Build a Backyard Wetland

Find out how to create a backyard wetland to celebrate Earth Day, and learn some science facts.
Table of contents

Build a Backyard Wetland

Brought to you by the National PTA&reg.

This Earth Week, create a backyard wetland to replace the important natural functions of wetlands that may have been lost when your community was developed. It will also temporarily store, filter, and clean runoff water from your roof and lawn. Select any level area for digging.

Tools and supplies you will need
Sheet plastic, hoes, shovels, gloves, soil, peat moss, perforated pipe, upright pipe, round stones, wetland plants (see below)

Steps for constructing your backyard wetland

  • Using a hose or rope, lay out the shape of your wetland. An irregular shape will appear the most natural.

  • Excavate an area 1-1/2 feet to 2 feet deep. The sides should slope gently to the deepest area.

  • Line the depression with a sheet of plastic. Hold in place with heavy objects such as round stones.

  • Put an inch of fine sand or loose soil in the bottom to prevent the plastic liner from being punctured by small stones.

  • If you live in a region with heavy annual rainfall, puncture pencil-sized holes in the liner in several places about halfway up the side to allow slow drainage so the soil will not stay completely waterlogged for long periods.

  • For growing common species of low-maintenance plants (see list below) fill the depression with a mixture of soil and peat. For true bog plants (see list of bog plants) that require acidic soils saturated with water, use a mixture of half peat moss and half humus. Fill the lower half of the depression with pea gravel or coarse sand to assure more even distribution of water. Burying a perforated pipe in the pea gravel will help add water evenly to the bog.

    Safety first

  • Locate the backyard wetland where it is unlikely to attract unattended children.

  • Check local building ordinances to determine if a fence is regulated for the specific depth and size of your wetland.

    Benefits of a backyard wetland

  • Water absorption to reduce storm flooding.

  • Groundwater replenishment; maintaining flows in streams by releasing water during dry periods.

  • Erosion control.

  • Water quality.

  • Open space and aesthetic value.

  • Wildlife habitat support.

    Types of plants best-suited for marsh environments
    Cattails, bulrushes, jewelweed, cardinal flowers, duckweeds, arrowhead, spatterdock, grasses, and herbaceous plants Some bog plants to consider: pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and sphagnum mosses.