Dead wood can be full of life in gar­den

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

A READER called this week and asked if he should shift a large tree which had been felled and logged, or could he just leave it in the gar­den.

I sug­gested that he make a fea­ture of it, be­cause logs, stand­ing and fallen de­cay­ing wood and old plants are very im­por­tant for wildlife.

Even just one or two bushes, if kept be­yond their nat­u­ral life, are of great value to in­sects, fungi, mosses and lichens.

Birds feed on in­sects that make their home in old wood. In large gar­dens, a de­cay­ing tree with a snagged bough or a small cav­ity might pro­vide a nest site for a bird or bat.

Dead branches also make ex­cel­lent song and dis­play perches for birds.

Keep de­cay­ing wood on trees and shrubs.

Leave dead trees and shrubs stand­ing (as long as they are not in a danger­ous place) to de­com­pose nat­u­rally.

Un­wanted plants or trees can be killed by ring-bark­ing and left to pro­vide a source of de­cay­ing wood. Make two thick cuts, about 20cm apart, around the trunk and deep enough to cut through the bark and into the wood. The bark be­tween the two cuts should also be stripped from the tree.

Ring -bark­ing in­di­vid­ual shrub stems also pro­duces stand­ing de­cay­ing wood with­out killing the whole plant.

Ring-barked plants will sprout from be­low any wounds and may need con­tin­ual cut­ting of growth to com­pletely kill the plant.

Leave old stumps to de­cay nat­u­rally and only re­move them if nec­es­sary. Cre­ate a wood­pile. Take the worry out of dis­pos­ing of those bulky cut­tings and cre­ate a home for wildlife. Wood­piles are a valu­able habitat for mosses, lichens and fungi, as well as many in­sects.

Leave woody cut­tings from trees, shrubs and herba­ceous plants in piles within a shrub bed.

It is best to not cut the wood into small pieces. Leave it in di­rect con­tact with the ground, in dap­pled shade and in com­pact piles to main­tain hu­mid­ity.

Larger di­am­e­ter pieces are of most value, but even small twigs and branches should not be dis­counted, and nei­ther should the cut stems of herba­ceous plants.

Full sun will dry and heat the wood and it will sup­port lit­tle life. Dense shade is good for fungi, but may be too cold for most in­sects.

Add to your de­cay­ing wood, us­ing wood from friends and neigh­bours. A lo­cal tree sur­geon may also be able to sup­ply you with some logs. Avoid tak­ing logs from woods and hedges as you will be re­mov­ing the re­source from its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, along with any as­so­ci­ated flora or fauna.

Logs at least 10cm thick (4 ins) with the bark still at­tached pro­vide the best wood. Hard wood trees such as ash, oak and beech are par­tic­u­larly good. Birch logs can look par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive. Be care­ful of freshly cut wil­low and poplar logs, as these can eas­ily re-sprout if left ly­ing on the ground.

Al­low­ing a climber to ram­ble over wood­piles, logs and stumps can cover them and help re­tain mois­ture. How­ever, the shade may make it too cold for some in­sects.

Al­ter­na­tively, use an old 15 litre (3 gal­lon) bucket. Drill some drainage holes in the bot­tom and cut lots of holes (30mm or 1.25 ins) in the side of the bucket at 50mm (2ins) spac­ing. Put some large stones in the bot­tom and then quar­ter fill the bucket with gar­den soil and top with course hard­wood chips. Com­pletely bury the bucket in a dis­crete cor­ner of the gar­den.

Lay a stack of logs laid on their side. To pre­vent them rolling, drive a stake into the ground ei­ther side of the pile.

You can cre­ate stand­ing dead wood by par­tially bury­ing logs ver­ti­cally in the ground to an ap­prox­i­mate depth of 45cm to 50cm (18 to 20 ins). Use logs of dif­fer­ent di­am­e­ters and length and bury them side-by-side to form a pyra­mid.

If space is a lim­i­ta­tion, a sin­gle log ei­ther buried in the soil or on top is still of value.

Logs left in the shade can be a haven for in­sects, mosses and fungi

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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