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Michelle’s front door is bordered by a garden space, and while those lovely plants greet her as she returns from work, she is battling erosion and flooding from the gutter downspout and builder-installed drain pipe. The entire neighborhood has these unsightly pipes snaked between the driveways.

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After a heavy rain the sidewalk is covered with a layer of red clay. We designed and installed a simple retaining wall to keep the clay at bay.

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The solution works, but the water gushing from the downspout still washes away the mulch in the garden area and floods the sidewalk. It’s time for another approach. I removed the drain pipe while Michelle raked the remaining mulch into a pile.

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The space between properties is small so to be good neighbors we used a tarp over the neighbor’s driveway. Red clay sticks to and stains anything it touches.

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The pipe will wind through the plantings although I had to uproot a few. Don’t worry. We were careful, and no vegetation was harmed by this project.

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The morning is cold but after digging in red clay for a few minutes to warm-up, I was ready to shed the jacket and switch to turbo.

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Michelle removed soil as I loosened it.

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My technique is slice and dice. The clay lifts in gooey chunks and since I recently sharpened my shovel the point pushed in easily.

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Drain pipe can be cut with a hacksaw. The actual location of the popup emitter is not critical but we wanted it close to the edge of the garden so water would flow into the lawn. The popup emitter remains closed in dry seasons to prevent debris from clogging the pipe. When rain pours from the gutter, the pop top lifts allowing water to escape. A slot in the bottom of the emitter provides a path for residual water to leach into the soil.

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Michelle is using Uncle Jeff’s level to check that the pipe is running downhill. That level has seen some action. My father used it while building my childhood home. Good tools last if they are respected and cared for.

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Everything looks good and we are ready to shovel the gunky red clay back into the ditch. Note the pipe will sit under 3 inches of soil. Michelle can add soil if she needs it for planting now that the runoff will not carry it away.

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The emitter must be level. Michelle turned the level in a circle and checked from several angles. We did not glue the pipe coupler to the emitter. Once the soil is tamped in place the assembly will not shift.

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I backfilled the hole with goopy clay and tamped the soil with the mattock. We stopped several times to recheck the position of the emitter.

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The garden is looking great with only a small portion of the pipe still above ground. Yes, we could have purchased gutter extensions and elbows, but the designed solution was acceptable to the homeowner.

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A layer of new mulch completes the job.

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A creek no longer runs through Michelle’s garden.

Cost: ~$26, includes a 10’ section of pipe ($8), an adaptor ($4), and the popup emitter ($14)

Time: One hour and fifteen minutes including cleanup

Investing time with my daughter: Priceless