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Any old willow?

As we all know, energy prices are hellishly expensive and are set to go up even higher. Whilst here at our place, we aren't set up to produce our own electric, we have been giving some serious thought to producing our own heating fuel.

It would appear that we have two options available to us. Either we do what we've longed to do for sometime now and that, is buy a piece of woodland and then manage it to produce our firewood, or we grow as much as we can here on the smallholding.

With regards to the first option, unfortunately nothing that we've deemed suitable has come up in recent years, so we're left with the second option.

We have a few areas around our place that we are prepared to plant with willow or other suitable coppicing varieties and thats probably the way we are going to go.

We planted some willow a few years ago simply by pushing fresh cut rods into the ground and they've grown into pretty big trees. There are umpteen types of willow and I was wondering if anyone knew which ones in particular we should go for?

We've had quite a few hazel planted for a considerable length of time now and although they appear to have grown well, they haven't really grown an appreciable amount of useable timber. Maybe, we should have been coppicing them to have got more out of them?

Is anyone already doing this sort of thing, or possibly have it in mind?

We planted a shelterbelt of giant willow to provide a bit of filtering of the wind and coppice for the fire.  To be honest it has done neither.  Its been in 6 years and the uncoppiced bits are 3 inches max in diameter and they havnt thickened up when stooled.
We seasoned it for 2 years and it burns okay (not great).
We have an ash planted same time and its now about 6 inches in diameter and ash is a good firewood tree.  trouble is I dont want to chop it as ash is going to be scarce soon.
Hornbeam is supposed to be a good fuel tree.  If your prepared to wait Id plant some Hornbeam and local self seeded ash.

A quick google search will reveal that willow of any sort does not make good firewood, it will burn, but not well.

Willow as shelterbelt, are not good, unless you have a lot of spare time   as they need cutting back every year, or they will be tall and bushy at the top and very thin at the bottom, which rather defeats the object of a shelterbelt.

I'm not sure planting ash is a good idea either as a fungus, Chalara fraxinea is a serious disease of ash trees, it reached the UK in 2012.

It has been reported in Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, Essex and a few reports of Chalara fraxinea in other counties farther North.

I'm just about to fell the last ash I have on the place, as it has Chalara fraxinea. The elms have all gone years ago.

I don't tnink that Ash is that good an idea.

Coppiced Hornbeam up to about 60mm diameter also has a cash value.

Those shipwrights restoring historic vessels will almost snatch it from your hands. Hornbeam steam bends exceptional well, and then it sets rock hard; almost as strong a steel....... hence the old shipbuilders term "Ironwood"

I've planted some hornbeam in the last few weeks but the chap who I bought the seedlings off described them as being slow growing.

Seriously, ash is the least of the problems the UK faces.
I attended a seminar given by ythe Forsetry Commission in Jan - scary.  If I can find the powerpoint Ill post it.(it was a RBS event).

What is facing our pines is sooooo much worse.

Anyway, British ash may have some immunity to ash dieback and this is why Im advocating natural self sown ash....

I must find out more about Willows as here they grow fast  to about 6+inch and burn fast and great quick heat then harder wood for long burn

No mention of willow here, though I have burnt what goat willow I have had cut, by the time its dry enough its often going light, and from memory it sparks a bit.  They do grow them for chipping now though, so that might make them dry out fast and not loose their heat potential

Logs to Burn, Logs to burn, Logs to burn,
Logs to save the coal a turn,
Here's a word to make you wise,
When you hear the woodman's cries.

Never heed his usual tale,
That he has good logs for sale,
But read these lines and really learn,
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Oak logs will warm you well,
If they're old and dry.
Larch logs of pine will smell,
But the sparks will fly.

Beech logs for Christmas time,
Yew logs heat well.
"Scotch" logs it is a crime,
For anyone to sell.

Birch logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all.
Hawthorn logs are good to last,
If you cut them in the fall.

Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green,
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.

Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room,
Cherry logs across the dogs,
Smell like flowers in bloom.

But ash logs, all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old;
Buy up all that come your way,
They're worth their weight in gold.

Rating for wood to be turned into firewood, willow is placed at the bottom of the lists.


Bodger, I don't know if there are restrictions on Ash at the moment but if there isn't come autumn and if you are down this way you can help yourself - we have more Ash seedlings than you can shake a stick at to be honest - literally thousands at around 8 inches high - take them with earth though as we have a very acid soil here.  As I said though, I don't know about the die back and whether it would be a good idea to transport them to a new area - no imported ash in this area that I know of and no die back so far either but IF its appropriate you would be welcome
Dave C

Very interesting topic, i am thinking along the same lines bodger, so i will be interested how these posts pan out.

If you require the wood for fuel only, then I would personally go with a mixture of Ash and Hawthorn.

However, you have also overlooked the abundant supply of Horse manure that you have about the place. Dried Horse & Donkey manure bricks have been the primary fuel burnt by my very good friend; Mikki this winter and her house has been toasty warm over the last 3 cold months.
Dave C

Gareth wrote:
If you require the wood for fuel only, then I would personally go with a mixture of Ash and Hawthorn.

However, you have also overlooked the abundant supply of Horse manure that you have about the place. Dried Horse & Donkey manure bricks have been the primary fuel burnt by my very good friend; Mikki this winter and her house has been toasty warm over the last 3 cold months.

Dose it smell like toast as well  

well now

Burnt manure ash is a very good fertilizer too, I read something in the Farmers Guardian where a farmer had planted bands of willow for biomass and found his fields weren't flooded like his neighbours. I'm just wondering if you can use them as a 'soakaway' for excess water as my lands been underwater for a while.

Willow is used in septic tank soakaways over here with good success.

Is that any kind or is it a certain type, if it soaks up water I'm planting a 2m band round everything  

Here we use weeping willow like you have next to water ways and most others too. Massey planted willows on farm near here for that and then cut branches off the feed sheep in the dry.The outcome was good both ways and sheep did better on them than hay/silage plus paddocks were drier in winter but willow grow well once established. Don't know if this any help.

Yes thanks will get a load of various willow sticks shove them in and see what happens, the cattle will like the twiggy bits anyway they love ash and birch up to about quarter of an inch  

One year my brother used willow for pea sticks and they all rooted.
colour it green

we planted a 'woodland'  well  - fenced off the boggy end of the field and put some trees in.  we cant hope to supply ourselves with enough firewood but we can do a bit

We went to a local nursery for advice and they said 'look at what is doing well there' - it is a very good point. In the area we have some huge alders, goat willow and ash - so that is what we planted.  we only put a couple of ash in and we took them out after this scare ...

The alder has gone manic - grown the most by far - it loves wet ground. we have yet to discover how well it coppices or burns  - the willow is doing ok and has the advantage that it roots so well - we have goat willow turning up like weeds in the garden so we transplanted some successfully too.

The alder we planted a few years ago have done extremely well for us too.  I have ten seedlings waiting to go in this week. I'm thinking of getting some more silver birch and possibly hazel.

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