How to make a living willow tunnel

26 October 2021

Make a living willow tunnel – Materials needed

  • Main rods* (the length will determine the height of the tunnel)
  • Banding rods*
  • Lattice rods*
  • Tying rods* (alternatively use flexi-ties)
  • Weed suppressant matting
  • Pegs for matting

* The length of the tunnel will dictate the number of willow rods required. Main rods need to be planted every 30cms on each side. Banding rods are woven between the main rods while lattice rods are planted in between (see instructions below). The main rods supplied in our DIY kits are usually 10-15 feet long.

Other useful items

  • Spade
  • Secateurs
  • Scissors / knife
  • Tape measure
  • String
  • Compost / mulch (optional)

Buy a DIY living willow tunnel kit  (Usually available Jan-Apr)

Buy a willow only living willow tunnel kit (Usually available Jan-Apr)

How to make a living willow tunnel

Depending on the weather, living willow should usually be planted in February, March or April. Willow does not like to sit in cold earth!

To keep the willow alive, make a sloping cut at the thick end of the main and lattice rods and place upright in around 10cms of water. Ideally, these rods need to be in water for at least 24 hours before planting out. The banding and tying rods do not need a drink.

Position the tunnel in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and place it away from drains and walls.

Getting started

Mark out the base. Use two pegs and some string to make a straight line (1)


The length is up to you. Repeat for the other side of the tunnel. Leave space for a walkway through the middle (around 1 metre).

If the tunnel is going on a lawn, we recommend removing the turf. Use a spade to clear a 30cm wide strip (2).


Leave the doorway at each end intact. Compost or mulch can be added to the cleared area. Take care removing the turf as you may wish to replace it when the tunnel is finished.

Next, cut the weed suppressant matting to the width of your cleared area and peg at regular intervals (3).


If you have chosen to leave the turf in place, simply peg the weed suppressant matting on top of the grass.

Making a living willow tunnel – Next steps

Starting at one end, push a main rod through the weed suppressant matting. If the ground is hard make a hole with a stick or metal pole. (You must avoid damaging the willow rods.) Plant a main rod every 30cm. The rods need to be at least 15cm deep (4).

How to make a living willow tunnel


This task is made easier if the turf has been removed. Repeat for the other side of the tunnel (5)


Take an opposite pair of main rods and bend them towards one another to meet in the centre (6).

How to make a living willow tunnel


Tie at the required height with a tying rod or flexi tie. (An extra pair of hands comes in useful!) Ensure that the rods significantly overlap as this should prevent them from springing apart (7).


Excess willow can be trimmed or twisted around itself.

Using the banding rods

As you can see from the picture below the rods used for banding are much thinner than the main rods. Take two banding rods and, starting at one end, weave them between the main rods (8). Overlap where necessary. 

How to make a living willow tunnel


The banding rods should cross over one another every time they pass a main rod (9 & 10)



Repeat this weave higher up your tunnel (11). This weave gives strength to the structure and will help the tunnel to maintain its shape during the first year of growth.


After the first year, the weave can be removed or left to decompose naturally.

Using the lattice rods

If you haven’t already done so, make a sloping cut on each lattice rod (12). Lattice rods should be thicker than the banding rods but thinner than the main rods.


Push two of the lattice rods into the ground half way between the main rods and through the weed suppressant membrane (13).

How to make a living willow tunnel


The woven banding rods can sit in front or behind the lattice rods (14 & 15). Be sure to push each Lattice rod at least 15cm into the ground. You are making a lattice pattern, so each Lattice rod needs to be at a 45 degree angle.

How to make a living willow tunnel


How to make a living willow tunnel


Handle these rods with care. If you kink or break a rod it will probably die.

Use tying willow or a flexi tie to secure the lattice rods to the main rods. Each lattice rod should climb up the structure so that the rod reaches the point where the main rod starts to curve (16).

How to make a living willow tunnel


When working by the open ends, remember to go back on yourself with the weave. Turf can now be replaced (17).


The Lattice rods will grow and provide the coverage.

Water well and admire your work!

Maintaining a living willow tunnel

Living willow tunnel

  • Water regularly, especially during the first 3 months
  • Feed twice a year with a tomato feed or bone meal
  • Weave new growth in to the structure to maintain shape and density. Vertical growth at the top of the tunnel should be cut off as the weight of this may cause the structure to collapse
  • Prune at any time of year. It can be easier when the leaves have fallen in Autumn/early Winter
  • Take care when using a strimmer or mower near the willow rods. Damaged rods can easily die












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