Bog gardening involves mud. In my case it is not so much mud, as a kind of clay slurry, which creeps up the Wellington boots, up the waterproof overtrousers, and coats the handles of shovels and pickaxe. Dealing with this stuff demands a regression to a childhood where being allowed to get muddy was a thrill…
Why do it? Well, bog gardening, by definition, means that there’s no shortage of water, but it is useful for the gardener to know where the water is coming from and how it can best be channeled to where it is useful rather than pooling into a sub-surface stagnant swamp. Many times I’ve planted something into what looks like an ideal patch of damp ground, only for it to rot. Digging up the remains inevitably shows that the roots had hit a patch of evil-smelling, anaerobic, waterlogged muck – and that signals The End for almost all plants.
This charming scene portrays the start of my latest effort to do some water engineering. Water seeps down the steep bank at the back using the cracks between layers of sandstone and compressed clay. I’ve cut back into the bank to find the source of this particular seep. I’ll decide how to use it once I am clear about where it is coming from and how consistent the flow is…The digging is not made easier by the fact that stones of all kinds have tumbled down the bank over the years and now need to be extracted from the ooze. I’ll use most of them when it comes to turning the hole into something resembling a drainage channel.Another day on, and the number of stones grows. I’m going to cut out all the gravelly rubbish on the right of the hole and replace it with something that plants might actually grow in. All the waste has to be carried out in buckets, as a barrow would just sink. The old terra-cotta tile drains which I also found in the hole were, of course completely clogged with fine clay silt. Modern, plastic drainage pipe is no better – in fact worse. An open channel is the only answer.
I’ll keep you up to date with this exciting project when I can next face another mud bath.