Questions about Willow Planting and Drying for Winter Storage

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RabbitsOfTheCreek

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I like pussy willow, but so do Japanese Beetles. If your area has these beetles, you might lose production in July, maybe July and August. It depends on how thick the beetles are in a given year. In my yard, pussy willow was the first plant they went to.
We used to have two pussy willow trees and two bushes, but they were taken out because they took up a lot of space and stoped growing so much of the little fluffy things. I don't think beetles ever went to them
 

MuddyFarms

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Just a word of caution: White Mulberry (Morus alba) is invasive and is listed as a noxious weed in some states. In Kentucky, I've seen the seedlings pop up everywhere. Morus alba is not native to our continent.

Morus rubra, the Red Mulberry, is native in the U.S. and is not considered invasive.
That is important to know. I was aware that they were a problem in areas of the country, just not which ones were the main problem. Do they only spread by seed or some other way, too? I don't think we have any near me, so I was hoping I could get females only and avoid them spreading. Goodness! I just looked on the nursery website and most of the ones that I was hoping for are the Morus alba or a cross. :( I think I will research how far away from male mulberries they need to be in order to keep them from spreading by seed tomorrow.


I am enjoying this thread! Seems to be a great conversation about fodder trees. Thanks for participating everybody!
 

ThunderHill

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Just a word of caution: White Mulberry (Morus alba) is invasive and is listed as a noxious weed in some states. In Kentucky, I've seen the seedlings pop up everywhere. Morus alba is not native to our continent.

Morus rubra, the Red Mulberry, is native in the U.S. and is not considered invasive.
Yep, we're in Kentucky and they basically pop up along any fence line or other spot that doesn't get mowed down often enough, and then grow fast! I'll be chopping them for the rabbits from now on. I read somewhere that the invasive stuff has hybridized with the native varieties to the point that you really can't find the pure native ones anymore.

I bought a few little rooted cuttings last spring that were supposed to be a black, dwarf everbearing variety for my new food forest project, but we'll see. So far my plant ID app is telling me they are the same morus alba we have all over the place.
 

Zee-Man

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I like pussy willow, but so do Japanese Beetles. If your area has these beetles, you might lose production in July, maybe July and August. It depends on how thick the beetles are in a given year. In my yard, pussy willow was the first plant they went to.
This year was a small problem with japanese beetle, I almost wasn't able to get traps. The best way to handle them is not to let them mate. I'll see if I get many grubs appearing in the spring as I continue to double dig my garden bed.
 

MnCanary

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Where do you put your beetle traps? The very best place, according to the University of Kentucky (and others) is in your neighbor's yard. Traps can bring more beetles to a yard than would normally visit there.

I'm concerned about Japanese Beetle populations for summer 2022. We had a wet summer, the grass stayed green, without irrigation, the entire season. I think that beetle populations are larger following a wet summer, because the grubs have plenty to eat. We'll see.

Sometime, maybe a new thread, I'd like to hear your reasoning and experience about double-digging your garden bed.
 

MuddyFarms

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So, does anyone feed DRIED willow branches to their rabbits with any success? Or any other dried forage tree for that matter?
I am wondering if it would just be better to strip the leaves for drying in the summer and use the leftover stripped branches from that, fresh while they would eat them. Then the rest of the bush could be left alone to regrow partway through summer, and later the dormant branches could be used fresh in the winter. The dried leaves could be used for any gaps in that process, perhaps.

@Preitler , did your rabbits eat the dried willow branches if it was just the newest year's growth that was small twigs?
 

Preitler

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I only fed dried willow and ash leafs, yes, they eat all that. The other stuff I cut through winter, and I noticed that they didn't like the most recent twigs, but eat the bark off branches up to 2" (I make cuts so the bark stands off as starters)
 

MaggieJ

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So, does anyone feed DRIED willow branches to their rabbits with any success? Or any other dried forage tree for that matter?
I am wondering if it would just be better to strip the leaves for drying in the summer and use the leftover stripped branches from that, fresh while they would eat them. Then the rest of the bush could be left alone to regrow partway through summer, and later the dormant branches could be used fresh in the winter. The dried leaves could be used for any gaps in that process, perhaps.

@Preitler , did your rabbits eat the dried willow branches if it was just the newest year's growth that was small twigs?
We have a huge old weeping willow tree. We also get high winds from time to time. When a limb came down and there was too much for fresh feeding alone, I dried large quantities for winter feed. I tied a knot in the four corners of an old bedsheet and hung it up in the shed like like a hammock, tied to nails with strong cord. I used secateurs to make the branches manageable and simply tossed them into the sling to dry. Great winter fed, good source of protein in addition to their alfalfa/grass hay. The rabbits loved it. I did have to remove some small branches stripped of their bark.

