start looking for rain garden tours and classes at this time of year. It's time to plan your rain garden. Find resources here and at

November 13, 2011 - In the Green Market column of today's Seattle Times Pacific Northwest section, there is a list of "environmentally conscious things you can do that you can do that will benefit the communities that you hold close." Rain gardens, rain barrels and other low-impact development techniques to intercept stormwater before it rushes into the storm drains are touted as one of those "things" to do.

September 12, 2011 - The 12,000 Rain Gardens program and WSU's rain garden research was in the news again last week. Read the article and view the video.

September 9, 2011 - This Old House Magazine has a feature story on Puyallup Rain Gardens. The WSU/Stewardship Partners 12,000 Rain Garden Project is referenced. Though they have a good how-to companion article, it is best to also refer to the WSU video and manual above. (Submitted by Erica Guttman)

August 30, 2011 - Come see rain gardens installed and the Gardening with Ciscoe radio program live in Everett at Lombard Ave. and 14th St. on September 24th, 10:00am.

July 25 - Though mid-summer may not be the ideal time to install a rain garden, it can easily be done. Forming the rain garden can be easier, but you have to remember to water the plants regularly to get them established.

June 23 - The Department of Ecology is looking at implementing stricter stormwater regulations that rely on low impact development techniques like rain gardens. See the proposals at Ecology's website.

June 11 - A dozen and a half rain gardens were registered last month. There are a number of major installation events this summer. Go to the 12,000 Rain Gardens site for more information.

April 20 - A new Puget Sound focused website has been created by WSU and Stewardship partners to help achieve the 12,000 rain gardens goal. You can hear and read the public radio news story.

April 13 - 500 rain gardens!  A great start on the goal of having 12,000 rain garden around Puget Sound by 2016. Each rain garden reduces the pollution reaching Puget Sound and reduces erosion and sedimentation.

April 9 - King County has revealed plans for rain gardens and swales in the West Seattle area to reduce overflows into the Sound from their combined sewer/stormwater pumping station. Read about it.

March 26 - View the new WSU rain garden video.

March 24 - April has a lot of Rain Garden class offering. Click to the Classes Page to find one near you.

March 14 - Several dozen individuals toured 7 different homes with retrofitted Low Impact Development elements (including rain gardens) on March 12th. Most were learning for the first time about onsite stormwater management techniques.

February 25 - Rain garden and low impact development methods for homeowners are the focus of a home tour in south Snohomish County on March 12th, 10am - 4pm.

January 3 - Stewardship Partners has a new clickable map that shows pictures of dozens of newly installed rain gardens in south Puget Sound. A source of ideas for anyone thinking about installing a rain garden.

December 20 - Washington State University Extension and Stewardship Partners will kick-off a Puget Sound wide outreach program to build rain gardens. Look for more information in January.

December 1 - The City of Everett will be partnering with WSU Extension, the Conservation District and Stewardship Partners to pilot a rain garden program as a partial solution to north Everett flooding issues.

March 4 - Stewardship Partners has a new series of rain garden workshops coming up in King and Pierce counties. See the Classes page.

February 15 - The City of Seattle has kicked off their Rain Wise program. Ballard residents can be paid for installing rain gardens. See a Feb. 11th news story.

January 25 - Want to see some nearby rain gardens? Click on the Rain Garden Profiles button on the left side menu bar. If you know of a rain garden that isn't listed, send us information at

December 29 - Welcome to the Puget Sound Rain Gardens page! This is where you can find all the information to build a rain garden, link to experts and to register your rain garden in the fight to reduce pollution flowing into the Puget Sound.

September 25 - Register your rain garden!  We want to get existing rain gardens registered so we know where we are in the region's goal of reach 12,000 rain gardens over the next few years. Go to the rain gardens Registriation Page to see how simple it is.

September 24 - What are the primary issues facing installers of rain gardens?  In a review of 9 rain garden installations, Snohomish County Surface Water Management found the two most frequent issues were: 1. The ponding area of the garden was not level so the water pooled in one section and, 2. The overflow was too low preventing optimum infitration.

August 21 - Can I plant a rain garden right now? Yes. You will have to water to help plants establish. Fall is ideal because plants will require less water. Compost amended soil is critical for long term plant health.

July 19 - Why are native plants always recommended? As a category of plants, they have a high survival rate and a lower maintenance requirement. Long term functionality of your rain garden needs to be a consideration in its design.

June 1 - Can I put in a rain garden at this time of year with the hot weather? Sure, if you know that the area perks well in the winter and you are willing to water the rain garden plants until the winter rains come. Plants need to be established with a good root structure before they can survive summer on their own.

May 27th - Did you know that you can register your rain garden using your cell phone? This site is designed to be mobile friendly. To register your garden or one that you installed click on Rain Garden Registration button in the left hand column.

May 22nd – With our wet spring weather, it is easy to see how water runoff from our homes and neighbor hood streets rushes, at times, to the nearest storm drain. Often you can see the debris that is transported by the water. Now is the time to be thinking about a rain garden for your home. We have classes coming up. Current offerings are always available by clicking on “Classes” on the left side of the page. WSU also has the Rain Garden Manual for Homeowners.

As you plan your rain garden, e-mail us if a question arises. We will answer questions as promptly as we can in this blog.

WSU Snohomish County Extension, 600 128th Street SE, Everett, WA 98208, 425-338-2400,