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Construction of a half-barrel bog garden.


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#1 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:03 AM

Greetings all. :D

I have a half-barrel planter which I would like to turn into a bog garden:

Posted Image

I've had a good look around, but much of the information is (unless there's something I've missed) old - broken links, missing pictures etc.

I'm looking for some simple step-by-step instructions for each and every stage of construction, from lining, filling, plant selection and maintenance. I'm happy to work through the whole process, posting pictures as I go, so that there will be a comprehensive record for the next person. I'd also like to do it as cheaply as possible, but without compromising too much on the finished product. The half barrel cost me £16.95.

So to start with - do I need to line the barrel? I don't want to line it unless it's absolutely necessary. It should be watertight, but the inside has been scorched - is that a problem?

:thanks: in advance,
MBE

Edited by mrbadexample, 30 March 2012 - 11:03 AM.


#2 billynomates666

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 13:08 PM

Hi Mrbadexample, love the name by the way.

I have constructed these barrel bogs in the past, and my avice would be as follows.
Aim for a substrate depth of 12" minimum if possible. 16" or deeper works well.
Drill a hole in the bottom of the barrel for drainage (stops the wood rotting from constant moisture retention so it lasts a LOT longer) .
Line the barrel with pool liner or similar cut to shape, this also stops the barrel from premature rotting.
Cut a couple of slits in the liner about 4"down from the to prevent innundation, you needn't do this if you can regulate the water level some other way.
Place an upturned bucket with holes in it in the bottom, or large plastic plant pot, to act as aresevoir for the water, and save on the substrate mix volume as it can get expensive.
Cut a piece of inch and a quater drain pipe to the same depth as the barrel and put it up one side. This acts as a visual aid to the water level and can be used to syphon out excess water in winter or whenever if needed. and can be used to water the barrel if you dont want to top water the plants.
Place barrel in its final display position, full sun if possible, place on brick if preferred to stop the bottom rotting from being in contact with soil or grass.
Mix your substrate, say 50/50 mix perlite and peat or 50/25/25 peat, perlite and sharp sand (horticultural grade) and fill your barrel.
Gently water with rain or RO water and mix to moisten the substrate (just moist not wet).
Tamp down gently and refill as necessary.
Get a selection of temperate pings, and sundews, some VFTs binata, capensis (they are hardy in my midlands bogs) and loads of my favourrites, sarracenia.
lay them out on top of the barrel to get a pleasing arrangement then plant them.
Put on some sphagnum moss as a top dress if desired.
Water with rain, distilled or RO water, to about 4" below the soil level.
Sit back, take photos, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and get ready to be rewarded with a beautiful display.

Once you've done one you will want to do more! its a bit like embracing the dark side :biggrin: .

Hope that helps
Cheers
Steve
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#3 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 14:11 PM

Hi Mrbadexample, love the name by the way.


Cheers Steve. :D Thanks for taking the time to reply. Can you bear with me while I ask loads of questions please? :tongue:

I have constructed these barrel bogs in the past, and my avice would be as follows.
Aim for a substrate depth of 12" minimum if possible. 16" or deeper works well.


Depth of barrel is 13.5", so that bit's ok.

Drill a hole in the bottom of the barrel for drainage (stops the wood rotting from constant moisture retention so it lasts a LOT longer) .



Where should the drainage holes go? I'd imagined that it would be somewhere up the side, to prevent the water level from going above a certain height? I've certainly seen this suggested in other posts. Do you mean actually through the bottom? Size? Quantity? Do they need covering with a mesh or something to prevent them getting blocked?

Line the barrel with pool liner or similar cut to shape, this also stops the barrel from premature rotting. Cut a couple of slits in the liner about 4"down from the to prevent innundation, you needn't do this if you can regulate the water level some other way.



Do I have to do this? It's an oak barrel, designed for holding liquid. Surely it won't rot that fast? I'm 43 now, so if it lasts 20 years I'll probably be done with it by then. :laugh1: If I absolutely have to, I will, but do want to keep the costs down where I can. On top of that, if the wood is allowed to dry out then it shrinks, so loses some of its structural integrity.

Place an upturned bucket with holes in it in the bottom, or large plastic plant pot, to act as aresevoir for the water, and save on the substrate mix volume as it can get expensive.


Ok. How far from the top should the bucket be? I.e. if the depth of the barrel is 13.5 inches, where does the top of the bucket want to be - at about 8" (so 5.5" substrate depth)?

