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Firewood - Black Locust Woodlot Idea - Previously Posted by Mike - Merit?

 
Colin Johnson
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Hello Guys,

Can anyone with woodlot experience and / or experience with this tree reply in relation to Mike's idea below? Is this feasible? What are the pros and cons?

Plant 600 trees in a grid 8 by 8 feet. After 2 years you cut the 120 trees closest to the south. This wood will be about 2" in diameter, good for kindling. Doing this will give extra sun light to the trees behind them. Next year (year 3) you cut the next 120 trees behind them. Year 4 you continue cutting your way back. By now you are cutting trees that are about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Year 5 you have only 120 original trees left. They are 6 inches in diameter which means, no splitting. Cut them down and use them. You should get enough wood from those 120 trees to heat your house that winter.

Up to this point, you have been increasing the amount of wood you cut every year. You would say, now what?

Year 6 you will be cutting down the first lot of 120 trees you cut 5 years ago. They regenerate! Those trees you cut on year 6 will also be 6 inches in diameter. Year after year you will be cutting 120 trees that are 6 inches in diameter. Life expectancy of a poplar is 40 years.

Do you think your trees are getting old? Use some of the cuttings you get every year (you get thousands) to plant new trees.

You have heard that poplars do not give you the BTU that other woods do. That is correct, hybrid poplars will give you about .6 of the energy you can get from hard woods, such as hickory or maple but this shortcoming is offset by the amount of wood these trees generate.

black locust would give you more BTU's and are fast growing, nitrogen fixers.

Regards,
Mike
 
allen lumley
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Colin : The heart of your question is found in the part I highlighted !
Colin Johnson wrote:Hello Guys,

Can anyone with woodlot experience and / or experience with this tree reply in relation to Mike's idea below? Is this feasible? What are the pros and cons?

Plant 600 trees in a grid 8 by 8 feet. After 2 years you cut the 120 trees closest to the south. This wood will be about 2" in diameter, good for kindling. Doing this will give extra sun light to the trees behind them. Next year (year 3) you cut the next 120 trees behind them. Year 4 you continue cutting your way back. By now you are cutting trees that are about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Year 5 you have only 120 original trees left. They are 6 inches in diameter which means, no splitting. Cut them down and use them. You should get enough wood from those 120 trees to heat your house that winter.

Year 6 you will be cutting down the first lot of 120 trees you cut 5 years ago. They regenerate! Those trees you cut on year 6 will also be 6 inches in diameter. Year after year you will be cutting 120 trees that are 6 inches in diameter.
black locust would give you more BTU's and are fast growing, nitrogen fixers. Regards,Mike


This is possible because the practice of Coppicing or pollarding trees keeps the tree from both maturing and declining (Senility), they do regenerate, However
this practice is almost unknown in America, and there are only a few English speaking places you can go to for Absolutely reliable information, start your search here !

Links below :

http://www.permies.com/t/43201/woodland/Dave-Jacke-Coppicing-Pollarding-great

http://www.permies.com/t/43257/blatant-advertising/Black-Locust-Article


Good luck and good hunting ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Rebecca Norman
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Pollarding for this purpose is standard around the Himalayas. Especially willows, which like poplars in the quote above don't have a lot of density for burning, but regenerate so well it doesn't matter. Nobody here grows them in standardized blocks like that, though, and once they are established, you can harvest every 3 years, not wait for 5 or 6.

For example, our school's outside sitting area is all planted with willows. Every spring we pollard whichever area of willows seems ready with big strong thick poles. We use the straight ones for roofing sticks or replanting, and crooked ones for firewood. It took a few years for the trees to get well established, but now each one gives huge amounts of sticks every 2 or 3 years. They look like great big ugly stumps right after you pollard in March or April, but by June they get dense bushy growth, and by August they give shade again. Actually the pollarded ones give much denser darker cooler shade than the unpollarded natural shaped ones.
 
George Marsh
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I have never grown or I think even seen a black locust tree myself, but I do have some limited experience with Coppicing. To me, this example seems rather crowded. If I'm understanding the math of this idea correctly, it's 600 trees being planted in 64 square feet.

Now, my experience with Coppicing is with Willow Trees, yes, totally different to Hybrid Poplars of which I have no experience. When we planted Willows, we planted them in the centre of a 18 inch ring that had been previously mulched with wood chips to prevent competing plants. If you needed 600 Willow, this would be a much larger area than 64 square feet. I have no experience with Black Locust, but they seem to have more in common with Willow in regard to how much they like to spread.

