As a small-scale farmer, gardener or homesteader, you’re always looking for innovative and sustainable ways to improve your land and increase productivity. Check out some of the benefits of incorporating willows into your farm.
Willows are versatile and fast-growing (up to 10 feet per year) trees or shrubs that offer numerous benefits to farmers, homesteaders, gardeners and landholders, including:
- Cut Branches for the Floral Industry – From the beautiful catkins in pussy willow bunches to the twisty branches of curly willow and fantail, willows are highly popular for both wholesale and retail customers. It’s a great cash crop in early spring, when not much else is available.
- Livestock Feed – Willows are a great source of food for livestock. They can be pruned regularly to provide fresh, nutritious feed for your animals, especially goats, sheep and even geese.
- Cut Sticks for Propagation – Willows are propagated by cut sticks or rooted sticks, and are popular with customers for landscaping and wildscaping.
- Basket Making – We’ve all seen willow baskets, and the willows to produce them are easier to grow than you think.
- Medicinal Properties – Willows contain salicin, a natural form of aspirin, and have been shown to have pain-releasing and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Rooting Hormone – By soaking willow branches in water, a natural hormone called auxin is released, which stimulates root growth in other plants.
- Pollinator Habitat – Willows produce early-season pollen, providing a valuable food source for pollinators like bees. This can improve crop yields.
- Renewable Energy – Willows are a great source of biomass, which can be used to produce renewable energy. They can be harvested every one to three years, providing a reliable source of fuel for your farm.
- Erosion Control – The extensive root systems of willows can help stabilize soil on slopes and prevent erosion, protecting your land from erosion damage.
There is a wide range of willow varieties that are well-suited to different growing conditions and purposes. Most willows will work well in Zones 3 to 8.
Courtesy of GrowingFarmers.com