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Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 9, 12 at 15:04

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?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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.

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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.

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 11, 12 at 13:01

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.

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 11, 12 at 22:52

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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.

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

  • Posted by c2g 6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 12, 12 at 10:44

@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.

RE: Bog, Pond, or Vernal Pool?

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,

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