We built a new planter around the northwest corner of the house last month, laid in gray blocks keeping the row more or less straight and fairly parallel to the foundation. Where north and west intersect, we made a rounded corner to match the other planters and then filled the bed with dirt. At the lower end, next to the back door, it took sixteen inches of dirt to raise the level in the bed to where we wanted it. At its highest end, a half-foot of fill was sufficient.
All of that made for a long afternoon and we finished none too soon. With skies darkening and the forecast calling for thunderstorms, I made sure that the flexible extension tube was connected to the elbow at the bottom of the downspout. “Ready for rain now,” I thought, as I laid a flat stone slab underneath the tube to raise it enough so that water would drain readily over the top layer of landscape block.
Our preparations were not without cause. The eighty-percent chance turned into a downpour that brought us two inches of rain in less than an hour. Cause, yes. Desired effect, no.
Water overflowed the gutter from two stories above the planter. It cut a quick run to the lowest corner and washed through the blocks and pooled by the back door. In the aftermath of mud, we could see at least two places where the draining action had made deep cuts clear to the bottom of the piled dirt.
All of which confirmed a little bit of suspicion I’d had and suppressed while we were building the bed. I was pretty sure that a starling had built a nest in the gutter. When I climbed up the twenty-four-foot extension ladder and took out the horizontal section connecting the gutter to the downspout, I was not at all surprised to find it packed solid. I pitched the two pieces down to Randa and she cleaned them out, handed them back to me. I put them back in pretty much the way they were but ten pounds lighter.
During the next storm, just two days later, the gutter, downspout and extension tubes all did what they were supposed to do and the dirt in the planter pretty much stayed where we wanted it.
There’s not much in life that won’t have to stand testing or some sort or another. Every now and then, it’s better to check the gutter before the storm.