Making A Dry Creek Bed Drainage Canal for Downspouts

What should we do with this sedum garden? That’s a question we asked ourselves several times. It was at one time a sedum garden but for some reason most of the sedum died over last summer. They may have been too wet, too dry, or both! The gutter from the garage roof gushes out water from at least 50% of the roof – then the summer heat dries out the whole area. It really takes one tough plant to survive those ever changing conditions. So we have to adapt and make the area more hospitable for planting. What did we come up with? A dry creek bed with a canal to channel the water away from the house and the garden. The rest of the post will tell you about making a dry creek bed!

Making a Dry Creek Bed

making a dry creek bed

The Plan for Making a Dry Creek Bed

Here’s the basic idea before implementation. A set of plain gray 2″x 8″x 16″ concrete stones form the base layer. The channel is created by retaining wall blocks set as the borders. Inside the channel Rock pebbles will add that decorative touch that disguises the gray blocks.

making a dry creek bed

Lay the Foundation

I started off by laying the foundation or the base layer of gray blocks. It’s important to grade it so that water will flow away from the house. All the sedums in this are that were clinging to life were moved to try to save them. Consider them in intensive care – but they should pull through! Also the two large sedums (‘Autumn Joy’) were flanking the channel area but are now on the same side.

laying concrete blocks for a dry creek bed

Add a Border

Then I lined up the border retaining wall stones so they overlapped the gray block stone an inch on each side. I leveled each stone as I moved away from the house by shimming it with soil and gravel.

Fill It Up!

While laying the stone I added a couple terracotta pots into the border. Eventually I can place some plants into them and soften the stone look a little. Then I filled with a nice light brown colored decorative gravel.

Here is the dry creek bed mostly complete.
making a dry creek bed with concrete blocks an river rock pebbles

Please forgive the mess of lumber in the driveway! For a little more accent I put more pots on top of the channel wall.

making a dry creek bed

Here is how the dry creek bed looks from another angle. The two large sedums are ‘Autumn Joy’. You can’t see them too well but ‘Blue Spruce’ and ‘Dragon’s Blood’ are mixed in the bed. They are the sedum plants in intensive care I spoke of earlier. Fortunately a little sprig of sedum is all you need to grow a happy and healthy plant – I love plant propagation! Have I said that before?

Hollyhock and sedums near the dry creek bed

And once again here is the project from the driveway angle. All total the project cost less that $100 and on;y took 45-60 minutes to install. I need to make a few adjustments to seal up a little gap between a couple stones on the right. It also needs a backstop stone to prevent back-flow under the gutter and keep it away from the house. We don’t want any water heading toward the house if there is too much water for the system to handle!

dry creek bed completed

I’ve always liked dry creek beds since they look really neat and serve a very functional purpose. Here’s another version of dry a creek bed I made a while back. And another one!

Have you ever tried installing a dry creek bed?

10 thoughts on “Making A Dry Creek Bed Drainage Canal for Downspouts”

  1. Great idea Dave…I have an area I could use this in….I answered your question about the cinder block wall in my post today.

  2. Very well done! I really liked the idea of adding the pots to the creek sides. Such a pretty way to protect the foundation of your house 🙂

    Thanks for including the price and installation time. Everyone is on a budget, and its nice to know what you might be in for before you get started.

    Happy Wednesday!

  3. What a fantastic idea! It looks great. Bummer on the sedum. I remember seeing them all and they were doing so well last spring.

  4. Thank you so much !! I love Do it yourself projects and this is one that for sure I will do it in my garden.

  5. I know this is a really old post that I am coming to late in the game but I have a question about how this works. With the 8×16 blocks on the bottom and the gaps between them does the water run out the end of the riverbed? I guess what I am wondering is if the water drains to the end of the first block then stops, should the blocks be mortared together? I really like this idea and already have a spot to put this in, until seeing this I didn't know what to do there exactly but wanted a riverbed like this. When I put it in I just want to make sure I don't have to pull it back out to seal between the blocks.

    1. Hi Rick, Sorry for the late reply somehow I missed your comment! It does run out a little bit and some sort of waterproof fabric or covering could be put under the rock gravel to prevent that. I would recommend getting a 1 ft. wide piece of pond liner. You can get it at the box stores on a roll in the garden department. Usually it's a piece about 6-12 ft. wide. 1 ft. of the section will give you plenty of length to extend away from the house. Just keep the liner under the gravel stones so it is hidden and it shouldn't be a problem. Plastic garbage bags might be an even cheaper way to go but would need replaced much faster than a pond liner.

  6. Was considering a French drain where our gutter creates a pond next to our house during storms, but this is a much prettier solution. I'll give it a try, thanks for the inspiration

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