So gardeners more organised than myself tell me that now Is the time to propagate. Who knew there were set times? Not me. I grab bits of plants and plonk them in the ground or a jar of water and hope for the best. You wouldn’t really want to bet your pay packet on my success rate. It would be a long, hungry month ahead if you did. However, I am a firm believer in the fact that God loves a trier. So try I continue to do.
Ideally, I am told, you would be taking hardwood cuttings now from things like deciduous shrubs like dogwood and viburnum, climbers like honeysuckle, fruit bushes and even trees such as willows. Semi-ripe cuttings such as those taken for herbs, evergreen shrubs such as holly and some viburnums are better taken in the summer. Perennials can be divided now and harvest seeds left, right and centre if you can.
I have collected a few lupin seeds and am looking forward to trying these. I left seedheads on the plant to ripen and turn black. Then I cut the whole stem, placed into a brown paper bag and brought them in to the house to dry out. As they dry the seed pods pop open and fall to the bottom of the bag to await collection, storage and labelling. They are still waiting…..
Tomatoes are probably the easiest seeds to collect. I let the fruit get really ripe then open it up and spread the flesh onto a cloth (or a paper towel if you have them) to dry. These I pop into a paper envelope, seal and label. You can do the same for pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers, etc. Alternatively, if you like a bit of pot luck, chuck the tomatoes into your wormery. The worms will clean all the flesh off the seeds for you. These then mix in with your compost that you harvest at the end and produce what I refer to as ‘my volunteers’. In case you haven’t guessed, my organisation skills leave a lot to be desired.
My autumn raspberries are another set of volunteers. They are nearly too good at propagating and I find myself having to dig them up constantly as they sucker up from an extensive root. When digging them up, you invariably break off the root which may simply send up another sucker while you can pot your new plant up and give it away. Mr. Fairweather and I keep threatening to do an overhaul on the raspberry field. It’s no longer two tidy rows of raspberries. They have taken over and we want that spot for pigs eventually. Besides it would be nice to actually be able to get in at the raspberries.
Strawberries are super easy to propagate and I find they are generally well received as presents. When they send out their runners, sit the base of them into a small pot of soil and anchor them down – some people use a small u-shaped clip, I just use extra soil. Water, water, water. After a week or so, they should have rooted and once you see them sending out a profusion of new leaves you can cut the runner between your new plant and the parent plant. This year, from five parent plants, I got forty new plants. That’s a whole heap of jam next year.
Perennials such as rhubarb crowns can be split now. Ours are too small this year. And I can’t find them in the weeds…. But my house plants have been doing great and I split my aloe vera some time back. From one small pot brimming over with pale forlorn looking aloes, I easily got a dozen plants which are now doing much better with fresh soil, a more regular watering and more generous accommodation. What I hadn’t realised was that they really don’t like direct sunlight. There was me plonking them in the brightest windowsill I had. Turns out a bright room is great but put them in the middle of the room or opposite the window. Mine are a much healthier shade of green now.
I went experimenting with heel cuttings and soft tip cuttings some time back. I raided friends’ and family’s gardens and took cuttings from dogwood, viburnum, bay, sage, oregano, thyme and blackcurrants. No rooting hormone was involved. Some have shrivelled up and died. But some are threatening buds and some of the herbs have even put out new leaves.
The sage, oregano and thyme were tip cuttings. The sage and oregano was in flower at the time, so I removed flowers and base leaves and only left a few leaves in place before sticking them in to the modules I had packed my worm compost into. They are doing well. The thyme did not survive. Never fear – we’ll try again.
The dogwood, viburnum and bay were a mix of heel and tip cuttings. I like the idea of heel cuttings; essentially, you don’t need any tools apart from your hands. You peel off a small stem where it joins onto the main plant. It takes a little piece off that stem and if you hold it up it sort of looks like the foot off of a Barbie doll. Mr. Fairweather would no doubt say that I am crazy and that was one of those thoughts for my quiet voice. But I am sticking to my guns on that. Regardless of what it resembles, simply stick it into the potting compost and water well.
In fact, you don’t necessarily need compost. My blackcurrant cuttings went into a jar of water while I was getting my act together. It took longer than expected and the cuttings have rooted in the water. Surely I must be onto something here. I have long hankered after a honeysuckle bush along the fence of our lane. They grow wild in the ditches and I have tried taking slips a few times but they have never taken. The people that know say that now is the time to take them so off I went to get some new slips. Of course the ditches have been trimmed, the flowers are gone and I have no idea how to identify a plant without the distinctive flower. I hunted high and low and eventually found one I could take a heel cutting off of. I have carefully plonked it into a jar of water in the kitchen and am anxiously awaiting progress.