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What to do with small ash trees?

 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 149
Location: Emporia, KS
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Well, I feel like a fool. When I moved to east-central Kansas, I asked the local nursery if I could grow pecans, and the answer was no, they wouldn't grow in our heavy clay soil. I soon found out this was not the case; many people grow pecans in town. Two years later, some volunteer trees came up in my flowerbed, and my mother (a Ph.D. botanist who used to teach classes in tree identification) said they were pecans. I carefully moved two of them to the spot in my yard where I wanted them to grow, and I've been nurturing them through drought and disease on the assumption that they are pecan trees.

Last week I went to an orcharding class where the teacher said pecans and ash trees are difficult to tell apart, but one sure way is that pecan leaves and branches grow adjacent, while ash leaves and branches are opposite. Guess which pattern my trees show? They're both clearly opposite. I've got ash trees! They're currently about 4-5' high.

My instinct is to cut them down before they sprout again in the spring, before the roots grow any bigger, and replace them with something more useful. I do have an experiment in progress -- one tree was sicklier than the other last year, so I sheet mulched around it and guilded it, leaving the other in grass, and I was planning to see whether the mulched & guilded tree recovered next year. Aside from that, I'm having trouble thinking of any reason to let them live another year. I thought I'd ask whether any of you could say a few words in defense of ash trees... is there any reason to leave them in a permaculture system? I should mention I have a very small property (1/10 acre), so space is precious. Thanks in advance.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I cut a lot of small ash trees for plant stakes, fence posts, tool handles and all sorts of other stuff. As a matter of fact I just finished the "bones" of a new fenced in area for the chickens to over winter. It holds up well when it's debarked. Lasts a couple years in the wet ground.

I would dig them out if you don't want them. They can grow back pretty well unless you get the root out.
Best of luck.

Here in Maine the Promethea moth caterpillar makes a cocoon in the leaf of an ash tree and then over winters there. Early in the spring they break free and go off in search of "love". Last year I collected a cocoon for the kids to observe and it hatched out one night while we were eating dinner. It's a beautiful and LARGE moth. So... that's a reason to keep the tree.
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Harvested from an ash tree
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1321
Location: northern California
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Traditionally ash is a favorite material for tool handles...including baseball bats; and it is also a favorite firewood, making a pretty good compromise between growth rate and burning quality....
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3352
Location: woodland, washington
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great species for coppice, but that might not be particularly compelling on 1/10 acre. in my experience, they're not overbearing trees, though, so you might be able to keep one without it costing you too much space and sunlight.
 
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