Online Master Rain Gardener Certification

Welcome to class!  Start your Rain Garden planning here!

Class Details

Master Rain GardenerFollow the syllabus below, and watch the class videos. Plan on some homework - getting outside and measuring and drawing. 

There are five classes. Watch a video and do the following homework. By the end you have your rain garden all planned out, and you are ready to dig.

Let me know you if you are taking the class self-paced!  Then, when you are done, I can give you your certificate and Master Rain Gardener t-shirt. Just fill out this form, so I know you are taking the class.  

Class discussion will be held on an online forum, with flexible hours. So even if you have a day job – you can take this class! Feedback Forum: We will be using a forum for class discussion and feedback: either the Houzz GardenWeb, or our Facebook Group. Choose one to join, and post there to get feedback from instructors, classmates, and Master Rain Gardener alumni.

Get a personalized consult. If you like, we will come out and stand in your yard with you and strategize about rain gardens with you, if you need extra guidance on your plans. Make an appointment with us - anywhere in Washtenaw County! 

Everyone is invited to our rain garden events. They are a nice supplement to an online class. Events include visits to real rain gardens, local native plant nurseries, plant sales, and seed starting workshops.

If you have questions, you can always e-mail Susan Bryan. A quicker way to get questions answered is to ask the Master Rain Gardeners in the Facebook group.

Class Handouts

MRG Video Play

Class 1: "What & Why" - Introduction & a Rain Garden Tour


  • Get inspired! Watch a fun rain garden video.
  • Start thinking where you will build your rain garden.  It can be your own yard, or a willing friend’s.
  • Take photos of the area (or potential areas).
  • Start a new thread on the GardenWeb forum, or Facebook group, and post the photos of your site there. Explain what is going on in your site. Do you have basement flooding? Are you solving a problem of some kind? What is the source of the runoff water? (roof, driveway, patio, etc.) Do you have other needs in this space (sports, views out windows, you would like a tree, etc.)
  • Read pages 3, 10-12 & 22-24 of the coursepack.
  • Take Quiz #1.
Master Rain Gardener class video 2

CLASS 2 Video: Where to Put It and How to Size It


  • If you revised your rain garden location, take another picture and post it on the GardenWeb Forum or the Facebook Group, in the thread you started.
  • Do a percolation test in the spot where you are planning the rain garden. (Dig a 18” deep hole and fill it with water. Wait for it to soak in. Fill it again. Note the time it takes to soak into the ground.)
  • Measure the approximate roof/ impervious-area that will feed the garden. (Coursepack p.14)
  • Calculate the approximate roof area that will feed the garden (20% of the size of the roof.)
  • Read pages 13 (measuring section), and 15-20 (sample designs) of the coursepack.
  • Post your percolation rate and your roof area on the forum, or FB group, in the thread you started.
  • Watch this video on digging a rain garden.
  • Take Quiz #2:
Master Rain Gardener class video 3

CLASS 3: "How" - Planning and Digging


  • Measure your outdoor space using the methods outlined in class and described on page 13 of the coursepack.
  • Draw up a base sheet on graph paper (1 square=1 foot), mapping the house location, and any fences, trees, etc., that are relevant.
  • Draw up a few tentative rain garden shapes on the base plan.
  • Think of some plants that you would like to try in the rain garden. Post them on the forum or FB group, in your thread.
  • Post your base sheet on the forum or FB group in your thread by Monday morning.
  • Quiz #3
Master Rain Gardener class video 4

CLASS 4: Planting Design: The rain garden plant palette


  • Draw your rain garden design on your base sheet.
  • Draw the outline of the garden; the bottom; the berm; the cut edge. Make sure bottom is big enough.  Does the number of squares (square feet) in the bottom correspond to the number of square feet you calculated you would need? If not, take the relatively more wet, or dry, conditions into account as you pick plants.
  • Draw the water conveyance (pipe, or overland flow).
  • Draw in individual, or areas for specific plants. List the plant palette you will be using.
  • Post your plan, plant list and photo of site on the forum, or Facebook group, in your thread. If you draw it with pencil, just take a digital photo of it and post. Or you could use the digital drawing tool of your choice.
  • Rain Garden Plant List – the Official “Rain Garden Plants that Will Not Fail” List, vetted by us (Shannan and Susan)

    For more experienced gardeners choose from: Rain Garden Complete Plant List. Try out some in the “Plants to Try” section!

