Products from dead or dying yard trees- Tree Planting and Care

approved DNR firewoodMaking use of dead or dying trees—from firewood to your own lumber.

Firewood, fence posts, sawlogs, to a garden bench are examples of wood products that can come from woodlots of any size, including your backyard.

Wood Chips/Mulch

Branches can be chipped by the homeowner or by a local tree service company with a chipper. Chips can be used in your own gardens and give trees a fresh start.

photo: Pile of wood mulch



Firewood is a common use of dead or dying trees. This is a good idea if your trees are small, crooked, or you have leftover limbs and scraps from making other wood products.
You should dry firewood before using. Oak should be dried for 2 years because it loses moisture slowly. Elm needs to dry for 1 year. Dry wood burns cleaner.

Approved DNR firewood

NOTE: Firewood cut from fresh trees or trees with insects and disease can contribute to the spread of pests to nearby healthy trees. Because of this, many communities have ordinances to guide you in storing your firewood. If your community has no ordinances, treat your firewood by:

  1. Removing the bark while the log is still green, or

  2. Cut the tree into firewood lengths and stack so both ends of the log are exposed to good air flow for faster drying. For fresh green wood from April 15 until July 1, totally cover the pile with heavy plastic (4-6 mil) taking care to bury the edges of the tarp with soil.

Oaks that died from oak wilt within the past year should not be moved, in any form, into areas where oak wilt is not found. More information on oak wilt »

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates the movement of firewood in the state. More information »



photo: Fence made out of tree limbsFence Posts

You can make fence posts from white and bur oak. When you cut logs for fence posts, include some heartwood (center wood). Heartwood resists rot and your fence posts will last longer.

Logs over 5 inches in diameter should be split in half and bigger material split into thirds or quarters. Stack the logs loosely and dry them at least 1 year before using them. Wood dries faster in the summer and split wood dries faster than whole logs.

Red oak doesn't make a good fence post because it rots in the ground after a few years.



Saw logs

Sawlogs are large logs that can be cut into lumber. They usually come from the straight trunks of trees. The minimum size for a saw log is 8 inches in diameter and 6 (sometimes 8) feet in length. Add an extra 3 to 5 inches in length in case the end of the log cracks while it dries. You can paint or wax the ends of the log to reduce cracking.

When you make your sawlogs, cut the limbs off flush to the log. If the curve of the tree (sweep) is great or the tree is crooked, it won't make a good sawlog.

photo: Portable saw mill. Photo by Eli Sagor


photo: Saw Log pattern. Photo by Eli Sagor

You may be able to sell your sawlogs. Check with local sawmills or advertise in the newspaper.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates the movement of firewood in the state. More information »




You will get the best return for your unwanted trees if you use them to make your own lumber. Sawlogs converted to green (fresh-from-the-saw) lumber can be adequately air dried outdoors for rough construction uses such as sheds, barns, fences, and crates.

You can haul your logs to a sawmill or hire a portable band sawmill company to come to you.


photo: Lumber created from saw log photo by Eli Sagor


approved DNR firewood

To air-dry your freshly sawn lumber, separate each layer of boards with stickers (small 1 inch by 1 inch pieces of wood, 4 feet in length). The stickers should be dried wood or they could stain your lumber. You should space the stickers every 2 feet, perpendicular to the lumber. Place the outside stickers as close to the ends of the lumber as possible and limit your pile to 4 feet wide. Store the lumber 12 inches off the ground, under a roof, and air-dry for 2 years, preferably on the south side of a hill or building.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture regulates the movement of firewood in the state. More information »