Dry Riverbed DIY

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We’ve lived in this house for two years now. Our first full year had a fairly dry winter. We had snow, but not much. Since there wasn’t much snow, the sump pump didn’t need to run much.

Since it didn’t run much we didn’t realize that it could become an issue during the spring snow melt season. We don’t attach the hose to the pipe that comes out of the house until it stays above freezing at night.

There is nothing worse than freezing that hose (and pipe) when the sump pump needs to run. So, we just let it shoot out straight from the pipe that sticks out about a foot. It wasn’t a problem at the old house, there was just rock in that area. So, I didn’t think it would be an issue with a flower bed there.

It wasn’t last year, but this year we had more snow. A LOT more snow. So, when the snow started melting and the ground started thawing, our sump pump ran frequently. Probably every 15 minutes to half hour. All that water shooting out a pipe only a foot outside of our house had to go somewhere.

It went right into my flowerbed. And dug out a hole at least 8 to 10 inches deep.

The dirt it dug out went around 10 feet out from the flowerbed. Possibly farther.

Luna is checking out the runoff of dirt from our hole.

This needed fixing.

There’s a couple of ways that I came up with to fix it. One was to just put the hose on and hope it didn’t freeze at night. With highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s, this wasn’t the best option.

The other option I came up with was a dry riverbed. I’ve seen these online before for downspouts but never for sump pumps. I decided to give it a try.

Making a dry riverbed is fairly easy, though it is physical.

How to make a dry riverbed

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A Shovel

Garden Gloves (optional)

Landscape Fabric (helps keep the weeds out)

Rocks of different sizes (we used softball to football size and then small rocks as well)

Wheel Barrow (or something else to put the dirt in)

Depending on where you get your supplies you can keep your costs to a minimum. We were able to get the landscape fabric free from someone that had a partial roll they were tired of storing. Instead of just tossing it, we were able to use it.

We found the rock on one of those Facebook groups where local people sell and give away things they don’t want. I’ve also found free rock on Craigslist. Some require you to pick it yourself, others have already pulled the rock out.

The one we found hadn’t pulled the rocks out, but the guy had all different sizes. Exactly what I needed. Plus, I was able to get some larger (but still small enough for hubby to lift) rocks for garden decoration.

If you don’t mind putting in a little effort to get the rocks, you may be able to get what you need for free.

Once you have your supplies it’s time to make your dry riverbed. There are only a few steps to make it. Hubby, AJ, CJ, and I worked on this together, so it went fairly quickly.

Even the dogs “helped” with it. Granted their helping consisted of chewing on a bone on separate sides of the yard, but they kept us company. And got to enjoy the nice weather while we worked.

Step 1

Dig out the path you want the water to take. Hubby dug out from the house to the deck post following the line the water took naturally. The only thing we changed was at the deck post. The water had been going on both sides, but we wanted to have it go only on one side.

Make sure that the end closest to the house is higher than the end away from the house. You want the water to drain away and it will only do that if it is sloped away from the house.

Step 2

Lay out your landscape fabric along the path you dug out. Our fabric was wider than our path, so I folded it in half. I then adjusted it as needed the length of the path.

Step 3
I had to place some smaller rocks on the landscape fabric to hold it in place.

Place the larger rocks on both sides of the path. Closest to the house the rocks stayed just fine, but farther from the house they started to slip. If this happens, use some of your smaller rocks to hold the larger ones in place.

The larger rocks make the edge of the dry riverbed and help keep the smaller rocks inside it.

Step 4

Now gently dump, or place, the smaller rocks in the middle of the dry riverbed. Be careful not to knock the larger rocks down. AJ and CJ helped with this step and they had to put a few of the larger rocks back. More than once.

Keep filling with smaller rocks until you can’t see the landscape fabric. Once the landscape fabric is covered you can stop or add more. We added more to make it look more even. Otherwise some spots looked too empty compared to others.

The dry riverbed is now done and ready for water. Unfortunately, unless we decide to take our sump pump hose off and dump a bunch of water into the pit, we won’t know how well this works until next year. Assuming we get a lot of snow.

Even if it doesn’t work as good as I’d like, I like how it looks. Now I just have to hope that Luna will leave the rocks alone when she is running around the yard.

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