Should you keep a dead tree in your garden? Gardener and presenter Poppy Okotcha is certain that leaving that dead tree alone is one of the best wildlife garden ideas there is. In a recent episode of The Great Garden Revolution on Channel 4, Poppy urged gardeners to consider the beauty and usefulness of dead trees before opting to remove them.
Poppy said that she is 'a big believer in using what already exists' and called decaying trees 'a useful structure', 'creating more and more habitat for insects and wildlife' – 'the amount of life that tree is supporting is just so, so huge.'
In the episode, the presenter put the dying tree to good use as a structure for a climber to grow up from a raised garden bed that had been installed. The handy hack is a clever way to use what you already have in your outdoor space to help your garden to thrive.
Poppy's advice chimes with what many other gardeners and wildlife conservationists are saying about the importance of old trees as sources of food and shelter for a variety of species. According to the RSPB, 'standing and fallen decaying wood and old plants are very important for wildlife. Birds feed on insects that make their home in old wood. In large gardens, a decaying tree with a snagged bough or a small cavity might provide a nest site for a bird or bat.'
The managers of Richmond Park in London have recently taken the decision to no longer fell dead oaks, because they provide an important habitat for birds and insects. Landscaping around trees can look beautiful even if the tree is no longer technically alive, and this applies equally to residential gardens and parks.
Is keeping a dead tree in my garden safe?
There are instances when keeping a large tree is not the best option – namely, when the said tree is too close to your house or a power line. Even in this case, however, it's worth inviting a tree surgeon who may be able to cut the tree down in a way that will make it safe without the need to completely remove it. You can also find out how to move a tree in our guide, as that could be a possibility.
And even if you're left with a tree stump, you're still supporting wildlife – and potentially have a free garden bench! Head over to our tree stump ideas for more ways to turn yours into a striking garden feature.
Anna's background is in academic research – she is the author of London Writing of the 1930s, published by Edinburgh University Press. She is a keen urban gardener and has an impressive collection of house plants.
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