Howdy Ryan, and welcome to permies. Where are you located and what sort of soil conditions are you planting into? Mixed plantings are good, especially with some nitrogen fixers (like black locust and alder) in the plan.
posted 4 weeks ago
Hello, this is zone 6 and clay soil. Any thoughts on crop spacing?
Spacing is mostly about whether you want understory such as pasture, herbal ley, or crops like berries in between. Also, after you cut, there will be an interval of full sun which you can use to your advantage with an annual crop.
It's also important to give yourself enough room to maneuver when you go in to cut and remove your rods. My main coppice plantings are willows interspersed with hazelnut and chestnut, and the average spacing is probably 1.5 - 2 m. The willows are on a two-year rotation, which works for the size of poles I tend to like. I haven't coppiced the hazels yet but I may start thinning the rods that they produce. A couple are grafted and the markings have disappeared, which complicates this approach, so I will probably leave those alone.
So given your requirements, climate & soil, I have a couple of thoughts. But first, how are you starting these guys off? Seed? Live tree w/root ball? A cutting? Something else I missed?
At any rate, assuming that you are starting off with small stock, I would space the black locust close together, maybe even as close as 2-3 feet apart, and then thin as they grow. This will help you to get an abundance trees on a small acreage, and give you some initial small poles, and then let the larger ones grow bigger until you are ready to cut them. I would consider keeping the black locust separate from the chip-producing section for ease of handling.
For the chip production, I would consider any or all of the following: poplar, cottonwood, alder, silver maple all as upper story trees. I would also consider something like Russian or Autumn olive for a lower story. All of the species I have mentioned are fast growing and are fairly soft wood. They will give a plenty good volume of chips and they will tend to break down quickly in a garden.
Autumn olive especially is useful for chip production (and not much else). It easily coppices, grows quickly, spreads to any open part of land, and low growing branches will even root into the ground and start a new bush.
As far as spacing, I would not get too concerned about spacing Autumn olive. It pretty much spreads on its own. As far as the taller trees, I might start with double or triple staggered rows spaced 5’ apart to start, then thin to 10’ apart after an initial thinning harvest. In short order you will have more chips than you know what to do with.
Hope this is helpful and please keep us updated.
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