Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?  (Read 1277 times)

SallyintNorth

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Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« on: October 04, 2020, 09:30:31 pm »
We are plotting to put in more hedgerows on our holding, for shelter from weather (sun and rain both) for the livestock, and also to encourage the birds and insects - and to feed all our souls :)

One of the chaps here is keen to include willow in the mix.  We can see uses - not least cutting some stems for "tree hay" for winter feed, and chip and compost the twigs for the veg plot after - but I have a nagging doubt that if it was such a good idea, people would have been doing it for hundreds of years... 

Thoughts and experiences? 

We are in exposed North Cornwall, about 2 miles from the coast.  Pretty wet and very windy here but we can get a lot of sun and sometimes a drought in summer. 

The hedgerows will all be intended to have stock fencing on any side which will be grazed.

I will do another post to talk about what other species to use and why, this one is specifically about using willow, please.
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

arobwk

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2020, 09:38:18 pm »
If you will have a stock fence on the grazing side, SiN, can't see why not to include willows. 

SallyintNorth

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2020, 10:11:14 pm »
And I have realised that we might want to talk about which wilows.

Thinking out loud...

I have asked the chap in question if goat willow would meet his needs - but I don't know if goat willow would tolerate trimming on a 4-year cycle, and whether it would be better to have sections of white willow or even osier, and take the shoots off for use as tree hay or for use about the farm, as needed.  But won't it spread if we do that, and end up breeching the fence?  Or if we only put willow where we need to fence only one side, and took our stems from the other side, would the willow encroach on to the track? 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

arobwk

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2020, 10:37:14 pm »
I sort of think you, SiN, are over-thinking this !  Just plant and cut at whatever "harvest" period you wish to adopt.  Of course trimming/pruning (as opposed to coppicing/pollarding) will lead to increased subsidiary branching just like on any other tree. 


(I have read, but never tested, that goat willow does not root well from cuttings:  ALL other varieties, including white willow, root pretty well from cuttings as far as I know.)

SallyintNorth

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2020, 10:37:51 pm »
It's a learning day today :)

So, I am reading that willows - amongst many other species of tree - have indeed been used in hedgerows for hundreds of years, but as trees (usually pollarded), not trimmed as hedges.

Many of the trees (some pollarded but not all) have been removed or died and not been replaced in hedgerows because of course it's easier for the hedge-trimmer to trim the whole length and not keep stopping and skipping a bit to leave the trees.  And pollarding is an extra job too.

There is a whole scheme to get hedgerow trees reintroduced.

So it is sounding like we would be doing The Right Thing to include some trees like willows, and to let some trees be trees within the hedgerows. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2020, 10:39:07 pm »
I sort of think you, SiN, are over-thinking this !

No, that doesn't sound like me AT ALL  ::) :D
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

arobwk

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2020, 11:13:25 pm »
After thought:  laying ?  Not sure how well willows take to laying, but I imagine no worse than any other hedgerow trees.

SallyintNorth

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2020, 11:33:01 pm »
After thought:  laying ?  Not sure how well willows take to laying, but I imagine no worse than any other hedgerow trees.

We'd love to lay our hedgerows, but realistically it's not going to happen to most of them.  We already have a lot and are adding to them.  In the 13 years we've been here, I think part of one hedgerow - the one nearest the village - has been laid, over a period of years.  We'd need an army to lay the lot over a 10 year cycle!
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2020, 11:45:02 pm »



Can I tell you some of what we do here with willows?  It could be useful or not.


We began with using three rows of willow, of mixed varieties from my Dad's collection, all grown from cuttings, to form a triple windbreak against the prevailing wind.  Some of those willows are now huge, some have fallen, some have died, some died when they were coppiced (thanks to Alice the blind sheep who could sniff out a new willow bud from 100yds!) and some have remained really quite small (different types).  Later, between two rows, we planted a 'coppice' of ash and hazel.  With hindsight of course the ash was a mistake but we intend to try coppicing it and seeing if we can get a wood crop from the regrowth before it succumbs to Ash dieback.
At the same time we started planting native mixed hedgerows around all our marches, double fenced for biosecurity and for the survival against livestock of the trees.  (We are just about to plant up the final hedgerow this autumn.)  At random intervals amongst the more normal hedgerow plants, we put in willow, initially thinking simply that the sheep could help themselves by browsing, which they do.  Most of our cut branches for the sheep are taken as we need them in the winter when snow is lying or the ground is frozen hard, and most of those are taken from the original three windbreak rows.
We take some poles from pollarded willow in the hedges (for beans in the garden), and this winter we intend to coppice and pollard many of the willows in hedges.  The reason is the same as why you might want to think twice about using willow in hedgerows - like elder, willow grows very quickly and overshadows the neighbouring trees, causing them to grow more slowly, or even killing them and pushing a widening gap in the hedge.  Once coppiced, pollarded or trimmed, the willows regrow but do not make the firm barrier that, say, hawthorn makes - new willow growth is weak and bendy.
Some of the fallen willow wood is used as firewood - willow dries quickly and burns quickly too, so is fine for starting a fire but you need something slower burning to maintain a fire all evening or overnight.


