Trees - Coppicing
Coppicing has been practiced in British woodlands for centuries.
The purpose was to produce wood in a sustainable way for a variety of uses.
Historically the large timber was produced for ships, houses, and furniture, and the smaller timber was used for items such as making baskets,fencing, hurdles, tool handles, and the debris was used for firewood and making charcoal.
The word coppice is derived from the French couper which means to cut.
Coppiced trees and their produce are known as underwood.
The cut tree stump is known as a stool, and the shoots, depending on their harvested size, as rods, poles or logs.
It is best carried out on deciduous trees that do not bleed when cut, for example; alder, ash, beech, hazel, hornbeam, lime,oak,sweet chestnut, sycamore and willow.
Timing is also important, the best time for Coppicing to ensure that the tree/s are not under undue stress is during the winter dormancy period when the the bark is less likely to tear when cut.
Eventual replacement will commence the following spring when new growth appears.
The rotation is subject to the type/s of trees being coppiced, and could be anything from 5-25 years between cuttings.
This rotational cutting sequence leaves the woodland in various stages of regeneration.
Coppicing specimens down to a stump about 600mm (24”) tall in early spring can have a dramatic effect on its final appearance.
The practice restricts the size of trees, and all the tree's energy goes into a burst of rapid young growth in early summer, plus the leaves tend to grow larger than usual.
A cut stump, will produce many new shoots, rather than a single main stem.
This is particularly useful if you grow trees/shrubs for their leaf and stem colour, e.g. dogwoods / cornus, and willows, for their coloured stems, and eucalyptus for its bluish foliage.
Shortening stems to within 10 -20mm (½” -¾”) of the stump each year circa Week 18 will ensure a continuous supply of young growth.
If growing Hazels, to produce straight canes for supports or living barriers in the garden, coppicing every few years around Week 10 will ensure a plentiful supply.
Branches should be cut with a sharp billhook or handsaw. (A chainsaw may required to remove thicker branches.)
The cut should be sloping to allow water (rain) to run off and prevent the ingress of disease / decay.
Similarly ensure that the branch/s are cut cleanly through and that the bark is not stripped off the trunk when they are severed.
Cuts should be made 150-200mm (6"-8") above ground level.
The new growth should be protected from animals with the use of wire mesh or wicker fencing.