Back To Grandma's Propagation
Dr. Mark Konrad
Many yesterdays ago, immigrants from foreign lands brought their plant culture and propagation practices to our shores. Mason jars over rose slips were a common sight in Grandma's garden. Success seemed so easy then, but why?
No misting, hormones or other gadgets - just good results. I would like to offer the theory that the ideal control of the moisture within the jar was a key factor in the outcome. In addition, the soil never became soggy and the plant was left in place to grow on; not bad principles for starters.
To further elaborate on the theory, I would like to compare the above with my experiences in using closed containers. Through trial and error, I have come to use a modification of Grandma's way.
One liter plastic soft drink bottles are currently being used the most. The tops are cut off at the 5½-inch level, which makes for a practical size when using one elepidote cutting. Double wounding is done with the use of a powdered hormone on small stems.
All of the terminal leaves are left in place but reduced in size. A 50-50 mix of peat and perlite is used in the lower one-half of the container with thin plastic sheeting being held in place on the top with a rubber band. The mix is pre-wetted with the cutting being watered in to the proper moisture weight. Shaded outdoor benches are used. Occasionally, hand misting is necessary to the cutting as well as the underside of the plastic cover.
At this point I would like to offer some observations and thoughts about the method:
1. The volume of space and the surrounding light exposure appear to be properly balanced to the needs of the cutting.
2. Cool morning temperatures create condensation with recycling of moisture.
3. Moisture levels are easily checked by lifting for weight.
4. Cuttings are maintained in a healthy state.
5. Propagation can be started in June.
6. After rooting, the cuttings can be left in place with the gradual reduction of humidity followed by misting with a weak fertilizer solution. Extended light periods should then be used for growing on.
7. Highly educational: one cutting at a time allows for a lot of experimentation. Cuttings can be made at varying intervals to determine the best time for rooting.
8. The method re-focuses on the simplicity and inexpensiveness of summertime propagation.
9. More hand misting is necessary under indoor lighting and the results may not be as good.
10. Low maintenance outdoors.
11. Possible grafting technique application.
In summary, the spatial arrangement of the plant to the light, the recycling of the moisture and the volume of space appear to be harmoniously balanced to the needs of the cutting. Who knows, maybe with a little help, Grandma's way will once again bring propagation to every garden and windowsill.
Dr. Mark Konrad is a member of the Great Lakes Chapter.