Follow what we are up to on the farm on Twitter
Follow SouthYeoEast on Twitter

Planting Guide

Planting willows couldn’t be easier; you do not need to root the cuttings, simply push the sticks into the ground. When willows are collected or received in the post, they should be unwrapped immediately and stored with their bottom ends standing in water in a bucket or water-butt. They can be kept like this for up to 4 weeks before planting if necessary. Sometimes they will develop roots that push out into the water prior to planting; these may break off during planting but cause no harm to the plant – just try stopping a willow from growing! If they become a bit slimy at the base, cut off the bottom inch or so before planting.

If at all possible, planting through a weed suppressant mat will make management of your willows so much easier in the long run. Prepare the ground by removing turfs, dig over and mix in manure or compost. Lay down the weed mat and secure / dig in the sides to ensure it does not blow around. Cut small slits approximately 1.5-2cm long in the location you want to plant the willows then follow the planting instructions below. Once planted, the weed mat can be covered with bark chippings, gravel etc to finish. Do consider protecting your willows from pests such as rabbits or deer as willow is a particular favourite of theirs.

The optimum spacing for planting depends on what you want to do with the willow; for example, if you are establishing a wind break, plant 2 or 3 staggered rows to create a dense barrier rather than a single line.

  • Plant setts approximately 1ft apart in parallel offset rows
  • Plant setts the right way up! - with the broad pointed end downwards – leaf buds pointing upwards
  • Push setts into the ground vertically so that 2-3” are left above the surface – you may need to use a metal rod or cane to make a hole first if the ground is particularly hard going
  • Firm the ground around the cuttings
  • Stand back and
    watch them grow…

Depending on your soil type, your willows may need watering, especially during their first season as they are establishing

When planning 6ft+ rods as a living willow fence or ‘fedge’, push them into the ground at least 1ft deep in the desired position and weave together once all are planted – this makes life a lot easier than trying to weave as you go along. As with setts, using a metal bar to form planting holes first may be beneficial.

To create a living willow arbour follow the photographic steps below:

Remove turfs in a circle – use a cane in the centre with a piece of string tied to a spade to
create the circumference of your desired perfect circle

Cover with weed mat and dig in around the edges to hold in place – pin down
at intervals in the middle to hold secure

Insert your main framework rods (plant as described above) and tie together to form your arches – we
use a small weight suspended from the centre to make sure we have the centre point balanced

Insert intermediary rods

Weave together and secure with raffia or natural garden twine

Finish off the ends by binding together alternately in a horizontal line

Cover the weed mat with bark or gravel and wait for the chickens to move in and make it home!

Willows do grow very quickly both above and below ground, so do consider the final size of your planting and beware of drains and proximity to buildings as the roots could cause structural damage.

We are happy to provide guidance on planting for your particular project when you place your order.