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Sun Jan 29, 2012, 10:08 PM

Better Living Through Permaculture: Coppicing and Pollarding

A couple of years ago, while introducing myself to permaculture, I stumbled across coppicing and pollarding as a means of sustainably harvesting wood for fuel, building materials, and other uses. The concept is quite simple: if you cut a deciduous tree when it is dormant — i.e. during January/February in the northern hemisphere — the tree will remain alive and send up new shoots from the trunk the next year. The only difference between the two terms is the level at which you cut the tree. Coppicing is cutting the tree near ground level, while pollarding is when you cut the tree about 6′ above ground level — often after it has started to branch out. A good simple description of the methods can be found here. It is important to note that this method can be used ONLY for deciduous trees. Evergreen trees can NOT be coppiced — cutting them kills the tree.

Now, your intuition may be telling you that by cutting the tree we’re injuring it. But it’s actually the opposite — coppicing and pollarding makes trees more healthy over the long term. After you cut it the first time, it will be ready for another round of coppicing or pollarding in 5-20 years, depending upon the species of tree. By rotating the harvest of trees or groups of trees to provide a crop of wood each year, we can maintain a consistent, sustainable supply in perpetuity. And I really mean in perpetuity, not only for ourselves but for future generations. There are stumps in Europe that have been continually coppiced for over 500 years, and the trees are still alive and producing new growth!

There are very real reasons that the health of a tree improves with coppicing or pollarding. First, when the above-ground portion of the tree is removed, a corresponding dying-back occurs on the tree’s roots. After these roots die back, they rot away into rich humus over time, providing valuable nutrients and soil aeration. Second, by cutting back the mass of the tree, we cut back any portions succumbing to disease or fungus before it spreads throughout the entire tree.


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Reply Better Living Through Permaculture: Coppicing and Pollarding (Original post)
IrateCitizen Jan 2012 OP
JDPriestly Feb 2012 #1

Response to IrateCitizen (Original post)

Wed Feb 1, 2012, 03:35 AM

1. Thanks.

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