Willows for basket making are planted in spring by pushing cuttings into the ground. This used to be done by planting into clean ploughed land, but now many people plant through a black plastic mulch such as silage cover. Within a few weeks the cuttings begin to sprout. By early August each cutting has produced 3 or 4 shoots up to 5 ft. (1.3m) long. When the leaves fall in winter the willows are ready to be cut. The rods from the first harvest are often branchy. The rods are harvested each year by cutting while the sap is down, about late November to mid March. Plastic can be removed after the 3rd year by which time the willows are vigorous enough to compete with grass and weed growth. For the first two years the willows need to be cut by hand but after that can be cut by machine. The rods after been cut before been graded into different lengths.