Planters, Gutters, and Puddles--Oh My!

valeriavictrixDecember 1, 2010

An old concrete planter at the front of my house finally fell apart. The replacement looks great, but it's around 8 inches wider than the old one. There are no gutters on the roofline above the planter (which was never a problem before) but now when it rains heavily the water puddles in the planter all along the roofline.

I put in some ground cover which I think will help the problem after it spreads and fills in. But in the meantime, is there anything I can do without having gutters installed? Should I just put a line of gravel where the roof drip hits the soil? Cover that with more soil?

Thanks much!

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manda3(8a DFW Texas)

I find any kind of thicker mulch helps with the soil splashing problem. It could be rocks or thicker strips of bark (as opposed to the almost dirt like bark mulch) or whatever. Mulch has the added benefit of breaking down and disappearing after a year, so when that ground cover gets big enough, you won't have to dig out the rocks. On one side of my house I have a bunch of spider lilies as the fall guys. Pouring water doesn't bother them at all.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 1:18AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Why not plant something that likes a lot of moisture? I have Astilboides tabularis at the base of downspouts in a couple of places. They like lots of water so they get what they need there. I also put 'splash stones' where water gushes from downspouts with some force. That should work for your water from the roof too I think. The stones are ~6" overlapping flat rocks where the water falls hardest, with smaller flat rocks on either side. By the time the water reaches the soil, the rocks have absorbed/dispersed most of the force so it doesn't wash away the soil. I also use paving bricks to channel water from downspouts across bark paths to avoid washing out the path. I'm not sure if that could be adapted for use in your plater or not.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 9:56AM
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THANKS for two great ideas!!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 12:23AM
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I'm not sure why people believe that stone makes puddles disappear or certain plants suck up puddles like a fraternity brother drains a mug.

Stone will dissipate the energy of the water hitting the surface and cutting a trough in the surface. Voids between stone allow for water to flow through to wherever it can go and store a limited amount of water. Once there is nowhere for it to go it will continue to puddle just as if it were not there.

Some plants can take some impact of water (energy dissipation) and some will use more water than other, but none are going to suck up a puddle in a planter in a meaningful way.

Assuming your planter has drain holes (if you don't - you better make some), you can empty it, put a few inches of drain stone in the bottom and up the side with a silt cloth between that and your soil medium. The stone should be all the way to the surface and matching the dripline coming off of the roof. It will absorb the energy of the water impact and allow the water to flow all the way through in a quick and efficient manner.

You would do this by covering the bottom with stone and laying a long piece of silt cloth (weed mat works) over it and then up and over the side that has the dripline. Then put a few inches of your soil on top of that so that you can pull it back a few inches to place stone between the soil and the side of the planter. Continue to alternate filling the soil side and the stone side of the cloth as you fill the planter.In the end, you will have an "L" shaped stone drainage with an "L" shaped cloth separating the growing medium.

Do not cover the stone at the surface. This allows it to take not only the impact of the roof water, but allows any built up surface water to enter the drainage.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 7:29AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Laag - I think you enjoy making negative interpretations about suggestions! The point of the plant suggestion was not that it would suck up the puddles but that it would take advantage of the wet condidions, grow well there and look better than (and hide) the puddles, as well as reduce soil splashing. The rocks are to disipate the force of the water which allows it to spead over a larger area without a wash-out and therefore makes it easier for the water to sink into the soil and drain away rather than puddle. I'm afraid I took it as a given that there were drainage holes in the planter(or that it was a built-in type planter were the water eventually drains down to the underlying soil). I assumed that the volume of water was higher than the drainage could handle in the short term so what was needed was ways to slow the water down to reduce soil splashing and erosion, and give it time for the existing drainage to clear the excess water. My starting assumption might be wrong but, assuming there is some drainage, I know my suggestion works because it works for me in similar situations.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 9:45AM
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I think what has been suggested are band-aids at best :-) Even with a rock mulch, repeated sheeting of water from the roof edge during heavy rainfall will eventually create a ditch or low spot that will collect water. And not many plants are happy with repeated or consistent wet feet, especially those that one would consider for a front or entry planter. Drainage in a stone or concrete planter will always be a consideration, especially if not filled with the correct type of potting soil.

