H. PROPAGATION TECHNIQUES

1.    Growing From Seed
2.    Hardening-off & Planting out Young Plants
3.    Taking Cuttings
4.    Layering
5.    Grafting
6.    Division

1. GROWING FROM SEED

Seed Trays & Containers

The cheapest and easiest way to sow seed is direct in the soil outside and I would encourage you to do this when the soil is warm enough, more of which later. However, for early crops when it is still cold in late winter or early spring, then there are definite advantages to sowing in seed trays. Also, if you are growing vegetables intensively, where space is at a premium, then starting seedlings in seed trays will help not to take up valuable space in the garden bed.

Use a seed tray that is a minimum of 7-8 cm (2¾-3in) deep. Shallow trays do not provide enough depth to grow the best roots. You can make your own out of untreated wood, buy kits, or hunt around the back of garden centres or your local recycling centre for expanded polystyrene packaging boxes, make drainage holes in the bottom and you have a seed tray.

SEED BOXES

Seed box plastic

 

7cm (2¾in) deep wooden seed trays        

 

 

 

 

12cm (4½in) deep polystyrene box with holes

 

 

Toilet centres

For the larger seeds, pots and cardboard toilet roll centres are useful especially for those seedlings that do not enjoy root disturbance, for example, sweet corn. Save your toilet roll centres through the winter for the spring sowing session. Take some cardboard toilet roll centres and prop them up in a seed tray or plastic container.

Toilet roll pots

Push a half sheet of kitchen paper towelling down into the bottom and then almost fill with your seed compost. Sow two large seeds, in case one does not geminate. If both come up prick one out. When it is time to plant out your seedlings, just plant the whole cardboard tubes, which will rot away as the plants grow.

You can also make seed pots out of newspaper, here’s how:

Things You’ll Need:

  1. Black and white newsprint
  2. Tall glass or jar with straight sides, or washed food tin
  3. Seed compost
  4. Plastic tray

How to Make:

  1. Lay a full sheet of black and white newspaper flat. Don’t use shiny, coloured paper as it may contain heavy metals.
  2. Fold the paper in half lengthwise twice to form a long, narrow strip of folded newspaper, several layers thick.

3.Lay the glass on its sidPaper pots_1e and place it on one end of the strip of paper. Roll the newspaper around the glass. The glass is used only as a form to roll the paper. About ½ of the strip of paper should overlap the open end of the glass.

Paper rollup

 

 

 

4. Push the ends of the paper into the open end of the glass. This step doesn’t need to be neat and tidy; just stuff the overlapping newspaper into the glass.

 

 

Paper final5. Push the ends of the paper into the open end of the glass. This step doesn’t have to be neat and tidy; just stuff the overlapping newspaper into the glass.
6. Pull the jar out of the newspaper pocket so you have the newspaper pot in your hand.
Push the bottom of the jar into the newspaper cup, squashing the folded bottom to flatten. This step will seal the bottom of your pot. Once the pot has been filled with soil, the bottom will be secure.
Pull the jar out and you have a finished paper pot.

As with the cardboard toilet tubes, just plant the whole thing with the established seedling inside in the soil, the roots will find their way out through the moist paper and it will rot down as the plant grows.

Seed Compost

If you have to buy seed compost, buy only organic seed compost, which won’t have fungicides in. Unfortunately, the only organic seed composts I have found are basically composted bark with additives, or peat, which I have not found very satisfactory. We have always made our own. Seed compost especially should be well aerated and warm, but contain little available nutrients or salts. Seedlings have some food in their first leaves (cotyledons) and it will not be long before they are pricked out into richer potting compost, or planted out into soil.

To help your young seedlings get off to a good start and improve their resistance to damping off and other diseases, you can add beneficial fungi Trichoderma viride to your compost. Trichoderma predates and kills the nasty fungi.

