Sunday, May 22, 2011

Propagate Good Times!

Propagate good times! Come on! Were going to propagate and have a good time! I am sure that I'm not the only person that sings this tune while taking stem cuttings to propagate new plants. There are a wealth of books and Internet sites that concern the proper way of cloning plants through stem cuttings and I do encourage you to peruse them. You will learn about soft cuttings (current year stems), hard cuttings (previous years’ growth), rooting hormones, rooting mediums, etc. Knowledge is power and these techniques will help you ensure a high degree of success. However, an over-abundance of information can lead to paralysis through analysis, where you don't take any actions because you are stuck trying to find the correct or best method of doing something. Sometimes you should just do it! In its simplest, propagating is cutting a bit off a branch or stem, stripping the leaves except for a few at the top, and placing it in container of soil or bottled water. Many plants and shrubs will give good results with this technique regardless of whether or not you are using soft or hard cuttings. If it doesn't work, you have only lost a cutting…

The pictures below show some red currant and black elderberry plants that I propagated by simply sticking stem cuttings into containers filled with either sand or potting soil. I save the containers that plants come in to propagate plants, but have also used empty Pringles cans. In my backyard or on top of my fridge there are always a few containers with cuttings rooting in them. It is a great way to extend your garden plants and save money. In the In addition, the rooted plants also make great gifts, particularly because they cost nothing!

Now get out there and propagate some good times! Out of curiosity, does anyone else sing “My Mycelium” to the tune of “My Sharona” when they are cultivating mushrooms?

A red currant plant that I rooted in a sand-filled juice carton

Red currant and black elderberry rooted in potting soil

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home-style Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardening refers to planting flowers or vegetables on land that is not your own. Often the land is abandoned or is a bare patch that belongs to the city. Guerrilla gardeners do these plantings for many reasons including making a green political statement (Food Not Lawns!), beautifying empty or brown spaces, and growing food for themselves and others. The practice takes its name because the plantings are often done in a secret, “guerrilla style” manner due to the fact that it is occurring on land that is not theirs. While I do not belong to a para-horticultural organization, I have done a little bit of guerrilla gardening on my own property. I will describe one such covert action that occurred when my better half went shopping.

My mission was to turn my side yard, which resembled a sparse, barren, steppe-like grassland, into a life-sustaining, food producing patch of goodness (see Potato Patch Pictorial below). I only had a couple of hours to perform the operation, so I had to move fast. I quickly overturned the sod in a semi-oval perimeter around the four clumps of zebra grass. I then worked inwards turning the grass over. Yes, I know, permaculturalists always preach against digging in preference to creating no-dig mulch gardens. However, I am not against doing a quick dig, as it can give both the plants and the soil forming process a head start. It is also handy to turn the grass over if you happen to be a little short of mulch, which is often the case. The next step was to empty a few bags of leaves onto the freshly turned earth. I always try to save my leaves just in case I get the hankering to make a new garden patch. I also added a little bit of peat moss to the soil. Please note that I try not to use peat moss because its use results in the destruction of wetlands. Potatoes were then placed in rows on top of the leaves and soil. Finally, I covered the whole patch with wood chips. You can get free wood chips from your handy dandy local tree cutter. They are usually more than happy to dump a load of chipped trees on your driveway or yard, as it means one less trip to the city recycling centre or wherever they have to bring it.

The whole operation only took about two hours or so. The best part was when my spouse came home and complimented me on my work. She liked the empty, Zen-like aesthetics of the grass coming up through the wood chips. The best part was when she said, “you aren't going to plant anything in it, are you?” You would think that she would know me better by now...

Potato Patch Pictorial

The side yard. So unproductive. So barren.

Digging around the zebra grass.

'Taters ready to be covered with wood chips.

The finished product with potato plants coming up.

Bigger potato plants!

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