I'd consider installing gutters or eaves troughs that will divert and redirect the water as a much better and more permanent solution. And these are also typically better for the long term 'health' of your house and roof.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 10:53AM
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I'm not trying to be negative. The two suggestions do not seem adequate to the problem of hard impact of water (indicated by where she described the puddling)and persistent puddling. The OP seemed quite excited that these were great ideas. My opinion is that if she goes with those two "great ideas" it will do nothing to solve her problem. That is why I posted what I posted.

If I just posted something that is much harder to do without pointing out why the others are not likely to help, she would have had in her mind an easy solution vs. a harder solution. She would go with the easier and likely have the same problems after buying more plants and doing more work.

The intent was to help the OP.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 8:09AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

laag - what really irked me was your assuption that I had suggested the plant as a way of soaking up the puddles. That's not what I said - or meant - at all. If you've got wet conditions, plant something that can thrive in those conditions.

As for the easy vs. hard solution... I take a different approach than you obviously. The 'hard' solution isn't going away - it's always an option. But, if there's an 'easy' option that has a reasonable chance of mitigating the situation, all you lose by trying it is a bit of time if it doesn't work for you. It didn't sound like there's any significant risk of structural damage if you don't go 'the whole hog' approach immediately. So, try the easy answer first - you'd know pretty fast (i.e. after the first heavy rain) if you can make it work or not. What do you have to lose for trying it?

Incidentally, I was not meaning rock mulch as gg48 said. Rock mulch is usually smaller, rounded stone. I use 6" or bigger flat rocks like slate (I actually use 'lake stone' that we dig up all over the place here - it's soft, flat rock that was once lake bottom of the ancient lake that was here before Lake Ontario.) Think of making a sort of minature waterfall, tilted just enough to direct the water towards the outer edge of the planter. Use smaller flat stones around the edge of the larger ones to give you more splash protection since the forceful water hitting the larger stones will break into a heavy spray/splatter.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 12:37PM
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I'd look into gutters and downspouts, too. All things considered, it's a relatively inexpensive fix to water cascading off your roof. Look on the internet for cost of aluminum gutters per linear foot.

I suppose if there's no basement involved, puddling water (aside from wrecking havoc on your planter) might not be an immediate concern. In a brick house, water isn't stopped at foundation level - water does wick through common brick. Water wicks up and rots wood siding, too.

Puddling water, humidity, poor air circulation from planting too close to the house, etc. all cause problems now or later that mulch and a few bags of pebbles won't cure.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 12:43PM
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Lots and lots of posts by others have been made over and over again that suggest that puddled areas can be remedied with thirsty plants. I glanced over the posts and paid no attention to the names and did not mean to irk you. Sorry about that.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 5:12PM
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(from the OP)
Wow! I love the passion of GardenWeb!

I'd like to have gutters, but can't do it now for a variety of reasons. The planter is sort of part of the foundation of the house. We haven't had any problems until the new planter was widened a bit.

There are plenty of rocks in the planter for drainage, and the puddles don't last long--the water drains right into the ground. My real issue is the trough that laag described. Woodyoak's assumptions were absolutely correct: "...what was needed was ways to slow the water down to reduce soil splashing and erosion, and give it time for the existing drainage to clear the excess water."

So I'll give it a try. My yard is loaded with rocks like Woodyoak's!

Again, thanks for your wonderful advice, everyone.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 5:18PM
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The "L" that I described is a direct drain from surface to weep holes.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 8:21PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

In the absence of gutters, laag's idea is the best in my opinion. Controlling water in the landscape is of primary importance.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 9:02PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Just watching from the sidelines here - but I always find it interesting that there are houses in the States built without gutters. It says a lot about the climate, building methods and the amount of land you have at your disposal. In our climate and with our limited space you'd have a semi permanent waterfall overhead and be living in a house on an island with the foundations washing away. The gutters are vital, in fact I'm pretty sure they're required by law.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 7:27AM
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Itea Little Henry performs well in sun or shade, and does really well in moist soil conditions. I have one next to my fountain which splashes all day, and it's thriving.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 10:02PM
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