Friday, December 14, 2007

The Pleasures of Coppicing

One of the pleasures of owning some open land is the challenge of managing the vegetation. Of my ten acres five was farmed until I bought it ten years ago. Now it is growing up into woodland with black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) being the overwhelmingly dominant component of the trees colonizing this land. Those of you who know black locust know that it suckers freely, especially when cut down or when the roots have been cut. I have been cutting the black locust when it gets to be about fence post size. I use the posts in my garden and for firewood while the roots sucker into an interesting grove of uniformly sized trees, which I will cut again in about six years. This practice creates what is called a “coppice” which is a word that can be used as a verb to describe the process or as a noun to describe the forest that results. It is an ancient forest management practice for continuous production of useful wood products. The history and practice is fascinatingly described in a book called Ancient Woodland its history, vegetation and uses in England by Oliver Rackham.

I enjoy the look and feel of the coppice and the process appeals to the gardener in me. It also keeps me closely in touch with these five acres of land as I intimately watch and manage the development of the new woodland. This is one aspect of what I mean by life style gardening. I am doing something similar with a grove of willows I planted along a creek (a topic for another posting).

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