When I was younger, forests had always been beautiful, unmanaged, wild and regenerative landscapes; human involvement was only for play and learning. Yet, as I began to understand (I was a late bloomer) the layers of forest ecologies I slowly learned that humans now play, and have played for many years, an integral role in the cycle of forests. In this post, we'll be diving into a particular practice of human intervention termed, Coppicing and Pollarding.
This form of agroecology has its roots all over the world and in the last few centuries has gained environmental traction in the UK. Ben Law, (mentioned above and in image) is a fellow I've been following for around four years now - his books (among those listed below), go pretty deep into not only copping and pollarding but also the financial structure of resilient forest management, cottage industries, and water restoration.
For instance, sweet chestnut, ash, hornbeam and yew are just some of the tree species Law focuses on in his books - listing average pricing/acre @ around $1200/yr. From timber to food and and from animal forage to biochar. Not to mention sustaining the living habitat for man years.
For a clients property, we're in the design phase of focusing on their perimeter fence line - taking the old design of a hedge, and incorporating coppicing/pollarding and edible fruits = "Fedge", or fruiting hedge. Not only creating a visual and sound barrier from the road but also cultivating an abundant food/timber-producing habitat.
Here's the working plant list (not complete) - mimicking layers of the forest here:
Black locust/Honey Locust: Prime species for this, edible blossoms, nitrogen fixer but also one of the most important fast-growing hardwoods for firewood production
Willow (woven throughout)
Willow (woven throughout)
Shrubs: Early succession of edible/Medicinal crops:
Ground Covers / Mulching
Oats, Rye, Clover
Lupine, Marigolds, Daylily, Comfrey, BeeBalm
Inoculate woodchip mulch with king stropharia (wine cap) mushrooms
On our homestead here in Oregon, there's a beaked hazelnut (a solid coppicing species) - its wedged between the fence-line and our wood storage. We use it for woven bamboo fence posts and kindling. Note the catkin growth, a sure sign of when one should be pruning (coppicing/pollarding).
Whether you're on a small urban lot or a multi-acre homestead, this practice and other agroforestry techniques can greatly improve abundance, habitat and livelihood!
*** "Tree Crops" (1929) was one of the catalysts for permaculture (1970's) - note the byline: A Permanent Agriculture!