Saturday, 24 November 2012

Growing Willow

Willow - St Ives Allotments
Willow is an absolutely wonderful thing to grow - it looks beautiful - is easy to establish and manage - and has some useful functions. It is also highly productive, sustainable and grows well in most conditions.

I'm growing it all around the edge of my allotment plot in St Ives. I'm aiming - eventually - to create a windbreak as well as an ornamental boundary. Strong winds - particularly from the West - are a persistent problem on our site ......

The source for this was my old garden in St Ives. Around 5 years ago I planted a couple of twigs of willow - given by a friend.

For quite a while they just looked like - twigs ! But then they got established and grew on at a tremendous rate.

Before I left (we sold the property) I took some cuttings from the two established plants.

Willow - St Ives Allotments
Taking willow cuttings is pretty easy. Choose a stem towards the upper part of the plant - around half an inch to an inch thick - and cut cleanly with sharp secateurs or loppers.

Take a length of around two feet - or cut a larger stem into pieces of that length. Strip off any leaves - but not any buds - just leaving a couple of leaves at the top - so that you know its the top when it comes to planting !

Store the cuttings in a bucket - outdoors - with a couple of inches of water to keep their feet wet. Mine were kept like that for a good four weeks before planting - and didn't seem to come to any harm.

The best time of year to take cuttings is November - January - when the plants are relatively dormant and have drawn down their sap.

Willow - St Ives Allotments
When it comes to planting its pretty straightforward. Use a metal bar or similar to make a hole about one foot deep. Gently push the cutting in right to the bottom of the hole - leaving one foot of length in the ground and the other foot above. If dry give it some water - then that's it - just wait for them to grow.

I was unsure about spacing - so using common sense and guesswork -planted mine about two feet apart. This seems to have worked ok.

Willow - St Ives Allotments
These were planted back in March.

Now almost all of them seem to have got established - with roots down and a bit of growth.

They haven't really needed any care - and there has been no shortage of water this Summer !

Willow - St Ives Allotments
I'm not expecting much more for now - but I'm looking forward to seeing how they  develop in Spring.

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