If you’ve got a problem drainage area in your backyard, why not consider building a dry creek bed? As expert landscaper, professional angler and host of this video Brian Latimer says, he likes to think about what a landscape would have looked like before a home was built there. When he makes changes to his yard, he tries to create a landscape that’s as natural looking as possible. Of course, he draws a lot of inspiration from nature—and the places where he likes to fish!
For this dry creek bed project, Latimer drew inspiration from a waterfall he saw while fishing. With this fix, he’s going for function by redirecting the flow of water where the mulch keeps washing away and the grass isn’t growing well. But, he’s also aiming to make his yard look better at the same time.
Building a dry creek bed
- To start, Latimer wants to work with a blank slate. To do so, he needs to dig up all of the plants in his project area. He plans to reorganize, reuse and replant them.
- Next, Latimer spray paints the exact route where he wants the water to flow. Then, he starts to dig along where he painted. Digging, says Latimer, is always the hard part.
- Now, for the fun part: building his creek bed. Latimer plans to bring in some rock and flowers, as well as some of the plants he dug up. The goal is to convert a previously problematic area into a functional landscape asset.
- But, before beginning to build, Latimer lays down geo fabric. This step creates his bed’s base, and ensures his rocks will be as sediment and weed free as possible. Although eventual weed growth will lead to rebuilding creek beds, Latimer says laying down geo fabric, it will prolong the need to do so for several years.
- Next, Latimer starts building the bed from the bottom out. On the bottom, Latimer uses a smaller round rock to form the base of the drainage basin. He then uses a larger Tennessee stack stone to build up the sides. Latimer places the rocks in the basin carefully, as opposed to just dumping them in haphazardly. Although more work, he firmly believes it’s worth it. Using two different types of rock, he says, also gives the creek bed a more natural look.
- Now that the heavy lifting’s done, it’s time to fill in with his plant materials. Because this area is going to be wet most of the time, Latimer emphasizes the need to use native plant materials that are accustomed to this type of environment.
- Latimer first lays out plants—a mix of flowering plants, foliage and ferns—where he thinks he wants them before actually planting them. It’s okay, he says, to space them closely together—and use groupings—because you want it to look natural. In nature, says Latimer, it’s important to remember that plants are always in groupings, not growing individually.
- Once satisfied with his plant layout, Latimer then lays mulch down to protect the small, young plants he’ll be putting in the ground. Doing this first helps to minimize potential plant damage, and makes final touch up around them a breeze.