If I had to choose one wood type to meet all my crafting needs it would be willow. Willow trees can grow in swampy patches of your farm that are too wet for conventional crops. They’re easy to cultivate, grows quickly, and can be used for erosion control. After two years of planting the trees, the branches can be harvested for an array of projects, such as weaving baskets, making waddle fences or creating plant supports, as is shown below.
Plant Your Willow Trees
There are more than 200 varieties of willow trees (Salix sp.) to choose from. To propagate a tree, you can purchase cuttings or gather 10- to 12-inch branches from the wild to plant. Using a sharp knife, cut lengths from the lower two-thirds of a branch. Keep the ends bunched together so you know which ends to plant. (The buds will point up.) Plant as soon as possible or wrap in moist paper towels to keep damp until planting. Don’t let the branches dry out.
To plant, push the branches into the ground about 8 inches, so at least two buds remain showing on top. Tamp the ground and mulch to deter weeds and keep the plantings moist. If the season is dry, irrigate for the first summer. Wait until the leaves have dropped in the fall of the second year before harvesting branches for crafting.
Any harvested branches can be loosely bundled and dried in your barn or garage with good air circulation. It is best to thoroughly dry the willow and then soak it when you are ready to weave. The branches shrinks by about half the diameter as they dry, so weaving with green branches will result in loose construction.
As my peonies were emerging from the ground this spring, I discovered the old wire cages I had been using as supports were bent out of shape and rusty. Because I had some bunches of willow stored in the garage, it was the perfect time make my own willow supports. These supports will work for any plants that tend to flop over as they grow. I’ve also used them for false indigo and a small patch of snow peas.
What You’ll Need:
- 11-13 branches in 36-inch lengths
- 1 foot strong twine
Cut the bottom portion of your willow branches into 36-inch lengths (I’ll call them posts), reserving the thinner tops for weaving. My branches were between 4 and 5 feet long to start with.
Soak the tops in a bathtub of warm water for one to two days until pliable.
Push the posts into the ground around the perimeter of the plant, spacing them 6 inches apart. Always use an uneven number of posts to facilitate weaving.
Start weaving the soaked tops 6 inches from the bottom of your trellis, going over and under the posts to form a sturdy wreath around the base of the plant. Go around about four or five times. Use the remaining thin top rods to weave up the posts to the approximate height of the fully-grown plant you’re wishing to trellis. Pull all the posts together in a tepee fashion, and tie with a strong twine. Adjust the weavings to leave some holes for the plant to grow through.
In a few weeks the plant will reach it’s maturity and be supported in strong winds or heavy rains. The support will disappear from sight with the leaf covering, and the natural material of the willow will blend right into the garden.
While I think these willow trellises are quite cute in the early spring garden, like little tepees lined up in a row, I appreciate the fact that they fade away once the plant is in it’s glory, full of buds and flowers.
Find more crafts using natural materials on HobbyFarms.com: