Pollarding -/pälərd'ing/ - technique

June 24, 2020

Definition: A method of pruning that involves cutting the branches at the top of a tree.

Why do Forest Garden farmers practice pollarding?

Pollarding can be used to shape a tree, restrict its height, or create a more dense and even canopy.  Many Forest Garden farmers also perform pollarding on timber trees to maintain a good central trunk and use the branches as fodder for their livestock. Additionally, a farmer can use pollarding if there is too much shade in their garden preventing crops from getting adequate sunlight. 

Pollarding-Friendly Trees

For timber trees, it is best to begin pollarding when the tree is around 6 years old to avoid damaging the integrity of the tree. However, fast-growing trees can be pollarded when they are much younger; around 2-3 years old. Here's a shortlist of pollarding-friendly trees: 

- Cordia africana
- Calliandra calothyrsus
- Leucaena trichandra
- Faidherbia albida
- Acrocarpus fraxinifolius

- Grevillea robusta 

Pollarding vs. Coppicing

The terms pollarding and coppicing are two common pruning techniques used to promote growth but there is one main distinction. When coppicing a tree, a farmer will cut the tree near the ground; around 6 inches above ground level. When pollarding a tree, a farmer will only prune the top of the tree once it has grown several feet tall. Additionally, when pollarding, a farmer may choose to cut an entire branch or just a portion of it. They may cut all of the branches or just a few.  In our program, farmers are using coppicing (pictured above) much more frequently than pollarding.