Plant Propagation For The New Gardener

Learn to grow your own plants inexpensively.

You may have already grown plants from seed before; if so, perhaps you can learn and obtain a better success rate. You are going to need a few things to get started. You will need containers; for these you can recycle paper egg cartons, paper and plastic milk containers, two liter soda bottles, butter tubs, etc. You will want to clean these containers thoroughly; also, some of these containers can be used more than once, in which case, before using them you will want to clean them with one part bleach and two parts water to prevent diseases. Once you have gathered your containers, you should provide adequate drainage by cutting holes in the bottoms.

Next, you will need a planting medium. This will be sterile sand, vermiculite, perlite, or a combination of peat and any of the previously mentioned items. You might also want to add gravel or shards of pottery to the container before adding your growing medium. This is to aid in providing adequate drainage. While you do not want your seeds or seedlings to dry out, subsequently you do not want them setting in water, as this will cause rot, mold, and any number of other problems.

Now, you need seeds. Follow the planting directions printed on the back of the seed packet. If no planting directions are provided, a good rule of thumb is to plant the seeds at a depth of twice the diameter of the seed. In the case of really small seeds, sow them on the surface with perhaps a very light covering or no covering at all. Seeds will germinate better if they have heat from the bottom. If starting seed in the house, a good place to set the containers is on top of the refrigerator; this will provide adequate heat. When the weather is warm outside, this is not necessary. To help keep the soil moist, you can put the container in a clear plastic bag leaving the end open to allow air circulation. In the case of plastic two-liter soda containers, when you cut the tops off, save them to cover the bottom to form a mini greenhouse.

When the seedlings have developed their first two true leaves, it is time to transplant them to their own pots. The first two leaves you see will be the seed leaves; the next leaves to appear will be the first true leaves. When transplanting the seedlings you will need to handle them with care. A good idea is to remove the seedlings from their original container using an old fork; this does the least damage to the young and tender root system. Be sure to plant them at the same depth as they were growing at the beginning. Keep them watered; do not let these tender plants dry out. You can use a well-diluted, soluble fertilizer at this point to cut down on transplant shock. Once they become established enough to move to a larger container, you can increase the amount of fertilizer. Soon, your new plants will be ready to go into the garden.

Now that you have mastered the art of seed propagation, try your hand at propagating from cuttings. There are many plants that will root from cuttings; the varieties are far too many to cover here. There are a number of excellent books available on the subject. Before you rush out and buy these books, check your local library first.

There are a few things that you'll need to get started. You will need a sharp knife, a good pair of pruning shears, containers, soil or a soil substitute (vermiculite, perlite, etc.), and a rooting hormone. The rooting hormone stimulates root growth. Be sure to read and follow the direction and caution labels on the bottle.

Now that you have all of your tools and materials together, it's time to take some cuttings. Hopefully, by now you have identified a plant that you can root from simple cuttings. If you are taking cuttings from a neighbor's garden or from any place where you cannot plant the cuttings right away, then you will need to keep the cuttings in water or in a cool place to keep them as fresh as possible.

Now that you have some cuttings, the next thing to do is prepare the pots to be used. Fill the pots to within an inch from the top with the planting medium of your choice. Wet it well; then, using a stick, make a hole in the center. This is so when you insert the cutting, it won't brush off the rooting hormone. Make a fresh cut just below a swollen area known as a node, which is the place from where leaves or a branch might grow. This is where the roots will form. Your cutting should be no more than about seven inches long, and you should leave no more than three to five leaves on the cutting. Dip the freshly cut end into the rooting hormone, and be sure to tap the excess from the cutting. Insert the cutting into the hole you created in the medium and press the soil or substitute firmly around the cutting. Water and sit it in a place where it will not get direct sun. In about six to eight weeks, you should have a new plant. Have fun and keep gardening!

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