Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

c2g(6)April 9, 2012

I have a 20' x 20' area in my yard that I've gotten ready to build a pond in, but I've been having second thoughts lately. My main goal for the pond was not to have fish, but to create a biodiverse habitat with frogs and other creatures that live in the water that would normally get eaten by fish.

Original plan was to build the pond, but I've since been turned off by all the yearly maintenance as well as cost and needed electrical work.

Next idea was to build a vernal pool. I have tons of clay in my soil and this would probably work, but I wasn't sure I wanted something that would be dry half of the year.

Now I ran across a bog as an option. This seems to be exactly what I'm looking for. Aside from the linear and some PVC, seems inexpensive to build and no yearly emptying and cleaning.

Anyone ever consider these 3 options and end up going with a bog? Does this seem like my best bet for attracting wildlife but not needing to spend a ton of $ or require a ton of maintenance?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I wanted a bog but gave up the idea. Access to the plants is improving but they are still expensive and very delicate. My DH would find a way to kill it because he doesn't understand the point.

Fred (link below)used to post on the GW Bog forum. Then he got unhappy with some other posters and went elsewhere. Still this is a great intro for creating a bog. Maybe he has come back since I last checked out the forum.

I would enjoy hearing what you wind up doing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fred's starting a bog post

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 4:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
catherinet(5 IN)

So your plan would be to just let the clay soil hold the water? Have you tested a hole that you dig about 2 feet down and see if it holds water?
I would start alot smaller. 20x20 is a pretty big area if you change your mind. Can you just try it in a small section?
I think bogs can be tricky if it isn't a natural bog.
Then there's fens, which are a little deeper.
I think the first thing you need to do is establish that your ground can hold water for any length of time.
Again, I would try a small section as a bog/marsh/fen and see how you feel about it, before making it 20x20. It may end up being a smelly, yukky thing!
Tell us more about what your plans are.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 5:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

C2g nailed it. I wound up with a bog garden last year by accident when I filled in a swimming pool with truckloads of cheap, heavy local clay dirt. I soon noticed that it tended to retain pools of standing water, many weeks after rains. I noticed the ground was almost always mushy underfoot, even during our historic drought last year. The area quickly became covered in wild growth. It popped up entire wild berry bushes within weeks. Things spread like crazy. It never stopped growing and growing, even when it hadn't had a drop of water added to it in many months. Then the rainy autumn came and it grew even crazier. Within a year of growth, one wild weed was 8' tall. Insects are its best friend. Birds are regular visitors. Frogs or toads have been there for nearly 12 straight months - not just during the usual noisy springtime.

I can't imagine a bog garden would ever have to be watered. And I wouldn't imagine that it would need to be irrigated by underground pipes or any nonsense like that that I've read about. I would just dig a big hole, throw down a $100 plastic pond liner, and shovel the dirt back into the hole. The end. It might be a lot of digging to do. But that's all there is to it.

As for plants to grow in it, you'd be surprised how many ordinary bushes, plants, and even trees will thrive in standing water and/or poorly-drained soil. You just have to research which ones. And if you want emergent marginals like cattails and reeds from the pond store, you can do that, too. They spread like wildfire, so you probably don't need to start with many of them.

The only real drawback is that it'll always be kind of a mushy marsh, probably an insect magnet, filled with tall, overgrown-looking, weedy-looking types of plants. But it has got to be the cheapest way to garden by far. In a time of depressing drought and plant death all around me, this bog garden has been an oasis.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry, I haven't tried a bog. However, My stream and pond don't have serious maintance problems. You would still need power and a pump, but that's it. I don't think you need another filter. The stream does it all. I have a link below to my copy of a post about the stream.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stream

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 12:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A little more background.

My soil has lots of clay in it and the max. width of the pond/bog would be 14' tops.

First I have to do the "make a clay ribbon with your thumbs" test, and then the plan was to dig, separating soil and clay - maybe down to 2-3' or so for the deep parts, and then hand tamping the clay back in to the bottom 2" at a time or so until I still have around 2' depth.

