Are you sick of the cold weather, and longing for spring so you can start gardening? If so, you’re among the ranks of many gardeners who long to start gardening, but can’t because the garden soil is still too wet. And then there are the bare branches on the trees — when as gardeners, we long to see greenery. Most gardeners know it’s possible to force flowering shrubs such as forsythia, but try something different this year for your easy spring gardening: forcing willow branches to leaf indoors.
Advantages to forcing willow branches to leaf indoors:
- Willows can be found easily — along creeks and streams as well as in many yards.
- Willows aren’t tricky and don’t require a lot of skill to force into leafing.
- Forcing the branches can be done starting as early as January and as late as March in some areas.
- Many gardeners find the light green color of new willow leaves soothing.
- A number of willows have an Asian look when in leaf, and go well with Asian decorating.
Steps to forcing willow branches to leaf indoors:
- As soon as there have been eight weeks of temperatures below 40° (Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service), and on a day with above freezing temperatures, cut different lengths of willow branches using a sharp knife or garden shears.
- Choose branches that show strong leaf buds.
- Bring indoors and make a second cut on the slant on the lower part of each branch.
- Place branches (cuttings) upright in a vase or jar filled with a mixture of 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach, 1 quart water.
- Place vase in a slightly cool room with indirect sunlight.
- Keep water in vase at the same level by refilling when necessary.
- Once cuttings have begun to leaf out, vase can be moved to a warmer location with more light.
If, over time, the willow cuttings develop roots, it’s a bonus for you. You’ll now have a small tree that can be carefully potted and eventually transplanted in the yard. I know from personal experience — because I’ve unintentionally had trees spring up from mulch in the vegetable garden — that some trees are easy to root.
And what if you don’t have/can’t find a willow tree from which to take cuttings? No problem! Consider poplar, aspen, beech or horsechestnut for your easy spring gardening.
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