Towards the end of the winter, trees, particularly those that are old or diseased, will finally succumb to the seasonal gales. Some trees split so only a part of them will fall whereas others are uprooted totally including the root ball. If you lose a tree in your garden or green space, what are the options open to you?
Is it your tree?
Before you get handy with the chainsaw, your eyes misting over at the thought of all that lovely firewood for next year, establish whether it is actually your tree? Regardless of which way the tree falls, trees are deemed to be owned in their entirety by the person on whose land the tree was originally planted. So even if most of a large tree falls into your garden or green area, ripe for the taking, it still may not be your tree.
Is the tree diseased?
Periodically, trees succumb to disease just like people and animals. Dutch elm disease was one such scourge and Ash dieback another more recent problem. Mature diseased trees are generally left where they are. For example, Ash trees can live for years with Ash dieback or Chalara as it is called. There is a very low risk of disease spreading via infected wood so you should be able to cut up an ash tree and use it for fuel even if it does have Ash dieback. It is unlikely though that a wood company would want to move it and sell on for firewood.
The Woodland Trust is a good source of information on current diseases and best practice. They will also signpost you to the Forestry Commission which is the government body charged with forestry policy including the management of diseases amongst the different tree species. Or, contact a local tree surgeon who will come out, take a look and offer some practical advice.
Make sure the tree is safe
A tree which goes down in its entirety has no further to fall. But a partial fall or a split trunk can result in a dangerous situation. A local tree surgeon can confirm whether any more of the tree is in imminent danger of collapse and make the site safe if necessary. You can also read our blog on how to identify if your tree is safe.
What are the options? Firewood is one
Firewood is one possible option. The tree needs to be sawn up and split into logs, preferably stored somewhere dry with good air circulation and off the ground a little so pallets are ideal. Some woods will burn quite green so you don’t necessarily need to wait months to season them. They burn more slowly so use drier wood to create a real hotbed and then burn the greener pieces more slowly creating a steady consistent burn over a period of time. This can be advantageous as it creates an even heat and the wood burns for longer at a lower temperature. Dry, hardwood produces intense heat, burns quickly and then needs to be replenished. This can become expensive!
A fallen tree is nature’s bounty. Depending on where it lies, you could just leave it there if you have the space. It will become the most fantastic home for all sorts of small mammals, insects and birds.
In modern, manicured gardens and green spaces, there doesn’t seem a place for rotten, decaying wood. But nature has its own recycling plans, well ahead of ours and can put a fallen tree to very good use. You can create your very own wildlife garden.
Dead wood is home to fungi, mosses, lichens and insects. The sort of insects that inhabit old branches and tree trunks, attract birds as they provide a source of food. Depending on seclusion and the shape of the tree, there might even be accommodation for a nesting bird or bat. Certainly visiting birds will love their new climbing frame and you will probably notice an increase in the number of perching visitors.
That old decaying stump…think of it as a bit of an eyesore? Think again! That is a potential Beetle Dump, five-star accommodation for a host of invertebrates. If it’s just not practical to leave an entire tree in situ then log it and create a woodpile. It will have the same attraction for flora and fauna. Very small log piles are still an option in compact gardens or on terraces and balconies. If you are siting a log pile then dappled shade is the best location. Direct sunlight will be too warm and deep shade not much good for anything other than fungi. Leave the bark on the wood. If you add piles of leaves then you may find toads and hedgehogs heading towards it as well.
Not just logs
A large supply of free firewood is not to be sniffed at. But if it is an old friend which has fallen, a tree which has been part of your life for a long time, it can be nice to spare some of the wood for a few long-lasting and creative ideas. It’s time to upcycle!
- Small logs upturned with a slice sitting on top make great garden ornaments and lovely pixie seats for small children to play on;
- An old tree stump can be hollowed out to become a planter or covered to create a table;
- Sand and polish some sturdy log sections to use indoors as rustic tables or stands;
- The narrow end of a branch can be sliced and hollowed out to create a base for a tea light holder. Different sizes look particularly attractive in a group as a table centre with huge potential for festive decoration at Christmas;
- A slice of wood halved again into two semi-circles make a great ledge or shelf, lovely with a plant pot, how fitting;
- Some people have even used a log slice to turn into a clock, no numerals just the hands from a central fitting, the grain of the wood exposed for all to admire.