We really have a variety of soils and conditions in our garden, but still want to maximize the space available. If you have soil that can be best described as moist, damp, wet or even boggy then this may be a helpful growing guide for you.
Crops that thrive in soggy soil include; asparagus, angelica, cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, celery, mint, persimmons and raspberries. You can find even the worse conditions will allow you to grow crops for your kitchen, as long as there is adequate drainage to your wet soil.
There is a little more to take into account with regard to sunlight levels and temperature, so please do check out our guide below.
Top Of The Crops For Wet Soil
Most of these crops will not love soggy soil that is not well draining. You can test to see if you have well draining soil by waiting for a dry spell. Then saturate the soil. Really soak it so that the water stays pooled on top. Return 24 hours later and if there has been no movement the soil is water logged.
Meaning that some of these crops may not love to live in awkward spots. The natural solution there would be to dig through plenty of well rotted organic matter and look at ways to improve drainage.
If you have heavy clay soil you can add grit to enable better drainage, but this is counter productive in lighter soil.
Let’s look more closely at this amazing wet soil loving herbs, vegetables and fruit.
1. Angelica Angelica Archangelica
- Hardiness Angelica is a biennial that will be happy in USDA zones 4-9. With a little care and over wintering it will tolerate zone 3. Angelica loves growing in the UK and Northern Europe. It will tolerate a little frost but a good mulch can help.
- Planting Dappled shade is preferred and a cooler part of your garden is ideal. By a pond or in amongst a boggier spot would work too. If growing by seed you will need to stratify your seeds and then either sow direct or indoors. Angelica is fine to be sown in Spring or Autumn / Fall. Angelica seeds will germinate with the aid of sunlight, so do not cover with soil once sown. Germination will take around 30 days so a little bit of patience is required.
- Care You can propagate angelica rom division in the second year, but also be aware of this biennial self-seeding after flowering. It will need dead heading before the flowers can turn to seed, or you can allow this to occur naturally. Choosing to allow it to set seeds and sowing yours on the first and second year only to ensure an annual harvest.
- Harvesting The stem of angelica is where the good stuff is. Sort of gentle anise crossed with flowery bitterness. So when we harvest we want the freshest stems. Harvest stems in year one or year two before flowering.
- Recipe– Hank Shaw has a great and simple recipe for candied angelica.
For more on growing Angelica have a look at our growers guide here.
2. Asparagus Asparagus Officinalis
- Hardiness Asparagus is a hardy perennial and therefore will thrive in USDA zones 3-8. 9 or above may require some real effort to keep it cool and with plenty of moisture. Wet soil is preferred but it must be free draining.
- Planting Mulch your asparagus bed well and grow a green manure overwinter to act as a nitrogen fixer as well as weed suppressant. Plant from established crowns, one year old dormant asparagus stock.
- Care Plants are either male or female and it is the male plants that produce the most spears. Females have orange berries on them. Keep the ground weed free for two years and in the third ear you can harvest. Keep plants well watered and soil moist and weed free.
- Harvesting Harvest in the third year of growth. The RHS has a great full growers guide.
- Recipes Karina over at cafe delites has a lovely recipes for cheesy garlic roasted asparagus, which would make the best side dish for a Sunday lunch!
3. Cabbage Brassica oleracea var. capitata
- Hardiness Cabbage is a frost hardy brassica and will withstand temperatures as low as 20 F or even 15 F if there is a good mulch. It will grow happily in USDA zones 1-9 and is a great allotment staple in the UK and most of Europe. Cabbage has even made it to the Sto Plains of the Discworld, and this is how we have made it a fun vegetable to grow in our home actually!
- Planting You will need crop rotation here as brassicas should not be grown twice in a row in the same bed. Sow in rows with 30 cm (12inches) between rows and plants. Sow the seeds at 1cm depth. Rake the soil and net over the bed to prevent various pests.
- Care Your main concern with brassicas is the slugs and snails that feast on them. Usual methods work well, but avoid all chemical interventions as you want to encourage the wildlife to do it’s part in eating your slimy pests. Wet soil is not without it’s pitfalls.
- Harvesting Depending on if you have sown a Spring, Summer or Winter variety will depend on your harvest time. Space your sowing to match and try to get a year round harvest by growing a variety of all three.
- Recipes If you are growing cabbage for only one harvest period then you may have a real glut of a harvest. Why not think about making Sauerkraut? We love it and there is a great recipe from the minimalist baker that also uses ginger and turmeric so it is a real favorite!
4. Cauliflower Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
- Hardiness Although cauliflower is a half hardy biennial, we grow it as an annual is USDA zones 2-11. It enjoys wet soil and will therefore need to be grown in the shade or partial shade in zones 9 and above. It thrives in both the UK and mainland Europe.
- Planting Your main sowing period for Cauli’s is March to May but you will have luck with overwintering and sowing in January/February under glass. Sow in trays before planting out and make sure to sow at intervals to stagger your crop. When they are large enough to transplant you will dig the hole and water well. Make sure the planting area is wet before transferring your cauliflowers.
