Our first basket willow crop

Our first basket willow crop is now ready and we’ve begun to harvest it. We weren’t terribly good about keeping the planted willow cuttings weed free, so its a little patchy, but about 90% of the planting has established.

Funny old weather we are having. Within any 24 hour period we can have temperatures as low as minus seven, snow or sleet, warm sunshine and a thaw, and then back again. It is against this somewhat random backdrop that we are attempting to tidy and prepare the garden for the season ahead. The snowdrops seem to think its warm enough but I’m not sure..

Although this is destined to be basket willow, this is our first year, so the plan is to plant all the cut willow back in, primarily as willow fences along the paths, and to establish the start of some structures such as arches. Come the spring, the willow will put up vertical shoots which will be the harvest next year. Permaculture tells us to find many uses for everything, and having a living fence that produces a crop of basket willow is one of my favourites so far.

This first crop isn’t fantastic, primarily because we weren’t  terribly good at keeping the young cuttings clear of weeds when they were first planted. The ones that didn’t get overrun by grass and nettles turned out about twice the size of the ones that did.

To avoid a repeat of weedageddon, we’ve cleared all the strips of grass, put weed suppressant down (old plastic sheet), and covered with woodchip to hold it all in place (the other thing that damaged the willow cuttings last year was the plastic sheet blowing up and covering them).

We’re also diligently covering any gaps in the sheeting around the main willow plantation for the same reason. The basket willow that got a good start is at least twice the size of the stuff that was overcome by grass, which despite the low temperatures seems to be growing already. The challenge this winter is to double the amount of planted willow that we have, and then once the fences are established, to crop the tops of them.  Something along the lines of this marvellous willow hedge at Felin Uchaf in North Wales..

willow fencing

Basket willow living fence

Here it is after planting, (it looks more substantial in real life) and all that remains is to tie down the tops to pull it all together. With any luck we’ll have about twice the yield of useful basket willow in 2019.