So we are going to get a little plant-geeky here with this latest blog post and talk about propagation. Not only is this an important subject to us, since half of all our plants we propagate ourselves right here on the farm, but if anyone wanted to try for themselves here are few pointers on our methods. It’s late winter again and Emily and Karen are down in the greenhouses propagating plants from our own stock. Emily took me around and showed me the entire process so I can share it with all of you.
We began by starting with clean black propagation trays that are 10″ X 20″ X 2″ deep filled with white vermiculite, which is porous and allows for good air circulation around the new roots. For easier to root softwood cutting such as geraniums, we will use a germination mix of soil. Emily demonstrated how she begins with an olive pictured below.
She informed me that she likes to take cuttings about 2″ long from plant material that is semi-hardened but not super fleshy, for example really new growth. The cuttings should have a bounce to them but be slightly firm. She then took a box knife and made a diagonal cut into the side as to give the cutting more surface area as to promote more root growth.
She then took the cuttings with their lower halves free of leaves and then dipped into a rooting hormone which is ultimately formulated from willows no less. We use a stronger hormone for woody propagation and a less potent formula for soft cuttings. She makes thin rows in the vermiculite with a knife and lines up the dipped cuttings evenly until the trays are full. Next she places all the labeled trays in our propagation house on heating mats set at around 68-70 degrees, and this helps root growth tremendously.
Here is a little video demonstration of Emily in action.
The next key factor is to keep the new cuttings moist. We have over-head misters installed down the length of the benches pictured above, that are set to a timer that go off every hour for 45 seconds from 8-5 p.m.. Sometimes hand watering is necessary and Emily showed me the misting nozzle below that can be attached to any hose to get the areas missed by the over-head misters.
It can be a slow process with propagating woody plant material like myrtles and eugenia, sometimes months isn’t unheard of. Once roots are established on the cuttings they are transplanted into 2″ nursery pots pictured below. After a few more weeks they are transplanted again into Snug Harbor Farm terra-cotta pots and start their lives as baby topiaries. In the case of other plant material such as begonias, geraniums etc. they are moved into a 4″ nursery pot and become available for our customers when roots are fully established.
We hope you enjoy this look at how and why we like to propagate half of our nursery stock. The idea of gaining many plants from just one mother is extremely fascinating. We urge you to try this process at home with easier to root plants such as willows, begonias or geraniums for example. You don’t need the heat mats just some rooting hormone, and a sunny window and a little experimenting can give you a satisfying result. It would be a good winter project for any home gardener! Let us know how it goes!