Project: Rock Drains

When we moved to this house, 2 of the 4 gutter downspouts were piped underground.  The other 2 had these silly plastic “diverters” at the end of them, sitting on the ground, channeling the water all of about a foot from the house into perpetual soggy spots on the lawn.  Not the easiest to work around when mowing, and just not pretty.

Last year I realized that I had plenty of nice round rock mined from the property to make functioning rock drains.  After hauling all the rock I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it last year, but this year the 2 drains were the first of the garden projects to get crossed off the lists.  Unfortunately the blog was not on my mind at the time, so I didn’t take pictures of the procedures, or even a “before”.  But the steps are simple and the “After” is so pretty that it doesn’t need a comparison–it stands alone.

1.  Dig a hole where the drain will be.  Make this hole at least 2 feet deep and a foot across–certainly bigger if you want or if the amount of drainage required demands it.

2.  Fill the hole about 1/3 with a pea gravel mix.

3.  On top of the gravel add a layer of coarser rock.  I have harvested about 10 tons of nasty white quartzy-rock from the front yard, and it made a perfect middle layer.  You want this layer to come almost to the top, within a couple of inches or so.

4.  Put your  nice decorative rock on the top.  Have enough to cover the coarser material below completely.  You can get creative from here, if you’d like, by extending the rock layer to create a dry streambed effect.   Plant some simple groundcovers nearby that will spread attractive tendrils over the edge of the rock.  Here you can see I’ve planted Sedum sieboldii ‘Variegatum’, complementing both the round rocks and the white-flowering Fothergilla major ‘Mt Airy’ behind.

Put your tools away and go grab a beer.  This is a simple and elegant way to enhance a naturally-styled garden and address the problem of what to do at the base of a downspout.


About Ilana M Calvert

I have a Master's degree in Environmental Horticulture, but I spend my time pursuing fiber arts--weaving, knitting, and spinning. Occasionally I dabble in Scottish-style fiddle playing. Most importantly, I am a wife and a "mom" to a beautiful Great Dane.
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