Chestnut Wood lot

Growing high value timber trees in a food forest


In the realm of sustainable agriculture and forestry, the concept of a food forest intermingled with high-value timber trees presents a unique approach to land use. This blog post delves into the intricate world of cultivating a diverse array of trees that yield not only nutritional and ecological benefits but also significant economic value in the usable wood products they can produce. Central to this venture is the strategic selection of tree species such as Black Cherry, Black Walnut, Oaks, and Chestnut, each chosen for their unique attributes of high-quality timber to wildlife support and soil enhancement. The role of fast-growing species like Alders in enriching the soil and growing wood for mushroom cultivation adds another layer to this diverse yield approach to creating a food forest beyond just food.

Black Cherry wood lot

The journey from establishing a woodlot to realizing its full potential requires meticulous planning, from site preparation to tree planting. Regular maintenance, including pruning and monitoring pest and disease, plays a critical role in the health and productivity of the woodlot. The post will also highlight the significance of smaller wood crafting trees like Osage Orange, Cornelian Cherry, and Hazelnut, which offer both economic and ecological value.

From crafting exquisite furniture to intricate woodworking projects, the potential uses of these timbers are as diverse as the species themselves.

This blog post is not just about growing trees; it's about fostering a sustainable, productive, and ecologically responsible approach to forestry. It's an invitation to understand and embrace the long-term benefits of cultivating a high-value woodlot and food forest, balancing economic gain with environmental stewardship. Join us in this journey of exploration, understanding, and growth.

Selecting the Right Trees

Selecting the right trees for a high-value woodlot and food forest is a critical first step in establishing a productive wood lot. Trees such as Black Cherry, Black Walnut, Oaks, and Chestnut not only offer substantial economic value but also play a vital role in enhancing biodiversity and providing additional yields of food and wildlife habitat. Black Cherry, known for its rich, dark wood, is highly sought after in the furniture and cabinetry industry. Its preference for well-drained, fertile soils makes it a suitable candidate for many temperate regions. Black Walnut, another prized fast growing species, is renowned for its dense, strong wood and distinct grain pattern, often used in high-end woodworking and veneer production. This tree thrives in deep, fertile, well-drained soils with full sun exposure. Oaks, with their numerous temperate loving species, are a cornerstone in a high value woodlot, providing sturdy timber for construction and furniture. They are adaptable to various soil types but commonly prefer well-drained, acidic soils. 

Black Alder Woodlot

In contrast to these hardwoods, fast-growing trees like Alders play a unique role in plantings designed for timber yields. Alders, particularly known for their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, enrich the soil, making them ideal for rehabilitating degraded lands and can produce a different kind of timber value. Their rapid growth and ability to thrive in wet, poorly drained soils along with being a preference for many types of cultivated fungi make them an excellent choice for mushroom log cultivation. 

For successful timber production, key management techniques of each tree species is paramount. Regular maintenance, including pruning, thinning, and pest management, ensures healthy growth and maximizes the woodlot's productivity. By carefully selecting and managing these trees, one can create a diverse, productive, and ecologically sound woodlot that provides both economic and environmental benefits.

Establishing Your Woodlot

Establishing a successful woodlot requires pre-planning and crucial decision making, starting with site preparation and planting. The key is to create an environment conducive to the growth of a variety of tree species, each with its unique requirements. A critical aspect of this is determining the appropriate spacing of trees. For many high-value timber species, tight spacing is often recommended to encourage vertical growth, leading to taller, straighter trunks ideal for timber production. This is particularly important for species like Black Walnut and Oaks, which are prized for their straight, knot-free lumber. However, it's essential to balance this with the need for adequate space for root and canopy development.

When it comes to planting techniques, each species demands a specific approach. For example, Black Walnut trees require deeper planting holes to accommodate their long taproots and should be planted young to avoid damaging their taproot, while Chestnut and Alder trees, with more fibrous root systems, may need shallower but wider spaces. The planting process should also consider the soil type, drainage, and sunlight requirements of each tree.

Evergreen wood lot

Maintenance and care of the woodlot are ongoing tasks that significantly impact the health and productivity of the trees. Using tree tubes is a good way to protect your trees from deer browse and encourage straight growth. Deep watering is crucial, especially in the early stages of growth and during dry periods. However, over-watering can be just as detrimental as under-watering, depending on the tree species and soil type. Pruning is another essential aspect, particularly for high-value timber trees. Strategic limbing and pruning help avoid knots in the wood and encourage straight growth, which is highly desirable in timber markets. 

