Friends of the Arboretum (FOA) is proud to sponsor the third annual “Grass-To-Garden” initiative!  As an organization, FOA’s mission is to build positive relationships between people and the land through the support of the UW–Madison Arboretum. We are excited to continue our mission with this initiative, by donating three rain garden kits to community members in 2024. This page provides information on the Grass-To-Garden program, what the rain garden contains, who can/should apply, and what to expect if you are selected.

After reading the program information below, you may click here for the online application form.


What is the Grass-To-Garden Initiative?
Grass-To-Garden is an initiative from the FOA, designed to increase the number of rain gardens in the Madison area and to grow awareness of the benefits of rain gardens generally. FOA is gifting three rain gardens to organizations or individuals who have a presence or live in and around the Madison area.

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a shallow depression planted with water-loving native flowering plants and grasses that help soak up rainwater and melted snow. They are best placed in an area where they can capture runoff from a building’s downspout and the lawn. Rain gardens help runoff soak into the ground instead of causing erosion or carrying pollution to the nearest lake or stream. 

For more information about rain gardens as well as helpful recordings of a virtual rain garden workshop, see the Dane County Rain Gardens resource page.

For the Wisconsin DNR’s printable manual on rain gardens, click here.

What does the Rain Garden contain?
The rain garden contains a mix of water-loving plants, such as Fox Sedge, Blue Flag Iris, Marsh Blazingstar, Great Blue Lobelia, Purple coneflower, and Blue Vervain.  The kit will consist of 32 plants – 2 plants of 16 different species.

Who is eligible for the Grass-to-Garden Program?
Any organizations or individuals in the Madison area are welcome to apply.
The applicant must have a suitable planting site; generally 35 to 65 square feet.
The applicant must have or be able to access the necessary tools for planting (including a shovel, tools for weeding, and the capacity to water the garden in times of drought).
The applicant must have a plan for planting and caring for the garden.

How are selections made?
Provided that applicants meet the basic requirements outlined under “Who is eligible?”, applicants will be selected on a first-come-first-serve basis, with the understanding that at least one garden is reserved for an organization.

What if I live in co-housing or a rental?
If you are interested in applying as part of an organization, you will need to secure permission from your landlord, and likely coordinate how long-term care will be maintained. Since applications are accepted first-come first-serve, if you are interested but need time to coordinate, please email Lily Butler, Friends of the Arboretum Native Plant Sale Coordinator, to hold your spot. We will be reserving at least one garden for an organization or group housing situation in order to accommodate the extra time needed to coordinate.

What to expect if you are selected?
If you are selected, we will provide notice of the selection by May 3, 2024.
You will be responsible for picking up the garden from the Arboretum on Tuesday, May 14 or Wednesday, May 15, 2024 and should be planted within a couple of weeks. Your rain garden will need extra weeding and watering in the beginning, but maintenance will taper off as plants grow in. For example, a healthy and grown-in rain garden requires weeding just a few times each year, minimal spring cleaning, and watering just during periods of drought.
In order to best understand what works, FOA asks that you contribute to our shared learning through a final report or interview (written or in-person, based on your preference).
Friends will provide some additional educational materials to help with planting and upkeep for those who are selected.


This application form asks for some information that will be required to submit your application. We recommend gathering this information before you start your application. This information includes:
The plot address/location
The size of the plot in square feet (note, one kit is designed to plant 35 to 65 square feet)
The number of hours of sunlight the plot receives during the summer
Whether the plot is visible from a public area, like a city sidewalk or park
A photo of the area where you expect the rain garden will go.
Who will help do the original planting
Who will help with the ongoing upkeep


If you need help filling out the online form or have questions, please email Lily Butler, Friends of the Arboretum Native Plant Sale Coordinator,

The contact information that we gather within this form will fall under the Friends of the Arboretum privacy policy. This information will only be used for contact purposes related to this initiative.