If anything can turn a garden into a rainforest, it is a creekbed!
The most obvious water garden feature is a pond, and most people would think of a pond before anything else.
However, some backyards and suburban gardens do not easily lend themselves to ponds as such, for reasons of topography, size, or position. A creek bed, dry most of the time, can lead to a herb garden, vegetable garden, or flower bed.
When the garden at the end of the dry creek bed needs to be watered, lay the hose in it, turn on the tap, and water flows down the dry creek bed and into the garden!
Simple, economical, attractive, and easy to install!
The cheapest and easiest way to build a creek bed is to dig a shallow spoon drain, about one metre, or less, wide. Wind the spoon drain downhill, curving amongst trees or shrubs, if necessary, until it reaches the garden you will need to water.
Tamp the soil down well and place small rocks and gravel along the edges of drain, and some and small smooth rocks in the centre to create ripples and rapids. You can also plant grass in the creek bed to prevent soil erosion.
It is not advisable to use a plastic liner in a creek bed, because heavy rain will wash any gravel away, leaving an unsightly liner visible.
A better, but also more expensive option, is to use concrete or even fibreglass. If using concrete, you will need to lay reinforcing down first, using weldmesh or strong stiff wire netting.
Push small rocks and gravel into the concrete before it sets. You will also need to allow the concrete to cure for two weeks, under some wet sacks, to avoid cracking.
Fibreglass is a little more tricky. Heavy duty brown paper, or paper feed sacks, are laid in the spoon drain. A suitable sized piece of chopped strand mat is saturated with resin, and then laid on top of the brown paper.
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The next piece of saturated chopped strand mat is then laid next to the first piece, but overlapping it at the join. This continues until the creekbed is covered with mat.
When cured, the whole process is repeated, until at least two layers of mat have been laid. When the resin is set, another coat of resin, tinted brown or green, is painted on, then sprinkled with coarse sand and gravel.
If you wish to use fibreglass it’s probably better to get a professional to do it for you. Fibreglass creek beds are expensive, but last a lifetime. They can also be cut into manageable size pieces and removed to another location, and rejoined, if required.
It is quite easy to incorporate a small waterfall in a creek bed, using a flat rock for the water to run over.
It is also effective to create a creek bed connecting two ponds, or a pond and a swamp garden. Creek beds are usually only practical if the yard has a slope, although it is possible to incorporate a waterfall, running down a short excavated slope, into a pond or garden.
A pump is usually required. If you have the space, don’t forget to put a small footbridge across the creek! Really, the possibilities are only limited by ones’ imagination.
*Creek bed plants* Most native water plants prefer still or slowly moving water. It is most effective to have one or two deeper areas in the creek bed that will hold water for a period of time after the water stops flowing.
These sinkholes are perfect places for some aquatic plants which like to have their roots growing in wet soil, and the stems sprawling across the creek bed, or along the bank. Water cress likes slowly running water, so a hollow built into the creek bed could be used to plant watercress.
Other plants include bacopa, or native cress, water primrose, nardoo, and knotweed. Ferns, sedges, and small shrubs can be planted near the edge of the creek, and in soil at the very edge. Most ferns and shrubs will quickly grow out over creek beds, and create a very pretty picture. Lomandras and dianellas are great, and don’t forget to include a couple of small palms near the creek bed, and a couple of small bushy shrubs, or dwarf clumping bamboo, for the birds to hide in!
Okay, that should have given you some ideas about a creek bed. Apart from giving you and your family much pleasure, a properly constructed, and appropriately planted creek bed should add thousands of dollars onto the value of your home.
Happy relaxing, Patrick