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Help deciding what trees and how many to plant for coppiced firewood?

 
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We have about an acre in the corner of the hay field that gets too muddy to drive on frequently enough that we just haven't been using it. I would like to plant it in trees and coppice them, mostly for firewood but maybe the occasional pole or fence post. I don't really know where to start though so I have a lot of questions :)

We are in zone 5, midwest USA

1. What trees should I plant? To avoid a monoculture I've read that ideally you should avoid having more than 10% of any one plant, so I'm looking for a list of 10 ish trees.  My dad hates how many twigs etc willow trees drop and he owns the land, so that one is out. Trees that sucker aggressively like black locust are unfortunately out for a similar reason.

2. How many trees will I need and how far apart should they be planted? I heat our 2,500 square foot house with an old outdoor furnace and I would like to grow enough trees to supply all our own wood. Probably 4-5 cords per year at least, I'm not sure exactly.

3. How should we protect the saplings from deer?  We have very heavy deer activity in the area in question. Just walking around out there I can see deer droppings everywhere. I read that Beech and Birch are comparatively immune to deer browse, is that true and are there others that are as well?

4. Is there a nursery that sells large numbers of firewood trees for cheap? Most of the nurseries that I'm familiar with only sell fruit trees.

Most of our wood has been coming from a guy who owns a tree service, so I'm used to burning trash wood lol. It doesn't have to be beautiful firewood as long as it burns longer than pine and there is a lot of it. They also doesn't have to be a multifunction tree like Mulberry but if they are that would be neato.

Here is a list of some trees I've been looking at, any comments or anecdotes are welcome.

Poplar, Alder, Cottonwood, Box Elder, Mulberry, Paulownia, Black Cherry, Chestnut, Sycamore

Ash has been highly praised for coppiced firewood, but there is the ash borer beetle to worry about. I have heard that the beetle only goes after mature trunks, so if I coppice it on a short schedule will the beetles leave it alone?
 
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N Stephanson wrote:We have about an acre in the corner of the hay field that gets too muddy to drive on frequently enough that we just haven't been using it. I would like to plant it in trees and coppice them, mostly for firewood but maybe the occasional pole or fence post. I don't really know where to start though so I have a lot of questions :)

We are in zone 5, midwest USA



Great project N Stephanson! I've been planting my field with trees to coppice for wood fuel, but my environment is too different to be of much use for you directly.



1. What trees should I plant? To avoid a monoculture I've read that ideally you should avoid having more than 10% of any one plant, so I'm looking for a list of 10 ish trees.  My dad hates how many twigs etc willow trees drop and he owns the land, so that one is out. Trees that sucker aggressively like black locust are unfortunately out for a similar reason.



I hadn't noticed my willows dropping twigs, but it may be a variety specific thing. Alder (alnus glutinosa) does seem to shed twigs when they are shading each other out, so it may be that by wider spacing you would get less twig drop? I can understand that he doesn't want invasive trees spreading over the rest of his field. Since I wasn't sure what would do well I planted a wide mix of trees. I gather that in classic coppicing - for good quick grown straight wood you should plant blocks of the same species together and cut a moderate area at the same time. This would be less important for wood fuel, but useful for posts etc perhaps. I'm not bothering myself - still in the early stages, but I did try and plant drifts of the same trees rather than intimate mingling of different species (except in my windbreaks).


2. How many trees will I need and how far apart should they be planted? I heat our 2,500 square foot house with an old outdoor furnace and I would like to grow enough trees to supply all our own wood. Probably 4-5 cords per year at least, I'm not sure exactly.


This is a tricky one and depends so much on your envionment and how quickly the trees grow and how big you cut the wood at. I wish I'd planted my trees slightly closer together because they grow very slowly for me (too cold and windy and acid) Mine are about 6-8 ft apart which would be OK for more vigorous growers I think. I planted in offset lines, but it sometimes annoys me that they are in lines. this post suggests a cord of wood per acre per year and also

an owner of a 5 acre wood in South East England is growing about 8 tonnes of useable timber every year.

source
I have about 6 acres put down to trees and I'm not expecting to heat my house properly (old stone 1 1/2 story crofthouse) until I get a lot more insulation in!

3. How should we protect the saplings from deer?  We have very heavy deer activity in the area in question. Just walking around out there I can see deer droppings everywhere. I read that Beech and Birch are comparatively immune to deer browse, is that true and are there others that are as well?


My best suggestion would be to deer fence the whole area! The deer are likely to browse anything green at certain times of year and here they can trash young trees rubbing the velvet off their antlers too. I think Ben Law had success piling brash over stumps until he got good regrowth. My limited experience suggest that's not a good suggestion here, since the only loss I've had in coppicing so far was an alder stump that had inadvertently been covered with twigs. My damp climate was probably a contributing factor though.

4. Is there a nursery that sells large numbers of firewood trees for cheap? Most of the nurseries that I'm familiar with only sell fruit trees.


No comment - I'm sure that in the US as in the UK there are forestry and hedgerow tree suppliers - you normally buy them bare root over winter as tiny trees - they don't then need staking or large holes digging and will establish quicker than a bigger tree which has more transplant stress. Much cheaper!  If you can get locally seed grown trees that would be the best option. Forestry trees in the UK have to be from certain tree stocks so for me were not the best growers and I wish I had sourced more local trees.

Most of our wood has been coming from a guy who owns a tree service, so I'm used to burning trash wood lol. It doesn't have to be beautiful firewood as long as it burns longer than pine and there is a lot of it. They also doesn't have to be a multifunction tree like Mulberry but if they are that would be neato.

Here is a list of some trees I've been looking at, any comments or anecdotes are welcome.

Poplar, Alder, Cottonwood, Box Elder, Mulberry, Paulownia, Black Cherry, Chestnut, Sycamore
Ash has been highly praised for coppiced firewood, but there is the ash borer beetle to worry about. I have heard that the beetle only goes after mature trunks, so if I coppice it on a short schedule will the beetles leave it alone?


I've cut all my ash down because I think I have ash dieback which is going round the UK. Sweet chestnut coppices well and makes durable fencing (above ground) you would need to leave it longer than optimum for wood if you want nut production. Had you thought about Hazel?

Here's a couple of links that may be useful:
https://permies.com/t/166499/Perfect-tree-woodlot
https://permies.com/t/175672
 
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Hi Nathan! I'm thinking about a similar planting and am also in a midwest Zone 5. What did you land on as far as tree species for your coppice planting?
 
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