Caledonian Horticulture is regularly posting ideas for ways in which you can help boost biodiversity in your local area, from simple everyday changes to nature projects in your garden. Today we are discussing ways to create wetland habitats in your garden.
What are wetlands?
Wetlands are extremely important habitats for a large variety of plant and animal species and for humans. Wetlands include a range of watery habitats which vary in size including ponds, bogs, reedbeds, wet woodland and grassland and more.
Historically, many wetlands and ponds were seen as unproductive areas of land and were drained to be redeveloped for other things. This resulted in the UK losing 90% of wetland habitats in the last 100 years, and the impact of this is now being felt with two-thirds of wetland species in decline. Ponds are disappearing as people opt for more easy ways to manage their landscape, such as decking, which is giving native insects and amphibians less space to live in.
Wetland creation helps many species such as dragonflies, newts, and beetles and can even attract animals such as birds and hedgehogs as a source of water.
Build a Pond
From using a small washing-up bowl to building a large pond, every water body will support several important species. You could use an old sink or tub/container and turn it into a mini pond.
If you are going bigger, aim to create several areas of the wetland in your pond, with rocky areas, vegetated areas, and parts with clear water.
Avoid adding fish as they often eat insects and will add unwanted nutrients to your pond. Water forget-me-not and lily pads are great for many amphibians. Buttercup-like flowers can attract bees and spiked water milfoil are perfect for dragonflies.
Ensure there are easy ways in and out of your pond for wildlife, for example, a ramp or steps will allow hedgehogs to get out of ponds if they fall in.
Create a Bog
A bog garden is a slow draining area of soil where you can grow water-loving plants. You can grow an array of different plants here which only increases the number of species you can support.
Building a bog is much like building a pond. Dig down 30cm and line your area with a butyl liner with a few drainage slits cut into it. Put all soil back in the hole with some good compost and mix well before watering with rainwater.
Leave the soil to settle for a week before planting species such as herbaceous perennials (plants that die down each year, but the roots remain alive and send up new top growth next year), as well as certain species of grasses and ferns.
If you live beside a river or stream, consider riparian planting. Plants around water courses provide benefits to the ecology of the area while also managing the flow of the water course. They firstly attract invertebrates which create a food source for fish while the plant’s roots stabilise riverbanks.
Riparian planting also creates shading of water which regulates temperatures and limits weed growth. The best trees to plant in riparian zones are willows, alder, ash, and hazel; avoid conifers as they acidify the water.