If you would like to bring life back to a willow and treeless reach of stream bank, you can plant right along the water's edge, and then watch the transformation start to happen soon after.
The method involves both planting while kneeling on the stream bank or from the water. My preference is to go wet!
The true is that my survival rates can be a lot higher if I plant from the shallows of the creek. The capillary fringe is always wet, as long as the water levels flow normal, so this is advantagous to the planter and the plants. Willows do prefer wet ground to get started, so early spring, just after frost out in the ground, you can start your planting program.
The soft soil, wet from the stream's flow, makes it easy to push the rooted cutting into the bank and give it a tamp with your gloved hand to seal the hole from air and allow the roots to continue to grow. Once roots start on a cutting, they can be sheared off, yet they will continue to grow, so there is no shock in this form of planting, if it is done early enough in the new pre-rooted cutting's growth. Just after they start to grow buds, you can start planting.
This winter, I started to grow my cuttings on the 18th of March, 2021. The prepared rolls of 100 plants is placed in a 20 Litre bucket to grow in. The lot is covered with heavy 4 mil. or 6 mil. plastic and tarps for the cold nights. This will act as your green house for the spring pre-growth of cuttings.
On sunny days you can remove the covers and check water levels in the pails, and also for growth, which is just starting on the cuttings shown in this photo.
The plants will be ready for planting by the end of the frost in the ground, along local trout streams. I have started to plant as early as the last week of April on some years, but mostly in the first or second week of May. Planting goes really fast!
This is the horizontal planting, usually done on vertical slopes of a stream bank, where exposed soil makes the job easy.
The 45 degree angle is good for slopes of a similar angle. Good for planting on erosion sites like exposed clay and soil.
This eroding stream bank has received multiple plantings, all completed in last year's planting program.
On the Bighill Creek and other streams that I plant on, the in-stream activities period runs from April 1st until September 15th, so the use of waders to plant on stream banks is a useful tool and improves the efficiency of the riparian planting program considerably. The in-stream activities period is designed to protect specific species of sport fish, during their spawning and incubation period. The date for the BH Creek starts April 1st, so the planting has yet to start, so we are good to go when it does.
The use of chest waders has allowed me to plant many thousands of willows along areas that are more conducive to willow propagation and future spread of the plant, thru seed dispersal. The water can get deep in some areas, so the use of chest waders is better for the job, unless the water levels are shallow enough for the cooler hip waders. Remember that it is early spring, and the water temperatures are freezing cold still.
The willows and deciduous trees can be pulled from the growing medium rolls and placed in buckets, with a black plastic bag to keep the air off of the roots. 100 plants can be placed in one bucket for moving closer to the creek.
Smaller fabric bags can and are used to hold small numbers of plants for the volunteers. I personally use two bags attached to a belt for production planting and this allows me to plant over 100 plants per hour.
This photo shows plants prepared for transport to the stream bank, with a double bag set up on a belt and two pail fulls of willows with their roots covered for the main bulk of plants.
This game cart can move three hundred plants to site, along with two pails and other equipment.
The first stream that some BVHD volunteers and I planted on in Cochrane, was Millennium Creek in the year 2007. The before and after photos are right below:
The volunteers and I planted over 400 native plants on Millennium Creek in that year of 2007.
Guess what? *** The trout are spawning on the same site, because we also made a spawning habitat during the project.