How I Use Pruned Branches in My Garden

Here are a few ways you can make use of discarded woody materials in your garden.

clippers pruning brushes

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When you have a lot of trees and shrubs in your garden, you will soon find that a lot of woody matter accumulates. While some people prefer to undertake minimal pruning—and I am one of them—I do find some pruning is necessary for the health of the plants and for space reasons.

But pruned branches certainly not have to go to waste. Rather than sending garden waste for municipal recycling, you should make use of woody materials—and all other green waste—in your garden. 

I make use of pruned branches in my garden in a range of different ways. So to help you work out how to make use of this natural resource, here are some ways I use them on my property:

Hugelkultur Beds and Growing Areas

Person adding partially decomposed biomatter while making a Hugelkultur no-dig raised bed
Making a Hugelkultur no-dig raised bed. Sanghwan Kim / Getty Images

One key way I have used pruned branches in my garden is in the formation of hugelkultur growing areas. Hugelkultur is a German term that means "mound culture." It involves creating mounded raised beds with decomposing woody material at their core. The woody material is a skeleton below a coating of other organic materials, which are built up in layers. These layers are then covered with topsoil/ compost/ loam into which plants can be placed. 

The woody material in Hugelkultur growing areas slowly breaks down and creates a rich, fertile, and moisture-retentive environment for your plants. The capacity of these types of beds to store water means that they are a particularly good choice in water-short areas. But they can also work well in somewhat wetter climates like my own. 

Wattle Fencing/Bed Edging

A wattle fence made of thin old branches
A wattle fence made of old branches.

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Pruned branches can also be used to make rustic wattle fencing or low wattle fences which work very well as bed edging. By using the pruned branches of a range of different trees and shrubs to make your fences, you can achieve a wide range of interesting decorative effects. 

The pruned branches of some trees (willows and elder, for example) will also easily root, allowing you to use them to make new hedgerows or living fences (fedges) for your garden. 

Pruned Branch Trellises and Plant Supports

Close up of a handmade wooden trellis tied with twine in a garden.
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Sturdier branches pruned from the trees in my forest garden can also be useful in building trellises and other plant supports. Stronger branches can be used as uprights for a trellis structure, while smaller, more pliable branches can be woven at intervals between them to give climbing or vining plants a structure to climb.

You can also use two long straight branches as uprights for a trellis, and string natural twine between them. 

I use smaller, twiggier branches to provide support for peas in my garden. The twigs sticking out from the sides give peas plenty to cling onto as they grow. 

Pruned Branch Row Cover Frame

Another project I have undertaken using green, pliable pruned branches is making a tunnel-shaped row cover frame. I used four long bendy branches to make the arches, and straighter branches along the top and sides to hold them together. You can use this same idea, or simply make other tented structures from a few branches, to make a range of cloches or plant covers to extend your growing season and protect plants against the cold. 

Pruned Branch Basketry and Other Crafts

Hands weaving a rustic basket

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As well as using pruned branches for the garden uses mentioned above, I have also used pruned material in basketry, and in a range of other crafts. If you are a crafty person, you can easily make rustic baskets to collect homegrown produce or have some fun with other arty projects. I have also cut circles from larger pruned branches and decorated these using pyrography, for example, to use as rustic markers in the garden. You could also shave a flat section on sticks and burn on the names of plants, and use these as plant labels. 

Chipped Branches–For a Range of Uses

Those branches that I am not using for other things, I chip using an electric garden shredder. I then use this wood chip to replenish the paths through my forest garden and in other parts of my garden each year. Of course, the wood chip also has a wide range of other uses in your garden. 

When you think about how you can keep garden "waste" around, you will soon find that what so many throw away or ignore can actually be very useful in your garden, and in your home.