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Midwest Regional Reports

Turn Old Wood Into Useful Garden Structures

Creative gardening projects that recycle coarse woody debris

The snags and stumps of this old log make great areas to plant perennials that require moist shade. Photo: Erin Presley

As another muddy Midwestern March begins, we’re often rounding the bend on our winter pruning tasks and looking for more creative garden projects. We also may be surrounded by piles of sticks and logs from winter pruning.

Current practices in ecological gardening are evolving to appreciate the value of retaining and recycling organic matter onsite. This includes fallen leaves, perennial clippings from spring and fall clean-up, and wood of all kinds. Woody debris is loosely categorized as either fine, like twigs and sticks, or coarse, like fallen logs and standing snags.

Coarse woody debris (CWD) provides a multitude of benefits as it slowly decomposes. Snags and log piles provide habitat for birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a host of invertebrates. The fungi colonizing CWD improve soil conditions for root growth and recycle nutrients back into the soil. As logs decompose into the soil, they create spongy “soil wood,” which…

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