Leave your leaves, pile up logs & start composting

Why pile up leaves, logs & compost?

Leaf piles

Piles of leaves in gardens and parks provide numerous benefits to wildlife, including:

  • Food sources for frogs, hedgehogs, toads and newts.
  • Nesting spots and bedding for hedgehogs, frogs and invertebrates.
  • Hibernation shelter for hedgehogs.

Log piles

Log piles are excellent habitats for nature in your garden and offer a range of benefits:

  • Log piles and standing dead wood provide excellent habitat for beetles, fungi and lichens, plus many invertebrates.
  • Small piles of logs provide sheltering, egg laying and hibernation sites (or hibernacula) for common frogs and other amphibians.

Compost heaps

Compost heaps are living habitats that can be full of earthworms and other invertebrates, as well as fungi and soil bacteria:

  • Open compost bins and heaps make attractive nesting sites for hedgehogs.
  • Cold-blooded creatures, such as slow worms and grass snakes, often visit such sites to take advantage of the heat released by decomposition.

Composting your garden waste is free and easy to do, producing compost for your garden and providing benefits to wildlife.

TIP: We recommend you rake the leaves to a sheltered, quiet area of the garden to encourage undisturbed nesting sites.

What can you do to help?


Simply creating or retaining piles of fallen leaves, making a log pile or starting a compost heap within your Naturespace will provide both fantastic food sources and shelter for local wildlife.

Leaf Piles

Leaf piles should be left for two years!

During autumn, deciduous trees will lose their leaves, so the easiest thing to do is to locate a small area in the garden to allow the leaves to collect in.

How to maintain your leaf pile

You should leave your pile undisturbed for two years if possible. Whilst in place, this provides an excellent natural nesting habitat for hedgehogs and bumblebees.

After one year, create another leaf pile. By staggering their creation, year after year you will have a good supply of leaf-mould that will help your soil absorb nutrients by introducing fungi, whilst also ensuring that you are not removing the nesting habitat.

Log piles

Attracting wildlife offering habitat & shelter

Log piles are very easy habitats to create, as you can simply leave piles of woody cuttings from trees and shrubs directly on the ground. If you don’t have your own wood, you may be able to obtain logs from firewood sellers, tree surgeons and gardeners.

The best location for a log pile is in a damp and shady area, as a lot of sunshine can dry out the wood. It is also a good idea to place log piles in areas of your Naturespace that are less disturbed. Larger and thicker logs generally tend to attract more wildlife, as they offer more potential habitat and shelter.

How to maintain your log pile

Log piles require very little maintenance. The longer you leave a log pile, the more benefits it will have for wildlife, eventually supporting a range of fungi and providing refuges for small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

TIP: Older, decaying logs may even contain invertebrate larvae and eggs that could hatch and quickly begin using your log piles.

Compost Heaps


There are many ways to compost, so choose one or more methods that suit your Naturespace, both in terms of size and aesthetics. The main three types are:

Plastic Bins

  • Composts quicker because the heat is retained
  • Ideal for a small space

Wooden Slatted Bins

  • Allow wildlife to climb in and out easily
  • More natural-looking

Open Heaps

  • Allow wildlife to climb in and out easily
  • Works well in a larger space

Managing your compost bin

How to create your compost bin

  • You can buy compost bins made from slatted wood or you can make your own using wooden pallets. The compost bin should ideally be at least 1m x 1m x 1m to allow the heap to heat up, and also be resting on soil.
  • Temperatures can reach as high as 50 – 60°C. Putting carpet over the top of an open compost bin can help retain heat and speed up the decomposition process.

What to put in your compost bin

Compost bins need a mix of ‘green nitrogen-rich’ and ‘brown carbon-rich’ matter. The finer you shred the material before putting it into the compost heap, the quicker it will rot.

  • Green matter includes vegetable peelings, grass cuttings and plant material.
  • Brown matter typically comprises of cardboard, newspaper, shredded paper, egg boxes, dead leaves and wood chips.
  • Don’t add meat, cooked food, dairy products or pet waste; if you avoid these you are much less likely to get rats visiting your heap!

How to maintain your compost bin

  • Layering green and brown matter as much as possible will result in great compost.
  • Turning or forking over the compost speeds up the process, but isn’t essential, and be careful if you do so as many animals may be living in the heap.
  • Within a year, you can spread the rich, fine compost over your soil and anything that is not fully rotten can simply go back on the compost heap.
©Earthwatch 2018  

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Unless otherwise credited, all illustrations © Chris Shields, and all wildlife photographs © Steven Falk
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