BASIC POSSIBLE INGREDIENTS

  • Loam (top soil, often made from rotted lawn turfs)
  • Garden Compost
  • Worm Compost
  • Leaf Mould (homemade from deciduous leaves)
  • Composted Bark (needs to be fine)
  • Sharp Sand (coarse gritty sand)
  • Vermiculite

EXTRA INGREDIENTS

  • Garden Lime
  • Eco or Organic Fertiliser
  • Seedling Innoculant Trichoderma virid – this controls damping-off, and other fungus diseases of seedlings – (see the section, ‘PESTS & DISEASES- THE NEW GENERATION OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS – Biological Pest & Disease Control for a list of suppliers in your country).

Seed Compost Recipes

1) This first recipe is based on loam – healthy garden topsoil, or rotted turfs sieved through a 9mm garden sieve. To make loam from rotted turfs see the section, ‘PLANNING A GARDEN’, sub-section: Making a  Vegetable Bed From a Grass Lawn. I have also included gypsum, which will supply Sulphur and Calcium without affecting the pH + Garden lime.

  • 2 buckets loam (preferably from rotted turfs)
  • 1 bucket sieved leaf mould or composted bark (or ½ bucket of each)
  • ½ bucket sharp sand
  • 1 handful garden lime
  • Seedling Innoculant Trichoderma viride (optional)

2) This second recipe uses garden compost that is thoroughly broken down into dark brown crumbly earth.

  • 1 bucket well rotted and sieved garden compost
  • 1 bucket of sieved leaf mould or composted bark (or ½ bucket of each)
  • ½ bucket sharp sand
  • 1 handful garden lime
  • Seedling Innoculant Trichoderma viride (optional)

3) This recipe has perlite as an additional aid to both aerate and improve the water holding capacity of the compost – ideal for larger seeds, especially peas and beans.

  • 1 bucket well rotted and sieved garden compost
  • 1 bucket leaf mould or composted bark (or ½ bucket of each)
  • ½ bucket sharp sand, or fine grit
  • ½ bucket perlite
  • 1 handful garden lime
  • Seedling Innoculant Trichoderma viride (optional)

4) This recipe is good for larger seeds that need more nutrients and may stay longer in their pots, deep trays, cardboard tubes, or paper pots – such as sweet corn, squash, melon and zucchini etc.

  • 1 bucket well rotted and sieved garden compost
  • 1 bucket leaf mould or composted bark (or ½ bucket of each)
  • ½ bucket sharp sand
  • 2 handfuls Eco or Organic Fertiliser
  • 1 handful garden lime
  • Seedling Innoculant Trichoderma viride (optional)

Sowing Seeds

Having bought your seeds, or saved some – store them in small paper envelops, with the date, plus the last year they can be sown.

Here is a chart telling you how long different vegetable seeds last if kept dry. If they are older than that – throw them away!

Plant Average Most Common
Arugula 4 years 4 years
Asparagus 3 years 3 years
Basil 5 years 5 years
Beans (bush and pole) 2-3 years 2 years
Beets 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (broccoli) 3-5 years 3 years
Brassica (Brussels sprouts) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (cabbage) 3-5years 4 years
Brassica (cauliflower) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (Chinese cabbage) 3-5 years 3 years
Brassica (collards) 3-5 years 5 years
Brassica (kale) 3-5 years 4 years
Brassica (kohlrabi) 3-5 years 3 years
Carrot 2-3 years 3 years
Celery 2-5 years 3 years
Celeriac 3 years 3 years
Chard (Swiss) 3-5 years 4 years
Chicory 4 years 4 years
Corn (sweet) 1-2 years 2 years
Cress (watercress & landcress) 5 years 5 years
Cucumber 5-10 years 5 years
Eggplant/Aubergine 3-5 years 4 years
Endive 5 years 5 years
Leek 2-3 years 2 years
Lettuce 1-6 years 5 years
Melon (muskmelons) 5-10 years 5 years
Melon (watermelons) 4-10 years 4 years
Mustard 4 years 4 years
Okra 2 years 2 years
Onion 1 year 1 year
Parsley 1 year 1 year
Parsnip 1 year 1 year
Pea 2-3 years 2 years
Pepper (sweet & chilli) 2 years 2 years
Radish 5 years 5 years
Swede 4 years 4 years
Salsify 1 year 1 year
Spinach 1-5 years 3 years
Spinach (New Zealand) 3 years 3 years
Squash/Zucchini and Pumpkin 2-5 years 4 years
Swede 4 years 4 years
Tomato 4-10 years 4 years
Turnip 4 years 4 years