You could do the same with poplar, elm or just about any deciduous rabbit-safe tree.
 

MnCanary

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We have a huge old weeping willow tree. We also get high winds from time to time. When a limb came down and there was too much for fresh feeding alone, I dried large quantities for winter feed. I tied a knot in the four corners of an old bedsheet and hung it up in the shed like like a hammock, tied to nails with strong cord. I used secateurs
I've been in Horticulture for 50+ years, but "secateurs" was a new word for me. They're pruning shears, or we called them clippers. I've worn out a lot of pairs over the years. There is always something to learn!
 

MaggieJ

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I've been in Horticulture for 50+ years, but "secateurs" was a new word for me. They're pruning shears, or we called them clippers. I've worn out a lot of pairs over the years. There is always something to learn!
Oops, sorry. Cultural difference, I suppose. Canada's vocabulary is influenced by both UK and USA. We more often say "pruning shears" too, but it was late when I posted and "secateurs" was what came to mind.
 

Zee-Man

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So, does anyone feed DRIED willow branches to their rabbits with any success? Or any other dried forage tree for that matter?
...
This year as soon as the maple leaves fell I raked up a bunch and put them in an empty hutch. I put handfulls of the dried leaves in the manger. Dosidoe eats them when she is hungry enough. She will go for just about any other food first.
 

MuddyFarms

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Thank you both for the info! @MaggieJ , it's good to hear the willow branches can be fed dried for the winter. That sounds like a great way to dry them, too. Not hugely labor intensive; always good. And interesting about the maple leaves. @Zee-Man , does she like to eat the leaves when they are fresh and just doesn't like them dried? I have lots of a native maple here. I think they are Rocky Mountain Maples, not sure the latin name.
 

Zee-Man

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@MuddyFarms She likes the green leaves when they are very young. By summer time she will ignore them entirely if they are from a fresh sprout. When they are still tender but full of color she likes them again. Once they are brown and dry its a food that she will eat, but low on the preference scale.
 

MuddyFarms

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@MuddyFarms She likes the green leaves when they are very young. By summer time she will ignore them entirely if they are from a fresh sprout. When they are still tender but full of color she likes them again. Once they are brown and dry its a food that she will eat, but low on the preference scale.

Okay; thanks! That is helpful to know.
 

MuddyFarms

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@MnCanary , do you know if the little mites/insects that bother willow branches at times make it so the rabbits shouldn't eat it? I think it must be what is mentioned here:

"Caution when ordering S. purpurea varieties in the Pacific Northwest. Some varieties are particularly attractive to a stem gall midge in the Cecidomyiidae family. The midge lays eggs in the stems and the larvae make a gall on the stem. The most susceptible varieties at our farm are Eugene, Lambertiana, Polish Purple, Leicestershire Dicks, Light Dicks, America, Richartii, Packing Twine, Vermont Red." Willow Cuttings for Willow Basketry and Gardens - Dunbar Gardens

I read that the mites do not usually affect the fresh growth (not sure how accurate that is), so I have been thinking I may need to coppice the wild ones we have to see if that helps it next year. But I am wondering if it would be safe to feed the stuff I cut down from them with the bugs and if this is just going to cut into my harvests all the time. Stuff to learn about, for sure!
 

HTAcres

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There's other species of tree which are nutritious for rabbits. We have mulberry and ti plants here that are planted especially for the rabbits although they get forage from other plants as well.

Willow likes wet areas, is there a handy wet area near your bunnies so you don't have to carry the fodder very far?
I live in a very dry area so when we plant weeping willows, we microirrigate it. Simple and relatively inexpensive and they grow like crazy then.
 

HTAcres

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Yeah, Mulberry is definitely on my spring to-plant-list! It sounds like an amazing tree. Do you find that they like any specific part of the tree and not others? Do they get tired of it or do they always love it? That is also a tree I am trying to figure out a good harvesting method for. I am working to get about five main forages available for the rabbits so I can rotate and try to have more balanced nutrition for them. But, of course, I have to find things that work for my climate. I wanted moringa but was happy to find that mulberry is similar and can tolerate the northern US.

You're right; trying to have the fodder as close as possible to the rabbits is such an important thing! I have a couple possible areas to plant the willow; none of them are especially wet, but I do have a few wild willows on the property that do well. I was thinking of planting near them and seeing how they do.

I have a white mulberry that volunteered. My experience is that the rabbits like it fresh okay but not nearly as much as they like the willow. However, they go after it dry as fast as they do the dry willow. I just pruned the tree and put the branches in feed bags and that worked but as I said earlier, I live in a very dry area.
 

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