Tips for Using Willows on Your Homestead

I have a soft spot for willows—as a kid I just loved finding pussy willows in spring. Those soft little willow flowers were and are just amazing to me. But beyond just enjoying them, willows have a number of practical uses on the homestead.

This week’s blog post – 7 Wonderful Uses for Willows on the Homestead – is all about willows and how to use them on your homestead.

If you follow my posts on a weekly basis you may have noticed this one was late. Between vacation over the 4th of July and my birthday on the 8th I just ran out of time to get this up sooner. Now back to the topic at hand!

The 7 uses of willows that the blog post covers are:

  1. Rooting Hormone – Willow Water
  2. Habitat for Wildlife
  3. Garden Trellises and Structures
  4. Cleaning Water Runoff
  5. Medicine
  6. Chop-and-Drop Material
  7. Animal Fodder – Tree Hay

Each section provides an overview of the specific use for willows plus a video and/or links for more information.

Growing Willows

While the blog post covers those 7 uses for willows I wanted to dive a bit more than the post does into the easiest way to propagate willows: live staking

Willows are easy to propagate because even a twig can root but there are certain practices to have more success.

Live staking can be done by taking cuttings from 1-year old branches or from older thicker branches/trunks. Given that willows also coppice you could cut a willow down in the fall and then use all the material for live staking which would quickly expand your willow population.

The younger 1-year old branches are often referred to as willow whips. These branches tend to be fairly narrow (pencil width) but can be decently long. You can cut these into multiple sections of about 2 to 3 feet in length as long as each section has at least 4 (6 is better) buds.

You will want to have at least 2 of the buds in the ground and 2 of the buds above the ground. The more buds you have the more chances there are for the willow to root. Though willows may root from where you cut it.

I like to get my willow live stakes down into the ground at least 2 feet and ideally 3 or even 4 feet. This is tricky with willow whips since they are so skinny. But with larger branches if you make an angled cut on the bottom of the branch and a flat cut on the top you can then use a rubber or wood mallet to pound the branch into the ground.

As far as timing goes—I like to get my willow live stakes in the ground in the fall. Winter can work to if the ground is not frozen solid. It takes time for live stakes to root and get established so unless you are planting them in an area that never dries out you will want to give the willows time to send out their roots before summer.

Willows of course love wet areas but there are also a number of varieties that do fine with droughts. These upland willows can be a great option for areas that are wet in the winter but dry out in the summer.

Even though willows love to resprout you likely won’t get 100% survival from your live stakes. But live stakes are a quick and easy way to grow lots of willows.

One final thing to note is that willows grown from live stakes tend to be a bit slow during their first year especially if the ground dries out during the summer. But as long as they survive their first summer they tend to take off during following years.

How do You Use Willows?

There are many more ways to use willows than the 7 covered in this week’s blog post—how do you use willows on your homestead?

Please leave a comment and help expand this list with your uses for willows.

Thank you!


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Follow me for more posts all about homesteading, working with nature, and growing your own food: @wildhomesteading

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It was such a simple gem you threw in there about not all willows needing to be in watery-wet places. Really enjoy the practical, hands on and idea-sprouting content you share!

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