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Farm Journal

Under the Tree Farm's Garlic Growing Tips!

Under the Tree Farm's Garlic Growing Tips!

Plant your garlic in fall, just like a tulip or daffodil bulb! In the Finger Lakes Region of NY (we’re in Zone 5b), we plant our garlic the second week of October.

Garlic loves fertile soil and sun! Plant it in the most productive spot in your garden and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest. If you have access to compost or composted cow/horse manure, amend your soil before planting. Break up your garlic heads into individual cloves for planting. Each fall-planted garlic clove will grow into an entire head of garlic!

We plant our garlic cloves 10 inches apart with rows spaced 1 foot apart. Each clove is planted about 3 inches deep into the soil with the pointy side facing upwards. Once our garlic is planted, we mulch our beds with a thick layer of oat straw. You can use hay (dried cut grass), straw (dried stems of grain crops like wheat, rye, or oats), or even dry leaves, to mulch your garlic. When we put down the straw, it is quite fluffy (between 4-6” thick), but the snow over the winter compresses the straw into a thinner, more dense layer that provides weed control and soil moisture retention throughout the growing season.

An important step to growing sizable heads of garlic is fertilizing it in the spring when it is 6-8” tall. On our farm, this is usually early-mid May. We sprinkle our fertilizer on top of the mulch before a rain event. You can use an all purpose 10-10-10 conventional garden fertilizer, or an organic garlic fertilizer blend from Fruition Seeds found by following the links below. If it is a very rainy year, we will give the garlic an additional boost with a foliar feed in June. https://www.fruitionseeds.com/shop/gardening-tools-supplies/organic-fertilizer-amendments/organic-gar lic-and-shallot-fertilizer/

Our garlic is a hardneck variety, which means it makes scapes! In our region, garlic begins to scape in early-mid June. Scapes are edible flower stems that grow from the center of the garlic plant and should be removed to encourage the garlic plant to focus its energy on sizing up the bulb. If you leave the scapes on the plant, they will eventually form bulbils (mini garlic cloves!) and flowers. It is best to snap off the garlic scapes near where they come out of the plant and use them for pesto, stir fry, and more.

For fresh green garlic, you can harvest your garlic before the plant has started to dry down. We begin to harvest our garlic around the first week in July for fresh green (uncured) garlic. Green garlic is absolutely delicious and very juicy! If you’ve never tried it, we recommend pulling a couple of heads early to try it. We let the rest of our garlic size up and cure down for a few more weeks, and usually begin our main harvest the third week in July. When the lower leaves of the plant start to dry down, first turning yellow and then brown, you’ll know it’s time to harvest. You may be able to just pull your garlic plants out of the ground, or you may need to use a digging fork to dig them out, depending on how hard and moist your soil is. We like to bundle our garlic in groups of 15, tie them tightly with a string about 6” up the stem from the bulbs, and hang them in a shed with good air circulation to dry. ****If it is a very wet summer, you may want to cure your garden in a high tunnel or greenhouse. Important: If you use this method, you must make sure the temperature stays below ~100°F to prevent damage to the bulbs. We use shade cloth over the garlic itself, or over the entire greenhouse, to keep the temperature down

Good luck, and happy gardening!

Crystal & Scott Van Gaasbeck

Under the Tree Farm

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planting a basketry willow patch? here are our favorite cultivars to grow in zone 5b

planting a basketry willow patch? here are our favorite cultivars to grow in zone 5b

Our farm is in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York State in plant hardiness zone 5b. We grow perennial fruit, nursery stock, and a handful of vegetables on our 8+ cultivated acres. When we started growing willow in spring 2018, we focused mainly on decorative cultivars that would be excellent in cut flower arrangements. We planted pussy willows with giant catkins, curly willow, fasciated willow, and willow with vivid winter color. After growing willow for a year and becoming enamored by it, we learned more about basket weaving, and decided to plant a handful of basketry varieties in spring 2019. Since then, we moved our farm to a new property, so we have had some experience seeing how adaptable willows can be on different soils in our climate. 

If you are planting a basketry willow patch, you’ll want to include these cultivars!

All of the following cultivars tend to produce many long, slender rods each year with little to no branching, perfect for side weavers on your baskets!

