Hazel cultivation

Hazel grows quickly with a large number of stems on coppice stools.

The young shoots are supple which makes them perfect for weaving.

weaving hazel

Hazel can grow as a small, single stemmed tree, but as it tends to be shrub like and grows a number of stems from the base. Buds open in April and the shoots grow throughout the summer. The leaves stay on the trees until October or November. The female flowers tend to be wind pollinated and the nuts ripen in September and October. 

Hazel grows best in sunny conditions. After it is coppiced, the dormant buds on the stool and under the ground will begin to grow.

When in rotation very little hazel dies off when coppiced, stools can live for several hundred years. When neglected stools can become unstable and may only live for 70 - 100 years. 

Hazel coppice can either be grown as simple coppice, or coppice with standards. It is traditional to grow hazel with oak standards. A neglected hazel coppice, however, can have too many standards that have not been thinned and the hazel regrowth will be stunted due to the increased shading. 

A stool density of about 1500 per hectare will give a good yield. Hazel is best cut at between 6 and 10 years when the butt diameter of the stem is about 7.5cm

Forestry Commission have produced a good guide on restoring hazel coppice

Pests and diseases By Prof. Julian Evans

Strouts and Winter list rather more diseases and insect pests than for chestnut but in my experience none is widespread and damaging. It also suffers a bit from the bacterium Xanthomnas causing some death of buds and spotting of leaves. The main problem trying to grow good quality hazel is deer damage.


Mammal browsing by John Bailey of Sussex Environmental Pest Solutions

Hazel coppice can become susceptible to damage from deer and rabbits in the early stages of re-growth. When food is short, rabbits will find hazel coppice irresistible even balancing on their hind legs to browse off the bark and leader shoots. To prevent rabbits from browsing the hazel re- growth I have found several methods that work. Fencing is the favoured ecological approach; however it can be quite expensive and labour intensive to erect, also restricting other wildlife within the woodland. The least favoured ecological approach is to carry out rabbit control using phostoxin. Through experience of managing hazel coppice woodlands, I have found this method to be “90% successful” but fumigation must be carried out by experienced trained personnel.

Deer are seen as the number one offenders and cannot resist newly coppiced hazel re-growth, often using the coupes as MacDonald's drive through’s. The top method of control/prevention is to fence off the entire compartments and cull the deer fenced off inside, however this method is very expensive (see Forestry Commission for advice on grant aid). Other solutions are available however they are not very effective. (See deer deterrents).  It is from experience that if you are thinking of coppicing large areas of hazel without rigorous pest control the objective laid out in the site plans will fail or fall short of the mark.    

 Further reading

Identification and prevention of mammal damage to trees in woodland

Comments on this article

Richard 27 October, 2012

Hi.

When would you sow hazel, for optimum growth? How can you tell if the nuts collected are viable?

I planted several nuts, straight from the tree, late September last year. I stored them in my polytunnel over winter, covered with glass panels, to prevent predation. Nothing grew. What is the dormancy period of hazel nuts? Am I expecting too much, too soon?

Thanks.

Lee Taylor 7 November, 2012

Rabbits can be controlled with an air rifle or by ferreting, delicious free range meat. Squirrels are also a problem and are much harder to control.

Mike Baillon 24 December, 2012

Hello, I am going to be needing approx 2000 feet of 1 to 2" diameter of coppiced hazel for a project beginning next year. Does anyone know where I may be able to buy such an amount?
Thanks,
Mike

Linda Marner 6 June, 2013

What is the best time of year to coppice hazel?

Paula Hajnal-Konyi 23 February, 2014

I planted two hazel trees a couple of years ago and although they look healthy as yet there are no catkins. Do you gave to wait several years before the catkins appear?

Paul Lentz 22 June, 2014

I have planted around 300+ hazel they where around 80-1.0 high. When should i first cut them to promote them to be come coppice stools?

Ozzy 28 July, 2014

When I coppice hazel for stakes and binders, for hedge laying, I use all the waste trimmings to cover the stools to protect from browsing. It's quite effective though you can see that the deer still reach over and get some. However if the covering is high enough it will protect it enough to allow the shoots to grow past the point they are so tempting.

patrick 23 November, 2014

what can you use coppiced hazel for .

Roger Martin 12 June, 2015

I have a row of 9 hazel bushes, formerly overgrown, but recently cut back, with the few remaining shoots producing a good nut crop. How frequently should I cut them back in rotation (three at a time?) to maintain nut supplies?

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