I would imagine the idea would work, set out your 600 trees in a grid, give them 2-3 years to grow and start harvesting as per the example. I think you would need to work out how much room the Black Locust would need after being coppiced. I am aware of someone who is looking to do something similar with willow trees, but their intention is to combine this with sewage treatment.
 
Mike Haych
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George Marsh wrote:I have never grown or I think even seen a Black Locust tree myself, but I do have some limited experience with Coppicing. To me, this example seems rather crowded. If I'm understanding the math of this idea correctly, it's 600 trees being planted in 64 square feet.

Now, my experience with Coppicing is with Willow Trees, yes, totally different to Hybrid Poplars of which I have no experience. When we planted Willows, we planted them in the centre of a 18 inch ring that had been previously mulched with wood chips to prevent competing plants. If you needed 600 Willow, this would be a much larger area than 64 square feet. I have no experience with Black Locust, but they seem to have more in common with Willow in regard to how much they like to spread.

I would imagine the idea would work, set out your 600 trees in a grid, give them 2-3 years to grow and start harvesting as per the example. I think you would need to work out how much room the Black Locust would need after being coppiced. I am aware of someone who is looking to do something similar with willow trees, but their intention is to combine this with sewage treatment.



I think it's 1 tree per 64/sq feet. 600 trees would require 4/5 of an acre. Black locust thorns are nasty. I was sticking cuttings yesterday to get more trees and drew blood a couple of times. Working with branches would require a good pair of leather gloves. Populars and black locusts have different shapes. Black locusts have more of a vase shape and might require more room unless tight planting would force more vertical branch growth. At the rate they grow, it would be fairly easy to determine planting density. The attached document looks at planting density and yield over time of a number of trees including black locust.
Filename: Biomass production in the Central Great Plains USA under various coppice regimes.pdf
Description: Biomass production in the Central Great Plains USA under various coppice regimes
File size: 142 Kbytes
[Download Biomass production in the Central Great Plains USA under various coppice regimes.pdf] Download Attachment
 
Peter Ellis
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Initially i also thought how are you putting six hundred trees in sixtyfour square feet, and then I realized it is six hundred trees planted on a grid spacing of eight feet. Tight but not impossible
How fast the black locust would grow depends oyour specific environment, but the concept certainly can work. Britain has a longstanding tradition of coppicing for various purposes.
 
Mike Haych
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Peter Ellis wrote:Initially i also thought how are you putting six hundred trees in sixtyfour square feet, and then I realized it is six hundred trees planted on a grid spacing of eight feet. Tight but not impossible
How fast the black locust would grow depends oyour specific environment, but the concept certainly can work. Britain has a longstanding tradition of coppicing for various purposes.


I think that the factor determining spacing would be how much fanning out the branches do since that could affect felling. Poplar does very little fanning so I can pack them quite tightly. Also, my experience has been that different black locust trees grow at different rates. I have some that are 2 and 3 times the height of ones planted at the same time that are 8 feet away. It would require some pruning, I think, to keep each year's growth area more or less uniform. I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to let the trunk at the cut point exceed six inches. That gives me a size that does not need splitting and will be far easier to cut with a crosscut saw. It'll be interesting to see how this works over the next couple of years. Also, interesting to see how sticking cuttings works since that will give a big time jump over starting from seed.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Coppicing and pollarding are great and underused techniques in N. America.

I will throw my ten cents worth of spin on it.

Never plant all one species or variety, ever.

Why you ask? Well, here's one of a dozen reasons. What if an entire species, and your species of choice, gets some terrible tree disease and you firewood patch all dies. Yuck! The emerald ash borer and chestnut blight are two examples that come readily to mind.


My take on this is that I planted some:

local willow

hybrid poplar

local maple

hybrid chestnut

=thornless= honey locust

many different fruit trees (which make great firewood by the way...)

oaks

hickories

northern pecan


etc.


I will always have something to cut.