We did this in our backyard when we were kids - just dug a hole, no tamping or testing soil - nothing. After keeping it filled for the first month or so, we got cattails, frogs, dragonflies, etc. and our old neighbor started dumping small fish in as well. The fish lived and we had frogs there for years until it eventually got filled in.

As for plants, I'm about 2 yrs into converting my property to as many natives as possible, so I have a resource for vernal pool plants, which I'm sure will thrive in this sort of environment as well.

Still a few weeks away from digging as I'm still doing my research.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 1:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Actually plants that are called Marginals will do just as well and are generally inexpensive. These include everything from cattails to brooklime. But is the area next to the fence that is next to your neighbor's property?
Is your neighbor into natives and frogs croaking and insects?
I would also put in on one end one of the small preform
pools and fill in with sand to about 2 inches deep and add some branches or stones for birds to bathe and drink from.
Maybe add a tall plant to shade it and one that you can easily pull out when it gets out of bounds. It could be refilled easily with just a hose.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 2:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@terrestrial - Yes, that is my neighbor behind the fence. They have small kids who knew about the toads in the vernal pool in the woods across the street, so I'm thinking they'll be OK with my project.

Lining that back fence is, L to R, an elderberry bush, serviceberry, future site of atlantic white cedar (the paint circle), and a sweetbay magnolia next to that. The neighbor to the right has tons of trees/shrubs in their yard as well, so once I get the area all planted, there should be ample space for the new residents.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I built a very large garden pond on my property: a 1/4-acre native plant, densely landscaped lot in an urban area. There are nearly NO woodfrogs, toads, tree frogs or woodland salamanders around due to residential development. (There is a population of redback salamanders on my property and in the adjacent wooded lots; these do not rely on pools for breeding, however.)

I'm considering building a very small vernal pond (6' x 5' x 2') on my property. Would this be too small for woodfrogs, toads, aquatic-breeding salamanders, spring peeper woodfrogs, etc. to use? (Perhaps after being introduced into it as larvae/eggs and returning to breed in it?) I'd plumb a valve to the the liner so that water only stands in the spring.

(I feel that they would not use the closed-system, 38' pond in my yard because there are fish in there, as well as a current of moving water. Also, I read that permanent ponds (especially those containing fish) are less suitable for vernal pond-breeding amphibians due to the presence of a certain bacteria.)

Would I be better off using the spot to build a cranberry and carnivorous plant bog, than wasting it on amphibians that won't use it?

Thank you,

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 12:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@njbiology...I realize this is an old post, but on the off chance you'll see this, your size of bog (6x5x2) would work fine, as long as you plan on topping it up (with dechlorinated/dechloraminated water) for as long as it takes for the amphibs to transform. I have a tiny bog (6x2x1) that catches overflow from my pond. The pond and bog were installed May 2013 (although I already had a small 6x6x2 semi-above-ground pond for 6 years which attracted Green Frogs after year 3...and I live nowhere near another pond or significant water source). In July 2013, I saw the first Wood frog (ever) on my property. In the first week of March 2014, I saw & (and heard!) 7 Wood Frogs in my little bog, and eggs were laid in the bog just 48 hours after they arrived. Most of them transformed and left the pond in late June and another set in mid July. Unfortunately, they appeared to bring ranavirus with them, and infected my green frogs--but losses have been minor so far (probably lost 200 tadpoles and/or metamorphs out of an estimated 20,000 tadpoles/metamorphs/frogs between my two ponds). I wouldn't move any frogs from other habintats to your bog...just let them find you. Frogs have a very strong fidelity to their natal ponds and chosen breeding ponds and moving them somewhere else typically means early death while they try to find their way back.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I built my fairy garden bog when the preform pond form cracked. (After 2 years of repairing it frequently I gave up filled in the pond area. I couldn't live without it and after 2 years I have built another one in the old spot.)
As you can see in the picture I have made a raised bed bog from the cracked pond form and added a little peanut form pond for frogs and toads. It got too hot this summer and stayed green, nasty and mosquito filled so I took it out last month. The frogs and toads still have the pond to breed in and I found tree frog eggs/tadpoles in the lotus pot.