There is no doubt that the main cause of seeds failing to germinate is that they are sown to deeply. Every seed has a reserve of food, which will enable the shoot to reach the surface, but if it’s sown too deep it will run out of food before reaching the light where it can start to manufacture more food, this is particularly true of very fine seeds.

As a general rule: cover seeds with seed compost twice the thickness as the seed, but it is impossible to be that accurate. Apart from the largest seeds, with smaller seeds run a shallow groove (drill) about ½cm (¼in) deep, with the side of your hand, in which to sow the seeds.

Sowing seed

Pour some of the seeds into the palm of your left hand (or right if left handed). Then with the other hand take some seeds between your thumb and first finger. Then, as you move your hand slowly up the groove, rub your finger and thumb gently together and the seeds will be released in a gentle stream (or sort of). Try to space them about 1½ – 2cm (½-¾in) apart, and then gently pinch the soil back over the seed, remembering the rule about covering depth.

Then place your clearly written label at the end of the row and gently pinch the soil back over the seed, remembering the rule about covering depth. Lettuce seed is a few millimetres long, but very thin – so very lightly cover. If seeds, especially fine seeds, are buried too deep they will not germinate well or not at all.

Finally, softly firm the compost down with the palm of your hand, or a flat piece of wood and gently water, preferably from below by placing the seed tray in a larger container (I use our bath) with a few centimetres of water in. This avoids disturbing the compost and seeds.

With very large seeds, such as broad beans, they have so much energy in their cotyledons that they be able to push their way up even if they are buried twice their width or even 6.5cm (2½in) deep. Large seeds, such as beans or squash, are best sown on their side in a hole made for them using your finger, a small stick, or dibber.

Some seeds need light, like celery and corn salad. Sow them on the surface and lightly sprinkle the seeds with small chippings or vermiculite chips allowing moisture to be held but also light to get in. There is a now a product called Vermiculite Seed Cover, which is made up of 3mm (in) vermiculite chips ideal for this purpose. Indeed, I tend to use it to cover most of the smaller seeds as it’s good at holding moisture and has no weed seeds in it.

Keep the soil moist, but not sodden. If it’s still frosty at night, the seed box will have to be kept in a glasshouse, a cold frame, or even indoors until the seeds are starting to germinate. It is a good idea to place a piece of clear polythene over the seed box to keep it moist. If smaller seeds begin to germinate and then dry out they will die, this is particularly so with very fine seeds like celery.

What is very important, is that as soon as the seedlings are up they need as much light as possible, otherwise they will be light starved, becoming long, thin, pale and sickly and be lucky to recover such early trauma! This is one of the most common mistakes beginners make.

Soil based and other seed composts were traditionally pasteurized to kill off weed seeds and insect pests. It is much better to have a fully living compost with added inoculants, such as Trichoderma viride as has already been described above. However, when using unpasteurized homemade seed compost there will be some weed seeds in it. So the best way is to sow in close rows about 3-4cm (1-1½in) apart, whether you are sowing in trays, or outside in a seedbed. When your seeds germinate, it will be obvious which are the seeds you sowed and any weeds that germinate, because yours will be in rows. Over time, you will begin to recognise different young seedlings, as well as weed seedlings.

