Man vs. Nature

Youth Rain Action Storyboard

Post 5: Man vs. Nature

In Canada, especially in Ontario, we have been gifted with so much land that we can use. And we do use it. We have multiple cities and regions, especially around the GTA. Every city that spans an hour and a half distance away from the core of Toronto has a major box mall and contains many suburbs and roads to travel around. It’s important to not only see this land as a commodity and to separate ourselves with nature, but to see ourselves as one with it. That can be done through thorough planning that allows us to use the land sustainably and not stand as a barrier between us and nature.

This rain garden project is the perfect example.

Where we are building is in the flood plain of Etobicoke Creek. When there is heavy rainfall, it’s very likely to flood and cut off major roadways, or even flood basements of houses, causing damage all over. Part of this could be due to the soil being heavy in clay, which has low permeability, and part of this is due to the highly developed area it is surrounding.

The first step to designing our rain garden is to research the type of soil that is ideal for a rain garden and then test it in this area, using a percolation test (see post 4). But before digging, there are some important guidelines to follow, such as calling before digging to get footprints of the area. This is to make sure no major gas or other pipelines are in the way and will not pose a threat to the digging process.

The rate of percolation of the water into the soil will determine the effectiveness of the soil. For a rain garden, a loose soil consisting of large particles is ideal, such as a loamy/sandy soil. This will help the water easily move towards the ground water table and it will also allow excess water to be evapo-transpired.

The location that we have chosen is not necessarily ideal. The soil is a clay composition, which has a large holding capacity for water, but it’s quite slow to drain it. You can tell if a soil has lots of clay by putting soil in water. The clay stays suspended, organic material floats, and other soil types sink.

Jar with soil from rain garden site Jar with ideal soil settled at the bottomThe soil at our site (left) is rich in clay so the soil particles stay suspended. Ideally, soil would be a mixture of sand, loam, and organic matter. These soil particles settle out of the water (right).



Ideally, we would replace all the soil. But depending on the distance of the surface to the ground table, it might be too expensive to dig that low and replace that much soil. Instead, we will dig out and replace some of the soil, and plant deep-rooted plants that will also help soak up the water in our garden.


Visit the Youth Rain Action project page to learn more or contact Emily Dutton at

The Youth Rain Action Project is led by Ecosource in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Burnhamthorpe Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan (SNAP), and Sheridan Nurseries, and is generously supported by the Government of Ontario’s Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund.