View over the willow bed with their leaves on a summers day

What is so special about willow?

That is a good question! There is so much to love about willow and why it is so special. Here are just four reasons why I am growing willow on our farm.

Firstly, willow is a fast growing, renewable crop which is easily rooted from a single stick planted into the ground. Each winter, the year’s growth can be harvested and it will re-grow again from the same cutting. You can also use the newly harvested willow to create new cuttings to plant and grow even more.

This means it is cost-effective to grow once you’ve bought the initial cuttings and it is easy to plant with almost no disturbance to the soil.

View across the first willow bed, looking north on a grey, cloudy day and the rods have a little bit of growth on them.
First willow bed: April 2023.
Two months after first planting…
Spring growth looking across the first willow bed with a blue sky
…Compared to May 2024.
Three months of growth since being harvested!
Single willow rod in focus with the rest of the willow bed in background
Brittany Green

The ability to plant and harvest without disturbing the soil leads us on to the second reason: It is excellent at sequestering carbon.

Carbon sequestration is the capturing, removal and storage of carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere. Each willow will absorb carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into building blocks for their growth, storing the carbon within their woody tissues.

This is important, as around 45% of the CO2 emitted by humans remains in the atmosphere, which is a significant factor behind global warming. Carbon sequestration can prevent further emissions from contributing to the heating of the planet.1

View across the willow bed showing the first year's growth

Another advantage of having a willow bed on the farm is that it provides a wonderful habitat for insects, mammals and birds.

I don’t use chemicals or pesticides and although aphids seem to like some varieties of willow, it hasn’t been as issue so far. Last year, as it was new to me, I simply observed what happened in the willow bed and the aphids didn’t stunt their growth. In fact I noticed ladybirds eating the aphids and more small birds in these parts of the bed.

The final reason to grow willow is to have access to your own weaving material. This adds colour, variety and texture to your baskets and coffins that you don’t get from buying the commercially grown varieties. But that is probably the most obvious reason and needs no explaination!

Which reason resonates most with you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

  1. Source: What is carbon sequestration?

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