It’s now winter cutting time – you can produce inexpensive, healthy, strong plants with good roots

The period of the winter cutback is a good time to take cuttings of a wide range of plants in the garden. Plants from cuttings can be planted out in the spring, autumn or the second spring depending on the time required to create strong healthy root balls.

The benefits

Firstly you will produce inexpensive, healthy and strong plants provided you take the necessary steps to establish good root systems. 

Secondly, you will have extra plants for your own garden and spares as swaps or gifts for friends. Thirdly, you will have plants to sell at meetings of your local gardening club or charity fairs.

What can be propagated?

If you look through the plant lists in part four of the book Your Garden in Spain or the appendices plant lists in the book How to use less water in your garden, probably 50 per cent can be grown from stem or branch cuttings ranging from a 10 centimetre sage branch cutting to a two metre branch cutting of a fig tree.

Stimulating strong deep roots

Deep roots are essential if plants are to speedily acclimatise and establish themselves when planted out in gardens or containers. Therefore use the deepest pots possible. 

If you can find one of the cellular blocks used for growing young trees for repopulating mountainsides etc, this would be ideal. 

So are drinking water or soft drink bottles of all sizes with the tops cut off but preferably leaving the top attached with a narrow hinge of plastic.

Growing mediums

A medium fine rich in nutrient compost with 10 per cent added fine sand will work with most cuttings.

Create constant microclimates

Constant microclimates with a humid airspace and soil, and protection from overnight drops of temperature and draughts can be produced by placing pots with dampened compost in clear or opaque plastic bags, and then blowing up the bags and sealing them with an elastic band or clothes peg. 

During cold weather place the pots of cuttings in a cold frame with an old piece of carpet or old blanket cover at nights or in a slightly heated greenhouse. 

Prevent losses to snails

Young plants can be vulnerable to snails and slugs. So as soon as you have potted up cuttings place a few ecological snail pellets on the surface of the compost and between pots if placed in groups on the floor, on shelves, or in potting trays. 

Planting out

Don’t be impatient. Wait until deep roots have been produced. Equally don’t leave cuttings in pots until they become root bound.

Watering of cuttings

Aim to keep the soil around the lowest roots moist. The easiest way of knowing this has been achieved is to stand pots in a bowl of water that comes half way up each week or two.

© Dick Handscombe  

January 2016

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