Cut a piece of inch and a quater drain pipe to the same depth as the barrel and put it up one side. This acts as a visual aid to the water level and can be used to syphon out excess water in winter or whenever if needed. and can be used to water the barrel if you dont want to top water the plants.


Ok. Should the pipe enter the bucket? That would stop it being blocked by substrate (again, I've seen a picture of it done that way).

Place barrel in its final display position, full sun if possible, place on brick if preferred to stop the bottom rotting from being in contact with soil or grass.


Garden faces southwest, so I can give it a decent sunny spot. On the patio for now but to be relocated next to the pond once I've dug it (that's another story!)

#4 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 14:11 PM

Mix your substrate, say 50/50 mix perlite and peat or 50/25/25 peat, perlite and sharp sand (horticultural grade) and fill your barrel.
Gently water with rain or RO water and mix to moisten the substrate (just moist not wet).
Tamp down gently and refill as necessary.


Sounds good. I've got a bale of Shamrock moss peat & some sharp sand, so just need to grab a bit of perlite. I've read that some people put polystyrene in the bottom, both to save weight and substrate. I've got some sheets I could break into chunks and line the bottom with maybe 3-4". Does that sound ok?

Get a selection of temperate pings, and sundews, some VFTs binata, capensis (they are hardy in my midlands bogs) and loads of my favourrites, sarracenia.


For drosera I was thinking anglica, binata & intermedia (I have one in the greenhouse that has made it through about the last 4 winters despite being unheated and shamefully neglected, so it might be tough enough!). I'm pleased to see you have success with capensis, and I like that one. Have you tried rotundifolia? I had one but it didn't survive the same treatment as the intermedia got.

I've got a few VFTs that are small and struggling (same ill-treatment) but I'm trying to bring them round with a bit of TLC.

What do we have in the way of temperate pings? Grandiflora, I think - any others?

A darlingtonia seems a must - they're hardy, right?

Now to sarracenias. As they're your favourites, what do you recommend? Purpurea is a given, I think. I'd love some with a bit of height - are there any that can withstand a fair bit of wind and the low winter temperatures? I had a lovely flava v ornata that died of neglect. :oops: I would prefer not to have to, but would consider a sarracenia that needed to be removed from the bog and kept in an unheated greenhouse over winter (I assume I could leave it in its pot and sink that into the bog?). I'd be happier with something that I could leave in all year round if there is such a plant?

I'm aware that from time to time I'll lose a plant here and there. Not the end of the world, as long as I don't find myself replacing the lot on an annual basis. :laugh:

lay them out on top of the barrel to get a pleasing arrangement then plant them.
Put on some sphagnum moss as a top dress if desired.
Water with rain, distilled or RO water, to about 4" below the soil level.
Sit back, take photos, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and get ready to be rewarded with a beautiful display.


Those bits I'm confident with. :tu:

Once you've done one you will want to do more! its a bit like embracing the dark side :biggrin: .


Well, I think that would scratch the itch for the time being, at least. I used to have quite a few plants, but they got neglected over successive winters so don't have very many now. I don't really like a tray of pots in the greenhouse anyway - a minibog is definitely the way to go - something a little bit more natural, and hopefully a nice feature.

Sorry for all the questions. As you might have gathered, I want to do this once, and do it well. That way I won't have to do it twice. :sun_bespectacled:

#5 billynomates666

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 18:16 PM

Hi Mrbadexample, sorry for the delay in reply I had to do some work!!

I drill the drainage hole at the bottom in the base plate where it is chamfered and meets the side slat, which should be the lowest point. I always line mine now as I did one almost exactly the same as yours with the charred interior, but after 7-8 years it rotted to a point where it lost its structural integrity. I dont know what the difference between wine/spirits and water is, (apart from the obvious) but it does rot quicker than you think, maybe the water gets in through the cut on the top and starts its insidious work. Even if you line it with a polythene sheet, or strong plastic bag it will make it last longer. Otherwise drill a garden hose size hole in the side near the base and silicone a length of hose in it and clip it, at an angle to the side of the barrel. That way you can unclip it and drain water to any level you want. Putting stones or the like behind the hole to stop it clogging is a good idea. The wood will never dry out there will always be enough moisture to keep the wood swollen.

If you have 13.5" depth I would be inclined to put some 4", sturdy, upturned plant pots across the bottom of the barrel. I wouldn't use polystyrene or Styrofoam as I have read somewhere that it leeches chemicals into the soil over time. I dont know this to be true but would err on the safe side.

