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Hi all -

I'm new to the forum (see my introduction today in the intro thread), but a fairly experienced CP grower - mostly Sarracenia. I built a 12' x 4' x 2' deep outdoor bog this past spring just south of Pittsburgh PA, and it is currently experiencing its first PA winter under a layer of leaves, some pine branches, and a plastic tarp. From my experiences with this method at my current house with a whiskey barrel bog for 2 years, and at a previous house with a smaller in-ground bog for about 5 years before that, it works very well in this climate. But I have always thought that I could do better.

With the new bog as the centerpiece of the landscaping near my deck, and my collection growing in number and in emotional attachment, i though it was worthwhile to consider building something more elaborate, or at least more effective. Here is my current plan, and I would appreciate comments and constructive criticism - especially from CP growers with experience winterizing outdoor bogs in similar climates.

Rather than cutting the taller pitchers down to a few inches (to reduce potential for rotting/fungus, and to make it less likely to uproot plants during mulch removal in the spring) and adding a thick layer of leaves and a plastic tarp directly over the plants, i am envisioning a quonset hut style enclosure made of steel fencing (the standard wire fencing with a 2" by 4" rectangular pattern) arching over the entire bog, with a few supports in the center. This "frame" would be covered with a layer of bubble wrap and then topped with a plastic tarp or greenhouse sheeting (including the open ends). I would still mulch with oak leaves and/or pine needles to protect the rhizomes.

This design would:

1. Allow me to leave the pitchers standing in hopes that some of the hardier ones (flava, oreophila) might even keep their pitchers into the spring.

2. Potentially have some solar heat gain in the enclosure that might keep the plants at a higher temperature that the "blanket" method that I have been using. I would need to monitor to be sure that the temperature was not *too* high.

3. Allow the plants to get *some* sunlight - at least ore than they would completely covered by mulch and plastic. if this proves helpful, I could use clear plastic greenhouse sheeting - with the pitchers extending through the mulch layer, they would get indirect sunlight.

4. Keep the plastic tarp layer off of the mulch and plants and hopefully prevent any rotting/fungus.

Maybe I'm just thinking about this too much. Maybe it's just plain a bad idea for some reason that I haven't thought of. But despite my success over the past 10 or so years, I'm just never confident with the method I have been using.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone do something similar?

Thanks for reading - I promise that all of my posts will not be this long!

Dustin in Pittsburgh
(by the way, I'm identifying myself like this because I saw another Dustin on here - go figure!)
Hi Dustin,

You should check out the thread below. Some of the older pictures aren't posted anymore, but towards the end they are still there. Dom1234 lives in Canada and always posts updates on his outdoor bog and how he manages it.


And Wildbill has an elaborate topic with pictures showing his setup in Connecticut.
What I have been doing for the past 10 years or so is basically the same as Dom and Wildbill - and don't get me wrong - it works well ... most of the time.

I'm just looking to take it up a notch and try something diferent by keeping the things that work well (thick layer of oak leaf and pine needle mulch to protect the rhizomes), and maybe adding a new twist with the mini-greenhouse-like enclosure to keep the temperatures a little warmer, but still plenty cold for dormancy. I'd like to avoid frost heave by keeping the bog soil cold but not cycling through freeze/thaw cycles.

Also, it seems that *some* light on the pitchers that stay alive during dormancy (indirect light thru the clear plastic and possibly bubble wrap) would be at least as good as the practically zero sunlight that my plants get with thick mulch and a plastic tarp over the bog.

I always spend the winter worrying about whether i have done enough to keep the southern natives alive - if this would work, it would really ease my mind. I'm willing to experiment and report back on it - but I don't want to do anything stupid either!

Very nicely landscaped! And I love bearded irises or any "Holland Bulb" plant. If you don't have a huge collection, you can also arrange temperates in portable "minibogs", and tote them to the attic for the winter. I used to have an attic with windows and the plants did fine there, responding to the change in photoperiod and not freezing to death. For the past 2 years I've farmed my collection to a co-worker who has a garage with windows. I was a little dubious at first but they came back to me in March and began sending up flower scapes. Here's what I had farmed out:



I thought about using minibogs or containers with trays, but I like the look and easier maintenance (water retention, at least) of an in-ground bog. The only downside here in PA is overwintering, but as I said I have had pretty good luck. Just trying to raise the bar a little (plus I'm bored in mid-winter and need something to think about!).

After some additional reading, it seems that the consensus is to cut sarracenia pitchers down during dormance to reduce dessication. That makes my mini-greenhouse idea a little less appealing. Plus, it looks like a good spraying of sulfur-based fungicide can take care of fungus/rot concerns under plastic sheeting.

I'm still curious whether the air space inside the enclosure would buffer temperatures better than mulch and plastic directly on top of the plants.

Cold week coming here in Pittsburgh - hope my plants are happy!