I have been thinking more and more recently about how I can garden in a more environmentally friendly way. I have been spending time on the internet searching for ways I can limit my impact on the environment. One of the ideas I have come across is using coppiced products in my garden and on the allotment.
Coppicing is a traditional way of managing woodland in Britain where trees are carefully cut to ground level and the new shoots that emerge are managed until they are the right size to be cut down again. I always thought it was only trees such as Willow and Hazel that were coppiced, but most deciduous trees and shrubs can be coppiced including chestnut and oak. However, the time between coppicings can vary greatly from 1-3 years for Willow and up to 20-40 years for Chestnut and Oak. Coppicing is an excellent way of producing timber without having to replant and it is also incredibly important way to manage habitats. The cutting down of trees in small areas of woodland allows light to reach the woodland floor encouraging herbaceous perennial plants to grow, this in turn supports a whole ecosystem of mammals, invertebrates and birds. As the shoots grow from the coppiced stumps the open glade is gradually shaded out but then in another part of the wood a new glade is opened up as a different section is coppiced. Creatures such as woodland fritillaries and dormice thrive along with bluebells and primroses. Unfortunately, Britain lost 90% of its coppiced woodlands during the 20th century (figure from http://www.beanpoles.org.uk).
This is where gardeners can come in. What gardener hasn’t got a stash of bamboo canes in the shed? I have, although I have never been much of a fan of bamboo. I appreciate it is an amazing plant that has many uses but it doesn’t really blend into a Welsh cottage garden. I have always been envious of various TV gardeners and their supply of Hazel poles or twiggy pea sticks but I don’t have any trees to provide me with these alternatives. Then I came across the website http://www.beanpoles.org.uk, which was set up to support the coppice business in the UK. The people behind the website want gardeners to buy locally grown, ecofriendly beanpoles instead of bamboo canes. By buying coppiced products you can support the local environment, wildlife, rural jobs and ancient skills and traditions.
To promote knowledge of coppicing and the products that can be purchased for the last 4 years there has been a National Beanpole Week. Next year this week is to be held from 21st April to 29th April. I have found a local coppicer who is holding special events during that week that the public can go along to and best of all I can get hold of my own supply of beanpoles and twiggy peasticks. Even better than just minimising my impact on the environment I will actually be helping it by supporting an important part of habitat management.
For more information and to see if there are any National Beanpole Week events taking place near you take a look at the following websites: http://www.beanpoles.org.uk/ and http://www.coppice-products.co.uk/.