The Survival Podcast Forum

Farm, Garden and The Land => Permaculture, Land Management and Foraging => Topic started by: I.L.W. on September 28, 2010, 09:36:47 AM

Title: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: I.L.W. on September 28, 2010, 09:36:47 AM
Looking for ideas and suggestions. In spring I will be planting approximately 1½ acres for firewood.  Here's the details of the site and my requirements:

• Flat, low ground with an average of 28" of rain per year.
• Zone 6 in Western NY.
• No on-site irrigation in the planned grove area. It's on a well, and water's too valuable.
• The house require 8-10 face cords per season for heating.
• I'm looking to establish a 10 year rotation using coppicing.
• If at all possible, I'll be harvesting wood sizes that don't require splitting and only need one year to season.

So far, I'm considering mountain ash as the primary wood tree.  Fitting about 400 into the area (20 rows of 20, harvesting 40 per year). Ash seems like a good choice because of it's manageable size, good burning properties, and as a natural habitat for turkeys which are all over the surrounding area.

I'd like to plant a second species of tree in there for wood burning in case of blight or crop failure.  Are there any good nitrofiers that grow the same approximate height and spread that are good for burning (high BTU output)? Something that can be coppiced is preferable compared to things that require replanting. 

I know the Grid shape isn't exactly the preferred layout in permaculture systems, but I need to be able to get a truck between the trees and have room to drop them regularly.  I've also considered a circular layout, divided by driving paths bisecting it (like slices on a pizza).  I can harvest one wedge at a time and populate the center with taller trees like chestnut and a mulberry undergrowth to improve the turkey habitat.  Are there any other good symbiotic relationships with ash trees?  Other planting layouts that give me access, but look more natural or are more conducive to rapid growth?

Anyone used permaculture principals to grow a firewood crop?  What might you suggest to give me advantage over traditional planting arrangements?
Title: Re: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: bartsdad on September 28, 2010, 09:56:03 AM
Not a direct answer, but I've been thinking about adding a grove of Hybrid Poplars as a fast growing alternative wood source to compliment what trees (mostly oaks) I pull branches and dead fall from now.

One Google example talking about hybrid poplars (
Title: Re: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: I.L.W. on September 28, 2010, 10:25:25 AM
I was considering poplar, but their pollen (like cottonwood in the same family) is a common allergen.  Even though I'm unaffected, planting an acre or two of it will not win me any friends amongst the neighbors.  You can get cloned cuttings of all male plants, but the cost is almost double that of rooted seedlings.

Using the ring layout I mentioned, I could have a concentric circle of poplar within the ash grove to give me a more diverse selection of tree species, and since fewer would be needed, the expense of the guaranteed male clones is less of an issue.  I could also establish my own male clones from cuttings.  It would push the first harvest a few years out, but again, as a supplement to the ash, that's not a big concern.  I wrote it off as an option before, but it looks like there may be a place for it in my system after all.


Instead of using other trees to supply nitrogen, I can use the regular chopping cycle to plant tender legumes.  A clover bed will do well in the newly exposed areas where light gets through.  A few odd locust trees interspersed can be used, but those arrangements will be more erratic. To prevent shading, I would have to alter my cutting pattern from wedges, to more of a spiral from the taller growth in the center. 
Title: Re: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: kopid03 on September 29, 2010, 05:16:13 PM
Do you know if wood gasifiers can be used to both create electricity and to heat a home?  Or just one or the other?  I was wondering how many acres of wood would be needed to provide a households electricity and heating needs.  According to gasifier websites, it takes about 2 pounds of wood to produce a kilowatt/hr with a gasifier.

I know you can use fast growing trees with coppicing, and you can find out how many feet they will grow per year.  Is there a way to find out how many pounds a tree will grow in a year?  Kind of a weird question and probably has too many variables, but it would be nice to know to estimate how many trees would be needed.

Also, after putting wood through a gasifier, you would be left with charcoal correct?  This could be used for heating purposes to get even more energy from the wood.
Title: Re: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: radtke on September 30, 2010, 01:46:39 AM
one good thing about poplar is once it is established the roots will send up a lot of little trees when you cut it down. that's one of the reasons i cut it to burn in my outdoor wood boiler.i was told that the little trees that come up are clones of the parent tree.
Title: Re: Firewood Grove Planting
Post by: I.L.W. on September 30, 2010, 06:46:35 AM
one good thing about poplar is once it is established the roots will send up a lot of little trees when you cut it down. that's one of the reasons i cut it to burn in my outdoor wood boiler.i was told that the little trees that come up are clones of the parent tree.

What you're referring to is "coppicing (", a harvest technique that works on about 60% of tree species.  Basically you cut it a few inches from the ground, and a few dozen new shoots start to grow from the stump on already established root stock.  As such, they grow faster.  About 80% of the roots underneath die back, allowing worms and fungus to take hold.  Over many years, the practice enriches the soil.  The soil changes over 50 years parallel what happens in natural forests of 400-500 years. Any tree that lacks that capacity to regrow is considered a poor candidate for home-scale firewood production.  Poplar definately falls into the category of "Good Plants" for just that reason.  It's also very fast growing, and puts out a high BTU rating per mass of wood.  I'm definately considering it as a possability.  Mountain ash exhibits many of the same qualities, but doesn't require as much log splitting.  They grow at a more even rate, so on a 10 year cycle, you get nice 6"-8" logs. It's got a higher BTU/Mass ratio, (1 log of ash = 1.3 logs of poplar in terms of heat produced over 1 hour).  The most compelling reason for me to add poplar is to have a diversity in tree species.  If a pest, fungus or virus hits the grove, I want to have at least 5 years of wood for harvest with any one species destroyed, allowing me time to replant the failed crop.

Is there a way to find out how many pounds a tree will grow in a year?
Pounds is a poor metric for measuring it's capacity.  Some woods will be berrter suited than others due to density, chemical composition etc.  Weight would also depend on water content.  As for how much will grow in a year, no one can say with any individual tree, there are too many variables (annual temperatures, rainfall, soil composition, light exposure, the presence or absence or disease or infection etc.)

We can get pretty good estimates when comparing trees 1-2 thousand at a time.  We'll know the average output.  Before planting, make sure you have the soil tested, know your average annual rainfall, and if possible a light map. 

Tip: To make a quick light map, install Google Sketchup. 
Plot roughly your house, slope of the land, and the height and width of neighboring
trees or building that may shade the plot. Then turn on shadows, Rotate so north is
north, set the time/date and advance it through 1 Hour at a time for 1 year.  The
shadows will be cast and the output can be saved to image files to overlay your
property map, or to a video.

Once you have that data, contact your local extension office.  The'll have details on what suitable firewood trees can be grown in your region, and how quickly they'll grow based on those above factors.  Even then, there's a high margin or error, as no one can completely anticipate the quailty of any property for any given crop.  But if you come back with 3-4 species and plan the lot accordingly, you'll be able to see what trees do well.  Overplant in terms of the quantity you think you'll need, and plant more densly than you normally would, culling any that prove to be poor candidates by the time of your second harvest cycle (15-20 years from inital plant date).  By then you'll have enough trees to root cuttings for replacement and optimize your output.