Meeting: October 29th
Victoria came late to professional gardening having spent some years as an accountant and gave a lively and practical demonstation.
Her talk was on propagation, but she began by telling us the two things that amateur gardeners always get wrong: –
1 They do not feed their plants well enough, feed once a season with all-purpose continuous release fertiliser.
2 They are too timid and not ruthless enough when looking at plants in their garden, just surviving is not growing! Don’t be afraid to make changes!
This brought us neatly onto propagation as if ruthless you have more space for new plants or old favourites that have become tired.
There are three main methods of propagation, sowing from seed, taking cuttings and division. To find out which plants propagate by which method obtain a good book!
1 Sowing from Seed
Firstly, make sure your seed is alive – some seeds have short life expectancies ie parsnips others will last for many years if stored correctly, preferably in a fridge and not in a greenhouse with large changes of temperature and humidity.
Secondly use low nutrition compost otherwise the young rootlet, radicle, will be scorched by the fertiliser in the compost.
If you have ever had issues with damping off sow the seeds in pots or plug trays 2/3 full of compost with the top 1/3 of vermiculite or perlite. By the time the radicle has grown through the vermiculite and reached the compost it will be strong enough to grow on without problems.
2 Taking cuttings
There are three main ways of taking cuttings, hardwood cuttings, semi ripe cuttings and root cuttings. November is a good time for most plants.
Hardwood Cuttings – These have a very high success rate – take 20 cm lengths with a diameter of approximately 1 cm immediately below a node (leaf or bud), remove the leaves (if doing a number at the same time place into polythene bag to retain moisture until ready to plant) and put cuttings into soil, possibly in the vegetable patch and leave until the following July.
Root Cuttings- Takes pieces of root about 4 cm in length and as thick as a finger if possible (although in practice they rarely are!) and lay horizontally in seed trays filled with a compost/vermiculite (or perlite) 50:50 mix and cover with more compost mix. These will make shoots before roots so leave until you see the roots protruding from the bottom of the seed tray. Preferably outside in a dry covered position or unheated greenhouse.
Semi Ripe Cuttings – Take cuttings in July or August about 10cm (this varies from species to species) remove lower leaves and plant in pots of the 50:50 compost vermiculite mix. Semi ripe heel cuttings are very similar but taken by tearing of main plant and leaving a tail. Leave cuttings in pots in polythene bags loosely tied at top. A heated pad can help with growing.
3 Division – The simplest method of all, lift roots and cut with a sharp implement, bread knife, axe or spade (not two forks back to back!!) Take a root with a shoot attached from the outside of the root-ball and replant. Do not attempt to divide grasses when in growing season.
Hormonal rooting powder is not required in any of these methods.
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