As far as the rotundifolia is concerned I have only one specimen but it has been with me for three years so would seem to be OK. The capensis dies back and dissapears over winter but grows back from its roots, so it is a bit later on display but catches up quickly. The only ping I have is grandiflora but it multiplies prolifically and you will soon have a green carpet with purple flowers, very satisfying every spring. I have tried others but without success.

Fancy me forgetting Darlingtonia! yes it is perfectly hardy and is a great addition, they too tend to reproduce, via stolons, and quickly fills the space

Ahh now to the sarrs, I have all varieties outside in bogs, the sturdiest are the purpurea var purpurea and indeed all its hybrids do well, also flavas and oreophilla are good, strong and reliable. Flava ornata, atropurpurea, rubicorpora look great and provide contrast to say catesbaei or oreo purple throat, leucos also do OK but not as well as in a greenhouse, well worth putting in though again for contrast. Psitts are good round the edge or near the front of the barrel but can have a variable survival rate through winter, once established they consistently make it through winter. In short I don't think that there is one that I would definitely say dont try this one, so let your mind run riot and plant what you would like to see rather than what you think you can get away with. After all it is a relatively small barrel and can be protected over winter if you want, I have done this in the past by putting 2' canes round the perifery and putting fern fronds or similar over the plants, the sticks just stop it blowing away, you could put bubble wrap round the main body of the barrel if you want. It will be prolonged cold periods, or worse desiccant winds that cause the problems. i.e. the soil freezes, the wind draws moisture out of the leaves and due to the soil being frozen the roots cannot replace the lost moisture. Having said that I dont loose many (non this year).

Good luck, you've got me in the mood to make another now!!

Keep us informed.

Cheers
Steve

Edited by billynomates666, 30 March 2012 - 18:26 PM.


#6 mantrid

 
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Posted 30 March 2012 - 19:32 PM

The barrels dont rot in their normal usage for two reasons.
1 No oxygen
2 Alcohol (preservative)
But as a bog garden with water and oxygen they will rot in a few years

#7 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 08:39 AM

Thank you both. Ok, I'll line it with something. Not necessarily nice expensive pond liner, but something. :thumbsup:

I've been reading a bit about polystyrene leaching. Much of the research seems to be (understandably) related to use with foodstuffs, so not much on the effects of leaving it effectively underwater. Leaching seems to occur mainly when the polystyrene is heated. Even so, it would still leach at a very low level in the cold and wet. Not sure I especially want styrenes and benzenes hanging about at all, but would still consider using some if the benefits would outweigh the negatives. I did want to use some to save weight, but also I was going to use some thin (about 5mm) polystyrene sheeting to line the inside, just to add a bit of insulation. Do you think that would have any worthwhile effect?

And sorry if I appear thick, but I still can't get my head around the drainage hole. :roll: How does it stay a bog if there's a hole in the bottom for the water to fall out of? The hosepipe idea I get. From what I've seen and read on other posts, the drainage holes are put in the side, so that there is always a reservoir of water in the bottom, but it doesn't reach too high a level and flood. That seems to make more sense to me. Am I missing something?

I have to say I'm delighted to hear you've had such good results with a variety of sarracenias. I've only kept one before so don't know an awful lot about them. One thing I do know though, is that they look good! The height of the pitchers really sets off a bog comprising of mostly low-lying plants. I think I'd like to start with one summer- and one autumn-peaking variety, as well as the lower-growing purpurea. That's getting a bit ahead of myself though, as I'm a little way off plant selection just yet.

I'll hang on a bit before I make a start, to give you a chance to explain the drainage principle using little words :D , and to consider any possible insulation benefits of polystyrene.

Cheers,
MBE

Edited by mrbadexample, 31 March 2012 - 08:39 AM.


#8 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 08:45 AM

While I think about it, I think I've got some P. grandiflora seeds knocking about somewhere. What's the best way to try and get them to germinate please? They're a few years old but probably still worth a punt.

#9 mantrid

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 09:46 AM

And sorry if I appear thick, but I still can't get my head around the drainage hole. :roll:


I could be wrong but what I understand from what billy has said is that the hole is in the bottom of the barrel but not in the bottom of the liner, and would be to drain off water that overflows the slits in the liner higher up that gets between the liner and the barrel. A simple effective solution but personally I would go with a more engineered approach and have a drainage pipe higher up passing through liner and barrel and a tap at the bottom for more thorough drainage if it gets too saturated. However as your on a budget Billys approach would be cheaper.

