Create a log pile for wildlife

Activity
A close up of aspen hoverfly on a decaying log
Under an hour
Autumn
Not too tricky

Use old, dead logs to create an inviting home and feeding ground for insects, toads, newts and bees. All the rotting wood, flaking bark and maze of little gaps between the logs is heaven for a wide range of wildlife. You won’t see much going on at first, as these creatures like to hide in the dark. If you turn one of the logs over in the day, you can watch plenty of creepy-crawlies scurrying away out of the light. At night, look for woodlice, snails and wood mice emerging from shady woodpiles. If you’ve made a log pile in the sun, look for solitary bees seeking nestholes. You can build a log pile whenever the mood takes you. But you're likely to have logs and sticks to hand in autumn and winter when you're managing your trees. Not sure which insects are using your garden? Buy our handbook of garden wildlife and wonder no more!

A close up of aspen hoverfly on a decaying log

Step-by-step guide

Making use of old logs video screenshot
1

Collect your dead wood.

It’s best to get your dead wood from your own garden each time you do any pruning or lopping. You can also see if friends and neighbours have any going spare. If you get really stuck, you can buy dead wood from a local tree surgeon. But don't just wander into a local wood and help yourself as you'll be removing nature's home!

2

Where to put your dead wood?

You can put it just about anywhere in your garden, but it will attract different wildlife in different places.

If you put it somewhere shady, it’s likely to rot more quickly. Fungi are likely to arrive and mosses may grow.

Put the wood in the sun, however, and the wood will turn dry and hard. This is how solitary bees, who investigate old beetle holes, and wasps, who ‘harvest’ (chew) wood to build their nests, like it.

It's a good idea to put it in an existing or new flowering border where the inhabitants may find nectar.

3

How to arrange your wood.

You can just pile the wood up, higgledy-piggledy, for that rustic look. Or stack it neat and tidily – nature won't mind. Some creatures like dead wood that is buried. So you can dig a hole and start your pile underground so that it’s like an iceberg with some hidden below the surface. You can lay them horizontally or vertically. If vertical they need to be buried 45cm - 60cm in the ground. Above ground, they need to look like organ pipes and be different heights.

Get creative – there are endless possibilities for your designs.

4

Use large logs for climbing plants.

Why not use your best pieces of wood and stand them in your flower border?

The more places you have dead wood, the greater the variety of bugs and minibeasts you’ll attract to your garden.

5

Get creative

If you're feeling really artistic, create interesting patterns with your dead wood. We want to see your ideas! So share your pictures of your finished log pile.

6

Sprinkle with earth or brash.

You can use the soil you excavated on the top and sprinkle some wildflower seed on top. If you don't have much soil, wildflower turf is easily available online.

7

What you'll see.

Much of the time, the log pile may seem very quiet, for most of its inhabitants are using it to hide - from you or the sun. But watch carefully and you may see wrens exploring.

If you turn one of the logs over in the day, you can watch plenty of creepy-crawlies scurrying away out of the light. If you’ve made a log pile in the sun, look for solitary bees seeking nest holes.

Or come out at night to look for woodlice, snails and wood mice emerging from shady woodpiles. For help identifying which wee beasties have moved in, check out our handy identification guide.

What you will need

  • Old logs
  • Branches
  • 'Brash' (spindly prunings)
Garden wildlife free gift

RSPB Handbook of Garden wildlife

This new edition of our popular RSPB handbook is a rich resource of information on our most familiar garden wildlife.

£12.99

Buy now