Then, on the other side of the equation, I am remodeling/superinsulating my house (r-50), such that I will only need 1/3 to 1/4 of the firewood of a normal r-12 house. So my woodlot might end up substantially less than an acre and heat my house forever.


finest regards,


troy



 
David Wood
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Good to hear someone addressing the thermal energy performance side of house heating. Something like 40% of energy use around the planet is in buildings. Reducing energy required for heating reduces the amount of wood needed to heat a house, which means less land needed for growing firewood. Super insulated houses as mentioned by Troy use a tiny fraction of the heating energy consumed by standard poorly insulated houses. There's a lot of good information on this topic at greenbuildingadvisor.com. Insulation in the form of cellulose and sheep wool is grown so represents a low-energy renewable product.
 
George Marsh
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Mike Haych wrote:I think it's 1 tree per 64/sq feet. 600 trees would require 4/5 of an acre. Black locust thorns are nasty. I was sticking cuttings yesterday to get more trees and drew blood a couple of times. Working with branches would require a good pair of leather gloves. Populars and black locusts have different shapes. Black locusts have more of a vase shape and might require more room unless tight planting would force more vertical branch growth. At the rate they grow, it would be fairly easy to determine planting density. The attached document looks at planting density and yield over time of a number of trees including black locust.


Knew there was something wrong! Still the spacing seems odd for Hybrid Poplars. I thought the recommendation was significantly larger than 8x8, but again, this is a tree I don't think I've ever seen.

This is the system I have the most experience with http://www.thewillowbank.com/willow.firewood.facts.htm, still doesn't help you with black locust I'm afraid, might give you an idea or two though.

Great document Dave, thanks for sharing that.

Cheers.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Black locust once established spreads amazingly by roots, putting up suckers wherever it finds opportunity. They can happily grow to harvesting size on an 8 x 8 spacing, given that you cut either the fattest or weakest ones to keep the canopy healthy. You are likely to start getting some closely spaced small trees that you will want to thin. 6" for black locust is large enough that it will be a major chore to cut - it is one of the hardest woods there is. You are unlikely to get trees that size in much under 10 years in groves I have seen. But it is definitely worth growing, and if you have more going on on your land than a suburban house there will be innumerable uses for this naturally pressure-treated timber (only ones larger than 2 or 3 inch diameter, though. Smaller ones rot pretty fast.) Personally I would never burn locust unless it was too small or crooked for other uses. There are lots of other trees whose best use is firewood.
 
Mike Haych
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George Marsh wrote:This is the system I have the most experience with http://www.thewillowbank.com/willow.firewood.facts.htm, still doesn't help you with black locust I'm afraid, might give you an idea or two though.


How large is your willow rotation? How old is it?
 
Peter Ellis
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Troy raises an important point. If you are going to plant a "woodlot" for your fuel needs, then it not only makes sense to diversify for the reasons Troy gave, but it also makes sense to follow the permaculture concept of stacking functions. If you're going to plant a bunch of trees that can serve as "nurse trees", nitrogen fixers, or just pest traps if they're spotted throughout a food forest, wouldn't it make sense to do that, and then you take your fuel and cut back the nurse/nitrogen/etc. trees as one exercise.

In a permaculture design, I don't think I see a reason why I would plant a specialized fuel woodlot. I might manage an existing area of woods primarily toward that end.
As I see it, in permaculture if you are going to do a planting, it should fulfill multiple functions.
 
Mike Haych
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Having cleared ash from our our woods, I definitely want a specialized fuel woodlot. I want it in straight lines and as neat and controlled as I can make it. In this case, I think maximizing yield for the least effort trumps function stacking.
 
David Wood
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Certainly a lot easier to manage coupes with power equipment if the trees are planted in lines. I prefer the look of coupes with a more irregular planting pattern but if you want to use a tractor/ATV with a slasher or find trees in long grass to avoid them while using a walk-behind slasher or brushcutter, it's a lot easier with a regular planting pattern.

Grass/weed management for young trees often gets ignored when non-forestry folks are planning coupes. Particularly in fire-prone areas it's a serious issue. And your neighbours won't thank you if you are providing a reservoir of weeds and cover for ferals like foxes in Australia. Stock such as cows and sheep can't be run with young trees as they will eat them or trample them.
 
Mike Haych
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David Wood wrote:Certainly a lot easier to manage coupes with power equipment if the trees are planted in lines. I prefer the look of coupes with a more irregular planting pattern but if you want to use a tractor/ATV with a slasher or find trees in long grass to avoid them while using a walk-behind slasher or brushcutter, it's a lot easier with a regular planting pattern.

Grass/weed management for young trees often gets ignored when non-forestry folks are planning coupes. Particularly in fire-prone areas it's a serious issue. And your neighbours won't thank you if you are providing a reservoir of weeds and cover for ferals like foxes in Australia. Stock such as cows and sheep can't be run with young trees as they will eat them or trample them.


Even if there's no diesel or gas involved, it's more efficient. Whether it's a woodlot or a permaculture orchard, yields will be easier to obtain and higher if the lines are straight. I think that applies to all plant-based food production. It's certainly the case for Sobkowiak and Shepard. Even Lawton grows some food plants in straight lines.
 
George Marsh
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Mike Haych wrote:
George Marsh wrote:This is the system I have the most experience with http://www.thewillowbank.com/willow.firewood.facts.htm, still doesn't help you with black locust I'm afraid, might give you an idea or two though.


How large is your willow rotation? How old is it?


Mike - Sorry, didn't see this until just now.

What I worked with was an older Willow plantation that was being expanded. When I was helping out, they had roughly 3 acres, with trees upwards of 20 years old. We were adding another 2 acres to this.

From what I remember this was well over 20 years old, most likely upwards of 40 years. Now I have no idea if the trees themselves were that old, I just know that there was a history of the Willow Grove in the family. They used the Willow for multiple purposes, they sold a lot of it to Willow Weavers, they burnt the larger logs and they chipped whatever was left over to use as mulch for weed control.

When we were expanding the plantation, there was an idea to use part of it to treat sewage, but I never saw this happening and I don't know what came of it.

Just re-reading everything and realized it was your document I was thanking someone else for. Need to stop reading this on my phone! Anyways. Thank you.

Cheers.
 
Mike Haych
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George,

Thanks for the details. I've actually been in contact with Willowbank regarding the Salix species that they are growing. No point in experimenting with different species if someone's already done the work.
 
David Wood
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Thinking about this in the Australian context, willow is not popular with Australian catchment management authorities as it is an invasive exotic. There are a large number of Australian natives that coppice. And other northern hemisphere species that do well here but aren't as weedy as willow.

It's surprisingly difficult to find authoritative information on yields from coppiced trees in Australia over any length of time. We're hoping to capture some data of this nature.

Coppicing as practiced in Europe has traditionally been used to produce a range of products including material like rustic gates, bean and pea poles and so on. We don't have that tradition here. People wanting garden stakes, for example, tend to buy them as milled hardwood stakes from a nursery or one of the large hardware chains. For a successful coppicing industry in Australia, as well as people actually growing coppiced coupes, there would also need to be a behavioural change for gardeners and so on to buy the coppiced products.
 
Micky Ewing
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I also object to your monoculture planting plan, but you clearly have your reasons, so I won't belabor the point. I do think your cutting plan can be improved, though, and you may appreciate my input there.

Your quote describe a lot which will all be planted at once and which will be harvested in rows from south to north (I assume this is for the northern hemisphere; for our southern hemisphere colleagues I'll refer to these as the sunny and shady sides from here on). Here's a visual representation of this plan:



Now, let's take a profile view of the lot just prior to the 4th harvest (8 years in):



See how the trees harvested in the first year are now casting a shadow over the ones harvested later? This will result in slower growth for most of your woodlot, and the problem never really goes away. Now obviously you'll be harvesting more than one row of trees in each harvest unless your lot is very long and shallow, so you will only see this shading effect at the area boundaries, but there's a way to avoid it completely. Just cut from east to west or west to east.



Now all trees in a given harvest will have equal access to the sun for their regrowth (with the possible exception of those at the sunny edge which may benefit from their position if they are next to a clearing or may suffer if they are next to forest).

 
Matt Banchero
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I've never managed Black Locust as a coppice per say, but I've cut a handful of them in my years running a tree service.

They will always sprout like crazy, but they are often root suckers instead of stump or root crown suckers like you're going to want. Meaning, we've cut down one small tree which quickly sprouted a thicket through the whole yard. This is a tree that can take off on you, so make sure it's in a location where the trees can stay, black locust is really hard to get rid of once established.

If you are managing for short rotations you want as much of the growth as possible focused on the main trunk to minimize the labor involved in handling and processing. So thinning and pruning from a couple years to final harvest will be really helpful.

I personally wouldn't use black locust unless I had a goat to help with thinning the most stunted stems and to prune back the lower limbs.


 
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