If, like us, you have a patch of lawn or garden that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, is often damp and doesn’t enable much to grow on it – even grass – have a think about creating a bog garden.
Our patch is in a corner of a lawn in our almost-North-facing front garden. It was prone to developing loads of moss and seemed reluctant to grass-up, even when we raked out the moss and reseeded. To be completely honest, a bog garden was in our thoughts for this spring’s first major project so really, obliterating the damp lawn was just a good excuse to get on with it. In addition, the bog garden would, we hoped, provide a different habitat for a wider range of plants and, hopefully, wildlife, therefore increasing our garden’s biodiversity. The plants we had in mind also brought in a diversity of names with sneezewort, devil’s-bit scabious and cuckoo flower among the more interesting.
When this kind of project comes along, it’s always a good idea to have a birthday – especially a significant one, with a zero in it – as anyone asking for gift ideas can very quickly be told to contribute to the plants and other kit that might be needed. Luckily my four siblings pooled some cash for my special birthday and covered the cost of the plants. We also thought a water feature might complement the generally wet look we were hoping for and my mother-in-law came up trumps on that front.
As with all garden projects, this one started small and got bigger as it progressed. Rest assured that if you want to create a bog garden you can make it very small. Even if you have a shady yard or balcony, you could house yours in a container – I’ve seen a YouTube video in which someone who’s you how to make one in an old tyre. Whatever size you decide on, the requirements are pretty much the same: garden space or a container, soil, a lining (generally plastic but you can use other materials), water and plants that cope well in wet soil or standing water.
So we started by shaping out the garden and digging out whatever passed for turf. The next step is do dig out the soil to a depth of somewhere between 30cm and 45cm (ideas we researched on how deep to dig are very varied). Basically we dug down until it got too heavy and hard to go further and reached around 40cm. We piled up the soil beside the hole, as it was due to go back in, once the lining was in place. Several passing neighbours asked what I was digging and I told them that I didn’t know, my wife had just told me to make it look as natural as possible and bigger than me. They’re all agreed to keep an eye out, in case I went missing during the process…
Most neighbours also wondered if we were digging out another pond. This was understandable since our efforts had resulted in a big hole in the ground, the bottom and back of which we proceeded to cover with some leftover pond liner. The front section we lined using old panels of wood from an earlier activity – demolishing an old garage/workshop if you must know – thinking that this would reduce the amount of plastic involved and provide a nice border. However, that was where the similarities to a pond ended as we next made plenty of holes in the liner and then filled the whole thing back up with soil. We put the old turf in first so that the carbon locked in its roots and grass was secure.
It was then a matter of selecting plants that would give a good range of colour, throughout the season. We went almost entirely with native species that would tolerate shade and produce flowers, followed by berries or seeds so that bees, butterflies and birds would benefit. The web-site we used – puddleplants.co.uk – helpfully labels their plants with a big W for wildlife-friendly and N for native. Finally, a question for you: is this the first bog garden in Evington Community Nature Reserve or do you have one in your garden? Please let us know by email or message.