Using Dry Stream Beds for Drainage

Here in Virginia we have clay soils that don’t drain particularly well. We also get a fair bit of rainfall. When new subdivisions are built, especially in northern Virginia, the county-mandated drainage plan often moves water through everyone’s backyards towards a county storm drain. If you have a newer home, you may even have a legally designated stormwater easement on your survey plat.

What this means is that for many homeowners, you’re likely to have a fair bit of water moving through your yard during a storm event. When you moved in, the builder had probably sodded your backyard, and well-established grass stands up reasonably well to a decent volume of water moving across it.

Sometimes grass isn’t an option, though. Maybe trees have grown up and grass will no longer grow, and you’re experiencing erosion. Maybe your new patio or plant beds mean that water needs to be diverted. Or, as was the case for these folks, the slope was so steep that keeping the grass cut was a miserable experience.

So, the decision was made to turn the area in front of the downhill fence into a planting bed. Having all your mulch washed into a pile against the fence is never fun, so I looked at where the swale was most pronounced – this is where the water was flowing – and built a dry creek bed to carry the water.

We also used a number of plants to help hold the slope, including winter jasmine, cotoneaster, and pachysandra. As the birch trees grow up and fill out, this will be a nice little oasis in suburbia.

Fighting nature is hard. Working with it – whenever you can – is the better choice.



    May 13, 2011 REPLY

    Wow, Dave, what a nice bit of redecorating! Sometimes, troubles lead us to improvements, just like that there back yard, lol. Drainage is huge in landscaping, probably the foremost consideration of all, when all is said and done. Certainly the primary engineering aspect of it all. And certainly the most functional, if overlooked. If you don’t have good drainage, you don’t have good landscaping.

    Love the new look!

    May 13, 2011 REPLY

    Thanks Steve! By the way, I tweeted out your recent water feature post today. That was awesome!

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