Burying a new drainage pipe and improving the rain barrel – Spring has sprung!

When we last looked at the backyard, my RiverSmart contractor was racing to finish up the paver walk before we got a blast of March snow more than a month ago. They did indeed finish up that day, and the yard looked so tidy and beautiful that next day with a light coat of beautiful snow on the ground.

Lily watching the backyard snow backyard snow with pavers

That was the last biggest project for the backyard, and the second of the two things that I had to pay others do for me; the first of which was the fence.

With the pavers finished, the retaining wall and fence finished, the raised bed built, and the weather warming up, it was time to plant!

We filled the raised bed when we built it back in 2012 with the free compost from DC over at the Ft. Totten waste transfer facility. It’s settled a great deal since then, so to fill it up and get the right soil composition, we filled the rest of the space with peat moss and proper bagged soil. We couldn’t find any vermiculite for water retention on the one day we had to do the shopping.

We moved our beautiful blueberry bushes into the soil; bushes that were a gift in memory of Rachel’s brother from some of our best friends (at her baby shower) last year and had been sitting on the back porch for the last year or so. Rachel planted a bunch of veggies and herbs. She’ll have to describe them all to you in a post of her own, but I know there are beets, squash, tomatoes and others. And some have already sprouted!

You might remember from my initial backyard plans that we were planning on doing grass in the larger area set off by the walkway, and doing pavers for a patio on the other side. Because of the cost and the fact that I want to do it myself eventually and we just don’t have time or money right now, we’re actually going to do grass in both areas.

Backyard Plans v2


More on the grass specifically in a later post… But in two weeks, I’m teaming up with a neighbor to share/rent a tiller from Home Depot to prepare our respective yards and share a Ziptruck and drive out to Poolesville to pick up the sod for our yards.

Before I can turn the soil over, I needed to do something to get rid of the incredibly ugly black flexible drain pipe running from our downspout/rain barrel through the yard to the alley. We got an (almost free) rain barrel installed through the RiverSmart program a year and a half ago, but with nothing to water in the back yard for the most part, it spent a lot of time completely full and switched to “bypass,” running water out the leaky and stinky flexible drain pipe instead.

I tried to knock out two big projects this last Saturday: 1) move the rain barrel, raise it up higher to increase the water pressure, make the stand more attractive than the crappy cinder blocks RiverSmart used, and 2) build and bury a new overflow drainage pipe from the barrel to the alley.

The first step was to dig a trench for the drainage pipe. Ideally, you put a pipe like this a good bit deeper in the ground (or below the frost line), but I was limited by the fact I couldn’t have it any deeper than the level that would keep a slight downhill slope yet make it over the top of the wall in the back corner of the yard.  (Ideally, I would have done this in coordination with the retaining wall and run it out the bottom of the wall at alley level. But that ship has sailed.)

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Digging the trench only took an hour or two, though I managed to discover YET MORE BURIED CONCRETE that I had to dig out — a enormous poured cement support from an ancient fence that I had somehow missed back when tearing the southern fence out.

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Since we’re not going to do anything under the stairs right up against the fence — heck, we can barely get back there at all and it was difficult just to dig the trench! — the pipe isn’t very deep there at all.

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To make the drainage pipe, I bought three 10′ lengths of 4″ solid PVC, four couplers, a 90˚ elbow, and two adapters — one for attaching the flexible drain pipe from the barrel to the drain, and one to attach a flexible end to wrap around the back edge of the fence and drain to the alley. That’s about $80 worth of material. I’d never actually worked with PVC; at least as far as cutting and joining and all that. But it’s pretty simple.

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Dry fit the lengths to make sure everything fits properly. (I had forgiving tolerances here since the drain didn’t have to start in one precise spot, just somewhere near the rain barrel.) Then clean the pipes where they join. Prime with the purple primer. Wait 30 seconds or so for that to dry. Then put the PVC cement on each side of the joint. After that, you’ve got 30 seconds or so before the melted layer of PVC starts to harden, so work fast. Slide the joints together with the registration marks slightly out of alignment, so you can twist a 1/8 or 1/4 turn to line them up which also helps the joint to be stronger. Boom. Pipe created.

For the place where it actually runs out to the alley, I used an adapter so I could attach a bit of the old flexible pipe to run between the segments of fence and reach the alley.

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With the pipe in place, I turned my attention to the rain barrel. It was never properly leveled when it went in in November 2011, and they installed it on regular ol’ cinder blocks which look terrible. We wanted to turn it so the hose faces out to the yard and not under the stairs, and put it on something more attractive.

I bought more of the same stacking stones to use for the base that we used to build the raised bed. I might go and get one more ring’s worth so we can raise it even a little higher. Every bit of height helps with the pressure. It’s pushed as far against the fence as it can go now, too to maximize space. Once in place, I hooked the white flexible downspout pipe to the barrel, and used some of the old black flexible pipe to run the overflow to the newly installed drain.

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Now the drain is hidden in the ground and we’re ready to prep the yard for sod in two weeks. (I just need to remember not to hack the pipe to pieces with the tiller! Mental note! Stay away from the fence!)

So what grass did we end up choosing and how are we going to get the ground ready for the sod? I’ll share that in a second post to follow shortly. Looks better with the ugly black pipe gone, right? Rachel sure thinks so.




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