How to plant up your pond margin for £1.30

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A month ago I dug a brand new pond and bog garden. I’ve managed to do this without spending very much money at all:

Pond liner for pond: £18
Liner for bog garden: £10
Water lily: £5
New plants for bog garden: £10
Seeds: £1.99

I also added plants that I already had. The loosestrife I did buy (years ago) but the cowslips, forget-me-nots and irises were all either given to me or came up on their own.

The only thing I was missing was some marginal plants. These are really, really important for wildlife. For this reason, I prefer to use native species. My original plan was to use bogbean but then one morning on Facebook I spotted some of my wildlife-gardening friends talking about using watercress in ponds.

So this is how it’s done:

1. Buy yourself a bag of watercress.

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Don’t eat it. That will ruin the project.

 

2. Put it in some water on the windowsill and wait.

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If you don’t have containers like these then just order a takeaway.

 

3. A few days later it should be growing roots. Time to harden it off!

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Roots!

 

4. Use some aquatic compost and plant your water cress in the pond margins.

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Plant either in aquatic plant pots or straight into the pond bed.

 

5. Done! A haven for pondlife and all for £1.30.

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It’s definitely looking less like a muddy hole in the ground.

 

PS I tried planting some in the bog garden. Slugs ate it. I hate those guys.

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How to make a bog garden, by someone who has probably cocked it up

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It’ll look better in a couple of months, honest.

I have been planning a bog garden for sometime, having been ‘blessed’ with heavy, wet clay soil (my mum keeps reminding me about all the good points of clay but she’s not the one who has to dig it). Last year my back garden was a bit overrun with veg, but now I have the allotment I have plenty of room to extend my wildlife section with another pond and a bog garden. The area is a small border, but you don’t need a ton of space for a bog garden anyway. You could create one in an even smaller space than this if you wanted.

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Digging is hard work, so get help if you can.

The first step is digging. Digger Jr looks like she’s helping but really she is just posing with a spade, the massive slacker. You’ll need to dig down about a foot and a half, which is 45 cm or knee high if you’re 5’4″. For a bog garden, you don’t need to worry about using a fleecy liner because you want holes in the liner anyway. Just remove any biggish or pointy stones and bung in the liner.

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Stabbing things is fun. And legal if it’s pond liner.

Next comes the fun part! Stab some holes in the liner with a fork. The bog garden needs to be slow draining but not completely water tight, so some drainage is needed.

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Looking forward to this not looking like a grave.

Next add a layer of gravel at the bottom to aid drainage. It’s hard to tell how thick it is in this photo- it’s about an inch.

The next step is to fill it all in. The soil will settle and the level will drop so it’s best to leave the planting for a couple of days.

So I finished my bog garden off with (and you’ll have to trust me on this because they’re only just waking up): Purple loosestrife, Ligularia, Persicaria (no idea which one…), cowslips and forget-me-nots. I’ll also be adding some ragged robin which I’m growing from seed and some bog bean in the pond margins. I’ll take a few more photos when it starts looking good. In fact, I’ve worked so hard that I’ll probably approach strangers in the street with photos yelling ‘LOOK AT MY BOG GARDEN.’ Someone look after my bog garden while I’m in jail.

 

 

I made a wildlife pond and I deserve an award or at the very least some alcohol

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Cat shown for scale (cat is massive)

Last year this bed was where I grew my brussells sprouts. Since they’ve all been eaten (4 plants is a good amount for a family of 4 btw- you will run out of sprouts at about the same time you get really sick of them) I was able to get cracking on my plan for extending the pond/wildlife area.

I have built one and a half wildlife ponds before so I vaguely know what I’m doing. So, for your information here is how I did it. The Digger- cocking up gardening so you don’t have to.

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Yes, that is solid clay.

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Nope, never dries out.

These are the conditions I’m working with- heavy clay that never dries out. For years I’ve been trying to fix it but now that I have more space for veg up at the allotment, I can finally work with the conditions and put in another pond and a bog garden.

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I found some sanity at the bottom of the hole. And a lot of bricks.

First things first, decide where you want your pond. If you want a natural wildlife pond it’s best to go for somewhere flat or at the bottom of a slope, and somewhere that gets some sun. This spot ticks the boxes and will get more sun that the other pond so hopefully the frogs will prefer it.

