Make your own edible container wetland

You can create your own wetland at home and produce delicious edibles at the same time.

World Wetland day is celebrated annually on the 2nd February and we at Life is a Garden think that a beautiful way to support and celebrate these habitats is by creating container wetland gardens to add as a design element to your garden. Many water loving plants are also edible, so be sure to include some of the edible varieties in your wetland masterpiece.  This will be something different to your usual herb garden edibles.

A wetland is found where the land is wet enough (saturated or flooded) for long enough to be unfavourable to most plants but are favourable to plants adapted to anaerobic soil conditions. It is important that we understand and protect the incredible biodiversity of these beautiful and vital South African habitats. Not only do wetland ecosystems support a host of animal and plant life - but they are critically important for the survival of humans too, from the modification of climate change to the protection of human settlements from floods. If we protect wetlands, we also protect our planet and ourselves.

Here is an easy step by step tutorial on making a container water garden that is simple and inexpensive.

What you will need:

  • Container that holds water
  • Water plants (don’t forget your edible varieties)
  • Rocks or bricks
  • And of course - water!

Choosing a Container

When choosing a container for your water garden, keep in mind that technically, anything that holds water will work. Make sure however that it is not porous. Choose a container large enough to comfortably hold at least three or four water plants. A 60 cm wide container will be a perfect start. We chose a beautiful, stylish powder blue glazed pot.

Choosing Plants

When choosing water plants for your container, keep in mind to choose based on the size of your container. Huge plants in a tiny container will just look like a wet jungle and too many tiny plants in a large container will just look like clutter.

Choose your types of plants much the same way you would design a regular garden bed. Use different shapes and textures of plants to add contrast, and to set each plant apart. We suggest using at least three. First a tall spiky plant, then a broader leaved plant, and finally, a floating option such as water hyacinths, or even a single water lily.

We chose:

  • Iris (ensata)
  • Chinese Chestnut (Elecharis dulcis) (which is Indigenous to SA). These water Chestnuts add a new dimension of crunch to stir-fries and Asian cooking – your foodie friends will adore you
  • Mentha aquatica (Edible Mint), which has a strong distinctive peppermint-like fragrance and is used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods
  • Bacopa monierii, is a creeping herb with pretty white flowers which can be used as a medicinal tea to improve memory, reduce anxiety, and to treat epilepsy.

Arranging Your Water Garden

Arranging the plants in your water garden is easier than planting a garden bed. If you don’t like the arrangement, you just pick them up and move them, because you never remove the water plants from the nursery pot.

  • Fill your container half full with water, then start setting in plants. Use rocks or bricks to raise up the height of any plant that needs to be more of a focal point. Most water plants do just fine with the tops of their pots about 15 – 20cm under water, so don’t worry about having to have them all at the same water level.
  • Place your tallest plant in the back, or in the centre, if the garden will be viewed from all angles.
  • Then add your smaller plants until you like the composition. Fill the container the rest of the way with water, then add your floating plants last.

Displaying your container water gardens

Place your water garden where it gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Make sure the water level is topped up regularly.  If the roots are exposed for any length of time, you will likely damage, if not lose the plant. We suggest you overflow the top of the container with water every couple of days, just to make sure no mosquitoes are using your new garden as a breeding ground.

Enjoy making your own container water garden! Water is a restful element to add to any garden, and can attract birds, frogs and butterflies as well. Not to mention, water plants themselves are beautiful, and can be fragrant in addition to being low maintenance.

Sadly, 50% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed. Without suitable wetland habitat, many species could soon be homeless. Here are 11 reasons why you should care about wetlands:

  1. Wetlands purify our water
  2. Wetlands store our water to ensure supply during dry periods
  3. Wetlands can prevent floods
  4. Wetlands recharge ground water
  5. Wetlands help to control erosion
  6. Wetlands provide shelter for juvenile fish
  7. Wetlands provide homes for animals and plants
  8. Wetlands provide food for livestock
  9. Wetlands protect biodiversity
  10. Wetlands provide locations for recreation
  11. Wetlands provide plants that can be used for houses and crafts

You can purchase some of your supplies needed for this project, as well as get helpful advice from your local GCA Garden Centre. Stay up to date with all your garden care and inspiration. Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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