Why Your Garden Needs Logs and Rock Piles
In this episode, we’re going to look at why your garden needs logs and rock piles. From supporting beneficial predators to creating micro-climates. Adding logs and rock piles to your garden can help your plants thrive. Let’s dive into how.
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When you picture a vegetable garden I doubt you think about logs and rocks being a part of it.
Most people remove rocks from their gardens.
But you can actually help your garden thrive by adding rocks and logs to your garden.
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I know this might seem crazy but stay with me. I’m not talking about rocks in the soil making it hard to plant.
I’m talking about rocks ranging in size from a softball to a basketball stacked together to make a pile. The same thing can be done with small diameter logs ranging from 3 to 6 inches across and however long as you want.
But why would you want these added to your garden?
Your garden needs logs and rock piles because they provide 2 core benefits.
- They support beneficial predators for pest control.
- They create beneficial micro-climates
Let’s dive into both of these benefits and look at the best way to add them to your garden.
But before we do I want to take a moment to say thank you to one of our newest Patrons, Adrienne Richardson.
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Okay, let’s get started.
Further Reading: Growing with Nature episodes and blog posts with more information about the topics covered in this episode.
- How to Create Habitat Features for Pest Control
- Garter Snakes – A Gardener’s Best Friend
- How to Control Garden Pests with Predators
- 7 Strategies to Deal with Drought Today and in the Future
- How to Get Started with Cool Microclimates
- How to Get Started with Warm Microclimates
Books and Other Resources
Plant List: More information about some of the plants covered in this episode.
Your Garden Needs Log and Rock Piles to Support Beneficial Predators
A big challenge with organic gardening is dealing with pests. And many organic gardeners still use chemicals—just organic ones like neem oil.
But you can bring your garden into balance with the living world by supporting the predators that eat pests.
And one way to do this is to add log and rock piles to your garden.
These piles can be thought of as shelter for critters. Scientists sometimes call these habitat features but you could call them critter homes.
Frogs, snakes, centipedes, lizards, and even ladybugs will all take shelter in them.
We often find garter snakes in ours.
And here in western Washington, garter snakes love to eat slugs. The more garter snakes the fewer slugs we have to deal with—sounds good to me.
Ladybugs will also take shelter under logs and rocks in the fall so they can survive the winter.
Without logs and rocks, all these beneficial critters will need to leave your garden in order to find shelter.
Especially in the fall and winter when most vegetable gardens have few plants.
And this means that it will take time for these predators to find your garden again. And some never will, resulting in fewer predators to keep pests in balance.
But I’m sure you're wondering how do you add rock and log piles to your garden. The easiest way is to create what I sometimes call wild beds in your garden.
Try setting aside the last 2 feet of each of your garden beds. Or if your garden beds are ‘L’ shaped like mine you could set aside the corner.
Now you can place a log and rock pile in these areas.
I like to use the logs and rocks to mark the boundary where the regular vegetable bed meets a wild bed.
This works well for me because in the wild bed I like to plant native vegetables. Native vegetables like nodding onions, checkermallows, and miner’s lettuce can be great additions to these wild beds.
And the logs and rocks along the edge will help keep the native vegetables from spreading into your regular garden beds.
Plus since these native vegetables are all perennials you won’t need to disturb your wild beds once they’re established.
The rock and log piles provide shelter for beneficial predators and the native vegetables will support pollinators and other predators. Plus the native vegetables will give you harvests too.
If you do this in each of your garden beds you will create spots right in your garden for a wide range of beneficial predators to take shelter. And the result will be far fewer pests for you to deal with.
And if you don’t want to plant native vegetables you can also just add flowers to these wild beds.
Your garden needs logs and rock piles if you want to bring pests into balance with their predators.
Using Logs and Rock Piles to Create Micro-Climates
But log and rock piles don’t just support beneficial predators. They can also be used to create beneficial micro-climates to help your plants thrive.
And depending on how you use them they can create different types of micro-climates.
Logs and rocks placed on the southside of your plants here in the northern hemisphere will create a relatively cool and moist micro-climate behind them.
This can be great for cool-loving plants like spinach.
But you can also use individual logs as basically a big piece of mulch.
As a kid did you ever move a log in the forest to see what was under it? Did you do the same with a rock?
Do you remember all the critters living under it?
Did you happen to notice that the soil under a log or rock tended to be moist and cool?
That’s a big reason why all those critters were hiding under it.
If you’ve got a heatwave coming and you’re worried about your plants you can try adding some logs between your vegetable rows.
Those logs will shade the soil, deflect dry winds and help keep the soil moist. This can be a great way to help your plants weather droughts.
But what if you want a warm micro-climate? You can also use logs and rocks to create warm micro-climates.
Rocks will soak up heat during the day and release it at night. This can help keep plants warm during chilly nights with larger rocks providing more benefit than small ones.
If you live in a cold area you could add a rock pile all along the north side of your garden beds with your vegetables planted in front of it. The rocks will support beneficial predators but also soak up heat during the day.
That heat will be released through the night which could help your vegetables get through late frosts.
You could even build larger critter homes using logs and rocks that could deflect cold northern winds up and over your sensitive vegetables. It just depends on how much space you want to give to these features.
Getting More from Logs and Rock Piles
Adding wild beds to your garden and using logs and rocks to create beneficial micro-climates is a great way to help your garden thrive.
Plus, you will be supporting wildlife.
This is what healing the living world looks like.
But you can take it a step further by adding larger logs and rock piles to growing areas around your garden.
I like to hide large log piles between my shrubs and trees. I have large piles that are several feet high that have disappeared behind a mix of berries, trees, and flowers.
These larger critter homes support a lot more wildlife than the small ones I put in my wild beds in my vegetable gardens.
By doing this you can help create space for even more predators that will then move into your garden when pests do show up.
And all those small logs and rock piles in your garden will shelter them when they do.
This is why your garden needs logs and rock piles. Without them, many predators won’t feel safe in your garden and they won’t stick around for long.
But with these critter homes, predators can easily come and go and take shelter when they need to. And if you add larger ones between your shrubs and trees outside of your garden this approach will be even more effective.
And don’t forget to use the logs and rocks to create beneficial micro-climates and help your plants deal with drought.
Make sure you check out the resources section of the show notes which has links with more information about the topics covered in this episode.
And stay tuned for our next episode where we take a look at miner’s lettuce. Miner’s lettuce is a fantastic native vegetable found here in western Washington and much of the western United States. It’s a great addition to any wild garden bed. So make sure to check out next week’s episode to learn more about miner’s lettuce.
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