The rain water running off your roof, along your gutters and down the downspout is a valuable natural resource that can be used to great advantage in your home landscape. Harvest your rainwater with a rain barrel, create an inexpensive water feature in your landscape with a pond and bog garden, or install a dramatic landscape accent of bamboo and statuary.
Water coming out of your garden hose not only contains chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals if you are on a municipal water supply, but it also costs you money. The University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension recommends harnessing free--and chemical-free--rainwater by placing a rain barrel under the end of your downspout. Rain barrels are available in a wide variety of styles to blend attractively with your landscape. Lay soaker hoses or black drip-irrigation piping through your landscaping or gardens, cover them with a few inches of organic mulch, and connect them to the rain barrel outlet for constant gentle watering. Keep your rain barrel higher in elevation than your hoses. Set the barrel up on bricks if necessary.
Ponds and Rain Gardens
Plant a rain garden under your downspout to celebrate water's exuberant fertility and control runoff. Dig a hole under the downspout, and refill it part way with a mixture of sand and gravel. Set a preformed pond liner or a plastic tub into the hole so that its upper rim is just below the level of the surrounding ground, then fill the remainder of the hole with additional sand and gravel. Fill the pond with water. Plant aquatic plants like water lilies in pots within the pond, and plant marginal or bog plants like wild irises adjacent to the pond. Rainwater will replenish the pond and overflow into the surrounding sand and gravel, creating a lush oasis of growth. Alternatively, the Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension Service suggests skipping the pond feature and densely planting a shallow swale with hardy native plants to mitigate residential lot water runoff.
Bamboo is a striking landscaping accent that thrives in a wet environment. Its vertical lines make an ideal corner planting. Dig a hole about 3 feet deep under the downspout and line it with weed cloth. Drill several small holes in the bottom of a small pool liner and line the hole with it. Fill the liner with a mixture of sand and topsoil. Plant a clump of bamboo within the liner. Dig out the turf in a 1-foot (or wider) ring around the pool area, place weedcloth on the soil, install plastic garden edging, and place a 3-inch-thick layer of gravel over the weedcloth and around the bamboo. Complete the atmosphere by replacing the downspout with a length of copper chain. A copper or painted iron statuary would complement the planting and, if properly placed, create a gentle chiming sound when struck by falling water.