Willow coppice

Bowles Hybrid Willow Year 1

Bowles Hybrid Willow before coppicing

It seems counterintuitive to coppice our willow (Salix spp.) in it’s first year of growing, but coppice it we must! Cutting it back at the end of the first year will encourage multiple shoots to form at the base. Which means that in years to come we will have a denser screen and more willow biomass. That’s the theory at least.

We planted the 500 cm lengths of Bowles Hybrid willow back in December 2011 for a couple of reasons. Firstly to hide the very ugly farm buildings just behind our home, and also as a biomass crop to keep us self-sufficient in wood for heating in later years.

The willow around the farm buildings grew at a tremendous rate, we were really impressed, reaching over 2.5 meters in their first year! The willow in the field did less well. Mainly because we didn’t keep the grass around the small stems down. We think the root competition combined with the grass shading out the young plants were the main causes.

Bowles Hybrid Willow Year One

Bowles Hybrid Willow harvest

Now we have a lot of willow cuttings. We are going to use them in several ways;

  • to fill in any gaps where the original willow failed to take,
  • to extend our biomass plot,
  • to make a rooting hormone liquid,
  • to experiment with making artists charcoal, and if I have time
  • to practice basketry making with.

Nice! Don’t you just love willow!

7 thoughts on “Willow coppice

  1. I am interested in the screening aspect: does it screen in the winter when the leaves are gone? Really enjoying your site! S

    • Hi Sarah, It didn’t very much in the first year, most of the plants just had four or five stems. We’ve coppiced so that this years growth will produce more stems. Then we will not coppice until five or seven years by which time everything should have thickeden up. We could of course have planted closer for a thicker initial screen – which if you really need to screen (without too much thought for longer-term biomass production) would be a better short-term action. Mx

  2. Hi, i am at about the same point with my hybrid willows as you were when you wrote this post. were you successful in planting the cut stems? Hiw did you prepare them? I’m going to try to plant my first year cut offs this winter. Thanks, enjoy your site, Dan

    • Hi Dan,

      The willow stems didn’t need any preparation. However where we had dug the soil over and incorporated compost they did really well. Where the stems were competing with grass they didn’t do so well and in some cased died. Hope that helps, Morag.

      • Thanks for the reply. did you cut the stems into shorter lengths? I was hoping to be able to cut my 8ft first year growth into 2 ft length cuttings to replant in my hedgerows.

        • Hi Dan, Sorry for not replying sooner my site locked me out for some random reason and only just found the answer to fix it. We cut ours into about 1 and a half foot lengths and put them in the ground about half a foot – sometimes less depending on the soil. We didn’t protect them from rabbits which was a mistake as they nibbled through the pencil width stems – but they grew back so wasn’t a big problem.

  3. Pingback: Homemade willow rooting compound | the Forest Garden

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