In the garden with Felder: Rain, rain -- let's make good use of you


Felder Rushing talks options for handling rain water runoff.

Felder Rushing talks options for handling rain water runoff. Photo by: Felder Rushing/Courtesy photo


Felder Rushing



I love rain, to a point. Love how it cascades in rivulets from my back deck's corrugated tin top, how it refreshes the birds' baths. 


And overall it's a good thing. Makes our trees grow so well, saving us from having to decide between a cactus-filled xeriscape landscape or dragging hoses to keep thirstier plants alive. 


But sometimes there's more than I need at one time. So, while savoring its atmospheric tapping on the metal roof, I daydream of ways to harness some of it, and get the rest away from the house foundation.  


I'm the type of doofus gardener who rushes out during hard rains to watch where it all flows. Over the years I've managed to channel it away from my cabin without French drains by combining low raised berms, gentle swales and narrow ditches, one of which is curved and lined with smooth stones to resemble a natural riverbed even in dry weather.  


And I put it to use. Just like how watering potted plants twice, a few minutes apart, soaks soil better, sometimes I go out before or after a light rain and throw extra water on my yard plants to moisten soil more deeply.  


But I also fancy storing some of the extra rain. I don't use an ordinary rain barrel, which stores less water than I use to wash my old gray hair; I have a large agricultural-grade poly cistern right under the main downspout off my roof that holds 300 gallons and which fills up completely every time we get as little as an inch of rain. It's teal colored, which makes it fit better into the landscape and looks nice in case Martha ever drops by.  


It's raised a bit on stilts so I can use gravity to let it flow through a hose onto nearby plants or to fill buckets to haul to my pepper patch or newly planted shrubs.  


But I've got a more immediate problem. Like many regular houses, my little cabin's roof is aligned so that water runs off right above my porch. And every time it rains, as I come and go, I get wet.  


I could put a gutter there, but I'm lazy and unlikely to clean it regularly. Or I could design a little arbor porch that shunts water to one side. But because it's right above the front door, which is a high visibility part of the house, I want it to either disappear visually or look fun, like the gargoyle rain spouts I see around medieval churches.  


Which got me thinking about who made the first gargoyles, and why. Here's how I figure it went down: 


Centuries ago, every time it rained and water poured off the roof of the manor, either the lord or lady always looked cross from having a wet crown and demanded something be done about it. So their tinker builder made a little chute to funnel water away from the door.  


After awhile, somebody had the bright idea to make it look more artistic, and carved a face on the spout end. Somebody noted that it made the lord (or lady) look mean, so they turned it into a fierce gargoyle instead. 


Anyway, I've decided to commission an artist friend to make a ceramic gargoyle head to throw rain water from my head into a little rain barrel or bird bath. 


Main thing is to not let all this precious resource go to waste, see if I can get some of it to tarry awhile in my garden before meandering on its inexorable journey to the Gulf Coast.  


Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the "Gestalt Gardener" on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to [email protected]



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