friends@therouge.org | 734-927-4900 | Fax: 734-927-4920

Rain Gardens to the Rescue

Partners: Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

2023 Rain Gardens to the Rescue

Rain Gardens to the Rescue will be back in 2023! The program focus areas for 2023 are Detroit’s 48217 neighborhood, Dearborn Southend (48120, 48126) and City of River Rouge (48218) communities. Applications to recieve a rain garden through the program will open in March 2023, sign up below to know when it’s out!

Residents AND institutions (i.e. libraries, activity centers, places of faith, non-profits) are encouraged to apply. The weekly 5-part educational workshop to learn about rain gardens and how to build one is FREE and open to the public. Location and dates for the 2023 workshop series will also be available soon. In order to receive a rain garden through the application process, you MUST attend ALL course workshops (see application for all details once available).

Potential funding for additional gardens or garden materials outside of the 2023 program focus area may be/become available, please apply!

Questions? Please email Jaclyn Heikkila, Restoration Coordinator

What is Rain Gardens to the Rescue?

Sewage and urban runoff are polluting Detroit’s rivers.  We invite you to help prevent this pollution by putting Rain Gardens to the Rescue! Rain Gardens are a low cost solution to urban stormwater problems.  They bring joy to our gardeners and help beautify the community.  

Detroit residents and civic leaders can prevent the pollution of our Great Lakes from overflow of storm-water by putting Rain Gardens to the Rescue! The Rain Gardens to the Rescue program is a series of workshops designed to teach people how to create rain gardens of their own. As volunteers become more aware and engaged in the program our hope is that they will become rain garden ambassadors in the community – assisting others with rain garden plantings and spreading the message about the importance and need for rain gardens in our communities.

The Rain Gardens to the Rescue program is a series of 5 workshops and hands-on rain garden installations.  The workshops are designed to teach you about rain gardens, their purpose and the steps to take to create a rain garden of your own.  Garden installations provide an opportunity to educate your neighbors and family to do the same. Residents and institutions (i.e. libraries, activity centers, places of faith) are encouraged to apply to participate in the program. 

What is a Combined Sewer?

Watch the 2022 Detroit GSI Virtual Tour!

Learn about the benefits of rain gardens and programs for Detroit area residents, houses of worship and businesses to manage stormwater! These small gardens are making a BIG difference for our rivers.
Click HERE to View the Slides


This year’s workshops focused on residents in City of Detroit Council District 6. In 2022, nine (9) gardens were installed, replacing 1,787 sq.ft. of lawn. These gardens take runoff from 3,249 sq.ft. of impervious surfaces (i.e. roofs) and store 5,673 gallons of rainwater each time it rains!

I have wanted a rain garden for 10 years and in June of this year, I was finally able to join Rain Gardens to the Rescue… Each class session helped me to learn why rain gardens are an important addition to any landscape, how they support pollinators and birds, and how rain gardens can help mitigate stormwater runoff. I also learned how to calculate a rain garden area, the best rain garden plants native to Michigan, and different ways to design my rain garden. Thank you to all of the volunteers and to the wonderful instructors, Elayne and Jaclyn! I am excited to see my rain garden blooming for years to come.

-Angela Lugo-Thomas, 2022

Check out the 2022 rain gardens!

Check out some of the 2022 classes’ garden designs!

The 2022 class worked very hard at designing their garden plans; they chose a great variety of blooming native flowers of all colors, amazing native grasses and sedges, some complimentary traditional landscaping plants and lots of trees and shrubs in their designs. The creativity, stormwater and environmental goals all coalesce into these planting plans and were excited to see them through and get them planted this year to improve water quality and valuable greenspace for the community and wildlife.

Paige’s Garden Design
Jessica’s Garden Design
Betsy’s Garden Design
Kate’s Garden Design

2021 Workshops

2021’s workshops focused on residents and non-profits in City of Detroit Council Districts 1, 3 & 5. In 2021, eight (8) gardens were installed, replacing 1,305 sq.ft. of lawn. These gardens take runoff from 5,279 sq.ft. of impervious surfaces (i.e. roofs) and store 7,338 gallons of rainwater each time it rains!

2015-2022 Rain Gardens Installed

active and engaged residents about the value and purpose of rain gardens

100+ rain gardens
since 2015 that treat over 61,000 gallons of rain water per rain event

Over 900 people
in the installation of rain gardens

Quotes from Past Program Participants

Participating in the rain garden program this year was meaningful in so many ways.  It was great meeting fellow Detroiters engaged and invested in improving the infrastructure of the city, in small but significant ways.  Second, it felt so good to focus on something other than COVID, working outside and getting our hands dirty.   The classes were incredibly informative and inspiring, making me want to install a second rain garden in 2022.  Working with the staff from Sierra Club and Friends of the Rouge was so effortless; they made the hard work of digging up the sod fun (well, sort of) and always had such positive attitudes. They were responsive and always supportive and encouraging.  Last, I am truly appreciative of the City’s commitment to improving the neighborhoods and providing Detroiters with opportunities and tools to improve our specific neighborhood.  It was a great experience from start to finish.

-Carla Groh, 2021

Installing a rain garden during a ‘500-year flood’ gave me a deeper appreciation for the project. At first I was focused on the benefits it has for pollinators and was excited to have one less section of grass to cut. I knew about the relief rain gardens have on the city’s stormwater infrastructure but this was made even clearer to me when you see the damage flooding has on homes and pollution in our lakes and rivers. The course itself was very educational. I believe it balanced support with allowing you to design and own the plans yourself. I was very impressed by the access to materials and tools, especially the wide variety of native plants to choose from. I look forward to seeing my rain garden fill in and bloom in the next couple of years. A big thanks to Friends of the Rouge and Sierra Club for the resources and engaging staff that made this project possible.

-Alicia Martinez, 2021

Building the garden was an enjoyable experience as it brought out my neighbors and we were able to work on a community project together. Some neighbors are thinking about getting a rain garden of their own!

-E.B. Jordan, 2018

I greatly enjoyed meeting people with different backgrounds coming together for the same cause and helping each other out during planting days. It was a win-win, all the way around. Not just for houses of worship and residents but for the Rouge River too.

-Tom Scherf, 2018

…Where neighbors look out and help one of another. Now Rain Gardens to the Rescue is capturing those days again throughout the city with the same impact. Those days are coming back again and neighborhoods and resident’s can turn their yards into a garden of hope.

-Sonja Hill, 2016