NANFA-- Bogs & Rain Barrels

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Sat, 17 May 2003 23:46:04 -0400

Greenhouse Update- The Gravel Bog Part I

After 10 years of off and on digging- there is finally light at the end
of the tunnel for my ongoing greenhouse project. Last season I
alternated between digging out the slope in front and moving soil to
build up the embankment against the rear of my foundation while I
proceeded to fill the interior with plantlife. Now that I have pretty
much finished with that- the effort shifts toward making the exterior
landscape as pleasing as it is on the inside.

Brought in two loads of Maryland Beach stone today. That should be
enough to provide the substrate for the new gravel bog. Got the truck
offloaded and a significant amount of digging done just in time before
the rain came in. If it does not rain to heavy or too long tonite I
should be able to finish digging out the shelf that will support the bog
in a couple hours tomorrow and be able to measure off the dimensions for
the liner. Once I have the liner I'll be ready to go and the next few
weeks are a good time because our springs are well charged and I can
replace the water I use from the retention pond easily.

Which brings me to my next challenge- how to get water all the way over
from there to the site in front of the greenhouse?

I am thinking about using the lower pond - the one I built in "01" which
also has a gravel bog- as a staging area to move water via the big
Ecosub pump and courragated tubing - which is how I routinely transfer
water between my two fish habitat ponds and the retention pond. I'll
still have to buy some more tubing to extend the reach a little- but it
will be cheeper than reaching all the way from the retention pond and I
need to draw down the lower pond and clean it out anyways. Might as well
kill two birds with one stone!

I'm thinking- if I don't make the swale portion of the bog much larger
there's probably enough water in the lower pond to fill it and even wet
down the peat I'll be adding to the gravel/sand mix.

I'm looking forward to the end of this project and at least a hiatus on
any major mega-projects for a while. I really do need to start building
up my nest egg and set aside a little for the next big one- my really
big pond in the dip to the east of the greenhouse. And work on starting
a pond and plant oriented business. I won't count the latter as a mega
project because I can deduct what I spend on pools, tubs and pots for
that enterprise as business expenses.

As for my own personal pleasures I'm going to try to utilize as much of
the left over materials from the greenhouse construction and previous
projects as I can. Already the wheels are turning as to how I can use
the treated 2"X 6"s (previously a friend's old deck recycled into
concrete forms for the greenhouse foundation!) as permanant forms to
pull my liner up and tack it to. On the inside will be either gravel /
peat / sand slurry or water and on the outside will be gravel filled
trench and walking area on the greenhouse side that also functions as a
peripheral drain to prevent runoff from entering the system.

To keep it topped off I plan on diverting the overflow from the rain
barrels that catch the runoff from the shingle roof on the backside of
the greenhouse. So far there are three 50 gallon reddish brown olive
barrels in place connected together by a series of courrugated plastic
tubing- yes the same stuff I use to move water pond to pond! The system
is modeled after the one that Moonman created in his backyard- except I
found a simpler way to do it!

I'm not knocking his system- it's such an awesome peice of enginnering
that I would have coppied it in a heartbeat- only the type of barrels I
have are different and would require a more complicated version to make
it work - unless I cut about 6 inches off the tops and I didn't want to
do that!

Like so many solutions to complex problems- it turned out simple in the
end- just submerge a length of flexible tubing in a barrel filled with
water, cap one end with the palm of my hand and drop it into the next
one and so forth!

One drawlback with the barrels once they are filled they breed
mosquitos. So fish come to the rescue- I placed some Eastern Mudminnows
soon to be joined by sub-adult Dollar Sunfish. I would have used
Bluespotted Sunfish- which have been my official "rain barrel fish" in
seasons past but due to the hard winter I don't have any surplus to use
in this fashion. To keep the water buffered I added some coir fiber and
a little peat. Otherwise the soft mineral free rainwater would subject
to wild fluxing of pH levels that often stress the fish and even burn
the finnage.

Around the base of the barrels is a gravel filled catch area to retain
any fish that attempt to quit the barrels during a period of heavy
rainfall. It will be be fatal to the fish but it keeps non-indigenous
species from escaping to the local watershed. Most fish stay put because
the duty is very lucrative in there!

I plan on adding more barrels to the system and linking the overflow to
some 4" drainpipe that was left over and run it to the swale in front of
the gravel bog. In addition, when I purchase the liner I will add a
couple extra feet that can be cut off and used to line a gravel filled
trench along the front foundation of the greenhouse. This will catch the
runoff from the glazed lean-too portion and divert it to the swale as
well- and help to keep the soil drier- that will be a great benefit in
the winter because wet soil bleeds heat away more readily!

Hopefully in a month or so it will all be done. The finished product
will be a crescent swath of water (a swale) about 4 or 5 feet across
with an average depth of 2 feet and 28 feet long- the length of the
greenhouse. Inside this will be a half-moon area covered with sheet of
landscape fabric and quartz gravel with a bench for sitting and some
sand beds for specialized plants near the foundation.

The gravel bog feature on the uphill side-will essentially be a bank of
the same gravel mixed with orange silica based "paver sand" bought in
bags from Lowes and plus 6 bales of Canadian spahgnum peat. The concept
was inspired by a web site I found a few years back about a type of
seepage bog that was once found frequently in the Mid-Atlantic region-
mainly on the upper coastal plain where you sometimes get gravel beds at
the base of a slope perched on an impermeable clay layer. Add a seepage
spring and spahgnum moss and you get a perfect habitat for acid bog
flora like pitcher plants , hatpins , orchids etc!

In my case an extention of the pond liner substitutes for the
impermeable clay layer- though were it not for wanting to combine this
with a fish habitat and keep out non-acid soil influences- I could
probably build a pretty decent bog backed by the native clay.

Since this is getting long I will wait until completion of the project
to submit an extensive list of the flora I plan on including. The fish
list is going to be much more simple- Sailfin and Coastal Shiners,
Blackbanded Sunfishes- Pygmy Sunfishes, a few southern Fundulus species-
Flag and Bluefin Killies- essentially a southern fish fauna conveniently
located near the greenhouse where I can save enough of each to restart
the population outside every spring.

As I said before- I look foward to completion of this project soon and
opportunity to take a breather before the next project. Like in the
movie "Mission to Mars" - I'm on the threshold of reaching a new world
and already looking ahead to the next one!


> lFrom the academic standpoint, of course, the most grevious sin of these amatures was simply that of any amature with regard to any established profession. They were self-appointed, self-educated, uninitiated by the guild, uncircumcised by the preisthood...n
> Mr Thoggosh : L. Neil Smithms lForge of the Eldersn
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