Desert washes are dry streambeds that quickly fill with rushing water after heavy rain. When the flash flood waters recede, sand, gravel and rock deposits remain. Also called arroyos, washes are important corridors for wildlife and seed dispersal. Creating a natural-looking desert wash in your yard adds visual interest. It can also be functional by directing rainwater to planting areas.
Watch where rain flows off your roof and driveway and settles on your property. Incorporate that flow into a desert wash that conveys water away from your house. The wash should be at least 6 inches deeper than the surrounding landscape.
- Blur the beginning of the wash with boulders and plants.
- Meander the water's path and form several shallow swales or depressions along the wash where rain can pool. Slowing the flow allows water to soak into the ground, reducing stormwater runoff and replenishing groundwater. Plant with natives to take advantage of extra moisture and help absorb runoff.
- Line with at least 3 sizes of rock to mimic nature. Large rocks in the center of the wash are too heavy to be moved by currents; smaller rocks are swept to the sides. Gravel fills in between and covers flat areas.
- Stagger a few boulders to define edges and add elevation.
- End the wash with a large swale near a tree's canopy edge.