Edited by mantrid, 31 March 2012 - 09:48 AM.


#10 billynomates666

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 10:04 AM

Ahh MBE now, it just gets better.

As I line my barrels with plastic sheet the wood part of the barrel will get wet when water overflows the liner or bypasses it down the sides. I therefore put the hole at the lowest point in the barrel that I can, as I dont need (or desire) the barrel to retain that water between the liner and wood sides and rot. The hole near the base with the hose fitted in, was an idea you could use if you did not line your barrel, so you had some control over the level of water and even allow full drainage in winter to allow the soil to be moist not wet. If you do line it and put slits in the polythene 4-5" below the soil level to allow water to escape then you will need a drain in the barrel to let that water out.

Not sure about the polystyrene, it will provide insulation but I dont know enough about the negative effects to advise I'm afrraid.

The Ping seeds will need a couple of months cold stratification on moist substrate, so you may be best seeing if you can get some gemmae from this or other sites They will give instant results, are relatively cheap and will multiply themselves probably ten fold for spring next year, so you will have plenty of material for the next bog barrels!! I would still try the seeds by stratifying them for a couple of months on moist soil in the fridge then keep them warm and wet with indirect sun till germinated.but dont count on them growing to any size this year, or if the seed is old even at all. It may be worth freezing them for a week or so, as I've heard this helps old seeds germinate.


@ mantrid - many thanks for that, makes perfect sense.

Good luck MBE
Cheers
Steve

Edited by billynomates666, 31 March 2012 - 10:05 AM.


#11 gardenofeden

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 10:21 AM


Not sure about the polystyrene, it will provide insulation but I dont know enough about the negative effects to advise I'm afrraid.



I would certainly not mix polystyrene in with any compost, or put it where chemicals can leach into the compost, as personally I have found it can have negative effects on carnivorous plants. Horticultural grade polystyrene might be an exception. Why not put a layer of bubble plastic between your liner and the barrel wall to provide insulation?



#12 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 12:38 PM

Once again, thank you all. :thanks:

I get the drainage thing now! :dance3:


but personally I would go with a more engineered approach and have a drainage pipe higher up passing through liner and barrel and a tap at the bottom for more thorough drainage if it gets too saturated. However as your on a budget Billys approach would be cheaper.


Ok, don't worry about the budget thing for the moment - that's just in there because I'm tight. :on_the_quiet: I want to spend as little as possible, but if it's important to the finished article then I'll put my hand in my pocket.

So, you'd go for a tap at the bottom (can't see any problem with that) - plus (an) additional drainage hole(s) higher up? How high? The barrel depth is 13.5" - what would you suggest as an optimal water level? Would the higher drainage hole(s) be free-draining (i.e. just holes)? How big would they need to be?

@gardenofeden - cheers. I think I can have the best of both worlds here: if I break up the polystyrene into small chunks, and ziplock into a fairly thick plastic bag I can have the insulation and weight reduction without it making contact with the water. I can then bubble-wrap the sides externally over winter if required.

@Steve - I didn't realise the ping seeds needed the stratification, so will try and source gemmae or mature plants.

This is all coming together in my head quite nicely. :cool:

#13 mantrid

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 15:17 PM

So, you'd go for a tap at the bottom (can't see any problem with that) - plus (an) additional drainage hole(s) higher up? How high? The barrel depth is 13.5" - what would you suggest as an optimal water level? Would the higher drainage hole(s) be free-draining (i.e. just holes)? How big would they need to be?


As Billy has a working barrel bog I would put the free draining holes at the same level he suggested putting the slits in the liner as hes shown it to be ok at this level, unless he would revise the position based on experience.

The size is not critical, they just have to let excess water out. I would just use a standard plastic toilet overflow pipe which I think is about 2 or 3cm diam. You would need to seal it to the liner with the same kind of fitting used to seal the pipe to the water cistern of the toilet, or you could just spread some silicone sealer around the circumfrence.

Its also just occured to me that the acidity of the peat may act to stop the wood from rotting. I know that bog wood can remain in wet peat for 1000s of years. It might certainly be sufficient to see you out :)

Edited by mantrid, 31 March 2012 - 15:23 PM.


#14 billynomates666

 
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Posted 31 March 2012 - 16:26 PM

Hi all

The slits in polythene at 4-5" works well, although the water level is almost invariably below this by a substantial amount, but they allow excess water to drain out and as long as there,s a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the reservoir in contact with the soil, ( the level will be visible through the syphon tube, into which I have in the past, put a painted wooden squewer stuck into the top of a a cork so you can get a visual account of the water level from a distance without having to bend over and squint down the hole) similar to the tray watering method, the substrate will wick it up. Too wet and full of water, if a regular occurrence, can cause problems with bacteria.

