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Managing a woodland for firewood

Relying on your own woodlot for firewood is a lot easier with good tree management

The right management of your woodlot will provide a lot of cozy fires and heat for your home.

Charlie Barden is a forestry professor at Kansas State University. He says the average ten-acre woodlot can produce about five cords of firewood per year. This is enough fuel to provide heat for an average-size home.

The first thing you should do is figure out what species of trees are growing in the woodlot, how many are growing per acre, and how large and healthy they are. Then, select the trees you’re going to chop up.

"Typically, the first trees you want to remove are the ones that don’t look very healthy, they have broken tops or hollow areas and just aren’t growing very well. Those are the best trees to remove because they aren’t adding value or adding wood every year. You can let the more-healthy trees and the smaller, younger trees keep growing," says Barden. "As you remove some of those older, unhealthy trees the young ones will grow more quickly because they’ll get more sunlight, more water, more nutrients."

Barden recommends removing trees in a clump, which he calls “group selection”. This allows more sunlight to help regenerate the high-value firewood-producing trees such as walnuts and oaks.
 
Grow new trees by letting the seeds sprout from where they naturally fall.

"We usually rely on natural regeneration in a woodlot area like this where you’re removing a few trees and letting the others grow back. Especially if you’re cutting smaller-diameter trees, anything 14” or less in diameter, the stumps will actually sprout back and grow very quickly so they don’t even need to be replanted," says Barden. "Just removing the top and then new sprouts come up from the base."

If you’re starting a woodlot from scratch, plant about one-acre-per-year for five years. In 10 years you can start harvesting your first firewood.

Learn more about improving a timber stand for firewood

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