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When it Rains it Pours

When we rebuilt our L-shaped front porch, we decided we only needed a gutter over the entry. The main roofs of the house have gutters, and the water from the porch would be distributed along its whole length. But in a good storm, it comes down in sheets — flattening plants and washing away the soil, leaving a deep trench along the drip line. And the corner funnels a pounding stream.

In the basement are some contraptions called “Rainhandlers”: multiple tilted vanes that go at the edge of the roof to divide as well as deflect the runoff outward. One day, Ward will have time to put them up. In the meantime, flat rocks on the drip line stop the trenching.

With much effort I wrestled three huge rocks into the corner of the garden bordering the porch, creating a sculptural effect in the pummeled spot instead of trying to get a plant to survive there. Craggy rocks, filled with quartz crystals. Then with smaller, roundish rocks, I mulched the bed around my sculpture, without putting anything underneath. The first year it looked great — somewhat Japanese. Plants loved it, too. Unfortunately the water splashed from the big rocks onto the porch floor, and plant debris collected in the rock mulch, making soil that quickly covered it. I’m removing the Japanese combination.

Two downspouts bring more water from the higher roofs, discharging it at ground level in the garden. I positioned rocks to deflect and channel the streams they create. This has been successful — though after ten years’ wear, one needs rebuilding. A buried pipe would last longer, but the outlet would be ugly; besides, I like to see the water.

For the high-impact areas, a renovator suggested pouring concrete, out from the foundation, past the drip line: dished a little to hold the water, and slanted downhill to drain it — a sturdier version of my little rock channel. I could cover the concrete with the rock mulch; without soil underneath the water could wash debris out.

One landscaper I know of went further. The concrete ground-gutter was designed into an attractive stream, and dammed at the end so that it overflows along its length into another catch basin filled with gravel — creating a long shallow waterfall. In addition, the fieldstone path to the house’s front door bridges over the stream.

Water moving all by itself in my garden: I want to take advantage of it!


© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 3 September 2004

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