Heat Wave, World Cup and Wimbledon – why on Earth should you be thinking about the winter and willows?

It’s scorchio at the moment – has been for two weeks and looks like staying that way for another fortnight at least. Then there are the distractions of the World Cup , Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Chances are, the only boiler on your mind is the unrelenting sun and the only fuel you’ll be considering are the coals for the BBQ!

Yet, the summer is exactly the time that you should be thinking ahead. If you’ve got a biomass system, now is the time to give it a service, replace any parts, check the functionality of your meters and check your fuel store levels. Most people won’t be thinking about this now, so if you do, you should be able to get an engineer in pretty promptly or get a delivery of fuel when you want it. Leave it until later in the summer and then everyone will in the same hurry, getting ready for the heating season.

Thinking ahead to the winter is one thing but if you want to start growing your own fuel then it really does pay to think and act well ahead. If you want to plant a short rotation coppice (SRC) willow crop then you should select your field(s) now. Willow is a low input crop and that is certainly the case over its lifetime of 20+ years. But thorough preparation before the crop is planted and in the first few months after is crucially important. One thing that has happened recently is that many important herbicide sprays have been banned. This means that there are far fewer fire brigade measures that you can employ in a weedy crop. Instead, you should be trying to get the most weed free seed bed as possible before you plant.

We suggest spraying three doses of a glyphosate based spray prior to planting – one now up to August, one in October and one in March/April. Also, you should consider sub soiling as this will turn up more weeds seeds and give them a chance to germinate so they can be killed by the glyphosate.

Once planted, spraying some residual herbicides that prevent seed germinating will provide the belt to go with the braces.

So, go ahead and enjoy the weather and the sport but if you are at all serious about woodfuel it pays to put in some time now.