7 Ways to Use Woody Debris on Your Homestead
Woody debris is often considered a waste product. People tend to think of it like the outdoor equivalent of clutter—something that needs to be cleaned up and gotten rid of, or even burnt in large piles. But woody debris is an incredible asset to your homestead, and there are many ways to use it besides burning it. Keep reading to learn all about 7 ways you can use woody debris on your homestead.
Often woody debris is seen as waste to be cleared and removed from land. When someone has a tree felled, often even the stump is ground or burned away. But one person’s junk is another one’s treasure—this woody debris can be put to use to improve your homestead and support local wildlife. Read on, and you’ll never look at these humble treasures the same again.
Here are 7 different ways to use woody debris on your homestead.
7 Ways to Use Woody Debris on Your Homestead
- 1Wildlife Habitat – Wood Piles and Snags
- 2Trail Borders
- 3Hugelkultur Beds
- 4Play Structures for Kids
- 5Building Garden Beds and Other Structures
- 6Improving Your Soil
- 7Creating Micro-Climates Around Your Plants
If you rely on wood for your heating and cooking, then that’s another great way to use woody debris. But these 7 uses are great ways to make the most of any excess woody debris you have.
So are you ready to stop burning and start learning to use woody debris to benefit your homestead? Before you scroll down, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet summary of this post. This cheat-sheet also has some tips to find woody debris if you don’t have enough from your own land.
1. Wildlife Habitat – Wood Piles and Snags
If you walk through any healthy forest, you’ll see dead standing trees called snags, as well as downed logs and wood piles. Snags and downed wood provide critical habitat for wildlife, such as birds and other critters.
By creating habitat for wildlife, you can help ensure wild homestead keep your pests in check by forming a balance between pests that eat your crops and the predators that eat those pests.
2. Use Woody Debris for Trail Borders
A simple way to use woody debris on your homestead is to mark the borders of paths through your growing areas. Not only does this define the paths, but the woody debris will also create moist habitat for beneficial soil life such as fungi and earthworms.
Remember all the life you found as a kid turning over logs? Logs used for trail borders will provide habitat for the same type of critters.
If you use large logs, then the borders can also serve as benches and balance beams for kids to play on, making your growing areas more family friendly.
3. Use Woody Debris for Hugelkultur Beds
One of the best uses of woody debris is to create hugelkultur beds. These beds are made by burying woody debris with soil and then planting in the soil. The wood works as a slow release fertilizer and creates habitat for beneficial fungi.
The wood and the fungi also help the bed retain water. This can greatly reduce how much watering you need to do, and potentially even eliminate your watering altogether depending on your climate and how large the beds are.
4. Play Structures for Kids
You can also use woody debris to make some fantastic play structures for kids. The logs can be used as balance beams, you can make climbing structures out of them, a sandbox, or just let your kids build their own!
On my own homestead, I built a sandbox and a climbing structure using woody debris. I also have big logs placed around to mark trails and the edges of growing areas, which are great balance beams for kids to play on.
My toddler loves walking up and down the logs that border my hedgerows, and he’s developing an amazing sense of balance! (Just be sure to leave enough space between your plants and your balance-beam trail markers that your plants won’t be damaged if wobbly little ones step off onto that side of the “beam!”)
5. Building Garden Beds and Other Structures
Raised beds and other wooden structures are often made using cut lumber, but logs and other woody debris work great.
In the pictures above, you can see some of the raised beds I made from logs I salvaged from an old tree farm, and a simple storage structure made from a pallet and old branches.
What kinds of structures or beds will you build on your wild homestead?
6. Use Woody Debris to Improve Your Soil
Woody debris can also make for a great mulch. Branches that are small in diameter will quickly rot and break down, providing excellent habitat for beneficial fungi. These branches will also help to hold down mulch made from lighter material like fall leaves that may otherwise blow around.
I always like having a mixture of rough and fine material when I mulch my plants. This way, I’m mimicking what happens in a forest. The forest floor is made up of leaves, needles, twigs, branches, and logs. Together, these materials create the rich habitat of the forest floor.
7. Creating Micro-Climates Around Your Plants
You can also use woody debris to create sheltered micro-climates around your plants.
A good-sized chunk of wood will create a moist environment underneath it, which can benefit your plants. It does this by protecting that patch of soil from direct sunlight, cooling the soil and blocking evaporation at the same time.
If you use a decent-sized piece of wood, it will deflect some of the wind blowing over the ground around your plants, which will further decrease your watering needs.
All of these benefits can result in a nice moist, cool micro-climate around your plants, making woody debris a great way to reduce how much watering you need to do in the summer.
Just place the wood on the south, east, and west sides of your plants to create this sort of habitat. (If you are in the southern hemisphere, then place the wood on the north, east, and west sides of the plant.)
This is a great use for woody debris, and it can also double as habitat for wildlife and beneficial fungi.
Start Using Woody Debris on Your Homestead
So are you inspired to start using woody debris on your homestead? These 7 uses of woody debris will benefit your homestead while also helping the environment by reducing the amount of wood that’s burned just to get rid of it.
A lot of the uses in this post can overlap. In permaculture design, this is called stacking functions, where one element serves multiple functions. This is how nature works, and the more you can mimic nature on your homestead, the better off you will be.
So which of these 7 uses for woody debris appeals to you? Leave a comment sharing how you are going to use woody debris on your homestead.
But don’t forget to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet which summarizes this post and has some tips on how to find more woody debris if you don’t have enough on your homestead.