Downspout planters are landscaped planter boxes that capture rain water from the roof and function in a similar way as a rain garden but instead within a container. These planters are often custom built and can be designed to complement the architecture and landscape of your home.
They can be constructed using different materials such as wood, concrete, or stone and can be fashioned into any desired shape or size.
Downspout planters are irrigated with rainfall from the roof and filled with a base layer of gravel which allows for drainage, followed by a rain garden sand/soil mix and native perennial plants.
Like raingardens, these planters intercept and slow stormwater, and filter and cool the water that has flowed off of a hot, dirty roof.
Stormwater, when it is not slowed down, is discharged into our waterways with such volume and speed that it causes considerable erosion to the streambanks and destruction to the streambeds.
Native perennial plants are best because they are low maintenance, return yearly and they have deep, extensive root systems that allow them to absorb water. As a homeowner, one of the great benefits of having this type of stormwater management tool, aside from effectively capturing water, is the size.
Downspout planters require a very small footprint for the amount of runoff it can capture and filter. As with any stormwater mitigation technique, it is important to have an overflow structure that sends the water in an opposite direction from your home.
Better yet, send the overflow water into another downspout planter or a rain garden to give it a second opportunity to absorb into the ground.
Stormwater is a precious resource that not only provides a refreshing drink for plants and animals, it percolates into the soil causing aquifer recharge resulting in drinking water that comes from our tap.
For help in determining if a downspout planter is best for you, please contact the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association for assistance. Or for a construction guide see the Rutgers Green Infrastructure Guidance Manual.
Kory Kreiseder spent three years as an urban conservation specialist for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, where she advised governments, businesses and residents on stormwater management issues. Prior to that, she was a landscape designer for Rain Underground, a firm that focuses on green infrastructure. She has broad expertise in natural resources and land management issues, including soil erosion, streambank and riparian area management. Kreiseder received her Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her undergraduate degree from DePaul University.