A dampland is a part of the garden designed to retain water beneath the surface, like a pond filled with damp soil. It is an excellent ReWild action, offering wet shelter, food and water for small critters.
A dampland can ‘supercharge’ your garden’s habitat value, as it creates an entire miniature ecosystem alongside your more traditional garden beds and plantings.
Like a pond, damplands quickly become home to many invertebrates, making it a perfect foraging habitat for frogs, birds, and small mammals. Damplands can be replicated in sealed pots and will have a similar impact.
The Level 5 habitat value reflects the variety of benefits a dampland can provide. This activity provides Wet Shelter, Food and Water, satisfying three out of the four habitat values (the fourth is Dry Shelter).
In terms of ReWild scoring, damplands have a multiplier effect, as you should also count the individual plantings separately, adding to your overall habitat rating.
What should I plant?
The majority of native plants are adapted to our climate, and can survive dry spells.
This is also true of many of the species that can live in a dampland. The difference is that these plants also tolerate a good drenching, while others can suffer from overwatering, developing shallow root systems (affecting the overall health of the plant) or root rot.
While not a common feature in Perth gardens, creating a dampland garden is not particularly difficult.
It is also a great idea to combine your dampland with an above-ground pond or watering station, so that any spillage goes to good use under the surface.
Beneath the surface, your dampland should ideally be underpinned with an organic weaved matting, lined with clay. This semi-porous material aids water retention while still letting the soil ‘breathe’ and interact with the environment.
Be Water Smart
A great way to maintain your dampland is to divert water from your downpipes straight to the garden. Most hardware stores will have simple solutions for doing this. Rainwater is too precious a resource to let it go down the drain.
Damplands create their own microclimates which are inevitably cooler than the surrounding environment.
They can provide passive cooling and can be strategically located in the garden to cool specific areas.
Finding and preparing the site
Pick a site that offers a combination of sunlight and shade – some of the plants will also provide shade once matured.
Dig the area to about 60cm deep and as wide as you like. Leave some raised areas (about 5cm) or ridges at the bottom.
Put down a layer of pond liner, contoured to the bottom of the hole, and spread about 30cm over the edge. This will keep the soil wet during those warmer months.
The liner has to be able to ‘breathe’ or the soil will get depleted faster and your plants may rot from the roots if there is no drainage at all. Puncture the liner in the raised areas – this will leave a safety reservoir (see diagram).
Fill the Dampland
If you’re in sandy soils, you can replace the sand you dug out, modified with 40% coconut fibre (coir).
If your garden has a heavier soil type, try introducing a mix of 40% original soil, 20% coarse sand and 40% coconut fibre.
Finally, just add water and get planting!
Your dampland can offer a real point of difference in your garden, offering plant species that might be difficult to grow in your existing soil type. You can emphasise this point of difference by ‘decorating’ the area with additional rocks, logs and fallen leaves, providing extra refuge for small wildlife.