Step 2: Design
There are two types of designs people follow when creating a dry streambed. The most common is a natural design, which is a realistic-looking streambed with no real edges. The stream flows in a typical “S” pattern with some sections being wider than others.
The second type of design is called a stylized streambed: a much more modern design with true edge restraints that confine the river rock and can be linear and exact in width. Remember, there is no right or wrong when building a dry streambed, it’s all about personal preference!
Step 3: Excavate
Grab spray paint or even some flour and mark the area where you are going to install a dry streambed. Excavate down between 12”-18” into a concave shape (scooped out). Move the dirt over and out to the sides of the streambed where you later will be placing larger rocks and maybe even some boulders. Make sure you mark all irrigation pipes so you aren’t fixing broken sprinklers later.
Step 4: Fabric
Once the dirt has been removed and you have pushed the excess material to the edges of the streambed, compact the area down, using a compactor or simply by walking on it. Then lay down the landscape fabric or weed barrier to prevent weeds from growing up through your streambed. Weeds – the eternal struggle of the DIY gardener! This simple prep step of using a weed barrier fabric will save you hours of maintenance.
Step 5: Choosing your Rocks
When creating a streambed, choosing material is relatively easy. Almost all dry streambeds use rounded river rock in multiple sizes, plus a few boulders to add some points of interest.
With all the different types of cobble and pebble out there, the only thing people can agree on is general size. Below we have outlined the basic sizes to use when building a dry streambed. Many cobbles will come in all sizes, so if desired you can achieve a uniform aesthetic while varying the sizes.
- On the bottom or middle, use a small size cobble (1”-3”)
- For the sides, use a mid-size cobble (4”-8”)
- For the top area, use a large cobble (12”-18”)
Need help getting started? Our customers’ go-to cobbles are Arizona River Rock and Mexican Beach Pebble, and our best-selling boulders are Gray Cresta and Sierra. View all our cobble and pebble varieties or our full boulder collection for more inspiration.