During lockdown, our gardens and the wildlife they contain have been a lifesaver for some of us, and now it’s our turn to help nature thrive.
One of the perks of being in lockdown is that more people have discovered the importance of nature and have developed their green thumbs. I have also seen a growth in people wanting to enhance their green space. So, why not do so on top of improving habitats for our local wildlife?
One way to do this is by creating new homes for all manners of creatures. Log piles do just that. Piling up logs and sticks in a damp, shady area in your garden can provide an amazing home for many. Centipedes, woodlice, and beetles like to burrow in decaying wood, attracting birds, hedgehogs and frogs that are looking for dinner.
In last year’s Chelsea Flower Show you can see log walls making an appearance in Paul Hervey-Brookes’ gold medal winning entry ‘The Art of Viking Garden’. This feature wall was beautifully used as a backdrop to the seating area in the garden, placed amongst planting that resonates with a water meadow or wetland.
You can create a log pile simply by sourcing logs from anyone having tree work done, e.g. your friends or neighbours. You could also contact a local tree surgeon to find what you need. But whatever you do, do not take them from the wild! We need to leave as much out there as we can.
The Art of Viking Garden
Image Source: RHS
When I moved back home to stay in lockdown with my family, the gardening projects were in full swing just two days in. My dad decided to cut down what we think started as a Leylandii hedge that grew into enormous trees instead.
And as you can imagine, we were left with a lot of timber. This seemed to be the best way for us to use up all the logs; not only to hide the metal mesh fence behind, but also to give our front garden a true wildlife boost.
We began our log wall by slightly burying the first layer of logs to keep the wood somewhat damp. If they appear to dry out over time you could always use your hose pipe to dampen them. But be sure to leave little archways on the bottom for hedgehogs and frogs to travel through.
Then as we started to stack the various sized logs, and as the first few were balanced into place — or so we thought — they started to roll away as soon as we turned our backs! This can be resolved by driving a stake into the ground on both sides. However, we chose to use the trees already in place to our advantage. This bent the shape of our log wall into a smooth, satisfying curve.
Once the first layer is on, keep stacking all the different sizes on top of each other, poking little twigs into the gaps as you go. Once finished, you can integrate some planting in front and behind the wall to add even more opportunities for wildlife.
To be as sustainable as possible, we set out to utilise most of the wood from the trees, so once our log wall was complete we used the leftover branches to create a wattle fence to the rear of the garden. By the end we only had to dispose of the tree’s green foliage, which was chipped up and will be used for mulching in the future.
The result turned out to be quite wonderful, as our wall is now a great focal point in our front garden, wrapping around the back of the garden, waiting for new wildlife communities to move in.
– Written by Sophie Sturgeon (BSc (Hons) – Assistant Landscape Architect)