Sunday, March 28, 2010

Planting willow fedges before the spring arrives.

Some jobs are seasonal and we have been racing against time to finish our winter jobs. A strange contradiction as we’d had enough of a reasonably harsh and prolonged winter and have been really looking forward to kinder weather but, cognisant of winter jobs still to do, we didn’t want spring to arrive until they were completed..

We’ve been very fortunate this year to have a succession of helping hands, most recently Merle and Darrell. We had a list of things to do longer than the days they planned to stay: what to do and where to start?

We began with a day in the woods, re-visiting one of the very first jobs we undertook. Three years ago, we clear-felled a third of an acre of sickly sycamore plantation (un-thinned since planting, so grown long and leggy as each tree sought light and fought over nutrients) and re-planted it with an experimental third ash, third sweet chestnut and third hazel, with the intention of setting up a coppicing cycle. Having planted them, we turned to other jobs and pretty much forgot them, just as the previous owner had done with his sycamores. We spent a happy day under a sunny spring sky clearing out the competition from our planted saplings. The photos show a before and after view plus what we think is a bird’s anvil stone used to smash snail shells; I wonder if a French thrush prefers it’s escargots with garlic and parsley?

Last on the list was to construct 20 metres of willow “fedge” (is it a hedge? is it a fence?). We needed to cut the willow from our plantation of 32 species and get the rods planted before the catkins arrive and the leaves start opening. November to March is the dormant season and so we were right on the limit. The photos show Merle and Darrell coppicing the willow rods; then sorting the rods into similar lengths, useful to maintain
a pleasing degree of uniformity and also to choose strong uprights and more slender and flexible weavers; weaving the fedge together and then a couple of shots of the finished fence, including and arch way to allow

Gabrielle passage between polytunnel and potager.


Anonymous said...

These fedges are truly beautiful artworks, in winter too! Can you use any old willow and does it have to be a 'tree' or can it be the prunings from dogwoods?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Thanks for your comment. Our experience is with willows, whose bare rods root extremely easily. Viminalis is a good variety to use as it has straight rods.

I have no idea whether dogwood prunings would root in the same way; if you try it out, please come back and tell us if it worked!

debs said...

Hello to you both,

I have just surfed to your blog and can't believe how much work you have done to the small holding and how well organised it all looks. A fantastic job which must have taken a lot of dedication.
Well done to you both.

love Debs (and Ian)