If you’re organised or picky then you can mark out the edge of your pond so that you can plan the shape beforehand. I was limited by the space available, so since I didn’t have much scope for choosing a size and shape I just dug.

It’s a good idea to have different depths in the pond. I needed a deep bit for a water lily that I impulse bought last summer and has been sitting in a bucket ever since, poor thing. But I also wanted a shallow bit for some native marginals.

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An hour and a half later….

Make sure you check to see if your pond is level, otherwise you’ll end up with loads of liner showing on one side and it will haunt you forever.

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Don’t worry, it’s meant to look like this.

You’ll need to put something between the pond liner and the ground to prevent it getting punctured by sharp rocks or some of the crap that the lazy arses that built your house left behind. Sand is OK for the flat parts but you’ll need fleecy stuff for the sides. I’ve used a mixture because I am cheap as hell and just used what I had lying around, but you can buy special stuff for the job.

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Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.

Don’t cut the liner yet! Lay it over the hole and start filling with water. This will help the liner form the shape of the pond. There will be creases, so try and flatten them out as best you can while the pond is filling.

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Told you.

When it’s filled up, you can trim the edges of the liner- be cautious, you can always trim off more later on.

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Nearly there….

You can weigh down the edges of the liner with rocks or you can dig a little trench and bury the edges with soil. I opted for the latter, firstly because it’s cheap and secondly because I want plants growing all the way up to the edge.

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Tadaa!

Done! Not a massive pond, but a worthy addition to my little wildlife corner.

Right, the sun is shining so I’m going to go and finish my bog garden. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Off with its head

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This is an ex-flower.

My first buddleia flower has gone over so it’s time for a trim. Are you deadheading your buddleia?

Deadheading prolongs the flowering period. Once the flower has started turning brown, but before seeds form, cut down the stem a bit to just above a set of side shoots. This will encourage more flowers.

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Just ‘ere. That’s where I mean.

In late winter/early spring you can cut your buddleia right down to about 18″ tall. You only get flowers on the new growth so don’t be worried about hacking loads off. Buddleia is really hard to kill and grows really fast once the weather is warm enough.

Another reason to deadhead is to stop the invasion of buddleias. I think we’re all used to seeing buddleias growing on waste ground but I hadn’t realised how invasive they have become. To help prevent total buddleia domination, DEFRA is asking gardeners to deadhead. This will also prevent them from popping up all over your garden- deadheading is much easier than weeding, am I right? Let’s protect our native species. Secateurs at the ready!

Dividing irises, by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing

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My giant bearded iris (and only a few weeds *cough* )

This post is about bearded irises. If you’ve got Siberian irises or some other kind then you probably should do something different.

I had some beautiful flowers on my mahoosive bearded iris this spring, but they finished a few weeks ago and it could really use dividing. I’d already dug up and re-designed everything else in the front garden borders, but it was the wrong time to move the iris. The dividing needs to be done about 6 weeks after flowering, which varies between cultivars and growing regions. It needs doing every two or three years, but if you’re not sure if it’s time, have a look at how it’s growing; if your iris has formed a circle of fans with nothing growing in the middle then it’s time to do it.

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Big gap in the middle for this woodlouse to hang out in.

Here’s a play by play of me doing it:

1.Dig it up. Yes, all of it, even if you want to keep some in the same place.

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There is now a giant crater in my border.

2. Trim the leaves down to around 6 inches and remove any dead ones so you can see what you’re doing. (I didn’t take any photos of this bit because I got carried away).

3 Each fan will be on a separate bit of rhizome. Find the join between the new growth and the old rhizome and pull- it should break off easily.

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Those aren’t weird blue rhizomes at the top, those are my gardening gloves.

4. Replant the rhizomes. You can trim the roots to make it easier. Don’t plant too deeply, especially if you have clay soil like me. I’m planting them in small groups after I saw a video suggesting this- I’ll let you know how it works out!

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You can see here how the fans have been cut down and re-planted near the surface.

5. Throw away the parts you don’t need.

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These are the old flower stalks and the old rhizome growth. You can bin this!

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The oldest part of the rhizome is rotten.

Now I have six patches of iris, not bad for a little scrap of rhizome I bought off ebay for £3 three or four years ago. I’m a bearded iris rookie, so if you have any growing tips please leave me a comment!