Trees are planted at a close spacing to encourage them to grow straight and to achieve good quality. This is usually at a 2m x 2m spacing for conifers and 2m x 1.5m for hardwoods.
When a plantation reaches an age of around 14 – 17 years it is generally time to carry out a first thinning on the site. A useful guide for conifers is when the trees are approaching a height of 9 – 10 metres.
Hardwoods such as ash, sycamore and alder are usually ready at a lower top-height of around 8 meters.
First thinning focuses on putting in a rack infrastructure in the plantation and generally a light thinning out of the trees. Racks are where a complete line of trees is removed. The racks are installed at either 1 in 7 or 1 in 8 intervals depending on the site conditions and layout. Trees to be removed are those of poor quality and poorly performing trees. In general between 25 – 30% of the trees can be removed in a first thinning.
In general, the products of a first thinning are pulpwood and pallet. Stake-wood for fencing can also be cut depending on market conditions and the stand quality.
Most first thinning sites are managed on a standing sale basis That is where the timber buyer purchases the timber standing and pays a price per tonne. These prices are negotiated by Enfor prior to the harvest.
Prices vary on stand quality, site access, timber market conditions and timber haulage prices.
Plantations are thinned on a 3 – 5 year basis depending on site productivity.
At this stage Enfor will often mark the timber to be removed with tree paint. This gives a higher degree of control in the type of thinning to be implemented.