A dry creek is an outdoor garden idea that provides the feel of a stream even when you don’t have water. Functionality also comes into play when creating a dry stream as it can work as part of your drainage plan. Constructing a dry stream is not hard at all for even the average homeowner.
Begin with design by using your garden hose as a tool for design. Lay out the garden hose in the shape of the dry creek bed. Make sure that you give it a meandering path to lend it more natural authenticity. Also take the time to vary the width throughout the run of the creek as this provides another layer of authenticity.
Make digging the creek go a little easier by first using a rototiller to loosen up the soil. Dig down to a depth of about six to eight inches and don’t forget to create a gently sloping edge. It is best to create a dry creek that runs slightly downhill so that it can better drain away rainwater.
One of the elemental parts of the design of a great dry creek lies in the process of shaping and smoothing. Don’t give into the temptation to make the sides completely smooth. While you want to remove twigs and roots and rocks that could puncture the fabric going in later, you want to give the creek some personality by varying the pathway. Allow the creek to expand outward at some points and then constrict tightly at others.
Landscape fabric needs to be laid down and one of the best choices is permeable Typar polypropylene. Add a second layer to increase the time scale that your creek will last. If you decide that your dry creek is going to be carrying at least some water, use a solid plastic liner. Secure the liner with heavy stones and then smooth out the layers and overlap the edges.
Rocks are the lifeblood of a dry creek so be picky when picking them. Use stones that are in relation to the size of the creek. In other words, a small creek looks best with small rocks. Roughened rocks provide the illusion that your creek went dry some time ago while smooth stones create the illusion of activity in the creek. Lay down your stones to a depth of four inches along the base of your stream and six to eight inches deep along the edges.
Boulders can be introduced to anchor the fabric draping up the sides over the bank. To mask the fabric attractively, use slightly smaller boulders. If you make the edges of your dry creek a little more irregular than the middle, it will look more natural. Another way to increase the natural look is to bury the larger stones one-third to half their height in the ground. Create a textural contrast by planting groundcovers and a few perennials along the side. You may have to prune them back to keep them from becoming too invasive. You can give your dry creek a much more fashionable landscaping appearance with the addition of a few evergreens placed randomly along the creek. Another cool idea is to build an arched wooden bridge across the creek at some point.