Planting willow cuttings

Willow forms the backbone of our renewable energy. The intention is to plant willow over the whole of our land and to leave the minimum amount of land for vegetable growing.

After cutting back a willow tree I reduced each branch to 10-inch long cuttings. In the past I have put single cuttings in plastic pots or multiple cuttings in large drums. The cuttings could then be sheltered from storms and frost, either of which will kill the roots. The trouble with potting is that willow grows very fast and can quickly become pot-bound. Any attempt to transplant the young tree results in root damage and death.

This year I am making paper pots. The advantage of paper pots is that they are bio-degradable so when the willow is transplanted the pot can go in with the willow and it will rot away. The roots will not be damaged.

In the photo you can see a piece of 4-inch plastic pipe around which two sheets of newspaper are wrapped. A few inches of overlap at the end of the pipe allows paper to be tucked into the pipe to form the bottom of the pot.

The top of the paper pot is held together with a small piece of masking tape so that the pot does not unravel itself. The pots are filled with a 50/50 mix of riddled soil and compost. Cuttings are then pressed into the pots with about an inch or two showing above the soil/compost.

Pots are placed in drums (as shown) so that they don't fall over. There is enough moisture in the cutting for it to grow but they are given a quick watering anyway. By the end of May the new cuttings will be strong enough to go into the willow plantation.


Anonymous said...

Cool. Good to see people growing trees.

M said...

I see a lot about people planting willow for coppice but willow is a crap wood for burning.

We have planted a sacrificial crop of eucalypts for speed of production to allow the ash trees to get going. Still a year or two to find out if this is the formula for success.

James said...

Well, depends on what you do with it. Kilo for kilo wood is basically wood. If you intend running a wood stove or range then a balance of soft and hard wood is best.

My ultimate goal is wood gas and lots of willow weeds chipped and gasified is easier than using other trees.

M said...

I wish you good luck with it, especially as I know rather little about wood gas.

Still feel that going for a wood with a greater calorific content can't be wrong. We'll have to compare notes as we go :)

James said...

All types of wood have pretty much the same calorific value. It's just that hard woods are denser and pack more in to a given space.

A kilo of soft wood has a greater volume than a kilo of hardwood but they both yield the same amount of energy.

My preference for willow is that it's quick growing and I can feed it through a chipper without having to do my back in with a chainsaw, bucksaw and maul.