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Creating a Backyard Bog Garden

by Sherri Sanders

Searcy, Ark. –

Bog plants are an interesting group of plants that thrive in bog conditions. Why create a bog garden? Bog gardens are great for low lying, slow draining areas in your yard.  They do especially well when set up near a pond.  Bog gardens provide a home for unique plants who like to keep their feet wet and for wildlife.  Beautiful perennials like cardinal flower and bee balm and carnivorous plants like the yellow pitcher plant will thrive in your bog garden. Bogs help filter polluted runoff caused by storm water runoff and reduce flooding problems. 

 Bogs found in the natural environment are extremely important for filtering and purifying storm water runoff.  Storm water runoff is the excess water that runs across the land when it rains or snows. Wetland areas like bogs help to absorb the storm water runoff and retain and slow excess water as it heads towards river and streams.  Communities today are more vulnerable to flooding because we have filled wetlands, straightened streams and paved and developed large areas.  We have changed the way water flows and taken away the ability of many natural systems to absorb and detain floodwaters.  Wetlands help regulate water flow and act like a sponge, filtering pollutants and providing flood control 

Recommended Plants: Spice bush, American/Common Elderberry, Louisiana iris, Lobelia, Elephant ears, Ageratum, Amsonia, Siberian iris, Spiderwort, Button Bush, Cattails, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Pawpaw, Marsh pink, Hardy hibiscus.  

 If you are looking for a water feature in your garden but worry about safety or don’t have the time to maintain a full water garden, a backyard bog garden could be the answer. A natural bog exists with low oxygen levels which reduces the decaying of dead plant matter.  This dead matter forms a thick layer as it builds up, known as peat. Most of the water content in a bog comes from rainfall; this causes it to be very acidic and low in mineral content.  Plenty of natural sunlight helps the natural bogs to thrive so if you’re able to mimic these conditions, a backyard bog garden of your own creation should also do well. Ideally, you should find a low sitting point in your garden that maybe doesn’t drain very well and collects a bit of rainwater.  This spot needs to receive a good amount of sunlight and needs to be in an open site away from tall trees.  The falling leaves will disturb the organic levels.  It needs to receive a good amount of rainwater and be undisturbed by activity from people and animals.  These factors will give you a pretty good start for a backyard bog garden.  

 Creating a backyard bog garden from the beginning may sound complicated but it’s quite straight forward.  Anytime between the autumn and the spring is the best time to start construction.  A bog garden at least five feet square with a bog pool in the center about two feet deep, will help mimic a natural bog.  Around the perimeter of the backyard bog garden, a border of about 12 inches deep will allow for the marshy environment that exists in natural bogs.   The area will need to be lined with sand and gravel, making sure that any sharp stones and rocks are removed.  The hole will also need to be lined.  There are several different types of liners on the market. If you use polythene sheeting, it’s best to use a double layer to ensure enough strength. 

 It’s a good idea to make a few small holes in the liner; this will allow a very small turnover of water and help prevent the backyard bog garden from becoming too stagnant. The marshy border will need better drainage than the pool area, so more drainage holes will be needed; however, it’s probably best to start off with fewer and be able to add to them if needed. With the liner in place, the marsh area needs filling with a mixture of compost and soil.  The backyard bog garden pool needs filling with a mixture made up of three parts peat and one-part sand and saturated with water. 

Once set up, your backyard bog garden won’t need a lot of maintenance.  One of the most important things is to make sure that it stays wet enough.  Rainwater would be the first choice for topping it off, but water from the tap or a well is fine.  Perhaps you could set up a rain-water barrel to collect rainwater in wet weather periods and lay a pipe to feed the area directly? It’s important to keep the area clear of overhanging branches and leaves, and to allow sunlight to the area.  There is no need to add any extra fertilization.  High levels of nutrients will do more harm than good to your bog garden, and it doesn’t need them to thrive.  This damp but sunny area might be a good spot to place a couple of pots with tropical garden plants for a bit of vertical interest. Once a year, your backyard bog garden may need a bit of pruning.  The best time to do this is in the winter.  Simply trim back any overgrowth to allow the site to stay open to the sun. 

 For additional information on horticulture questions, contact the White County Cooperative Extension Service at 501-268-5394.

 The Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture.  The University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. 

For additional information, contact your county office of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service or visit the website at .  

By Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
2400 Old Searcy Landing Road, Searcy AR 72143
(501) 268-5394


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.