How to Create a Dry Creek Bed

A dry creek bed as part of a xeriscaping landscape.
What You'll Need
Work gloves
Landscape paint
Tamping tool
Landscape fabric
Garden staples
River rock
Pea gravel

Does your property have an area where excess water collects to cause drainage issues and erosion problems to your landscape? You can solve this problem by creating a dry creek bed in your yard. Not only will this feature boost the drainage on your property, but it will make your landscaping more attractive as well.

Step 1 - Plan the Flow

Begin by planning where you want your new dry creek bed to be situated on your property. Use landscape paint to draw out the course of the creek on the yard. Outline where you want it to start, how far you want it to flow, and where you want it to end. Consider bending the flow of your dry creek bed around boulders and plants. By connecting your new bed to these features, your addition will seem more natural. (Ensure that the flow of your creek bed will not move water onto your neighbor’s property.) Choose an ending point that works best for your landscaping. If your local bylaws allow, consider having the water flow out onto the street near your home -- but be sure to speak with your local bylaw representative before you plan on moving the water onto the road.

Step 2 - Determine the Width and Depth

Once you've determined the flow of your creek, you will also need to establish the depth and width. Generally speaking, most dry beds are about twice as wide as they are deep. For example, your feature could be about four feet wide and two feet deep.

Step 3 - Dig the Trench

When you've completed all of the planning, you can start the digging process. Th

When you've completed all of the planning, you can start the digging process. This part is fairly easy if your soil is not full of roots and rocks. If your soil does contain a lot of rocks and roots, the job of digging the trench will be more difficult. (Ask a friend or family member to help you out in order to reduce the amount of time and energy spent on this part of the project.) Use your shovel to dig up the area that you marked with your landscape paint. As you remove the soil, pile it along the sides of the creek bed. This will allow you to lower the interior and increase the sides of your bed at the same time. Use a tamping tool to pack down the piled soil when you've finished digging. (This type of equipment is not typically found in a homeowner’s work shed or garage, and in most cases you will have to rent this piece of equipment. Visit your local rental company and speak with a representative about renting a tamping tool.)

Step 4 - Lay the Landscape Fabric

After your dry creek trench is complete, lay your landscape fabric throughout the bed, which will keep weeds from growing through your creek bed. Make sure that your fabric also covers the soil along the sides of the trench. Use garden staples to secure the fabric into place.

Step 5 - Secure the Rocks in Place

If you're installing your dry creek bed to improve the drainage on steep hills i

If you're installing your dry creek bed to improve the drainage on steep hills in your yard, use mortar to secure larger rocks along the trench. These rocks will form a channel and make it easier for the excess water on your property to drain away. (Read the directions provided by the mortar manufacturer about preparing the material.) Prepare the mortar in your wheelbarrow. This will enable you to easily move the mortar along the length of the trench you have built. Apply the mortar to small sections of the landscaping fabric at about two inches thick. Set your rocks onto the mortar and press them into place. Continue the process until you've secured all of the rocks you want along your bed. Be sure to choose rocks of varying sizes and shapes to add variety to your landscaping. Place some smaller rocks along the middle of your trench. The water will move over the rocks creating a natural flow along your creek bed. Finally, cover the bottom of the trench with a half inch of pea gravel. The gravel will maintain the structure of the creek in the event of large amounts of precipitation.

Step 6 - Add Some Natural Features

Spruce up your dry creek bed with some natural pieces. Plants can make stark edges along your trench seem smoother. Choose plants that will fit into your landscape plan and thrive in your yard. To get advice on the best plants for your dry creek feature, visit your local nursery and speak with a landscaping professional about your plans.

Step 7 - Consider Installing a Bridge

The addition of a small bridge can add character to your new landscaping element. Use rocks to build a support on either side of the trench and then connect the supports with flagstone rock. Secure the flagstone into place with mortar. This will prevent the bridge from falling apart due to thawing and freezing.