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Planting willow cuttings

Willow bush

Salix purpurea catkinI've been holding off on my willow-building experiment because I couldn't quite decide whether our native black willow (Salix nigra) was too tree-like (eventual height 33 to 98 feet) to keep small in the format of a living sculpture. Then, while out hunting cattail spears for lunch, I stumbled across a stand of what are probably planted purple willows (Salix purpurea) and decided that this smaller (up to 15 feet), introduced species would be easier to keep within bounds.

Preparing willow cuttings

It's good that I found the willow stand when I did because the bushes were already blooming and a few leaves were even popping out on the most advanced branches. For my experiment, I chose young branches, cut off any blooming tops, snipped the wood down to about eighteen inches, then whittled each base into a point. Willow cuttings ready to go into the ground!

Rooting willow cuttings

Back home, I prepared the ground by laying down chicken-feed bags, cut open, which will act as a weed barrier. (This is important --- it's hard for even a willow to grow roots and get established if it has to compete with weeds.) Next, I used a rebar to punch holes through the paper and about eight inches into the earth, then I pushed my willow cuttings into the holes.

Now it's time to wait for the show to begin. In the meantime, I fed the willow tops to the goats, and Abigail deemed them "highly palatable --- hey, get away from my willow twigs, Artemesia!" So I guess the eventual prunings are already spoken for.

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I just participated in a restoration project a few days ago in the local Lagunitas Watershed in Marin County, CA as part of the Ecology/Plant Biology class I'm taking. Part of the project is to transplant willow cuttings from one area of a seasonal tributary creek to the devegetated shores of the creek just downstream. The idea is to get a root system going that will shore up the steep sides of the creek to as so decrease sediment falling into the tributary (saving salmon-spawning habitat). The 1-inch thick cuttings (2-5ft tall) that were put in a month or so ago have a nice little amount of vegetation on them already. The cuttings we transplanted last week were instead nestled horizontally in the soil along the creek bank. It was enjoyable.
Comment by jen g Wed Apr 8 20:02:25 2015

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime