Trees are coppiced for two major reasons, conservation and timber (firewood).
The process involves scheduled cutting of a tree employing regular tree felling methods, as well as gathering up the cut up wood and leaving some brushwood behind to rot.
If you have no idea how to begin then keep reading, in this article, I’ll be giving you all the information you need on coppicing trees.
How To Coppice Trees
There are a few steps required for proper tree coppicing. I will list them out below.
Clearing the work area
Before you begin work, you have to make sure the tree area is free from removable obstacles. Start by clearing out any shrubs or decayed wood that could limit your access.
Also look out for planted stones, as they can damage your saw.
As you clear the area, remember that you have to leave the stump and roots alone so they can re-sprout later.
Felling coppice regrowth
Do a quick study of the tree and make up your mind on the direction where you want the stem to fall.
Consider these factors as you decide on the stem felling direction.
- The lean and most likely direction of the fall
- Intertwined tops
- Ease of cutting the base
- Space to drop the stems
- The size of the tree stem
- The direction of the wind and its force
- Safety spots for you after cutting
Considering these factors would help you make the right decisions and avoid mishaps.
Follow these steps
Step 1: Cut off any new growth around the outer part of the stool. Be sure to cut as close to the ground as space permits.
Step 2: Be sure that anyone around is at a minimum distance of twice the length of the stem you are about to cut. Having someone on the lookout for people arriving in the area is a good idea.
Step 3: If the stem you are cutting is up to 8cm on diameter, then you can cut them straight through. You can support the weight of the stem with your free hand as you saw using the other.
Step 4: If the stem is up to 15cm in diameter, then you can make an undercut from the side facing the direction you want the stem to fall.
Begin cutting at an angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal point. It vital that the bark of the tree is not tampered with, it must remain tight to the wood.
In the early stages, most trees will get hung up. For you to disentangle these, simply lift the bottom pull it away briskly. Some trees may be too heavy to carry, this is where an extra set of hands will come in handy. They can assist you to safely bring the tree down.
Be sure to handle hung up trees immediately as they can pose a threat to passers-by. Restrict everyone from walking beneath them until they have been properly taken care of.
A chainsaw can be very useful for coppicing trees. Be sure to have enough know-how before using a chainsaw on such a delicate task. Also wear protective gear when working with the saw.
After you make the cuts, you should pile up all the brushwood or excess timber into stacks so they can rot down, or burn them if you have no use for them.
Best Season To Coppice Trees
The months of September running through March is recommended for coppicing trees.
Tools and gear you will need
You can Coppice trees of various sizes, so the tools you will require will depend on how large or small the tree is.
Make sure the tools you are using are in prime condition so you can get the best results.
Below is a list of all you will need.
- A first aid kit (in case of accidental injuries)
- Protective gloves
- A hard helmet (hard hat)
- Bow saws
- A felling ax
- A pair of loppers
- A shovel
- Strong ropes
- Anchor pins
- Sharpening stones
If you are not working alone, then make sure others are putting on personal protective gear as well.
The Best Species for Coppice Forestry
Several species of trees can tolerate coppicing, however, the best species for coppice forestry will be determined by the specific conditions of your area.
Below, will list out some of the best species for coppice forestry.
Alder: The Alder tree is one of the fast-growing tree species that provide excellent firewood. When they are interspaced, they provide a lot of nitrogen to the eco-system.
Many Alder species can be maintained as thick bushes and they respond well to coppicing.
Black Locust: This is another tree species that help provide abundant nitrogen to the system. The wood derived from the black locust tree is very hard, so they are also great for firewood.
These trees are packed with flowers, which makes them a haven for pollinating insects.
Elderberry: This one of the very few tree species that can be coppiced, but still provide food. The elderberry tree provides clusters of delicious, juicy berries that are rich in nutrients and vitamins which have been proven to strengthen the human immune system.
Elderberry wood is not as hard as the others, however, its softness makes it a great candidate for grinding into garden mulch.
Willow: Willow trees are fast-growers, especially when they are planted in wet surroundings. These include streams and rivers.
Coppiced willow wood can be used to weave baskets or as mulch for your garden.
Chestnut: This one of the most popular trees for coppicing. Its wood is of very good quality, and it also provides edible, nutritious nuts for animals and humans alike.
Eucalyptus: The eucalyptus tree is a fast-growing tree that usually grows out of proportion. Nonetheless, they can be managed properly as coppiced species.
The good news is, the juvenile foliage is significantly smaller and rounder than mature foliage so they re pretty easy to manage.
Other tree species that can tolerate coppicing practices include elm, ash, and oaks. With proper practices and tools, coppicing can offer many functions to your landscape layout.
Reasons For Coppicing Trees
If you’re a beginner who has too much of a soft spot for your trees, then you may consider tree coppicing to be a brutal act. This is because tree coppicing requires that you cut trees back hard down to the ground.
However, cutting back hard isn’t as harsh as it seems, since the coppiced tree will bounce back with amazing new growth. The new growth will allow you to determine the new shape and size you want for your tree since you can prune it into the form of your choice.
Coppicing can also lead to the growth of vividly colored stems and foliage. This depends on the tree species of course.
A coppiced tree can also provide excellent screening in the future since it is bound to grow more vibrantly. You can use coppiced trees as border shrubs.
Besides its ornamental benefits, coppicing trees is a simple way to manage a large tree (or trees) in a small garden. For instance, if you have a large tree close to your home planted in clay soil, coppicing the tree will slow down the growth of its roots thereby curbing the threat of subsidence.
Removing the tree is an option, but that would mean you have lost your tree. If you still want to have your tree around, then coppicing to control its growth is your best bet.
Experienced arborists agree that managing a tree with the potential of growing too large is far better than removing it. Coppicing the tree to a manageable size for your yard or garden is always the better option, that is if the tree can tolerate it and is not hazardous to the environment.
Since coppicing takes advantage of the tree’s natural growth patterns, then cut off stems will be rapidly replaced by fresh, healthier shoots. If it’s a large tree, then the root system will channel the energy used in feeding the former large stem into producing a new one.
Pollarding and coppicing have for long been a vital aspect of wood management. For ages, the practice has been used to generate fuel (firewood) as well as building materials. Coppiced wood can also be used to make different kinds of home and office furniture.
In the present day, many conservationists are leaning back to the practice of coppicing in a bid to increase biodiversity. Cutting trees back creates space in the woodlands which will allow better penetration of sunlight and encourage other trees and wildlife to thrive.
Chestnut and hornbeam trees used to be the most common candidates for coppicing, but now many more trees have been discovered to respond well to the practice. As long as the trees are well established and have not experienced grafting in the past, then they will respond well.
The act of coppicing trees is popularly practiced for the sake of controlling large tree growth and deriving timber for building or firewood.
I trust the information provided in this article has been helpful.