Beyond these individual care aspects, the overall ecological balance of the woodlot must be considered. Biodiversity and companion planting withs support species play a significant role in creating a resilient and healthy ecosystem. Diverse plantings not only support a wider range of wildlife but also aid in pest control and disease resistance. Companion planting, where certain plant species are grown together to mutually benefit each other, can enhance soil health, improve water retention, and even increase the growth rate and health of the timber trees. By carefully planning and maintaining the woodlot, one can ensure a productive and environmentally sound land use, providing long-term benefits both economically and ecologically.

Osage Orange Wood Grain

Smaller High-Value Timber and Crafting Trees

Smaller high-value timber and crafting trees, such as Osage Orange, Cornelian Cherry, and Hazelnut, hold a special place in the realm of sustainable forestry and artisanal wood lots. Osage Orange, known for its exceptionally hard and durable wood, is a standout species in this category. Its wood, characterized by a distinct bright yellow to deep orange color, is not only aesthetically pleasing but also boasts remarkable rot resistance and strength. This makes it highly sought after for tunewood in musical instruments, where its density and resilience contribute to superior sound quality. Additionally, its use in bow-making, particularly for traditional archery, highlights its flexibility and strength. 

Other crafting trees like Cornelian Cherry and Hazelnut offer their unique contributions. The Cornelian Cherry, known for its dense and fine-grained wood, is ideal for intricate woodworking projects, including carving and turning. Its wood's durability and beautiful finish make it popular for crafting small, decorative items and precision tools. Hazelnut, on the other hand, is prized for its strong, pliable wood, making it suitable for weaving projects and small tool handles. Both these species, while smaller in stature, are valuable for their nuts and ornamental qualities as well, adding an extra layer of utility to a woodlot.

Cultivating these crafting trees requires attention to their specific needs. Cornelian Cherry thrives in well-drained, fertile soils and can tolerate partial shade, making it versatile in terms of placement within a woodlot. Hazelnuts prefer a similar environment and require little sun if you’re not focusing on nut production and can thrive in a variety of soil conditions. Pruning and shaping are crucial for both, especially if the goal is to produce wood with specific qualities or dimensions. By incorporating these smaller, high-value timber and crafting trees into a woodlot, one can diversify their woodlot portfolio, adding both ecological and economic value to their land.

Fine Wood Working

Harvesting and Utilization

Sustainable timber harvesting techniques are crucial for maintaining the health and productivity of a woodlot while ensuring the longevity and ecological balance of the forest ecosystem. One key method is selective cutting, where only mature, over-mature, or diseased trees are removed in already established woodlots. The goal is to minimize disturbance to the surrounding trees and wildlife, maintaining the forest's overall structure and biodiversity. Another sustainable practice is shelterwood cutting, which involves the removal of trees in stages. This method allows for a gradual regeneration of the forest, as younger trees get ample light and space to grow once the canopy opens up. This method not only maximizes land use but also benefits the soil and local ecology. Sustainable harvesting also includes attention to the timing of cutting (to avoid nesting seasons for birds and other wildlife), leaving buffer zones around waterways to protect aquatic ecosystems, and ensuring the minimal use of heavy machinery to reduce soil compaction and erosion.


This post has explored the multifaceted benefits of growing high-value timber trees within a food forest. Key takeaways include:

  • Selection of Suitable Trees: Choosing the right trees, such as Black Cherry, Black Walnut, Oaks, Chestnut, and fast-growing species like Alders, is crucial. These trees not only offer economic value through their wood but also enhance biodiversity and soil quality.
  • Establishing a Woodlot: Careful planning and execution in site preparation, planting, and tree maintenance are vital. Attention to species-specific needs, such as spacing, soil type, and sunlight, ensures healthy growth and optimal productivity.
  • Diversity with Crafting Trees: Incorporating smaller, high-value trees like Osage Orange, Cornelian Cherry, and Hazelnut diversifies the woodlot. These trees are not only valuable for timber but also for crafting and their ornamental and nut-producing qualities.
  • Sustainable Harvesting and Utilization: Adopting sustainable harvesting techniques like selective and shelterwood cutting is essential for the longevity of the woodlot and the surrounding ecosystem. The harvested wood has a wide range of uses, from high-end furniture to intricate crafts, contributing to a sustainable economy.

Growing a high-value woodlot offers long-term ecological and economic benefits. It's a commitment to sustainability, biodiversity, and responsible land use. By considering the individual and collective needs of different tree species and their potential uses, one can create a thriving, productive, and environmentally sound woodlot that can produce beautiful timber products.

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