-Salix purpurea ‘Dicky Meadows’

-Salix purpurea ‘Green Dicks’

-Salix purpurea ‘Jagiellonka’

-Salix purpurea ‘Dark Dicks’

-Salix purpurea x daphnoides (Tends to produce a greater variety of thickness of rods than the other cultivars listed. Good for stakes and weavers)

-Salix purpurea ‘Polish Purple’

-Salix purpurea ‘Brittany Green’

-Salix purpurea ‘Packing twine’

The following cultivars tend to produce fewer usable rods that aren’t perfectly straight, and may have variation in thickness and some branching, but their color is vibrant and will add interest to your baskets:

-Salix myrsinfolia ‘Blackskin’

-Salix x fragilis ‘Fransgeel Rood’

-Salix x fragilis f. Vitellina ‘Yellow Flame’

-Salix x fragilis ‘Natural Red’

How much willow do you need to plant for your basketry patch? Good question! Generally, basketry willow is harvested each year, so you’ll want to think about how many baskets you hope to make each year. 

In general, a rule of thumb we’ve heard is you need about 150 rods (or dried sticks) of willow to weave a basket about 12”  in diameter. Think a medium-sized garden harvest basket or a mini backpack basket.  

After planting, willow takes a year to get established, so you won’t get many usable weaving rods until its second year. The first year’s growth tends to be shorter and branchy, but after a few years in the ground, you can expect each plant to produce around 30 rods per year. Some cultivars produce far fewer rods, like Continental Purple or Winter Green, which are good for woven fences or sub-structures of larger woven willow projects. Our favorite varieties listed above should produce about 30 rods each year. The colorful varieties listed above tend to produce fewer rods per plant, so you’ll need to plant more, Not every rod is perfect, often you won’t be able to use ones that are branchy, too thick, or too thin, so you’ll want to plan for extra plants so you can be sure to have your 150 perfect rods per basket. So, if you need 150 rods, with 30 rods per plant, that is about 5 plants per basket, but to make sure you really have enough to weave with, we recommend planting at least two extra plants per basket, so say you need 7 plants per basket, on average, for a 12” diameter basket. If you plan to weave larger baskets, you’ll need to plant more plants per basket. If you plan to weave very small baskets, you’ll need fewer plants per basket.

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Willow Planting Guide

Willow Planting Guide

willow planting instructions and care

We cultivate nearly 1/4 acre of basketry willow, grown to produce long, thin rods perfect for weaving baskets! We absolutely love growing this plant, and sell cuttings https://underthetreefarm.com/collections/willow Here are some of our tips and tricks for growing willow on our farm.

Willow is highly adaptable, and will tolerate a range of soil types and microclimates. You can stick the cuttings along a stream bank to prevent erosion, in your perennial garden for a pop of winter color, plant your own living structure or decorative/privacy fence, or plant them in rows in your garden or on your farm to harvest for basket weaving like we do. If you have a seasonal wet spot in your yard where not much else will grow, willow will likely thrive! 

Storing your cuttings until planting:

It is best to keep your willow cuttings in a zipped plastic bag your refrigerator until you plant them. This will help keep them dormant, and will encourage them to callous. After a while in your refrigerator, the cuttings may appear to crack open and look whitish all along the stem. If this happens, don’t worry, this is a good sign! This just means the willow is ready to grow roots.

Choosing a spot:

Considerations when choosing a spot to plant your willow include: plentiful sunshine, little to no weed competition, and access to irrigation water the first year when the cuttings are being established. It is acceptable to plant your willow in a location that is seasonably wet (i.e., in the spring or winter), but it is not recommended to plant your willow in a location that is always submerged in water. 

It is important to plant your willow far away from your septic system. Willow’s deep roots will travel to search for water, and can easily clog your leach field, necessitating a costly repair. 


The most important thing to remember when you are planting your cuttings is to plant them with the triangular-shaped buds pointed upwards to the sky. If you accidentally plant them upside down, your cuttings will not grow.

Before planting each cutting, pay attention to which direction the buds are facing, and make sure to orient the buds upwards. 

It is best to plant your cuttings in the spring after the danger of a hard freeze. If you plant them and then it is forecast to get very cold at night a few nights, you can cover them (very carefully so as to not rub off buds or shoots) with a piece of row cover or even a bedsheet.

To plant our cuttings outdoors, we use a scrap piece of rebar to poke a hole into the soil, then insert the cuttings (with triangular buds pointed upwards!) into the soil, leaving about 3-4 buds above the soil line.  You can also dig a small hole with a trowel and backfill the soil once your cutting is in the ground. If you have loose soil with few rocks, you may even be able to just carefully stick the cutting into the ground without any tools. Once the cutting is in the ground, it is important to make sure it has good soil contact for the roots to grow properly. Use your hands or feet to press very firmly on the soil on all sides of the cutting. 

Alternatively, if you have a greenhouse or a very sunny windowsill indoors,  you can jumpstart the season by planting your cuttings into pots, and growing them indoors until planting them outside. We like to use 4.5” deep square plastic pots we get from our local farm supply store to grow out our willow in the greenhouse for our local plant sale in May. It is important to provide greenhouse-grown cuttings with fertilization until planting, either by feeding weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer, or by using a potting mix that includes time-release fertilizer. After about 2 ½ months in pots, the willow will have grown about a foot tall, and its  roots will be eager to grow out of the bottom of the pot. If you start your willow indoors, as with any transplanted plant, it is important to first harden plants off before planting them outside, or they may experience transplant shock.

Plant spacing

Planting and management instructions vary based on how you plan to use your willow. In general, if you are planning on growing willow for basket weaving, it is best to crowd plants close together to promote thin, straight rods. If you just want a few decorative willows in your perennial garden, you can plant them a few feet apart and let them grow bushier. 

We grow our willow for basketry purposes in rows spaced 4 feet on center, with plants 8-10” apart within rows. We like this spacing because it allows the willow to compete with each other while still allowing us to walk down the rows midsummer (just barely). You can put your rows closer together, but it makes it much more difficult to walk through the patch to monitor for insects and disease.

We also have willow planted as accent bushes in our perennial garden. For decorative purposes, we space them about 4’ apart. 

If you are planting a living fence or structure, you can plant your willow cuttings close together in your desired shape, then weave the shoots together after the first year. Alternatively, you can plant a patch of willow elsewhere, then in winter,  harvest the long rods and plant the entire rods come spring, tying or weaving them to adjacent rods to create a living woven willow fence. 

Establishing your new willow patch: 

It is important that your willow has little-to-no weed competition while getting established. You can accomplish this by hand weeding and mulching with wood chips or straw to prevent annual weeds from germinating, or sticking your cuttings into plastic landscape fabric or even cardboard boxes. 

Our willow is planted in rows 4’ apart, and we use 3’ landscape fabric for the walkways between the willow, with a 1’ wide strip of wood chip mulch around the plants. (See diagram on the left.) We have found this to be an excellent way to manage weeds in our willow patch. 

We’ve found that the most pesky weeds in our willow patch are perennial weeds that are difficult to get rid of, like quackgrass and wild brambles. With vigilance and hand weeding, we keep perennial weeds at bay. Once your willow is established, it can tolerate some weed pressure, and will grow quickly each spring and will shade out annual weeds in the understory. 

We provide our newly-planted willow cuttings with ample water the first year, especially when the cuttings are first breaking bud and leafing out. Pay attention to how much rainfall you get after planting, and provide additional water to your plants if needed.

It is important to pay close attention to insect pests, especially when establishing your willow patch.

Insect pests:

We have found spongy moth caterpillars, potato leafhoppers, aphids, and especially Japanese beetles, to be our most common willow pests. Usually, the Japanese beetles and spongy moth caterpillars do the most damage, and sometimes need to be picked off by hand and squished if the infestation is bad enough. Spongy moth caterpillars can be easily controlled by the organic spray, bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a soil bacterium that will kill caterpillars. Spongy moths especially love tender young willows, and tend to descend on the willow right as they begin to grow in the springtime, munching the leaves. They can wreak havoc on young plants! We had a terrible spongy moth infestation in our area the year we planted our willow patch, and had to diligently monitor and spray BT and squish caterpillars for weeks.

