summer 2013

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Herbs and Propagation

Welcome to Malaysia!!      #25

Well, we had a surprise early snow last week.  I quick as a bunny ran out and took cuttings of some herbs I know will not make it through the winter.  During our Master Gardener training we had a whole class on propagation.  I learned how to take cuttings from different plants and root them to make a clone of the original  plant.  I really wanted to save a lot of my pineapple sage plant.  It is beautiful and has a distinct pineapple fragrance when you rub the leaves.  In early fall, it gives a show when it flowers.  Striking red flowers, unfortunately it is an annual in our area.

It is best to start with a well hydrated plant.  No problem there.  We have had so much rain lately.  Use a clean, sharp tool to cut of a twig of new growth.  There is less chance of success using the woody sections.  Remove the bottom leaves and dip into a rooting powder.  This is a plant hormone that stimulates root growth.  I try to include at least 2 nodes.  A node is the part of the stem that new growth emerges from.  The space between the nodes is called the internode.  A stem is divided into nodes and internodes.

not my picture

Leaves removed from bottom 2 nodes

I used a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite. I actually had to buy a small bag of peat because my large bag kept outside was alive. Literally!  After I wetted a batch, all the insects woke up and put on quite a show!  Needless to say, I dumped that batch into an area I am going to plant in the spring.

 Vermiculite is a natural mineral that is heated.  The vermiculite expands up to 30 times its' original size.  It is lightweight and helps with soil aeration and retention  of moisture and nutrients.   The technical name is hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate. (In case you really wanted to know:)

When you use peat moss,  wet the mixture before you fill your pots.  Otherwise the water just runs off.  I fill a large bowl with the mixture add water and mix until it become the consistency of a sponge.   I did use some old terra cotta pots that I scrubbed with soap and water with a stiff brush and then ran through the dishwasher to sterilize.  Some people use a bleach solution, which is fine, but I have a good dishwasher that will work just as well.  You really don't want to chance bringing any  disease or pest into your home. I also scrubbed some plastic pots for this demonstration.  A coffee filter at the bottom on the pot will stop the mixture from escaping from the container.

After dipping the stem in the rooting powder, simply place in the vermiculite/peat mixture.  Clip the existing leaves to lessen the water demands of the plant and cover the top of the pot with a plastic bag to retain moisture.  I use a zip lock bag to make this a mini green house.   I put several cuttings into each large terra cotta  pot.  When they develop good roots, I will then place into separate pots for replanting in the spring.  I will check the root growth in about 4 weeks.

clipped leaves

mini greenhouses

I also decided to grow herbs in my basement this winter.  I may even try lettuce.  I have a great set up for seed starting.  A warm room, lights on timers, and a little knowledge of growing things.  I brought in my oregano plant from my deck and bought some herbs from a local nursery.  Purple sage, spearmint and bay leaves.  For the rest,  I have plenty of seeds.  Dill, parsley, thyme, basil,  and cilantro.  I have learned to put a marker in every container I plant.  You think you will remember what you planted - trust me, you won't.