My advice is to grow most of your willow for hay and to eat fresh (not you personally), and for bean poles, in a separate block, of perhaps 4 rows, as you want a 4 year rotation (although you cut at different ages for different uses).  If you decide you do want some willow in your hedge, then be prepared to manage it closely to prevent it shading out the surrounding hedgeplants.  Some of the willow we have grown in our hedges is decorative, such as reds and light greens for basket weaving - this has the double plus of not growing too thuggishly and providing a useful alternative product.  Leave the huge fast-growing willows for a separate area.
You are right that willow can be a nuisance to manage in a hedge as if you want it to grow poles, then you have to cut around it (not as easy as you would think using a hedge cutter which is not exactly a precision instrument).  If you trim it along with the hedge you will not get poles; you will get plenty of short new growth in all directions though which is great for hay.
There are so many willow varieties that it is more interesting to my mind to grow lots of types (easy for me my Dad did the collecting years ago).  Also it is beneficial for early queen bumble bees to have a selection of willows flowering consecutively through early spring - willow is one of the most important pollen plants for queen bees when they emerge from hibernation.
I don't think that goat willow is good for poles as it has lots of shrubby growth, you need a fast grower for long poles and for hay.


If I can be bothered oops I mean of course, once I have a moment, I will take some hedge pics of different willows and show you how they grow.  Even willows don't necessarily do just exactly what they are meant to do.


I suppose I have a mini version of your community decision-making process here, there being only two of us, but we don't always agree on the details of management.  One area where that is a problem is that I wanted my bean poles and he wanted the biggest trees - the end result is some huge trees which really should have been managed ie pollarded years ago.  They weren't and now we probably need a tree surgeon to bring them down!


I've just seen the bit about laying willows - you do it a bit differently to normal hedge plants.  Lay a long stem down on the ground, pin it with a split branch and it will put down roots along the whole length of the stem/branch.  Probably even the peg will grow! New trees will grow up from the layed branch.
We tried laying our hedges - the result is beautiful even though it was done fairly haphazardly, but the cost was a 'hedgelayer's elbow' and lots of other jobs not done.  Eventually we invested in a hedge cutter to fit on our little Siromer  - not a slasher-basher, those things are not pretty.  My dream is to get a rotary hedge cutter but it will never happen!
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2020, 12:43:04 am »
Brilliant stuff, Juliet - I had hoped you might chip in!  Thank you so much! 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2020, 12:59:38 am »
I'm totally submerged in tree culture at the moment - planning, planting and managing, coppicing, felling, pollarding, thinning, raising crowns, lowering crowns, sawing winter logs - I love it  ;D :tree: :tree: :tree: :tree: :tree:
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the the lifeblood of your land.

Possum

  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2020, 12:58:55 pm »
I think Fleecewife is right about the difficulties of mixing willow with other species in a hedge. Down here on the Somerset Levels we have a lot of lovely willow hedges which are simply managed with a tractor mounted hedgetrimmer each year. They produce gentle rustling hedges but can be a bit "gappy" at the base. You never see any other hedge varieties mixed in with them.




arobwk

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2020, 06:52:53 pm »
@SallyintNorth - if you do decide to include willows in your hedging plans in one way or another, I would suggest avoiding "softer" leafed varieties:  having some 20 varieties so far, I have found both Grey Willow and Sage Willow particularly prone to attack by Willow Beetles with my rows of them ending up with leaves like doilies in quick time a couple years ago. (Other varieties in the same field were hardly affected at all.)


Preparing to re-spray the Grey and Sage rows earlier this year I found very few Willow Beetles (I found more lying dead on the top of one of my black IBCs than living ones on the willows !) and leaves were hardly eaten all this year without, in the end, any organic insecticide application.  Bit odd and I've no idea why;  different weather patterns/conditions perhaps, but I do wonder also whether last year's spray including neem oil has had some prolonged systemic affect. 
Maybe something to consider if/when considering willow varieties in any significant way. 


arobwk

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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2020, 06:56:24 pm »
I'm totally submerged in tree culture at the moment - planning, planting and managing, coppicing, felling, pollarding, thinning, raising crowns, lowering crowns, sawing winter logs - I love it  ;D :tree: :tree: :tree: :tree: :tree:

I'm intrigued @Fleecewife:  do tell us more.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
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Re: Willow in a stock-fenced hedgerow?
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2020, 07:17:48 pm »
Ooh, sounds like we might benefit from a chat with you @arobwk.  We will have willows somewhere, whether in the fence/hedgerow or elsewhere.  And we will not be using noxious chemicals, so avoiding types which are susceptible to willow beetles sounds like something we need to take into account!!
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

 

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