- Care Water well. Soil should be wet and free draining. Slugs and snails are big pests with these growing conditions and so you can do the torchlight vigil or beer traps or get chickens who will eat them all up like we do!
- Harvesting Harvest as soon as your cauliflower has a firm head. Do not wait too long as they are known to separate and then you have a wasted crop. Just be aware to only sow a few plants at a time as they do tend to all be ready together!
- Recipes Not to sound like a traitor to the gardening community but possibly the popularity of cauliflower rice has gone a bit too far? Well we have a few favorite recipes along the more traditional lines and then a few unusual ideas as well.
5. Celery Apium graveolens
- Hardiness Celery is hardy in zones 4-10 but some varieties may allow you to go as low as 3 or 2. You can grow in the UK and mainland Europe but be aware that the germination to harvest period is around 120 – 130 days. Soil needs to be wet the whole time.
- Planting Very few gardener’s grow celery for anything other than the ability to say they have managed it, it is not a beginners vegetable! If you are looking for a fully frost tolerant version look no further than lovage. Do not plant celery outside until temperatures are reliably at 10 degrees above freezing. Anything lower and it will die. Scatter celery seeds and dust with soil to cover.
- Care Once planted out celery will need you to water it nearly daily. It will not tolerate any drought at all. Wet soil every day. It will not tolerate the heat of the day either, so plant in a location with 6 hours sun, but not the height of the day.
- Harvesting Celery will be ready to harvest after 6 months of fertilizing and watering. It tastes just like shop bought celery. So there you go! Totally up to you and well worth a go at the challenge, but only to say you have mastered the challenge really.
- Recipes Shop bought or home grown I think that celery can be overlooked as an ingredient. Be it a braised celery dish or a celery poriyal you can get a lot out of this little vegetable.
6. Cranberry (high and low bush)
- Hardiness Cranberry actually require a few months of colder weather to ensure fruit sets. They thrive in USDA zones 2-6 and will do well in the UK. The biggest problem gardeners have is keeping the soil wet. With some colleagues of mine advising lining planting holes with polythene with a few drainage holes cut in. This makes cranberry our number one crop to grow in wet soil!!
- Planting Grow from cuttings as plants will take a few years to reach maturity. Dig your planting holes and feed well with nitrogen rich fertilizers. Epsom salts can be an option or a really rich organic solution alongside blood or bone. Plant cuttings two inches deep and 2 feet apart. You must clear the area for cranberries to be able to root securely. They just can’t compete with perennial weeds at all.
- Care A good mulch in Winter and make sure after about the third year to cut out deadwood. Cranberries will need watering if the soil is not wet. Stick with my plan of using this as a crop to solve a problem of wet soil and you should be fine, but still water well!
- Harvesting You will need patience and to wait a few years for your first fruit to appear. Harvest in late Autumn/ Fall when the berries have turned a dark red. The seeds will be brown and you can taste that tartness. Don’t wait for them to be sweet as this is not the right berry! You may find that growing cranberries makes you very popular with wildlife that doesn’t fly South in the Winter so make sure to leave some on the plants too!
- Recipes Delia Smith has a cranberry chutney recipe that is just perfect with cold cuts of meat or a good cheese board. Very festive in flavor but a real winter warmer too.
7. Marsh Mallow Althaea officinalis
- Hardiness Marsh Mallow will grow in USDA zones 3-9 as long as their roots are a little wet all year round. Partial shade is to be preferred.
- Planting A prolific self sower and really once you have planted this hardy perennial you have little else to worry about, apart from keeping the soil moist.
- Care Make sure to leave enough space for your marsh mallow to spread out! It is the ultimate in hardy perennial as it loves rain, is frost tolerant and will not mind if it has full sun or partial shade.
- Harvesting It is the root of the marsh mallow that you really want and it can be harvested during division just before or after a dormant winter period. You can harvest enough to eat and then replant the original marsh mallow to allow it to live on as well!
- Recipes Over at food crumbles they have a recipe for homemade marshmallow using marsh mallow root instead of gelatin. Here is the cool thing, it is the traditional way of making that confectionary and how it got it’s name, from the plant!
8. Mint Mentha
- Hardiness Mint is a prolific grower and will thrive is USDA zones 3-8 but will also do well in shady areas of zone 9. In the UK and mainland Europe mint is a real staple as well. Mint will also tolerate and thrive in wet soil, putting out runners to propagate in new places.
- Planting Take care with planting mint as it will be invasive with very little effort. Grow from seeds, cuttings or root cuttings as it has runner. Here is a full article on growing mint.
- Care Cut back mint before Winter and you can mulch over, but really it will lie dormant underground and as soon as the temperatures pick up it will shoot forth.
- Harvesting Harvest mint throughout the growing season and it will encourage a more bushy plant. Pinch the new shoots on stems and this will keep it in shape. Harvest and dry the leaves as you go and then cut back in time for late Autumn / Fall and get a mammoth harvest in one go! Make sure to preserve your leaves for year round fresh flavor.
- Recipes We love cooking with mint as well as reserving it for use all year round. It really is more than just a herbal tea or sauce to accompany lamb! We have put together a few of our favorite recipes here.
9. Persimmon Diospyros virginiana
- Hardiness The Persimmon tree is hardy to USDA zones 4-9 being frost tolerant to minus 25F (32C)
- Planting You can grow from seeds, cuttings or suckers, but actually the best trees are grown from grafts. The American variety will need both male and female flowers for fruit and therefore suits orchard style planting to allow for ease of cross pollination. The Asian persimmon cannot tolerate such low temperatures but is recommended if space is not available.
- Care Persimmon trees can tolerate frosts and are relatively fine with periods of little to no rainfall. However make sure to water well once they have been planted. No mulch will be required as long as you dig in plenty of loam rich compost into the planting hole. Your persimmon will have a long taproot and grow to be quite self sufficient from early on. It does love wet soil though and will drink quite heavily in Summer months. For our full growing guide including growing pots or as an orchard have a look here.
- Harvesting Persimmon was popular with Indigenous Americans as well as the settler’s due to it’s ability to hold fruit well into Winter. The ripe fruit is soft and will taste like apricot. Harvesting is as easy as twisting and pulling and you can eat direct from the tree. Or you can add to recipes for fresh family meals.
- Recipes For an Autumn / Fall Salad look no further than a Persimmon and goat’s cheese salad! The sweetness of the fruit mixed with the acidic sharpness of the goat’s cheese works very well together. Persimmon tastes very much like apricot but with a slightly more succulent texture.
10. Raspberry Rubus idaeus
- Hardiness Raspberry prefers zones 4-8 but some varieties will thrive in warmer climates even zones 9-10. Just make sure to keep well watered.
- Planting You have two main types of raspberry to grow, Autumn fruiting or Summer fruiting. We have a mixture of both. Either plant needs to be bought as a cane and will be pot into the ground in the dormant season between November and March. Make sure to dig through plenty of well rotted manure and position them in front of a fence or by some manner of support from strong winds.
- Care Raspberries are self pollinating so will need little in terms of care. Just make sure to keep them well watered and keep an eye out for raspberry beetles. Pick off affected berries and discard, but the problem will no doubt persist, to grow autumn fruiting to avoid this issue. Apply a good mulch twice a year to feed the plants as well as to keep weeds at bay as they may compete for moisture and sunlight.
- Harvesting For Summer fruiting raspberry you can start your harvest from as early as June and if planted with Autumn / Fall fruiting raspberries then you will still be collecting well into October. This is a great way to get kids into growing their own food as they can eat as they weed or do other garden related tasks.
- Recipes Over at Yummly there is a great range of raspberry recipes from the classics to some really interesting new takes like a Cacao Raspberry Dessert Hummus!
11. Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum
- Hardiness Rhubarb is a cool weather crop and enjoys a gentle freeze in Winter to allow a dormancy. It will thrive in zones 7-8 and you will find that it grows as a winter annual in zones 9-10. It will thrive in the UK, but avoid an area prone to later frosts. Young stems will struggle with being frozen when they are trying to grow up. A good mulch of straw will help with both warmth and water retention.
- Planting Plant dormant crowns in a sunny spot with good drainage in Spring or Autumn / Fall. A boggy area by a wildlife pond is ideal. To ensure adequate drainage dig through a lot of well rotted manure into the area. Space crowns around 90cm (36inches) apart.
- Care Rhubarb requires very little other than the usual slug patrol you would expect in leafy plants that love moist soil. It can be prone to crown rot due to fungi in the soil of water. This is where adequate drainage becomes a must. It is possible to lose a crop to this disease which shows as an underperforming plant. To avoid this happening do not harvest in the first year.
- Harvesting Is simple if you can bring yourself to enjoy your rhubarb for it’s structural beauty in the first year and then only harvest sparingly in the second year. From then onwards you can take around a third of the stems with no real adverse effect on the plant. Take stems by lifting them out of the soil, taking care not to snap them.
- Recipes Olive Magazine have a collection of recipes from the classic rhubarb crumble to a slightly more adventurous rhubarb and apple chutney.
What Next & Further Reading
- Herbs That Like Shade
- 12 Drought Tolerant Herbs
- How Many Hours Of Sun Do Herbs Need
- RHS Step-by-Step Veg Patch: A Foolproof Guide to Every Stage of Growing Fruit and Veg by Lucy Chamberlain
- The Best Mulch To Use In Your Garden
- How To Apply Zero Waste Principles In Your Garden
- Low Maintenance Herbs That Will Survive Anything
We hope to have inspired you and given you some ideas for your own garden! Let us know how you get on and what recipes you come up with as well!