Clever Coppicing - 5000 year old knowledge!
Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Who knows how old Coppicing is? it is an age-old technique that involves harvesting stems from a tree while allowing it to remain actively growing. Many trees and shrubs can be coppiced by cutting them almost to the ground on a cycle, after a certain number of years. Such treatment encourages a bushy growth habit, so rather than just having one central trunk, a coppiced tree will usually send up multiple stems from the base, or stool, of the plant.
Is Coppicing a good idea, though?
Well, it is a way of obtaining timber, or organic material, while still allowing the trees to grow. It stops clear-felling. Imagine in the Amazon, which is being decimated, they had coppiced instead? (I do not even know if this is a possibility, as you know, I am no expert, still learning).
Coppicing can give you wood for fence posts, stakes, and long branches to use in garden fencing, for plant supports, and in other projects. It can also give you firewood for a wood burner or rocket mass stove. Coppicing can also be a useful way to grow 'tree hay' for goats or other livestock. It provides excellent materials for crafting.
Coppice Trees for Permaculture Gardens
I have discovered that these trees are useful within permaculture*
Alder – I have read that this is a 'nitrogen-fixing' tree. It is a good pioneer, great for soil building and fertility.
Ash – good fuelwood, also very useful for a range of crafts.
Birch - good for kindling.
Dogwoods – many with ornamental stems in winter.
Elder – fast growing, food producing tree, another good source of biomass for mulch.
Hazel – nut tree with wood which is great for wattle fencing, stakes, etc.
Lime – coppice strongly, good straight stems, for a range of crafts. Also, edible leaves!
Oak – high quality wood for fuel or crafts.
Willow – many willow species are great for weaving, basketry, and other crafts, and can be used in many ways in your home and garden. (You will have seen my article on Alan Winlow's unique way of using willow recently!).
* From Wikipedia: Permaculture is an approach to land management and philosophy that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole systems thinking. It uses these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience. Permaculture originally came from "permanent agriculture", but was later adjusted to mean "permanent culture", incorporating social aspects as inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka's natural farming. The term was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978, who formulated the concept in opposition to Westernindustrialized methods and in congruence with Indigenous or traditional knowledge.
The National Trust on Coppicing: What is woodland coppicing? | National Trust