Japanese beetles show up in full force in midsummer in our area, and also can do a lot of damage on willow plants! They take gigantic bites out of the willow leaves and growing tips of the rods, usually causing the willow rods to branch at every spot where they take a bite. Their feeding is highly dependent on cultivar: we’ve found that the beetles especially love Salix Americana. There is not much you can do organically other than remove them by hand. If the infestation is bad enough,  you may decide to use a conventional spray to control the beetles!


Since our willow planting is relatively young, we have not yet had personal experience with willow diseases, but there are various fungal and bacterial diseases you may have to contend with. Here is an informative publication from The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station https://portal.ct.gov/CAES/Plant-Pest-Handbook/pphW/Willow-Salix


We manage our willow patch by coppicing, or cutting all of the year's growth to the ground each winter when the plants are dormant. This promotes a flush of thin, straight shoots every year, perfect for weaving willow baskets! It is important to only prune your willow plants when they are dormant, or you will significantly reduce the vigor of your plants. We use this method for our willow in our basketry patch, and the willow we planted in our perennial flower garden.

You can also manage your willows by pollarding them, or letting them grow a permanent trunk higher off the ground, then pruning back to a certain height every year.

If you plant a living willow fence or structure, the general concept is you create a permanent framework of willow, then prune back to that framework every winter, letting the willow resprout every spring from the same place.

You can also just plant your willow and let it grow wild! It is really up to you.

Willow for weaving:

If you are planning to weave with your willow, you must first dry the willow out completely, then soak it in a tub of water to make it flexible again before weaving. You can weave with freshly harvested “green” willow, but as your basket/woven creation dries, the willow will shrink significantly, and your weave will become loose. Drying the willow and then soaking leads to less shrinkage in your weaving.


We are happy to help answer any questions you may have about growing willow. Don’t hesitate to reach out! We hope your willow plants bring you joy!

Happy planting,

Crystal & Scott Van Gaasbeck

Under the Tree Farm

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Apple Tree Pruning Tips

Apple Tree Pruning Tips

*This information is available in full-sized, PDF form at this link: https://underthetreefarm.com/products/applepruningguide

It's March 22, and in our region, it's still not too late to finish dormant pruning your fruit trees and berry bushes! Many people have asked us for more information about how we prune, so we have put together a brief guide about how we think about pruning our high density, single-leader apple orchard. It is by no means a comprehensive pruning guide -there is so much more we could include- but it's a start! It doesn't discuss remedial pruning, or pruning open-center trees, but it does discuss how we establish properly-shaped trees to make pruning a breeze in future years. Enjoy! 


Theory behind establishing and pruning our high density, dwarf apple orchard 

  • Scaffolds and secondary branches make up the basic structure of an apple tree. Scaffolds are the main branches that form the permanent structure of a tree. Secondary branches are smaller branches that grow off the scaffold. Secondary branches are renewed to promote new growth and balance vegetative growth of the tree with fruit production
    • On a vertical axis tree, the scaffold is the tall, vertical trunk.
    • On an open-center tree, the scaffolds are main branches coming off the trunk. It takes a few extra years to establish scaffolds on an open center tree, and on a standard tree, it can take up to 10 years to establish the scaffold of a tree. 
    • We use summer and dormant pruning to establish and maintain the secondary branches

  • We grow fully dwarf trees, on B9 rootstock, secured to a trellis for support. Trees are spaced 5 feet between trees and 15 feet between rows
    • Our goal is to achieve single-leader trees that are no more than 10 feet tall at maturity, with 20-30 horizontal secondary branches that are renewed when their diameter reaches ½ the diameter of the main trunk of the tree
  • The first priority when establishing newly-planted trees is to form the scaffold. As soon as that is accomplished, the next priority is to establish a large number of relatively weak secondary branches to bear the fruit. 
    • In general, vertical/upright secondary branches tend to produce vigorous vegetative growth.
    • In general, horizontal/lateral secondary branches tend to produce flower buds and bear fruit.
    • At first, a young tree naturally will want to grow a few vigorous vertical branches, so the principle goal of pruning for the first few years is to encourage branch formation and reduce the vigor of the branches that do form. 

The way to encourage branch formation is to cut back new branches 12”-18” from the scaffold, and the way to reduce vigor is to tie the branches down and perform heading cuts to a weak lateral. 

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