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Willow Screening and Hedges

Planting Living Willow

Planting Living Willow

1. Living willow grows in most soils but avoid free draining soils as willow prefers ground that’s wet / moist.

2. Avoid planting living willow near building foundations or drainage pipes - at least 1.5 x the maximum intended hedge height away.

3. Plant willow at the right time of the year when the living willow is dormant— Beginning of December to the end of March.

4. Plant the willow rods or whips as soon as you can after delivery.

5. Don’t plant if the ground is frozen.

6. Living willow grows much better without competition ! So clear existing vegetation for at least 0.25m from the hedge using Roundup or similar. For a more eco friendly method lay a mulch sheet along the line of the intended hedge to kill off the vegetation. It’s easier to lay the mulch mat if you mow the area beforehand.

7. Use pegs to hold the mulch mat in place or ‘slit’ the edge of the mat into the ground using a spade or edging tool.

Weed Control Fabric

Weed Control Fabric
Using Weed Control fabric when planting Willow gives the plant a real advantage. Competition from other plants, especially grass, can hamper the growth of willow. By using the mulching fabric you eliminate this competition and provide an ideal site for the willow to get itself established and grow.

Weed control fabric can be laid down over short grass and pegged every 1 metre. To plant through the fabric simply cut a small incision first, create a guide hole for the willow and then plant the willow.

We supply a good heavy duty spun fabric (which doesn't fray when cut) at a weight of 70gsm.

Plant Spacing

8. Living willow hedges can be planted in single, double or triple rows depending on the required hedge density.

9. Plant each willow row 200 mm apart and in each row space the living willow rods 300 mm apart. The diagram below is for a double row hedge

Plant Spacing Diagram

Plant Spacing Diagram


10. A metal spike as large as the willow you're planting or fractionally larger in diameter, is the best method for making a hole for planting. We supply a tool for this purpose which makes the job easier especially for a large number of willow rods.

11. To plant the living willow rods, push the metal spike 10” into the ground, and as soon as you withdraw it, insert the willow rod. This is especially true if you’re making a hole through the mulch mat with the spike as it’s all too easy to ‘lose’ the hole under the matting.

Don’t slit the mulch mat as the extra gap you create will only help grass and weeds to get a hold right next to the willow.

12. By holding the living willow rod 10” up from the bottom of the rod when you insert it into the hole you’ll be sure it’s not been set too shallow.

13. If it's difficult to insert the willow use a larger diameter spike or ‘wiggle’ the spike around to enlarge the hole. Ensure the hole is not collapsing as the spike is removed and that the willow rod is not being inserted at an angle.

14, Tread the soil in around the willow to ensure the rod is bedded in. If you are using a mulch mat you won’t be able to see if the rod is a snug fit in the hole or not, so tread in regardless.

15. Give the living willow a good watering after planting.

Rods Through Fabric

Rods Through Fabric

Willow rods planted through mulching fabic as described above


Cover the ground either side of the living willow hedge with mulch to keep the moisture in and to keep the weeds at bay. Even covering a mulch mat with mulch, helps and improves the aesthetics.

Willow - After Care

Willow - After Care

1. Keep an eye on the young living willow as it comes into leaf for pest damage i.e caterpillars as they can substantially set back the initial growth. Spray if necessary, sooner rather than later.

2. In areas where rabbits and deer are a problem some form of protection is required whilst the willow establishes. Spiral tree guards can be used to protect the bark from rabbits.

3. If you’re planting on a relatively dry site, there’s been a dry spell or you want to maximise growth, consider running a ‘leaky’ pipe along the length of the hedge, preferably under the mulch. This can be controlled by a watering timer for regular watering.

Inspect regularly and pull out any weeds that appear. The weeds are easier to extract if plenty of mulch has been applied and they are not allowed to grow too large i.e. before the roots get a real hold.

4. Avoid trimming the living willow hedge until the end of the year after the leaves have dropped. This gives the roots the best chance to establish.

5. Towards the end of the year, before the leaves have dropped, pull out any dead plants (there won’t be many if you’ve followed our advice) at it’s easier to identify them before all the leaves have gone!

At the end of the first growing season once the leaves have dropped there are a number of alternative options:

6. Replant any gaps in your living willow hedge by cutting rods from your own hedge.

7. Consider coppicing as a method of increasing the hedge density.

8. Coppicing is a drastic short term step but in the long run will produce a much denser willow hedge as 5-10 shoots will emerge from each of the stools next year.

To coppice, simply cut the living willow about 100mm above the ground. It may grow fast but be assured, you won’t need a chainsaw to cut it at this stage, a stout pair of secateurs or long handled loppers will do the job.

9. If you’ve planted two or three rows you have a number of options. You can if you want to cut one row down to hedge height and the other row could be coppiced. This maintains a hedge of sorts over winter whilst setting the scene for a better hedge at the end of year At the end of year 2, the row that was trimmed the first year can now be coppiced, with the other row providing the barrier. This process can be repeated each year.

10. If you’ve been successful and established the willow well, a substantial quantity of living willow will be available each year from cutting back. This can be chipped for mulch or used as fuel for fires and wood burners once it’s seasoned etc.

11. If weeds and grass have grown out of control, consider applying a systemic herbicide such as Roundup but only AFTER the willow leaves have gone! Take great care to use the right type of herbicide and apply as per the guidelines to avoid killing the willow.
Whatever method is used it is worth removing grass and weeds as the willow will still benefit from the lack of competition in the 2nd year of growth.

12. Apply more mulch to keep weeds and grass at bay and moisture in.
If a watering system such as a ‘leaky’ pipe was installed for the first year this could be removed and reused elsewhere, unless the site is very dry.

Coppiced Willow

Coppiced Willow

This picture shows coppiced willow starting to sprout

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