Keep the soil moist, but not sodden. If it’s still frosty at night, the seed box will have to be in a glasshouse, a cold frame, or even indoors until the seeds are starting to germinate. It is a good idea to place a piece of clear polythene over the seed box to keep it moist. If smaller seeds begin to germinate and then dry out they will die, this is particularly so with very fine seeds like celery. As soon as they are up they need as much light as possible, otherwise they will be light starved, long, thin and pale and will be lucky to recover such early trauma.

Sowing seeds outside

Press seed drillIn Seed Drills: To sow seeds where they are to grow, first rake the soil as even and smooth as you can; then stretch a garden line where the row will be. For a single row of seeds, like cabbage or spinach, the easiest way is to gently press a wooden handle, or round rod, by the side of the garden line and gently press it with your foot to make a shallow groove (drill).

Then sow the seeds, aiming at spacings, and then gently cover the seeds by scraping the soil over them with the back of a garden rake.

For larger seeds that are to be sown in a single row, stretch out the garden line, then make a ‘V’ shaped groove with the corner of a draw hoe, sow the seeds and use the back of a garden rake to pull the soil over the seeds, remembering the depth rule.

Seed groove_1Seed groove_2Seed groove_3

 

 

 

Seed DrawFor larger seeds, like peas and beans, draw out a flat-bottomed drill with a draw hoe, along a garden line. Then sow a double row of seeds and then fill in the drill, by scraping the soil using the back of your garden rake.

Outside Seedbed: Every year, from the middle of spring onwards, I make a new seedbed at the end of one of my vegetable beds about 30cm (1ft) wide and the width of the bed. I sieve the top 4cm (1½in) of soil through a standard garden sieve, with 7mm (¼in)  holes, to remove stones, twigs and lumps. Sow your seeds in shallow drills 3-4cm (1-1½in) apart, the same as sowing them in seed trays, making sure to label each row.

Frost Fleece Covering a Bed

Frost Fleece Covering a Bed

It is a good idea to cover the rows of seeds with frost protection fleece against birds scuffling up the soil, or cats doing their business there. Frost protection fleece is a thin, unwoven, polypropylene fabric that lets in rain and quite a bit of light through, but it will need to be pegged down. I use 2.5mm (AWG 10, SWG 12) galvanized wire 30cm (1ft) long bent into a ‘U’ shape.

Sow the seeds thinly enough so that you can leave them in the seedbed until they have 2 or 4 true leaves and the seedlings are about 6-8cm (2-3in) high, when you can transplant them to their permanent positions. They seem to grow much healthier outside, but are more prone to slugs in wet areas, in which case you will need to use beer traps (see the chapter 13: ‘Pests & Diseases’ – TRAPS), or resort to growing them in seed trays; but we have found over forty years that we have had a lot less disease problems raising seedlings outside as long as the soil has warmed up.                        

Thinning Seedlings & Pricking Out

Having successfully provided healthy growing conditions for your seedlings, if the seeds were sown too thickly, you will need to thin the seedlings out so they do not struggle to compete with each other for light, nutrients and water. You can carefully pull the unwanted seedlings out with your finger and thumb, or use a small stick, or the end of a teaspoon. Thin them to 1½-2cm (-¾in) apart. The first leaves (cotyledons) are usually very different from the true leaves that come a little later. When there are two or four true leaves, you can move them (pricking out) into a deeper box or pot filled with a potting mix, which is richer than seed compost. Using a small pointed stick or the end of a teaspoon, lift them carefully holding them by their first leaves, not the stem as this might get damaged and let in fungus disease. Here is a suggested potting mix based on loam:

POTTING MIX

1)

  • 7 buckets loam
  • 3 buckets leaf mould (or peat)
  • 2 buckets sharp sand
  • 27–50 grams (1-1¾ ounces) fishmeal, or 2 handfuls Eco or Organic Fertiliser.

