Tino Carnevale:

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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - with 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.

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