20 July 2011

The Solution?

Earlier this week, I wrote about our drainage problem in front of the bunny room. With three rooflines coming together and shedding water into that little nook, a heavy rain could turn the area into a pond. Even after improving the grading, water still pooled, and rain falling from the gutters tended to erode the ground under the outlets:

On the garden tour this spring, I had seen this dry creek bed that I thought could be the solution we were searching for.

So we tried a modified version of that, placing river rock under the gutter outlets (soon to hold rain chains) to soften the fall of the water and prevent erosion. And that looked pretty nice:

And it looked good during a light storm, too:

But after a couple of heavy rains, we had watched all of the mulch we had placed around the few plants float out across the driveway, and I had figured out that a whole bed of mulch (our original plan) would hold too much moisture...until it all washed away....

So it was on to Plan B, which involved expanding the "creek bed" to the whole area -- essentially using gravel "mulch" in that entire space. After re-grading a bit (to build the eroded areas back up and restore the channel down the center), we laid landscaping fabric and, cartload by cartload, brought extra gravel from the back yard (where we put the seven cubic yards of gravel that we (surely over-) guesstimated we would need for the sides of the house and around the vegetable garden beds in back).

We worked around the plants (including a couple of new ones that we planted a month or so ago -- which, by the way, is not the time to plant anything in Austin).

Since it's been about a thousand degrees every day for the last six weeks or so, this has been another bit-by-bit-every-morning project (alternating with painting the screened porch). And as of last weekend, it's done:

(The front walkway is another project for another day/week/month.)

We decided to take the river rock all the way to the walls instead of starting them in the middle, right under the gutter outlets, and we added a bit more curve and plan to continue the "dry creek bed" on the other side of the walkway, where it will wander for a few feet before tapering off.

Now we're just waiting for the next storm to test it out (and probably tweak it a bit). We had a mini-stormlet yesterday, which made for slightly cooler but much more humid Splash and Dash last night. We didn't get enough rain to see how the dry creek bed will work out, but there was enough for the gravel to get washed off a bit and really show the color of the stones.

Now, I realize that's a lot of gravel, and not everyone will love it. Personally, it reminds me of Colorado, which always puts a smile on my face. But if it's too stark for you, rest assured, it will soften a lot over the next couple of years, as we plant more and everything expands until you will, hopefully, only be able to see the river rock (which we may reconfigure over time to look more like the inspiration picture above) and small pockets of gravel peeking out from among the abelias, columbines, lantanas, and whatever else grabs us as we think about planting next spring. So, if you've got some time, come along for the ride and we'll see where things end up a year or two from now.


  1. Looks like you have it reversed from your inspiration. The inspiration has the river rocks bordering the pebbles. You have the pebbles bordering the river rocks. Maybe separate the river rocks a bit to create a dry river bed within the bigger pebble area?

  2. You're right, Rob. I'd like it to look more natural, like the inspiration picture, but with all that gravel on the outside of the creek bed, too, I fear it could look silly to have gravel, then a border of river rock, then a strip of gravel, then another river rock border, and then more gravel. Over time, as the plants fill in and less gravel is exposed outside of the "creek," we plan to reconfigure it to be more of a true dry creek bed. Stay tuned!

  3. Makes sense. I, indeed, will stay tuned.