Sunday, July 17, 2011

Semi ripe cuttings

With a small number of simple tools and the use of a windowsill you can save yourself some cash and have a great deal of pleasure growing your own shrubs for free
Forget the myth about green fingered people its all about knowledge and know how, it’s very easy:
To start with it is vital to understand the key requirements that a plant needs to produce roots from a stem cutting. –

Because the cutting in the early days has no roots it is imperative to keep the environment you place it in humid and away from full sunshine. The best way to create these conditions is to use a plastic bag to form a mini green house over the new cuttings.

With the humid conditions comes the problem of disease, in particular a rotting of the cuttings base, in the majority cases this can be solved by taking cuttings that have small piece of older more mature wood on the base( sometimes refered to as a basel cutting) which is more resistant to rotting. This type of cutting is called a semi-ripe softwood cuttings.  Harvest cuttings from semi-ripe growth.
The trickiest part of propagating shrubs from softwood cuttings is to know when a shrub's stems are ready to be cut. Softwood, the segment of a shrub's stem that's neither brand new nor fully mature, is the stage of growth on a deciduous woody plant that is best suited for rooting The newer, green growth that lies at the end of the stem will rot before roots are produced, and the older, more woody growth at the base of the stem has a harder time putting out roots.
Softwood cuttings can be taken from most deciduous shrubs in July and early August. I decide a stem's maturity by taking it in my hand and bending it. If the stem breaks with a typical snapping sound, it is in the softwood stage and ready to be harvested as a cutting. If the stem is still too green, it will bend but not break. If the stem is entering the woody stage, it won't bend at all.
The optimum time to take cuttings is early on in the day, when shoots are fully hydrated. Lateral shoots, (or those that grow from a leader,) make the best cuttings. I avoid weak, thin shoots, as well as overly thick, heavy ones. As soon as I take a cutting, I nestle it into a plastic bowl that I've filled with damp paper towels. The towels will keep my cuttings moist and cool until I'm ready to head inside and pot them up. They also shade my cuttings from the sun. Exposure to direct sunshine, even for only a few minutes, can cause irrevocable damage. Also avoid taking cuttings on hot days, when plants may be drooping. Keep cutting short to conserve energy.
A cutting's size is also something to think about. I like my cuttings to contain at least two sets of leaves. I use secateurs or a sharp clean knife, to cut the stem from the shrub at about one-inch below the second leaf node. Since the length between leaf nodes differs from plant to plant, the size of a cutting, using this rule of measurement, will vary. The average cutting should measure between 3 and 5 inches.
To prepare the cuttings for rooting, I remove the lower set of leaves to open up wounds on the shoot. It is at these wounded sites that rooting will occur.

Always provide good drainage and air in the rooting compost.
Insert the stem into a pot or seedling tray filled with a moistened mixture of perlite and peat mix. The mixture I generally use is about 60 percent perlite and 40 percent peat mix. This mix provides the good drainage and maximum aeration that new roots need. Cuttings placed into a mix that holds moisture is apt to rot before rooting occurs.
Once the cuttings are inserted into the soil, I trim the remaining leaves in half to cut down on transpiration loss. These leaves are still performing photosynthesis, even though there are no roots to draw moisture out of the soil. Next  soak the cuttings and the compost with a watering can with a fine rose head and allow the excess water to drain away for 10 minutes or so.
Finally,  place the tray into a milky white plastic bag and seal the end to create a small humid micro climate , which will generate the conditions needed for rooting to take place. then place the tray or pot on a sheltered windowsill away from direct sunlight.
Checking for root development
Some cuttings root quicker than others do. After four to five weeks, check the bottom of each tray for small white roots that could be poking out of the drainage holes. If none are visible, another way to check for root development is by lightly pulling on a cutting. If it shows some resistance, then it's a good bet that roots have developed. If it pulls out of the tray easily, inspect the stem for very fine root hairs. If no roots are apparent, place the cutting back into the tray, reseal the bag, and wait a few more weeks before checking again.
Depending on the species and the growing conditions, a strong network of primary and secondary roots should develop after six weeks in the bag. The success rate varies from shrub to shrub, but generally you should get roots on about 70 percent of the cuttings. Once they've rooted,  pot up the tiny new shrubs into 4 inch pots that are filled with a mixture of 80 percent soil(or john innes) and 20 percent perlite, water them with a nutrient-rich seaweed- or kelp-based fertilizer and place them in a sunny spot in the garden. In the autumn, un-pot them and transfer them to a sheltered nursery bed where they'll spend the winter. Come spring, you’ll have a good supply of shrubs that I can move to a new, more permanent home.
Some Shrubs That Are Suitable and Easy to Propagate from Cuttings
Many deciduous garden shrubs can be propagated by softwood cuttings taken in summer. The ones I have listed below tend to root quickly and grow into feasible shrubs in a short period of time.



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