Willow is a very useful tree to grow in your garden. You can grow individual specimen trees, use willow to create hedges or ‘fedges’ (living fences). You can also coppice willow to make use of the fast growing wood for a range of uses around your home and garden. To inspire you to utilise this useful material to the fullest, here are five uses for willow in your polytunnel garden:
Temporary Willow Plant Supports
Many common polytunnel plants require some support as they grow. Beans, peas, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes… to name but a few. Willow can be used to stake plants and to create other temporary supports. Willow can be used wherever you might use a bamboo cane and could come free from elsewhere in your garden. Woven willow supports can also be not only functional but beautiful too.
In addition to placing temporary supports in your polytunnel, you may also choose to insert a permanent trellis that will be used for perennial plants, or for a range of annual plants throughout the year. For example, you may want a willow trellis to grow an espaliered dwarf fruit tree against in your polytunnel, or to support vines such as grape wines in your covered growing area.
DIY Willow Row Cover Framing
The flexible whips can also be useful to create row covers to protect plants during the colder months. By bending the whips over to create arches, you can create a frame or structure which can be covered with polytunnel plastic or horticultural fleece for an added layer of protection inside your polytunnel.
Willow Hanging Baskets
Another way to take advantage of the properties of this useful wood is to make some beautiful hanging baskets. Willow weaving can be a fun and useful skill to learn, and organic, natural baskets, even when not perfect, can really add charm and character to your growing space. Line the baskets with moss for a lovely, natural look and consider planting them up with edible crops as well as beautiful flowers to really make the most of your covered growing area for year-round food production.
Divisions Within the Polytunnel Space
Depending on how you use your polytunnel space, you may also wish to consider subdividing it. Willow can be a useful material for creating divisions which provide the necessary degree of separation between the different areas without compromising the air flow too much. Willow screens can be beautiful to separate a seating area, or even just to create a more shaded section within a polytunnel.
Of course there are many more ways to use willow in and around your polytunnel and your home. But the above should be more than enough to convince you that, if you have the space, it is a good idea to grow willow on your property. How do you use willow in your garden? Let us know your wonderful ideas in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.