    For new gardeners: The Rain Garden "Top 20" plant list - see page 25 of the Coursepack.

  • Where to Buy Native Plants: Michigan Native Plants. List of producers of native plant species, grown from wild-collected seed.

Master Rain Gardener class video 5

CLASS 5: Presentation of Final Rain Garden Designs

  • Everyone should "present" their final designs on the forum or Facebook group. We’ll pick a few to go over in detail during class.
  • We will especially focus on plant combinations and making it beautiful.  So bring your suggestions! We will collaborate as a class.

GOING FORWARD: Dig and Plant your Rain Garden!

  • Dig it yourself, or recruit help.Bling
  • Plant it. Where to get plants? Frequent your local nursery. Find a local native plant nursery. Or do mail order.  Divide up perennials in your garden to put in your rain garden, or ask a friend to share.  
  • Incorporate compost in, and mulch.
  • Watch it grow!  Watch it absorb water when it rains.
  • Post photos of your finished garden on the forum, and bask in the compliments of your fellow Master Rain Gardeners.
  • Add your rain garden to the official map. If you have trouble, send a note to Susan Bryan [email protected].
  • Congratulations - you are a certified Master Rain Gardener!

Dress like a Master Rain Gardener

Master Rain Gardeners can order t-shirts, sweaters and more through: Master Rain Gardener Gear.  Master Rain Gardener t-shirts and signs are also given away at all our events. Or send a note to Susan Bryan [email protected] she'll set you up.

Get your Rain Garden on the map!

Enter your rain garden - and earn your certification. Enjoy scrolling around and seeing other rain gardens in your neighborhood.

Get your rain garden on the map.
Harry Sheehan models the Master Rain Gardener t-shirt

GIVING BACK: Become a leader and a resource for your community

  • Help out newbie Master Rain Gardeners-in-training on the forum, in the Facebook group, or in your neighborhood.
  • Document your rain garden in some cool way that we could share online. YouTube? Stop motion photography? Be creative!
  • Share your rain garden: have a garden party where you show off your rain garden. Put your garden on a local garden tour.  Invite a local garden club.
  • Share with the next generation: help a scout build a rain garden as a project.  Help your local elementary school put one in.
  • Volunteer to maintain a public rain garden.  There are many rain gardens in parks or in front of public buildings that need some love. Weed them, or better yet lead a weeding work day so others learn about their value. Contact Catie Wytychak for opportunities in Ann Arbor, Dexter, Saline, and Ypsilanti [email protected].
  • Send Susan [email protected] a note about your activities so she can celebrate your success. And you might be selected for one of the Master Rain Gardener Leadership Awards!
Saline Library Master Rain Gardener volunteers 2014

Discussion Forum Details

We will be using an online platform for discussion, and so you can post photos of your yard. Instructors, fellow Master Rain Gardener students, and also MRG alumni will give you individual feedback. Share your site selection, your plan and your plant choices, and we'll discuss. You will get a lot of advice, feel free to take it or not!

There are two options for participating in class discussion, and getting approval of your rain garden site, plan, and completion (so you can collect your Master Rain Gardener t-shirt!). Select one you feel comfortable in, and post there.

One is the Facebook Group - Master Rain Gardeners. Request to join, and wait to be approved.

The other is the Houzz GardenWeb. To create a profile so you can post, follow the directions below.

  1. To join the Houzz GardenWeb, make a profile for yourself by clicking HERE. Make a profile for yourself, pick "homeowner', pick your preferences if you like (it doesn't matter), and then edit your profile so you like your screen name and add a pic.
  2. E-mail me your screen name - so I know which screen name goes with which student. Our forum is titled Great Lakes Gardening. Post photos of your site, your plant selections, and join discussions about plant swaps, etc.
  3. Start a thread by naming it. (Example title: “Backyard rain garden”) Post your homework here – all in the same thread. Start by posting the photos of where you are considering putting a rain garden. Then post your design, your flower choices, all in the same thread. You will get feedback from me, and other Master Rain Gardeners here.


EPA imageThis NPS Pollution Control project has been funded wholly or in part through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement 2014-0010 to Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office for the Rain Garden University project. The contents of the document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Environmental Quality, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.