The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Edging garden beds with logs

Log-lined beds

Fungus on logAre logs along the sides of permanent garden beds good, bad, or indifferent?

On the positive side, edging your beds with logs increases the quality of your soil.  Not only do they catch topsoil that might try to erode away, they also serve as breeding grounds for beneficial soil microorganisms, and slowly rot down into top notch humus.

Log-lined beds are pretty too, especially as mosses and mushrooms start to grow in the rotting wood.  And they'll ensure that you don't accidentally walk on or mow the plants you care about.

Log-edged bed

Rolling logYou don't really need to be concerned about the high carbon wood sucking nitrogen out of your soil since the log is all one piece.  (You have even less to worry about if you're edging a bed of woody perennials since they can handle a bit of nitrogen loss and will enjoy the fungi that come along for the ride.)

On the other hand, log-edged beds don't play well with grassy aisles maintained with a lawnmower.  You can't mow right up to the edge of the bed, so weeds tend to grow up amid the logs and take over.  Yes, I am writing Lining a garden bed with logsfrom experience --- our poor blueberry patch got so weedy last year I was afraid to let Mark mow it for fear he'd run over a beloved plant.

I'm trying out a new method of dealing with weeds this year, in hopes we can keep that downside of log-lined beds under control.  First, I laid down a kill mulch along the edge of the bed I planned to line, then I rolled the logs into place and added leaf mulch on both sides.

Of course, the real reason I'm willing to give logs another try is the ninja blade on Mark's new weedeater.  I suspect one pass of the weedeater will make short work of any nefarious honeysuckle and wingstem trying to wiggle up in the unmown space beside the logs.  I'll be sure to let you know if I'm wrong as summer progresses.

Our chicken waterer is the permaculture solution to healthy chickens --- low work and always pristine.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I've always lined my beds with logs just to keep things organized when planting, and to keep a little bit of a barrier so I don't stomp my plants (but logs don't keep out kids and dogs). I also like the soil enhancing benefits that you described, and the possibility of mushrooms popping up on their own, the end of summer I'm always pulling the logs up so I can mow that weedy edge. I'll probably use a kill mulch like you recommended, but I really want to give up the logs altogether in most of my beds.

As an aside: I work with a group of landscape architects and brought one of them to my house a few times. A few weeks later I overheard her talking to another LA about how much she hates the practice of lining garden beds with logs. Yeah, it does get pretty ugly, but if you're going to line your beds, at least logs are free. It's not like I live in the city.

Comment by Sara Thu Jan 26 09:23:05 2012

I ripped out the ones I had in the vegetable garden --- too much wasted space. But for perennials that need elbow-room anyway, I like logs if you can find a way to mow around them. I have high hopes the ninja blade will work this year, but if not, I'll be ripping them out too. :-)

(Probably a good thing I don't have people visit my farm. I'd be extremely unhappy if I overheard something like that.)

Comment by anna Thu Jan 26 10:49:37 2012

I like the look personally. Unfortunately since we live in the city it's a bit harder to find many logs that I can easily transport home easily.

As far as weeds go we're lucky and have very few because our logs are on the edge of an old compacted gravel driveway and an area I double dug.

Comment by Brian Thu Jan 26 13:12:12 2012
I think they're pretty too (unless they turn into weed reservoirs.) Logs are something we have in abundance here! The blueberry beds I edged only required me to move logs about five feet. :-) )
Comment by anna Thu Jan 26 16:02:07 2012

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