The plants in the bog are very hardy. I have had pitcher plants in it for 14 years and had to dig them up and divide them. Hosta and sedums grow very happily and I have stuck bits of annuals in it and they have made roots.

I say go for it. You will enjoy the wildlife it attracts. I did fill mine with a peat moss/sand mix so it won't stink.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I did end up going for it. See link below.
The pond gradually slopes down one half with a deep end of 2.5' (and an extra 1' overwintering hole filled with sand/leaf litter). Marginal shelf around 80% of the pond (blueflag iris, pickerelweed, golden club, arrow arum, cattail, etc.) planted into clay soil left over from excavation. The overflow runs into a "bog" area (just dug down about 1', laid out some excess linear, and put soil/sand/peat mix back in) which stays wet for a day or two after rain (red lobelia thriving there).
Had a string algae bloom in the spring, as expected, until duckweed took over the surface in early July. Added some toad tadpoles from a drying up puddle in May, and they're now 1-2" toads that are out and about at night. At least 10-20 damselflies buzzing about the surface every time I check, and the rest of my garden beds are also loaded with them.
No fish, no pumps or filters. Have a rain barrel set up next to the pond but haven't had to use it all summer, especially with the duckweed. I used mosquito dunks from spring into early summer, but haven't put one in in over a month. Despite my concerns going into it, I can say this is the most mosquito-free summer we've ever experienced. The pond has become everything I hoped it would be in less than a full season.

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by c2g on Mon, Aug 4, 14 at 23:16

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow! Looks very tranquil and I can imagine a frog plopping into the duck weed. I have used the mosquito dunks here and there but was worried that the tadpoles wouldn't have anything to eat. Do your dunks fall apart into bits? I am supplementing the tadpoles in my lotus pot with fish food since there are dunks in it. They come up and eat the fish food as soon as I drop it in.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

These were toad tadpoles, so I'm pretty sure they don't eat mosquito larvae. Plenty of algae and microorganisms to feed on, I suppose.
I used a half dunk every 2-3 weeks or so, and they usually held together fairly well. Never saw any mosquito larvae but I did have dragonfly/damselfly larvae as soon as the pond warmed up, so I suspect they would have cleaned up what the dunks didn't take care of.
As far as I can tell, the dunks lived up to their claim of only targeting mosquito larvae. I took plenty of water samples throughout this first season and there was alway plenty of life in the pond. My belief was that if I let it establish on its own, naturally (aside from the dunks, or course), that I wouldn't have to add anything as far as food. It took car of itself.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Dunks are pretty amazing. They've been studied a lot and apparently the bacteria does only target mosquito larvae and a couple of other larvae humans don't like.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

c2g your pond bog is gorgeous! i know all the critters are grateful for it and i bet the neighbor kids are learning from you too. the more kids we can inspire the better, since they will inherit the earth from us.
i have a pond bog too but here in CA it is so hot and dry that (though i am making all xeric gardens now) i have needed to top it up occasionally this summer- otherwise it has always taken care of itself. i figure it knows better what it needs than i do.
many congrats on yours, min

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 5:18PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Growing store bought lotus?
I found lotus roots in the grocery store tonight. Maybe...
Sticky Monkey Flower Plant
I am trying to find more info on Sticky Monkey flower...
I'm a bad steward of my pond. :(
I only have a 300 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank sunk...
Question about pond vacs
I have a 300 gallon stock tank, sunk in the ground...
Lotus seeds
Question about Lotus seeds. Has anyone had good luck...
Sponsored Products
Elysburg Pool Table Light-3 Shades - 6502/3
$486.00 | Hayneedle
Slim LED Rectangular Multi-Light Pendant by Vibia
$6,300.00 | Lumens
Folding Poolside Seat
$139.00 | FRONTGATE
Large Rock Enclosure
Grandin Road
Serene White 3D Groutless Pearl Shell Tile
$45.50 | TileBar
Happy Frog Birdbath
Lamps Plus
Pink Zigzag Personalized Beach Towel
$37.99 | zulily
Large Parchment Check Compote
$142.00 | Horchow
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™