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It is incredibly simple to grow willow trees. In reality, these are among the simplest species you can grow. They are as attractive as they are useful and serve a variety of purposes around the homestead.
Are you ready to produce some of your own this year? Continue reading below!
Benefits of Growing Willow Trees
Salix species are not only beautiful, but they provide several advantages for the homesteader.
One theory is that because they grow so quickly (up to 10 feet per year, depending on the species), you’ll have lovely shady places to relax beneath their branches before you can blink.
Second, willow is a very versatile natural building material. For example, you may weave baskets and fish traps with the whips or slender branches. Harvesting the longer, thicker branches for wattle fencing, on the other hand, is another matter.
Finally, their wide roots aid in the prevention of erosion. Plant some willows in places on your property where wind or snow erosion is a concern.
Third, their wide roots help to protect the soil from erosion. Plant some willows in areas on your property that are threatened by wind or snow erosion.
Avoid planting them near to your home’s foundation or septic system, for example. In their search for water sources, they are known to break through such things.
They provide natural aspirin in abundance. They have a natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory substance called salicin in their bark/cambium. As a consequence, you’ll have nature’s own painkiller within arm’s reach as long as you have willow trees on your property.
How to Propagate Willow Trees
Cuttings are the best way to grow these trees, and they may be sown in the spring or fall.
Use clean snips to chop off some young branches of a willow species that you like. Look for plants that are roughly the size of your pinky finger and feature many leaf nodes along their length.
Place these in a clean water bucket and allow them to root. Change the water every few weeks to ensure that it has been replaced. Otherwise, if it becomes dormant, the roots may not develop properly.
Those wonderful little roots are ready to plant as soon as they reach an inch in length. Before you put them into direct sunlight, make sure to harden them off.
Willow trees contain indolebutyric acid (IBA), a key hormone used in commercial rooting formulas, which is something unusual about this species. As a result, you may use willow-infused water to root plants!
As a result, it’s very simple to establish new willow cuttings. They come with their own rooting medium, so you don’t have to use honey or any other.
Planting new willow cuttings is made even easier by this, as you can imagine. They come with their own, so you don’t have to use honey or any other rooting medium.
Nestle the roots into the holes, which are two to three times the size of the root. Pat that down securely with a combination of well-aged compost and topsoil. To encourage new root growth, water in well and maintain moisture levels consistent.
There’s a coupon for a free drink in the book! You might utilize the damp from your willow cuttings to assist root additional plants. So don’t dispose of it.
Soil and Sun Requirements
Willow thrives in most soil types, but it must be moist and drain well in order to thrive. On our property (which isn’t ideal for most tree development), we have extremely clay-rich soil, but our willows are thriving due to the presence of sand.
Willow trees may be grown around 10 feet from the water’s edge if you have waterfront property. With enough room to develop and access to the nearby water table, this would provide them with enough space.
Make sure that it is planted in a location that isn’t prone to flooding. Willow is a riparian plant, not a swamp plant, that thrives on the banks of rivers.
If you don’t have a boat, don’t worry. Irrigation is required unless you live in a damp area. Don’t cut corners on this! Willows don’t mind if the water comes from your sewage system, and they can send their roots out quite a distance to locate it.
Plant yours in an open, sunny location since willow requires at least six hours of sunlight a day. Nonetheless, partial shade, especially in warmer climates, is tolerated by them.
Remember that depending on why you’re growing willow trees, how you plant your cuttings will change. Plant the cuttings just a few inches apart if you’re growing them for building or craft materials. When they’re still quite young, you’ll clip down the young branches for future use, coppicing them.
Plant willow trees 6 inches apart when growing them for fencing. As the young shoots develop, you’ll be able to join them together to build a living barrier.
Finally, plant young trees (or established cuttings) approximately 20 feet apart if you’re growing these trees for landscaping purposes. As they grow, this will provide them with enough space to stretch out.
Watering and Feeding
Willow trees, as previously noted, are avid drinkers. If you haven’t planted them near a water source, you’ll have to offer them frequent deep drinks as a consequence. Make sure to check their soil a few times a week since they don’t like it to dry out. Give them a thorough soak if it feels dry up to your second knuckle.
Regular feeding also benefits them greatly. Before you plant them, make sure to apply a lot of well-aged compost into the soil to get the best possible start. Every spring, then, you’ll work in some slow-release fertilizer. Aim for a 10:10:10 NPK balance.
You may alternatively give them compost tea once a week or two if you don’t want to use granular fertilizer. Starting a foot away from the trunk and about 6 inches deep, punch some holes in the earth. Lastly, lightly water the area, give the roots the compost tea bath, and lightly water again. The nutrients should be evenly distributed throughout the root system, as a result of this.
Potential Pests, Diseases, and Problems
You’ll need to protect your willow trees from hungry herbivores for the first few years while they’re growing. Young willow trees are favorite targets for deer, rabbits, elk, and other plant-loving animals. To avoid being chewed to bits, wrap the trunks in burlap or collar them with a collar.
For the first three to five years, keep grass and other weeds from growing on your willow trees’ bases. Raking them away or laying down a mulch barrier are two options for doing this. For our purposes, we just utilize plain cardboard, but you may utilize whatever technique you want.
Willow trees are the victims of spongey (previously gypsy) moths (Lymantria dispar), which is a bug. The larvae of these moths devour the leaves of willows, causing havoc. Remove the egg masses from the nest and throw them away.
Beneficial insects, birds, and mice should also be encouraged or purchased, as they eat the moths and larvae. A product containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. is also effective for spraying. Kurstaki is a traditional dish from Greece.
These trees are also eaten greedily by webworms and willow leaf beetles.
Shaking off leaf beetles, as well as spraying your trees with neem and dish soap, are two ways to deal with them. You may sweep the webs from the tree with a broom if you choose to ignore them.
Borers, which burrow into the branches and trunk of trees, can also damage them. Borers can wreak havoc on your tree, but they aren’t likely to kill it. To combat borers, you’ll probably need some powerful pesticides, possibly with the aid of an arborist if your tree is over 15 feet tall.
To keep your trees healthy, fertilize and nourish them on a regular basis. Their strongest defense against predators and insects will be this.
Harvesting for Use
Willow has a variety of applications, as previously indicated, and you may harvest it in any way you choose. Whether you’re cutting young branches for basket weaving, or medicine, use the same technique.
Take care not to cut more than 30% of the branches when using sterilized, sharp garden snips to chop as much as you want. You may harm or even kill your trees if you take any more than that.
Young shoots from coppiced trees may be harvested every spring. Baskets are made out of young, slender branches, while wattle fencing and the like are built out of older, thicker ones.
You’ll have plenty of first-, second-, and third-year branches to work with each year because you’ll only be harvesting the aforementioned 30% of the branches from each coppiced area.
Try to collect the twigs and young branches of willow in the springtime if you’re harvesting for medicine. They are powerful and simple to find.
Nonetheless, in the fall, if you are suffering from scorching headaches or aching bones, this herb may still be of use. Use a potato peeler to remove the bark from one of the branches. Finally, as needed, use it in a decoction.