2)

  • 1 bucket sieved composted bark, or peat (or ½ bucket sieved bark + ½ bucket sieved leaf mould)
  • 1 bucket sieved garden compost
  • 2 handfuls Eco or Organic Fertiliser
  • 1 handful garden lime

Later when the seedlings have grown to about 6 to 8cm (2½-3in) you can transplant them out into the vegetable beds.

2. HARDENING-OFF & PLANTING OUT YOUNG PLANTS

Hardening-Off

With early sown seedlings that have been potted on and have grown to the stage where they will soon be ready to plant outside, they will need to be ‘hardened off’; this involves a two-week process of increasingly exposing the potted plants, by opening up the greenhouse, or better still a cold frame (see: chapter 17 for details), in the daytime and closing them at night, then eventually leaving them open during the night. This will avoid the shock of being put outside in the cold after enjoying a cosy warm place.

Don’t underestimate the effects of the shock if you live in areas where you can have cold springs! Seedlings can be seriously set back, so much so that their future growth can be retarded. Remember also that when planting out frost-tender plants, wait until after the last frosts before planting outside after hardening them off first. These include crops such as – Zucchini, Pumpkins, Cucumbers, Melons, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Runner and Dwarf Beans.

As an extra precaution, you can plant them out, covered with a home-made cloche at night, using an open large plastic yogurt pot with the bottom cut off – see below.

 

Planting Out

Once you have hardened of your seedlings it will be time to plant them out where they are to grow. First prepare the soil, by forking it over, or spreading compost and forking it in, and if necessary, levelling it with a rake.

Next, check the recommended planting distances for each type. If the seedlings are growing in a seed box

, you will have to carefully ease each seedling out with a small trowel or an old kitchen teaspoon, making sure you retain as much compost around the roots as possible. Use your hand, or trowel to make a hole and gently lower the seedling into the hole, pushing back the soil and firming it around the plant at the same level the seedling was in the seed compost. The exceptions are brassicas (cabbage family), which can be planted up to the bottom of the first leaves – this encourages new roots and sturdier plants.

When planting out seedlings grown in a pot, hold the pot up side down with your hand holding the soil and plant. Tap the pot and the plant plus compost should come out. Place in the hole with as little disturbance to the root ball as possible. Planting out seedlings grown in toilet paper tubes, paper pots, or peat pots is easier – just plant the seedling in its container straight into the ground

level with the soil surface. Water the seedlings gently, but well.

Protection

Use cloches to protect your young seedlings until they have acclimatised. Various types of cloches can be used to warm up the soil, protect early crops by covering them in the evening and taking them off in the morning – see the section: ‘GLASSHOUSES, POLYTUNNELS, COLD FRAMES & CLOCHES’ – sub-section – Cloches.

Long Cloche

Long Cloches: used to be made of glass, but now are usually low polythene tunnels stretched over metal hoops and held down at the ends. These are useful to warm the soil in late winter, early spring and cover rows of plants. They can also be made by using a corrugated clear plastic sheet bent over and held in place with pegs or sticks. You can find cloche kits at your nearest garden department.

Homemade Cloches:

Homemade ClochesWe use 5 litre (1 gallon) spring water or juice bottles with the bottoms cut off and the caps taken off to place over newly planted-out seedlings at night until they have settled in, but they need a bamboo pushed through the top into the soil to stop them blowing over.

 

Single Plant Bell Cloches:

The alternative is to buy plastic ‘bell’ cloches –

Bell ClocheOther Protection:

Yogurt Pot

Yogurt pot_2

Yogurt pot_3

Protecting young seedlings with pinned down cut-off yogurt pots, & plastic flowerpots.

3. TAKING CUTTINGS

Homemade Hormone Liquid

You can buy rooting hormone powder or liquid, but you can also make your own out of willow shoots and water. Willow has very high levels of rooting hormone in its sap; that is why any fool can strike cuttings of willow.

a)  Cut enough fresh green willow shoots and chop them up into 2-3 cm (¾-1in) bits.
b)  Fill a jam jar with them and fill with water (rain water or filtered best).
c)   Leave for 24 hours.
d)  Drain the liquid into another jar.
e)  Place the cuttings upright, bottom side down, in the liquid and leave overnight.
f)   Place the cuttings in cutting compost as below.
g)  For small softwood cuttings, place in the cutting medium and water your cuttings with homemade hormone liquid.

Softwood Cuttings

Softwood cuttings are particularly good for sage, oregano and many climbing plants like passion fruit and kiwi fruit and many others.

1. Take cuttings from the new growth of that season in late spring, from shoots that show no sign of flowering or forming flower buds.They need to have at least three leaves and be around 10cm (4in) long.

Cuttings_1

 

 

 

 

 

2. Carefully cut away all the lower leaves.

Cuttings_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Trim the stem of the cutting just below the lowest leaf joint (node).

Cuttings_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Either dip the stem in hormone rooting powder, tapping off the excess powder, or leave in homemade hormone liquid overnight (see above).

5. Put the cuttings in a pot filled with pure pumice chips, or compost made up of equal parts of perlite and peat. Make a hole in the compost near the sides of the pot with a small dibber, insert the cutting then push down the compost to firm the cutting. Space the cuttings 5cm (2in) apart, with leaves above the compost.

Cuttings_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Bend a piece of wire in a hoop, pushing the ends into the sides of the pot and cover with a polythene bag, securing the bag with a large rubber band.

Cutings_5

7. Place the pot on a saucer so you can add water occasionally to keep the compost moist, but not sodden.

8. Place the pots and saucers in a cold frame, or conservatory where they will get some sun, but not get too hot.

 

Softwood cuttings usually root in 2-7 weeks with a high success rate.

 

Hardwood Cuttings

Step 1 – Select suitable cuttings:

Hardwood cuttings are taken from deciduous trees and plants once they lose their leaves in winter and are dormant, such as Currants and Gooseberries. The best time for taking hardwood cuttings is from early autumn when the leaves drop to late winter just before the buds start growing.

Hardwood cuttings_1

1. Take cuttings that are close to pencil-thickness from current season’s growth – it will be mature and woody, not soft and green. Cut off any unripe green growth at the tips. To increase the chances of rooting cuttings – try to take cuttings where the current season’s wood (1 year old wood) joins the two-year-old wood. The base of the stem at this junction has the greatest potential for root development – it contains potential buds and the hormones required for developing roots. Hardwood cuttings are cut much longer than herbaceous cuttings because they take more time to develop roots and therefore need a good reserve of food stored in the cutting to keep them alive through the winter, starting with 20-25cm (8-10in).

2. Make a horizontal cut 6mm (¼in)  below the lowest bud at the base. Cut the top of the cutting 15-20cm (6-8in) from the base and just above a bud at an angle.

Hardwood cuttings_2

3. Make a ‘slit-trench’ outside by pushing a spade vertically into the soil and moving from side to side to make a ‘v’ shaped slit. Move the spade up and repeat until the slit is as long as you need.

 

 

4. Fill the bottom of the trench with sharp (course) sand for drainage and better rooting.

Hardwood Cuttings_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Push the cuttings into the sand 5cm (2in) apart – ½ below the surface of the filled in soil and half above.

Hardwood Cuttings_4

6. Fill in the trench with topsoil. If you are using multiple rows of slit trenches, place the rows 30cm (1ft) apart.

7. Water in the soil around the cuttings. The soil will remain damp over the winter period. Cuttings will root and be ready to plant next autumn.

 

 

4. LAYERING

This is a method of encouraging rooting to a shoot while still attached to the parent plant. The obvious examples are blackberries and boysenberries, which root naturally this way in the wild, and climbers like passion fruit. I have also used this method with New Zealand Cranberries, Chilean Guava (Ugni molinae) and Kiwi Berries (Actinidia arguta), among others.

