Monday, May 14, 2012

Moving water in the garden

We've long had a problem with water and ice on our front landing. In the winter, snow on the roof  will melt during the day and run off, forming a sheet of thick, hard-to-remove ice below. I had always planned at some point to add gutters to the front of the house, primarily for the purpose of rain catchment, but because the overhang is actually lower than the eaves, it wasn't going to be an easy solution to direct the water without creating unsightly gutter and downspout lines everywhere.

My solution was to create a gutter for just the overhang, and direct the water down a rain chain, shown here during a recent shower:

But the problem didn't stop there, since a pool of water on the steps could cause just as much trouble in freezing weather as on the landing. So the rain chain feeds water into the blue pot, into which I cut a hole and installed some copper pipe I had lying around, just waiting to be used on a project like this pipe. (Edited to add this information: To drill the hole I used a diamond saw bit you can find in the tile section of a hardware store; these are used to cut holes for plumbing in tiled shower stalls. This bit came with the gray dam you see taped to the pot. The dam is filled with water to keep the bit cool as you cut.):

The pipe is secured to the pot with silicone caulk. I have not completely covered the hole that was in the bottom of the blue pot, which allows standing water to leak out slowly, eliminating the possibility of mosquitoes breeding there. You can see it working here during the rain:
This might create some ice during the winter, but it is on the edge of the steps, so there may be a way I can engineer something that will direct it more to the side. Or, alternatively, I could just plug the hole in winter. 

The pipe then carries the water into one of the xeric beds. It is pretty unobstrusive, but even if it weren't I like the thought of a water-carrying pipe running through a xeric garden. It evokes the historic spirit of desert people, moving water through an arid land:
We've been having some lovely spring showers in the past few days, allowing me to see if the system works, and I'm happy to report that it does. As seen here, the water trickles out of the pipe at the base of some false yuccas:

Et voila. I love a good engineering project.


  1. I love it! What drill bit did you use to keep the pot from cracking and any other tips are appreciated! gail

  2. Gail, you can find these diamond hole saws/bit for drills in the tile section of the hardware store. They are used to make holes for plumbing in shower walls. This saw/bit came with the black dam you see taped to the pot. You fill the dam with water and it keeps the bit cool and the dust down as you cut.

  3. Love the rain chain, did you make it? If you decide to stop up the hole, you can use mosquito dunks (Lowe's or Home Depot) to keep out the mosquitos.

  4. What a beautiful solution!! Bravo!!

  5. That is a very clever plan! Not only were you able to divert the rainwater from your front landing, you also found a way to utilize it for your garden. And the rain chain also functions as a decorative piece, and not a bad one at that. Anyway, thanks for sharing your little home project with us. Cheers!

    Meghan Bowers @ Gutter Dome

  6. Awesome job really it's great article.


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