Willows and Dogwoods provide erosion control and provide habitat for fish.
Stakes can be taken from the same plants, but they must be from thicker branches, about one or two inches in diameter. The stakes can be about one or two feet in length. Sharpen one end and then pound the stake in with a hammer or sledge. Try not to smash the top where you pound. Once you have the stake in place, cut off the top where you pounded, so there is a clean even cut to form new growth in the spring. A good pair of brush trimmers with a sharp edge will do the trick.
Willow posts are large cuttings that are taken from a black or weeping willow tree. I have taken posts from a willow cut down in July, and had a successful planting. I recommend fall though, while the trees are dormant.
To plant the posts use a 3 point hitch fence post auger. The auger should be larger than the post so you can easily backfill the hole. Six to eight feet long posts, each about 4 to 6 inches in diameter can be cut with a chainsaw and planted in the 4 foot deep augured hole. This method works great in sandy soils where shallow plantings die due to the lack of moisture in summer. Posts can also be pushed into the soft muddy bank with a backhoe or excavator, especially if a pilot hole is done first.
Bio-engineering is a simple and cost effective way for the do it yourselfer to stabilize your stream banks, reduce soil erosion and create some quality fishery habitat.
Now is the time to get the willows and dogwoods planted, so you can get out fishing for the fall browns and rainbows, lurking under those overhanging willows, planted by some stream bio-engineer in the past.
No matter whether you use cuttings, fascines, stakes or posts to stabilize a stream bank, you may need a permit. Check with the Department of Environmental Conservation before you do any work and remember to be safe out there!
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.