Rain Gardens

Rain Garden

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a garden designed to function similar to an undisturbed native forest by collecting, absorbing, and filtering stormwater runoff from hard surfaces like rooftops, driveways, patios, and other areas that don’t allow water to soak into the ground. Rain gardens protect and improve water quality, while adding a lovely landscape amenity to your property. Soil type needs to be assessed when considering whether to build a rain garden.

Rain gardens:

  • Can be shaped and sized to fit your yard.
  •  Are constructed with specially formulated 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.

A Little Garden Makes a Big Difference

Carefully designed and constructed for optimum function – rain gardens are a simple and effective solution for on-site stormwater management.

What are the Benefits of a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens can protect water quality and aquatic life in local streams, lakes and Puget Sound by:

  • Filtering oil, pesticides, bacteria, fertilizers and other pollutants from stormwater runoff,
  • Helping to capture and infiltrate stormwater that may be running off of your property, while recharging the local groundwater thus helping to keep streams flowing even during the dry season.
  • Reducing localized flooding in neighborhoods and erosion along streams and shorelines,
  • Providing habitat for wildlife while beautifying landscapes.

Rain Garden Incentive Program

Are you a property owner in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater or unincorporated Thurston County? Are you interested in installing a rain garden in your yard? Each jurisdiction is sponsoring a Rain Garden Incentive Program that will reimburse selected applicants for expenses such as plants or compost upon the successful construction of their rain garden. The incentive is intended for new rain gardens added to existing development.

Rain Garden Backyard

For program details, guidelines and applications click the links below:

City of Lacey

City of Olympia

City of Tumwater:
Contact Debbie Smith at 360-754-4148 or dmsmith@ci.tumwater.wa.us.

Thurston County

Interested in Learning About Building a Rain Garden?


The Washington State University Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners provides guidance for designing and building a rain garden.  Available online at: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/1310027.pdf The handbook includes worksheets, templates for developing a planting plan, rain garden plants list and more!


This webpage also contains a 32-minute video: Building a Rain Garden in the Pacific Northwest: Keeping Our Pacific Northwest Waters Clean.


Stream Team offers FREE Rain Gardens Workshops annually. Go to www.streamteam.info and click on Calendar to find out about upcoming workshop dates. Workshop participants receive a FREE copy of the Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington Homeowners.

Sample Rain Garden Planting Plan

Sample Rain Garden Planting Plan for Sunny Area

Request Help

Stormwater Stewards Site Visits

Stormwater Stewards are highly trained volunteers who are available to assist residents with site assessments, including the soil percolation test and filling out the Program application. If you need assistance with your application, or if you would like to request Stormwater Stewards to conduct a site evaluation and/or help you to complete the application and rain garden sketch, please call Native Plant Salvage at 360-867-2164 or email Nativeplantsalvage@gmail.com

Visit Local Rain Gardens!

There are several publically accessible rain gardens in Thurston County:

  • Thurston County Fairgrounds – main parking lot
  • Dirt Works Demonstration Garden at Yauger Park
  • Lydia Hawk Elementary School, 7600 5th Ave. SE, Lacey, WA 98503
  • Woodland Trail entrance at Eastside Street, SE
  • 11th Avenue, SW (north side near Thomas Street)
  • Decatur Street, SW (next to Decatur Woods Park near 11th Avenue, SW)
  • Bowman Avenue, NW and Division Street, NW (northeast corner)
  • West Central Park, at the corner of Black Lake Blvd and Harrison Ave. SW