Thursday, December 29, 2011

How To Root Stuff Every Time

I suspect every gardener has their thing... something that seems to come easier than to most people.  Just like real life, I guess.  You can't be good at everything, but every so often you realize that you indeed do know how to do some stuff.

As most of you know, I have just entered my 3rd year as a real gardener.  You know, with dirt and all, and I have made a lot of mistakes.  There is only so much you can learn from books and advice... eventually you just have to plant a plant, see it die and realize that it just isn't the right plant for the space!

Now in this short amount of time I have noticed that indeed I have a knack for something.  To the tune of 100% success at doing this with absolutely no failures.  I suspect, like much of 'skill' it comes down to a little bit of skill and having the natural circumstances be ripe for the doing.

I can root things.  Any things.  I hear and read about so many people having trouble rooting things such as roses or camellias and I just can't imagine why because, like I said, no matter what I try and root, it roots.  Always.  I know there are lots of competing opinions on how to do this, but I'll just add in here how I do it and why I think I'm so successful at it.

What you will need:
-small clear plastic container
-sphagnum moss
-gallon baggie

First I start with the clear (see-through) container in which to root... something small that will easily fit in a gallon baggy.  I like to take the bottom of the either small milk containers or 16 ounce soda bottles... cut either about 3 inches deep and put a few drainage holes in the bottom.  Nothing fancy and bigger is not better.  Either for the cutting, or the container.  Take it and run in through the dishwasher.  The reason we want clear is because we want to see when the roots get established without the guesswork.

Second, after the plastic container has come out of the dishwasher, fill it to half an inch of the top with straight sphagnum moss.  Not a mix, not with a little compost, not dirt.  The reason for this is we are about to create a permanently extremely humid moist environment and we need a 100% sterile environment.  For rooting purposes, the little plants do not need nutrients.  I know that there is a lot of debate on the web about this, but let me repeat, I have 100% success this way, so I know this won't be the limiting factor.

Okay, water your container thoroughly, and leave it for a minute or two in the sink to drain a bit.   Now, go find a pencil and stick a hole in the middle of the container about 3/4 of the way down.

Next, pick up your root cutting, which should be sitting in water at this point.  Make a little diagonal cut at the bottom.  The cutting doesn't need to be more than about 5-6 inches tall.  Remove all the leaves but two.  Dip the just cut tip into roottone and immediately stick in the pencil hole and snug up the opening if there is space.  I have never not used roottone so I don't know how much help this gives, but hey, its cheap, and if it ain't broke....

Final step:  Place the entire thing in a gallon zip lock baggie, and leaving as much airspace as possible, zip it up.  Thats it.  You will not unzip it until it is a rooted plant.  Period.  Not once.  Don't do it.  I'm serious.  Leave it alone.

Pretty easy right?  The other piece of the puzzle is where to put it.  And it needs to be in a bright spot with absolutely no direct sun.  Not even for 2 minutes, or you have created an oven.  Mine all grow in my kitchen window which stays in moderate temperatures between 68-78 degrees throughout the year, and is opposite a wall that gets good sunlight, but almost all light coming through the window is reflected off of that building.  It works great.   If you grow orchids successfully, you'll realize that this is the same quality of light.  The holy grail of "rooting stuff" light.

Most things root in between 2 and 5 weeks.  Once I see roots in the container, I give it a few more days to grow a bit more, then I take it carefully out of the bag.  Often, you'll also be clued in from the new growth on top.  Water it and let it drain thoroughly, and then place it back, bagless, in the same spot for the next few days.  Check the dirt moisture every day and make sure it stays moist.   After these 2 or 3 days to acclimatize to the reduced humidity it is time to plant your new little plant in a bigger container.  I usually move up to the standard small nursery pot (5 inches) and fill with regular dirt, around the sphagnum and 'rootball' of the new plant.  I leave it in its place in the winter, or move it out into the outdoor shade during the rest of the year.  After a few weeks out in the shade, and keeping it extremely well watered, I move it to part sun, and then a few weeks later to where I think I want to plant it.  And voila. I usually keep mine in successive containers until about 6 months old, but I'm not really sure that it matters that much.  I have a Zepherine Drouhin out there that I planted while still in twig status and it's done just fine.

I guess a final note is that the cutting should happen when it best suits your climate, and clearly the plant that the cutting was taken from can't be in a dormant stage.  For some of you, thats most of the year, others, only small periods of time.  I have taken cuttings from pieces ending in a flower, one that had just finished blooming, and right before blooming.  I have had a mophead hydrangea root from the flowerhead and stem alone!  I see no difference at all in the end result, so I suspect all those rules are made up to explain away why this or that cutting didn't take.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas, and eat lots of bad-for-you stuff.  I hope for no cats in the trees, a warm fire in the hearth, and snow in places that can handle a white Christmas without causing city services to shut down for a week (like, not here please).

I wish for a perfect weather year for all of us for 2012, and wonderful perfect flowers, with well behaved bugs and a massive reduction in the squirrel population at my house through divine intervention.  I hope for rain for Texas and less rain for NJ, and a new year with no hurricanes, tornadoes, nuclear power plant melt downs, floods, or earthquakes.  I wish for peace.

No matter how many times I take this picture she looks like an evil dictator..
But Merry Christmas anyway.

So Merry Christmas to you!  And may all your dreams come true.  (unless your dreams involve squirrel proliferation).  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last Call

Its the December garden saying goodbye til February, giving this gardener a little break from watering and weeding and clipping, and some time to daydream and plan and get the ol' garden fantasy juices flowing so I'm totally jumping the gun come Spring, and primed for another season.

Most have died, save a few roses and the evergreens.   We are 'supposed' to have a 40ish degree night here about a week from now, so all the begonias are heading indoors for another harrowing indoor season with the cat.  The last of the roses, have set their very last buds till spring too.

Bermuda's Kathleen, Last Gasps

Who'd ya think? Unstoppable, in full shade

Marie Pavie with the Star Jasmine

Marie Pavie, the most floriferous for late Fall, beating even Knockout

Sharifa Asma, being huge as only fall can create here.

I am gorgeous, and I smell good

Sharifa Asma, barely opened one.  Baseball sized blooms in the perfect weather.