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right time to cut/coppice trees

Allan Laal

Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 32
Location: Estonia
I live in Estonia (South of Finland and Sweden), we have a cold temperate climate with snowy subzero winters.

I've heard that the best time to cut down trees is when they have no sap. Makes sense, since there is less moisture to dry out when seasoning. It is reportedly also the best time to coppice/pollard trees.

When is that magical time, where there is no sap in the trees? Is it right after their leaves fall off or even before that?

Im asking since there is a very very narrow window (between when the leaves fall off and when there's over 1 meter/3 feet of snow) to cut all of my building material, firewood and poles.
Country: Estonia (Northern Temperate. affected by Baltic Sea)
Snowy, cold winters w 6 hours of daylight and 18 hours of utter darkness in january.
Wet, windy, sunny summers w 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight in july.

January avg -18 ºC, (-0.4 ºF), min -34.6 ºC (-30.28 ºF) -> 44mm/1.7" snow
July avg 23.4 ºC (74.1 ºF), max 35 ºC (95 ºF) -> 72mm/2.8" rain
Yearly: 646mm/25.4"
Sam White

Joined: Mar 08, 2011
Posts: 217
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
I don't think I can answer your question specifically but I may have a little insight to share. I've heard of Swedish coppice workers felling coppice while the leaves are still on the tree... The theory is that the green leaved draw water from the trunk and help to reduce moisture content through evapo-transpiration.

I'll try and find out where I heard/read about this.

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
Allan Laal

Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 32
Location: Estonia
I've actually used this technique when I've had to cut firewood in the summer

You cut the tree down, but leave the branches on.
The leaves will suck moisture from the trunk - it will be "done" in a few weeks, when the leaves have fallen off.

Birch for example retracts all of its sap into its roots in my climate. When spring comes and the first buds appear, the sap will start to come up from the roots. I can see this with birch stumps i've cut down in the winter - they foam up quite well.

I do not however have any idea when exactly the sap will be retracted into the roots. My logic says that falling leaves are a sign of this, but i might be wrong - its certainly a sign of less sap in the tree, since it cannot support leaves any longer.
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5486
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
     One advantage to cutting broadleaf maple when it's in full leaf is that the branches fall more slowly as though they're wearing a parachute. This allows me to knock the piece off quickly without back cutting and I don't experience bark tearing as might happen with bare branches that fall quickly before my chainsaw finishes the cut. 

     In many cases when felling small trees the parachute effect makes the whole operation safer. Often when I cut a tree that is less than 10 inches on the base I will cut it off quickly and then push hard on it so it falls exactly where I want it to. The slight lag time provided by this parachuting effect makes  this a more accurate operation.


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