Monday, June 21, 2010 at 21:46
martian77 in Garden, reedbed

Remember a while back, I posted a picture of a bath in our back garden? Well, we finally finished the project.

We started with a plain, slightly grey bath found via freecycle and then pulled out of a skip. Before I posted a photo of it I'd used up the tail end of a can of Ford Wedgewood Blue car paint on the top bit of it, which eventually I figured would be all you see. Next job was to level it up,  because our concrete definitely isn't anywhere near level. The bath is actually sitting on a piece of wood, the frame is not really load bearing. It's more for stability and eventually holding the cladding. My Gorgeous Girlfriend did most of the work on that, I just held bits in place occasionally. She's ever so good at humouring me!


I'd read up on these in a book called Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemenway. He said the bottom should be filled with large gravel, and the top with finer gravel. So after we'd sealed the plughole using a... well... plug and some sealant, we put in the some B&Q value decorative gravel. 5 bags to be exact.

Big gravel in

There was water in the bottom from the one night of rain we had a couple of weekends ago. You can also see where the water will come from. We're replacing that downtube out of the house with a shorter one that will feed into the bath. The grey pipe across the width has a series of holes drilled, to hopefully help to distribute the water across the bath a bit. The grey pipe the other end will help feed the water back out again.

Nearly done

This is after we put the fine gravel in. That's 5 bags of 10mm gravel. At this point I really had to work out the exit hole! The exit pipe really needs to be lower than the inlet pipe to make sure that the water flows out rather than backing up. Although the cladding means it doesn't look it, the bath is actually level. So I drilled a hole through the bath for a piece of hose, then filled around both the inlet and outlet with this great stuff called plumber's mait that is a flexible, non-setting putty. Then I put another bag of gravel in to even it up. 50l of top soil went in after that.

Laying out

And the plants! With hindsight, I kind of wish we'd held off on the top soil and done a trial run of the washing machine at that point. That was the last stage that it was easy to alter the inlet and outlet stuff. Still, hindsight is wonderful and we didn't! The plants are 6 norfolk reeds (phragmites australis), one iris and one marsh marigold. I couldn't bring myself to go reed only! Hopefully all will grow - I ordered them from Wetland Plants but missed the delivery so they spent an extra night in the box, then had to spend the next couple of days in a bucket.

Finally I mulched the lot with gravel, and rigged up the inlet properly.


And felt really proud of myself.

So proud!

Since then I must admit the doubts have crept in. The first washing machine run kind of swamped things. Now I'm worrying that the outlet is smaller than the inlet, so it'll flood. And if it doesn't flood, maybe it will over water the tubs on the far side, and I'll end up killing my apple and lemon trees. Tonight I came home to find that three of the reed plants had been uprooted by something during the day. Will they manage to stay in long enough to root properly? I'm kind of consoling myself with the fact that it's pretty straightforward to switch back to just running the water down the drain, and I can always turn it into a raised bed instead.

Still, you never know. It still might just work... Either way, updates will be forthcoming! (Eventually... )

(Follow this link to the full set of photos on flickr...)

Article originally appeared on Life on Mars (
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