There’s a right way and a wrong way to get bogged down. The best way is to prepare the ground and wait for the frogs to come, writes TINO CARNEVALE
How to build a bog and fill it with frogs.
Ilove the impermanence of certain aspects of our landscape. Free flowing streams that seem so solid after a good rain are gone come the heat of the summer, bodies of water the size of small lakes dry up to nothing but dust.
As a kid, I loved wandering through ephemeral swamplands in the midlands during the winter school holidays, it felt like a completely different place than in the warmer months.
Holes would fill with water and the whole place would be brimming with life, a highlight was the rhythmic sound in the background, the song of the frogs.
When I finally got my own plot of dirt, I wanted to create a slice of that environment, a part of my garden that was a sanctuary not just for walkie folk like me but for the hoppy kind as well. I didn’t want to create something as formal and hardscaped as a pond as I have worked in gardens that have had large ponds and in dry periods it can be a struggle to keep
Seeing new species appear in my garden has proved to me that you can truly be a custodian of the land.
them full. It’s almost like Tiddalik is drinking all the water up again.
I am fine with things being a bit mutable and I wanted it as natural as possible so a frog bog was the ideal option. What is a frog bog? you ask. Basically it’s a hole that frogs like to live in and around that fills up in the wet and drains in the dry.
If you have a naturally clay-heavy soil, constructing your frog bog can be as simple as digging a hole. Unless you are a potter, this is one of those rare occasions when a heavy soil type trumps a light, friable one.
Dig your hole to the desired size and shape. My advice here is to make it a little larger than you think you need as it will fill in gradually over time.
If you want to, and are able to, you can make the walls quite steep, but keep a gentle incline on one side so the prospective tenants can easily enter and exit the facilities. If you have a lighter soil your bog will be more of a dish shape and
may require a bit more room but this can actually be a positive as the frogs can access the water from all sides. Collect any clay that you can from the hole and put it in a bucket or barrow with enough water to moisten it.
Many of you may not have a lot of clay in your soil, but don’t worry; you just need to get your hands on some bentonite clay from an agricultural or pottery supplier. Bentonite is a type of clay that when wet will swell up to about ten times its original size so it will form an impermeable seal.
I like to put a solid layer a couple of millimetres thick down over the entire hole then I mix a good quantity of bentonite with my clay slurry, roughly one part bentonite to five parts clay and slap it on the base like a render. Be prepared to be covered in muck, making this a job for the young or the young at heart. Then you can add water.
It’s not just the water they are after however. Plants aren’t just used to beautify your space, they keep your frogs happy and safe. I planted my bog out with local plants like the knobby club rush and river mint but exotic plants such as Ligularia or Gunnera work just as well. The great thing about a bog is that you can put your plants directly in the dirt rather than in a plastic pot that becomes exposed when it’s dry.
Some old logs for protection and a cheeky feed and a couple of rocks for basking in the sun on is a good way of keeping them happy. Be aware that transporting tadpoles from pond to pond is a serious no-no as it can spread Chytrid fungus, which has caused the extinction of frog species around the world, including one on mainland Australia. Well, then, how do you get them into your garden? It’s a case of build it and they will come.
You may need to scoop out debris from you bog every few years so it can keep its depth and also add some extra bentonite when needed, but that’s pretty much it as you don’t want to be disturbing it too much.
I always thought that the joys of gardening came from soil and plants but seeing new species of birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians appear in my garden year after year has given me great joy and it has proved to me that you can truly be a custodian of the land even on a small suburban block.