Ash Cultivation

Ash is a tree native of the UK and will grow in most soil types, although it prefers low land chalk or limestone. Ash prefers damp conditions and needs lots of light. Although ash seeds freely it is very popular with sheep and rabbits which can restrict regeneration.  The seeds can often be deeply dormant and may take 2 - 3 years to sprout after sowing, but initial growth can be rapid, as much as 50 - 100cm in the first year. This rapid growth can continue until the tree is 40 years old. The tree begins to bear good seed crops at about 25 - 30 years old, with maximum seed production at 40 - 60 years. It is best to collect seeds in August and plant them when green. 

Ash seedling

Ash may live up to 400 years.Below is a photo of a veteran ash in Glen Lyon

veteran ash

 Ash was often used as a standard tree in hazel coppice, in Southern and midland England, and coppices well itself. Ash coppice is often worked on a rotation of 25 - 35 years. The regrowth emerges from pre- existing dormant buds under the bark. Ash may grow as much as 1.5 - 2.5 m in its' first year after being cut, and even more in the second year - before it slows down. Julian Evans points out that if an ash tree is felled in late winter or early spring the stump will stay dormant all through that year and only sprout coppice the following year. It will appear dead, but it isn't!

Large coppiced ash

Photo by Jane Adams of a overstood ash stool on a boundary. 

Ash is excellent for a great many coppice and woodland products. See the 'products' section of this website to read more.

Comments on this article

Gordon Allison 4 May, 2011

When can I coppice the ash trees I planted in 2007? Some are now 14' tall.

sue hannam 15 September, 2011

what's the answer to Gordon Allison's question? my ash trees were planted 2008 & a few have shot up & are about 14' tall. Should I cut back yet to encourage side growth for coppicing? thanks for your help.

Giles Nicholson 24 September, 2011

There isn't actually a "right" answer to this. Most people would allow at least 10 years before the first cut, but once established you can coppice when the trees are at the size you find useful. So 8-10 years is typical but anything in a 4-20 year rotation is not uncommon
Giles from MammothWillow.co.uk

phil bovill 20 October, 2011

thanks for good advice on coppicing ash trees only site to say when to coppice!!

Kate Leevers 12 December, 2011

Please could you tell me how near the ground level ash should be coppiced? Our contractors cut our 23-year-old ash trees knee-high and higher, with sharply slanting cuts, the trees look odd to me as I'm more used to the look of coppiced hazel close to the ground.

Tracy 12 December, 2011

Hi Kate
I guess there is no real specific answer to this. Ash coppice grows a little differently in that it often 'stands up' - develops legs if you know what I mean! So, it would be better to coppice higher where the new base is. The slopes are to help water to run off, but I don't think that they need to be very slopey, as it will affect the regrowth. Try asking your contractors, they might be able to tell you more about why they have cut it that way.
This is how our ash coppice looks:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikepepler/5093824067/
Hope this helps!

Joanne Leggate 30 December, 2011

I am planting Ash trees in my garden to be coppiced in the future for fire wood. Please would you tell me how far apart they should be spaced. I am planting seedlings that are 1-2 years old and approximately 60-90cms tall. Thank you.

sam 30 December, 2011

hey im interested in growing ash coppice as a fuel crop on my small holding. would i be able to do a regular rotation of about 4 to 8 years without killing the trees? since its only for firewood and occasional tool hafts.

Tracy 26 January, 2012

Some personal opinions from Julian:

When to coppice ash? Or perhaps, 'How soon can ash be coppiced'. The answer depends on whether one wants to use the original ash stems themselves. If 'no' and the aim is to develop multiple shoots of ash asap, then coppicing at 2 or 3 years will usually achieve this - remembering always to protect the new shoots from rabbits and deer. If 'yes', you want to use the original ash stem, then wait until it is the size you need and then coppice, again remembering to protect the tender shoots. I would add another caution. Ash shoots are very frost sensitive, so anyone in a bit of a frost pocket might run a risk of damage. Interestingly, while this will cut back some of that year's potential, it may lead to even more coppice shoots emerging.

Tom 5 February, 2012

I'm also interested in planting a Ash coppice for firewood and am wondering what the best planting distance would be?

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