With impermeable groundcovers like concrete and houses replacing natural woodlands and forests much of the rain which falls in a location becomes runoff that trickles down driveways, collects at the edges of the streets and tumbles into storm drains. Swells and ditches in the neighborhoods may direct water into local streams which may become roaring torrents depending on the severity of the storm. Recently Hurricane Florence paid a visit to Raleigh. The National Weather Service reports the rain fall at the airport (RDU) from Florence’s 4-day visit as around 8 inches. The heavy runoff from my yard added to that of the neighbors along the street and somewhere someone downstream suffered unbelievable flooding.
I’ve installed rain barrels in the back of the house to collect rain water, and I have hoses connected to the overflow ports on the barrels to direct extra water into natural areas. My hope is to slow the runoff and conserve as much water as possible for garden use though much of the water from a heavy storm still becomes runoff.
I watched the Florence rain flow across the front yard and collect in the low spots. It is easy enough to add rain barrels to the front gutter downspouts but that violates the sensitivities of Homeowner’s Association which, during a season of extreme drought a few years back, added a bylaw prohibiting rain barrels in the front of the homes. A homeowner can have rotted or unpainted siding, missing shingles, and a rarely-mowed weed patch for a lawn, but apparently nothing devalues property faster than a rain barrel. Sigh!
How hard would it be to connect a 4” drain pipe to my gutter downspout and channel the water to a popup emitter in the center of my butterfly garden? The water is free, the soil which I’ve amended for years is permeable, and during hot summers I usually water the plants every third day. The drain system would allow me to capture some of the runoff, and rain gardens (a fancy name for overflow ponds) are all the rage among landscapers today.
This water channeling project demands the proper attire and the right expectations. I suited up for a get-dirty-and-sweaty-with-little-shovel-leaning endeavor. I opted for suspenders rather than a belt. My bride has been snickering at my pants-hitching dance during several humid weeks of garden makeover. For the drain project my pants stayed in the upright position, and I never frightened neighbors with a ghastly wardrobe malfunction. One would think the HOA might notice the consideration and issue a certificate of appreciation.
I found the water channeling parts at the local home center. I chose solid rather than slotted drain pipe as roots from a nearby maple will infiltrate the slits in perforated pipe. The home center offered heavy duty drain pipe but my location is foot traffic only so I decided to save money on the easier to use but lower grade pipe. The register total was $38.62 for everything, and I supplied the labor.
I used a piece of fence and two posts to protect the shrubs. I had an azalea that need to be pulled out of the way. Since I had no place to toss the soil between the azaleas I parked the wheelbarrow close by and stacked the dirt there.
My drain must run under the walkway which is paver bricks (whew!) and therefore easy to remove. In the case of a concrete sidewalk the project would have been considerably more challenging.
I reclaimed as many of the decorative river rocks as I could by raking them into piles. With the prep work completed the digging could begin.
The trench needed to be 12” deep and a shovel’s width wide. I’ve dug many ditches and did not bother with a guide string. I just lifted one scoop of dirt at a time till the trench stretched from the gutter to the garden.
The garden soil was a dream to excavate with few roots and rocks. The first 18’ of my 25’ ditch was open in no time. Digging between the azaleas was a struggle due to tree roots and lack of maneuvering space. Thankfully I only destroyed a couple of branches.
I dropped the pipe in place and checked to see that the grade sloped toward the emitter. This pipe is designed accordion-style so the end user can pull it apart or compress it as needed without any cutting. I bunched the excess pipe under the paver stone section to add structure for the weight of the bricks and future pedestrians visiting the garden.
The connection to the gutter completed the pipe, and I took a break for lunch. Next I backfilled and tamped the soil and replaced the walkway and gravel.
Anticipation built as I kicked off the testing phase. With a garden hose shoved in the downspout at the roof level I applied the water and waited. Satisfaction soared as the emitter popped up and dispersed the flow as planned. My wife’s question, “Why not remove the tag and clean the dirt before taking the pictures?”
Well, I was just too happy that the plan came together.
I can cross this one off the list. Now, what’s next? There’s always something to do in the garden.