Looking for your next plant purchase might be something you are putting off, as the price of just about everything around us keeps going up.
This article is a very basic guide about how to produce more plants for your garden at minimum cost to you which you will not find in any gardening book because it is un-refined. This article is therefore not for the experts amongst you but for the many who are not.
TAKING CUTTINGS: There are three things you will need – a container for the cuttings, compost for the cuttings to grow in and another plant from which to take the cuttings. Any container will do provided it has holes in the bottom. Multipurpose compost will do a perfectly good job and to make your money stretch further you can mix it with sand. Second-hand compost will also work, we often use it, but there are possible risks from pests and diseases. The only thing the compost needs to do is hold water and be light enough for the new roots to grow without resistance. Garden soil is not ideal unless it is very light. Let’s face it, how would you like to grow up with your feet in cement?
We are now going to ignore most of the rules about taking cuttings. From a plant, you already have to take a healthy stem and cut off a six-inch length starting from the top, even if it has flowers on it. Half of this cutting will be under the compost so remove any side growth on the bottom three inches leaving just the bare stem. Now, remove any flowers or flower buds from the top three inches and cut off the top half an inch of this six-inch cutting. You have a choice here, you can keep on taking six-inch lengths from the same stem until you have no more stem left or you can take each cutting from a different stem. Now, put it in your container with the compost and try to place the cuttings around the outside.
Keep the cuttings in the container moist and leave them somewhere out of the sun. You will know if the cuttings have taken because roots will eventually grow out of the holes in the bottom.
This should work well with Pelargoniums (house plant Geraniums), Fuchsias, Salvias, border carnations, most alpines, Hydrangeas and you could even have a go at roses. In fact, have a go at anything you like.
Once you have got the hang of it you can always graduate to the way the professionals do it.
DIVIDING PLANTS: Not all plants can be divided but for those that can the easiest to deal with is one, is when it’s still in a pot. And that could be one that has been in a pot for a long time or you have just bought it.
So how do you know that your plant can be divided? Some plants have more than one growing point or “crown” just above the soil surface and you can see them if you look closely. What you have to do is take the plant out of its pot and cut it right the way through from top to bottom so that each piece has at least one crown or growing point. Many hardy garden perennials grow like this.
Some plants do not seem to have a crown at all, just scores of stems all growing away from the pot. Thyme grows like this and you can still cut it up into bits as long as you leave enough stems on each piece. Many alpines can be treated this way.
Plants with one and only one growing point coming out of the pot are not suitable and you could easily kill the plant if you tried. Fuchsias can be like this so cuttings are best for them.
You can divide a plant with anything you like provided it does actually cut things up. We have used a bread knife, a Stanley knife, a pruning saw even an ordinary saw.
Whatever you use be very, very careful because it is so easy to have an accident and wear gardening gloves if you can.
Once you have all your cut-up bits pot up each one and keep them watered.
We still take cuttings and divide plants for our own use or give them to family or neighbours. Anybody can do it and whilst not all of it will produce new plants it’s rewarding and inexpensive in what are stressful and increasingly expensive times.
By Kate and Len Lucas