Saturday, April 15, 2017

Leave no stone unturned - The Dry Creek Bed

We have a lot of mulched areas in our landscape.  Frankly, we are tired of mulch.  Right now, we're into rocks.

It all started last year with the Big Drain.  Well, actually, it probably began long before that.  We've always used boulders as landscape accents.  We prefer gravel over lawn.  We always have a lot of rocks on hand.  Big rocks, little rocks, flat rocks, round rocks, pretty rocks, and ugly, muddy rocks.  Rocks covered with snow and frozen together...

There are a lot of inspirational pictures of dry creek beds on the Internet, but very few instructions or plans.  This is a pretty good one.  So I will give you a step by step how we did it.  We started with 4 loads of rock. 
  1. #2 stone.  One big truck load.  This was for the french drain as shown in my last post.
  2. Straight (unwashed) bank run. Two loads. It would probably be a lot easier if you bought pretty, washed river rock of sorted sizes.  But we work on a budget.  So we got plain, muddy, mixed up stone scooped straight from the creek bank.  That will give you the entire spectrum of rock types to work with.
  3. One big truck load of boulders.  From basketball size up to steamer trunk size for decorating.

When you are ready to decorate your french drain and turn it into a dry creek bed, first you must organize your rocks.
Tim laid out a bucket load of assorted rocks at intervals along the creek bed.

We had half a dozen really big rocks that we had to move with a sling.  Very handy tool.  Once you get it UNDER the boulder.

Step two is to arrange clumps of  rocks along the sides of the creek bed.  In a natural creek, large rocks will get caught up in bunches and then the smaller rocks will flow around them, catching in a pile around them.  We wanted our creek bed to meander in a fairly uniform serpentine.

Step three.  Dump a bucket load of muddy, ugly rocks on top of your pretty, carefully arranged rocks.  Take a deep breath and try not to look discouraged.

Yuck.  Thanks a lot.

Really yuck.  Since this is unwashed stone, five minutes with a garden hose will improve the look of things a lot.  Rinse the top layer of rocks, get down there on your knees and start sorting.  One at a time.  You can push things around with a bow rake, but really, this is a lot of hands on work.

It's really pretty simple.  You just toss stuff around and dig down until you uncover your pretty rocks.  Flat, broken, ugly or otherwise atypical rocks get tossed downstream to fill in the bottom of the creek.  Large flat stones get moved to the center of the stream. Larger irregular rocks become new, smaller focal points.  Pretty rocks colored or interesting shaped rocks get set aside so they end up on top.  Rinse.  Repeat.

This photo shows the area after the second bucket of ugly muddy rocks have been dumped and distributed.

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

I'd say that looks like a pretty natural creek bed.

The entire creek bed took three days of rock moving.  We estimate that including the #2 stone in the french drain below, we shoveled, moved, washed and sorted about fifty tons of rock.  On day three, Tennessee Ernie Ford kept looping through my brain: You load 16 tons and whadda ya get?  Another day older and deeper in debt...

One thing I will say is that days of lifting rocks the size of beach balls will jump start your spring weight loss!

1 comment:

  1. And send me running for the ibuprofen. Good for you guys. Your landscape projects are always inspiring! Because I don't think we currently have enough problems I've begun the search for an additional farm. Every facet of that ought to keep us occupied for the foreseeable future. :)