Tip Layering:

This is suitable for Blackberry, Boysenberry and other briar fruit.

1. In late summer pull down as many shoots as you need of your blackberry or boysenberry.
2. Make a hole where the tip touches the soil. Place the tip in the soil and pin down with bent wire or forked twig.

Tip Layering3. Cover with soil until the end of the next summer.

4. It will have rooted by then, so dig up and cut from parent plant and plant in a permanent position.

 

Normal Layering:

Layering is usually carried out in early spring for shrubs like guavas, kiwi fruit and early summer for climbers like passion fruit.

1. Make a hole about 4-5cm (1½-2in) back from the tip of the cane or branch and peg it down with a forked stick or bent wire.

Layering2. For more woody branches slice some bark off on the underside.

3. Fill in the hole with soil leaving the tip of the shoot sticking above ground.

4. At the end of the next season, when the leaves have fallen, dig up the rooted shoot or branch, cut from the parent and plant in a nursery bed or permanent position.

5. GRAFTING

This is a very useful skill for propagating fruit and nut trees.

Purposes of Grafting:

  1. Grafting saves time. It might take ten to twenty years to get fruit form a seedling, but only three or four years by grafting.
  2. By choosing the right rootstock, one can obtain trees that vary from tall and vigorous to dwarf and everything in-between. For instance Cherries are very vigorous and to be able to grow a small to medium fan trained tree, we chose ‘Compact Stellar’ which is a semi-dwarf, 3-4 metre (10-13ft) tree on dwarfing stock. See chapter 10, ‘How to Grow Fruit’ for the appropriate rootstocks for different fruit and nut trees.
  3. For restoring an old exhausted tree.
  4. Growing more than one variety on one tree.
  5. Some trees are difficult or impossible to strike cuttings from. By growing a stock from seed, then grafting the chosen variety onto it, solves this problem.

Some grafting terms will be useful:

  • Stock, or Rootstock: This is the (usually young) rooted tree to be grafted onto. For trees like apples, pears, citrus, plums, etc., they will have specific varieties of rootstock that determine the growth of the adult tree.
  • Scion: This is the top part to be grafted onto the rootstock, and is taken from the variety you have chosen to grow.
  • Budding, or Bud Grafting: A form of grafting using a bud from the tree to be grafted from, grafted onto a rootstock. This is especially useful when there is a major difference between the thickness of the scion and the stock. I have also found this is the easiest method of grafting.

To quote from ‘The Complete Book of Gardening’ by J. Coutts’:

“It is only possible to graft a scion onto a stock of a nearly-allied species. Thus quinces, apples, pears and medlars can all be mutually grafted on to one another, so also can plums, peaches, apricots, and almonds, but it would be impossible to graft an apple onto an oak, or a plum onto a willow.”

Time of Year to Graft:

It is only possible to successfully graft while the sap is flowing, i.e. from the first sign of growth in the spring, to about midsummer. An old way to check if the stock is ready is to slit the bark; if it comes away easily exposing the polished wood beneath, it is ready.

Materials & Tools:

Grafting Knife: 

Grafting Knife

A very sharp small knife, or specialist grafting knife like this one is needed, which preferably has an additional brass tongue at the back for peeling back bark when performing bud grafting:

Grafting Tape:

Grafting Tape

The old way of tying and protecting the graft union from drying out was to strap the scion and stock together with raffia, then cover the whole join with melted grafting wax. Today a thin waterproof stretchable tape is used to perform the same task, both tying and protecting the union.

For larger jobs, a Pruning Saw, Chisel and Mallet may be necessary.

 

 

Whip-and-Tongue Grafting:

This is the most common form of grafting:

1. This form of grafting is usually only done if both the scion and rootstock are the same thickness.

2. The stock should be young and about the thickness of a finger. Ideally the stock should be more advanced than the scion.