I have done an unlined oak barrel in the past, but it did end up rotting in six or seven years, I think that the limited amount of peat in the barrel doesn't provide the preserving properties that a full blown natural bog does as the tannins etc are not replenished on a regular basis, or my barrel was just a bad un.

Cheers
Steve

#15 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:56 AM

Ok. I think I'm good to go. I will post updates but it won't happen quickly. I want to have it done by June 9th so that I can pick up the sarracenia (and others) from Mike's open day, as it's not too far away and I've enjoyed the last couple of visits. That gives me a leisurely couple of months to get it ready and leave it to settle. I need to have a root round and see if I can't blag something to line it with too.

So, watch this space but don't hold your breath! :tongue:

#16 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 01 April 2012 - 17:20 PM

Also been reading about the use of pine needles as a substrate. I can get some but they're still attached to branches of a conifer that's been chopped down. If I shred these branches can I use that, or do I only use the needles?

#17 billynomates666

 
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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:47 PM

Hi MBE

No science in my answer I'm afraid just what I do to 'make it feel right' in the bogs.
Firstly, in the first year or two you shouldnt need to add pine needles to the soil, as the natural acidity of the peat should carry the plants through. After that it does start (in smaller containers) to get a bit tired , so then I lift some of plants in early spring befope they start regrowth and mix pine needles and twigs in the soil, replant the plants and spread pine bark chippings (J Arthur Bowers) and needles between the plants to slowly rot and add tannins and acid as the go. Also I put pine logs (denuded branches) in an onion bag in the water butts for similar reasons to acidify the water.

Like I say I cant vouch for its efficacy, but it 'feels right' and hasn't done any harm that I know of yet. I dont change the peat in the bogs as it would cost too much (they hold a much bigger volume than barrels and I am also getting workshy of lifting loads of soggy media) and as the peat degrades to thin dust type material, the pine and needles seems to provide the bigger chunks in the soil for aeration and preventing the media becoming matted. You just need a 'feel' for how much is needed and where, which I guess comes with time.

If the pine needles are new, cut them up and bag them for future, they will dry out but be fine. Also if you can shred the branches do that too and bag it up.

If you are going to Mikes for your stuff, you better take a cheque book, you will end up wanting far more than you went for, not altogether a bad thing IMO. Just make sure you aclimate anytjhing you buy well so you dont get a check in the growth.

Cheers
Steve

#18 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 02 April 2012 - 15:11 PM

If you are going to Mikes for your stuff, you better take a cheque book, you will end up wanting far more than you went for, not altogether a bad thing IMO. Just make sure you aclimate anytjhing you buy well so you dont get a check in the growth.

Cheers
Steve


I know. I've been twice before and come home with lots of things that needed much more care and attention than they got. :whistling:

Edited by mrbadexample, 02 April 2012 - 15:12 PM.


#19 mrbadexample

 
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Posted 19 May 2012 - 19:26 PM

I have been slowly accumulating the things I need.

I have a bale of peat.
I have a big bag of perlite.
I have some sharp sand. I'll probably need a bit more though.
I have a brass tap on the end of some 15mm copper pipe.
I have a 15mm drill bit.
I have an old plastic bin from which to make a reservoir.
I have a plastic tube to connect vertically to the reservoir to make an inlet.

Since my last post I have also dug a pond, so I ordered extra liner to cover what I need for the barrel. Trouble is, I made the pond a bit longer than I intended, so I'm a bit short on liner.

I've got enough to line the barrel, but not in one piece. Will it be ok if I line the bottom half, and then run the remainder of the liner around the top edge so that they overlap? Am I right in thinking that the liner doesn't need to be completely watertight and is just there to offer some general protection to the barrel? If so, I think I'm about ready to go. :tu:

Edited by mrbadexample, 19 May 2012 - 19:27 PM.


#20 billynomates666

 
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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:36 AM

Morning Mr B

Sounds like you are good to go!! if the liner in the bottom goes over halfway up you should be OK, or if you want (as I have done in the past) you could join the liner, to gert a greater water table, with clear silicone, either way it will do the job, it will just save time watering if it is deeper.

Looking forward to seeing the end result! :pleasantry:

Cheers
Steve