|Creating A Backyard Wetland
by Carlo Morelli
A miniature wetland on your property can offer similar benefits
that natural wetlands offer. A mini-wetland can even help
replace the valuable natural functions of wetlands that may have
been lost during your area's development.
What is a wetland? Simply any area in which water covers the
soil or keeps it saturated at least two or three weeks out of
the growing season. They are commonly found wherever water
collects at a rate faster than it drains away. Some are swamped
year-round while others only hold water for short-lived periods
each spring. The majority of wetlands are underwater less than a
month during the summer. Wetlands with grasses, cattails, and
similar vegetation are referred to as marshes, and wooded
wetlands, with shrubs and trees, are called swamps.
Who wants a swamp in their backyard, you ask? Well, a wetland in
your yard will store, filter, and clean runoff water temporarily
from your roof and lawn. It will supply a home for some
fascinating friends; from butterflies and bees to salamanders,
toads, frogs, and birds.
How long soil is wet establishes which wetland plants will grow
best. Plants like cattails, bulrushes, jewelweed, and the lovely
cardinal flower do best with alternating wet and dry periods,
and survive flooding as long as most of the leaves are out of
the water. Water lilies and pond plants grow well in a
permanently flooded pond. Most wetland plants do not require
standing water to grow successfully, and will survive even in an
area that appears dry during most of the growing season.
Starting a wetland in your yard could be as easy as planting
wetland plants in an existing wet spot or drainage area, or may
require the effort needed to install a pond. You can create a
wetland in any level area and make it suitable for most wetland
plants by digging a wide, shallow hole, lining it with plastic,
refilling it with soil, and adding water.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- The sides should slope down gradually to the deepest area.
- An irregular shaped wetlaand will look the most natural. Long
curving wetlands will fit nicely into an existing landscape plan.
- Line the hole with sheet plastic. Use heavy objects such as
round stones to hold the sheeting in place.
- If you're in an area that has a high annual rainfall,
puncture the liner in several places with pen-sized holes
halfway up the sides to supply drainage. This will let keep the
soil from staying completely waterlogged for long periods.
- Covering the edges of the plastic liner with soil will hide
them and also hold it in place.