Putting in a willow arbor

Inspired by a willow arbor I saw at Michael Judd’s Long Creek Homestead, with my wife’s blessing I followed his instructions and set out to dig in an arbor over the steps to my front door.

Why an arbor?

When I walk under a canopy of trees like this, I feel a cleansing and purifying sensation, and it puts my soul (almost typed soil there) at peace. I want people who visit to feel welcomed this way, and I would like people who pass by to feel more interested and connected to Nature.

Labor-intensive but fulfilling steps

Measuring it out was pretty easy. I have four steps before the top step, so I decided to do two willow “columns” per step, evenly spaced, with the last single “column” at the top of the walkway.

I dug out squares in the lawn, and pulled them up in whole blocks. I laid them out on a tarp and went to work with the pitchfork to make sure I could get down below soil level at least a foot. I managed on average to get a foot and a half down.

I had all the willow switches (36 in all), in one bucket. I took the two tallest, out of the four tallest, and started at the bottom of the incline, and went up the slope planting switches where the higher I got, the shorter the pieces I selected, so it would not look out of whack

I put a log piece to help catch moisture and possibly slow soil erosion while the willows finish taking root. This is seriously heavy soil.

The most time-consuming part of all this was knocking off soil from sections of sod to recover soil tangled in the grass roots. I took each big block of soil, put it in my wheelbarrow, and chopped away the dirt from the grass’ roots. It was taking forever but there was no real way around the labor; I had to double down on speed and get through it. I also kept a cup for collecting soil grubs for bird food later.

Once I planted the switches on one side, I laid the top layer of grass back on the disturbed soil, and patted things down a bit.

Second side (left)

This went a lot faster as I didn’t cut as wide a swath down the incline, which meant pulling up fewer blocks of sod. Got my technique down. 🙂

If you want to do a project like this, and have never done it before, I suggest reserving six hours of time. If you’re good with a shovel and know your way around lawn sod, you could do a similar project in about four hours.

Lessons learned

Talk to someone who’s done this kind of project before, and then spend some time making a nice plan. An arbor will be a thing of beauty and spiritual refreshment, so planning is a must, as well as a continuous attitude of gratitude and focus on the big picture.

I am grateful to God for the strength to carry out this plan, for the eyes to see what is possible, for people supporting me in making this, and for the time to create it.

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