The joys of willow

About ten years ago we planted a willow hedge along the back of our garden. There had been a fence there, one panel of which blew down the night we moved in. After a number of attempts to repair the fence we gave up, deciding that a solid fence in such a windy spot was not a sensible option… we wanted something permeable to the wind and that wouldn’t cost a fortune to replace. Willow seemed like a good option, as we hoped that it would also help with our waterlogging problem by making the ground more permeable too.

We planted a row of  ‘sticks’ about 30cm long… it’s about 3m tall now, although it gets cut back and woven every year! Some of the stems (well, trunks now) are about 10cm in diameter at the base. It makes a great hedge, but takes Mr Snail-of-happiness some effort to prevent it getting too big, which leaves us with lots of prunings to deal with. Others would, no doubt, throw them away, but sustainability is about making use of what you have so we…

  • dry it and burn it in our storm kettle for hot water (much more fun than an electric kettle)
  • dry it and use it as fuel for our rocket stove
  • shred it and put it in the compost bins… it makes fabulous compost in combination with chicken poo (more about chicks later)
  • shred it and use it as a mulch
  • shred it and put it direct on our ‘rubbish beds’ (usually called hugle beds, but I like the idea that they are made entirely of waste)
  • give cuttings to friends so they can have their own willows.

Not bad in addition to its original purpose… it only partially helped reduce the waterlogging and the roots do like to get into the vegetable beds, but all in all it has been a huge success.

Oh, and the chickens like pecking about under it and the wild birds love it.

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  1. Katie

     /  May 15, 2012

    Hi, great blog! Just wondering, when you put the willow on the compost or as a mulch do you have any problems with it sprouting new willow trees? I think my Mum might have told me that willow is notorious for growing from nothing…


    • Hi Katie
      I did wonder whether this would be a problem and whether we’d end up with an entire willow forest, but as it turns out we don’t have any problems with sprouting. I think this is because we usually leave it to dry for for a few weeks once it has been cut and then we shred it, which generally strips the living layer away from the central core. However, I can see that if you wanted a new hedge, lying some thick willow branches down in a line would probably do the trick, as ours often starts sprouting as it’s drying and, unless we keep it off the ground, it will produce roots too!



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