DIY Dry river bed and painting rock fish |For what it's worth

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DIY Dry river bed and painting rock fish

Despite the heat and my lack luster energy, I slowly finished a dry river bed across the front of the house. Besides enhancing my garden view, its main purpose is to stop the eroding gulley effect around the drip line of our roof.  There are plants, rocks and a few garden animals along the “banks” and the grands painted some colorful rock fish to wait for the water to flow.  I’ll tell you how I created the river bed, how we painted the fish below. 
dry river bed w rock rish

How I built a dry river bed

First things first, the area had to be cleaned free of grass and weeds (mostly weeds) along the little gulley created by rain that drips off the roof being mindful to center the river bed in the hardest hit areas.  The bed is roughly the width of a bag of river pebbles from a garden center.  I used a simple hoe to accomplish this along with some hand pulling to get the roots of the hardy Bermuda grass.  Because the Texas temperature reaches 100+ during summer I worked short burst early in the morning when it’s cooler.  Once the area was cleared I took a bag of top soil and raised the ground level along the house foundation a couple of inches to ensure the water would drain AWAY from the house and down the river bed into the yard.  The river bed itself has a shallow trough shape of about two inches down its length.  Then the fun part of builing the river bed.

Bonus tip:

Recycle plastic bags as a weed barrier under river bed rocks

use plastic bags as weed barrier for dry river bed
  • When the whole area was cleared and ready I used the empty top soil bags to create a weed barrier where the river bed flows.  I just cut down the sides to make a long piece of plastic that was the perfect width for my river bed.
  • There is an inside corner area of my river bed that gets a pretty heavy fall of water when it rains so my son placed a large rock there and I strategically placed a big flower pot to just miss the heaviest water splash.  I also placed several flat rocks to make a stepping stone path for aesthetics and ease of crossing over.       
    dry bed rock crossover

  • I emptied a bag of small river pebbles I purchased at a garden center onto the first bags and spread them over the plastic with my hands.  I kept the pebbles about three inches deep, maintaining the shallow trough to guide the water.  Then I used the empty pebble bag to create a weed barrier for the next section of the river until the whole river bed was finished.
  • The grands collected a couple loads of larger stones over the summer from our vegetable garden in the little red wagon.    They had great fun on the rock hunts that are decorating the edges and other flower beds and it makes the area even more special for me.

  • I planted some annual flowers on the banks along the house and some perennials on the outside bank edges near the porch.  There are also inexpensive solar lights that illuminate the bed at night.
  • The river bed seems to disappear under the side walk and takes up on the other side only to disappear behind some large bushes.  The other end of the river circles around a vignette of flower pots simulating a sort of “pool”.
Because I wasn’t in a rush to finish the bed I leisurely worked on it over several weeks. OK, I admit-it’s not as easy when I was younger and had more bounce, plus it was HOT outside!  If you wanted to, it is a project you could easily complete in a day or over a weekend. My pace gave the grands plenty of time to paint rock fish that they added to the river.  I love those fish!  They also painted a few cactus rocks that we’re enjoying in a shallow bowl that moves from the porch to a spot or two inside.  I never know where they’ll will turn up!

How to DIY paint rock fish for a dry river bed

Supply list:
  • clean rocks, acrylic paints, artist paint brushes, paint pens, permanent marker, clear spray lacquer
  1. First clean the rocks with soap and water.
  2. Use acrylic craft paint to give the rocks a base coat.  Any color is okay.  Some of ours were shades of green, blue, and even red.  Let them dry.  It doesn’t take long if you’re using acrylics.
  3. Next use a paint pen or permanent marker to draw the important features like the head, and eyes.
  4. Let your imagination swim [giggle] to paint some fanciful patterns on the fish bodies. 
  5. After that dries, use the paint pen or permanent marker to define fins, gills and eyes. 
  6. I sprayed the finished rock fish with a coat of lacquer before placing them outside, but they will last a long time without it.
The maintenance has been minimal which is an added benefit of putting in the dry bed.  The never ending wind out here in the panhandle of Texas brings in some tumbling weeds.  I just pick them up along with any other debree that has appered and occasionally pull a sprouted weed.  There are many though which I atribute to the 3" layer of rocks.

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