3. The scion should be from a well-ripened one-year-old shoot, about 150mm long.

4. The scion should be cut where there are 2 good buds opposite each other, starting the cut just below the top bud.

5. Cut both the stock and scion at a sharp angle, and then cut a notch in each about half way so they lock together.

Grafting_1Grafting_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Push both together making sure the cambium layers (just below the bark) are lined-up, and then tape well with several layers of grafting tape.

Grafting_3
7. Make sure the grafted stock is regularly watered.

8. Once the scion buds have started growing, the graft has taken and the grafting tape can be removed.

 

 

 Whip-&-Tongue Grafting – Odd Sizes:

Whip & Tongue_1

Whip and tongue grafting can be done with the stock thicker than the scion. Prepare as above, but when positioning, place the scion to one side of the stock, so at least the cambium layer of both scion and stock are aligned on one side.

 

 

 

 

Budding, or Bud Grafting:

1. In the late spring or early summer, cut a length of stem from the variety you want to propagate. Cut of the leaves, but be sure to leave the leaf stalks on the cutting. To keep it fresh, place the stem in a bowl of water.

Budding_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Using a sharp knife, cut a ‘T’ shaped slit in the bark of the rootstock, and peel back both sides of the downward slit very slightly (use the brass tongue on your grafting knife, if it has one).

Budding_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Slice off a bud from the prepared stem, by inserting a sharp knife, just below the bud, pulling the blade upwards, keeping the blade just under the bud.

Budding_4

4. At the back of the bud, you will see a small sliver of wood that was cut off with the bud. Remove this carefully with your fingernail or knife blade.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Now, using the leaf stalk as a handle, slide the bud into the ‘T’ shaped slot, you have already made, pushing gently down.

Budding_6
6. Cut away the excess sticking out at the top of the ‘T’ slot. Then tie with grafting tape or raffia, making sure you leave the bud exposed.

 

 

7. When the bud has started to grow, carefully remove the raffia or tape and using secateurs, prune off the growth above the new bud.

Budding_7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleft Grafting:

1. In mid winter, cut back two side branches just above a fork, onto which you will graft a new variety in the early spring.

Cleft Grafting_12. At the end of winter, or early spring when the tree is showing signs of new growth, split each of the cut ends by hitting a machete, or large knife with a hammer.

Cleft Grafting_2
 

 

 

 

3. Cut four lengths of one-year-old stems (scions) from the new variety, about 10-15cm (4-6in) long. Cut the bottom end of each stem into a wedge shape.

Cleft Grafting_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Push the scions into each cut end, making sure the cambium layers (just beneath the bark) line up with the cambium layers on the cut branches. Secure the scions, by tying round with string, then cover the wounds with grafting wax.

Cleft Grafting_4Cleft Grafting_5  

 

 

 

6. DIVISION

This form of propagation is ideal for propagating perennial herbs like Thyme, Sorrel, Tarragon, Oregano, etc. Use a fork to dig up a section of the plant, with as much of the roots intact, and with a good ball of earth around the fibres. Do not divide the plant with a spade, as this will cut and damage the roots. Gently ease sections apart, using a knife if absolutely necessary. Then transplant, or pot up each section and water well.

 

7. RUNNERS

Both Raspberries and Strawberries send out runners – Raspberries underground and Strawberries on the surface.

Raspberries

Usually, you would dig out any underground runners each year, but if you want more plants leave some healthy runners in place until the autumn. You will see young runners sticking up out of the ground. Dig them up in the autumn, and if they have rooted, cut them off from the parent plant and plant out in their permanent place.

Strawberries

Strawberry plants will send out surface runners with small strawberry plants on the end. Peg down the little plantlets, so they root into the soil, but leave them attached to the parent plant. In the autumn they should have rooted and you can then cut them off from the parent plant, dig them up and transplant into pots or a nursery bed to grow on; transplanting them in the following autumn into their permanent places.

 

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