Love Your Garden by Jason Hodges

The Sun Herald – Sunday September 28th, 2014

Go forth and propagate, it’s an easy way to grow

I’m loving the garden at the moment. Great weather, fresh new growth and the lawn is starting to green up ready for cricket, as football finishes up.

One of my favourite things about gardening is propagating. Propagating just means taking cuttings and growing new plants from them. It’s easy to do if you follow a few simple rules, and then you can generate thousands of plants for free.

I like growing buxus. Mine is Japanses buxus and it is an excellent hedging plant. It’s an evergreen shrub with small glossy and green dense foliage. Japenese buxus will grow to two metres and can handle full sun or part-shade positions as well as frosty or dry conditions, and it will grow evenly in most soil conditions – a big plus when hedging.

I love its dense habit, achieved with regular pruning. Buxus balls are a touch of luxury in a landscape and making them into other shapes, called topiary, is an ancient art form.

If you have healthy buxus, chances are they are looking shaggy at the moment – the new growth means they need a clip. Rather than hacking off what you need to and putting it in the compost or green bin why not try your hand at propagating?

Buxus cuttings are really easy to grow, even though they can take up to a year before you are planting them in the garden. By growing your own you can save a fortune. I have grown thousands of Buxus cuttings in my life and it has saved me thousands of dollars. I couldn’t justify spending that much when I had just purchased my house and had a mortgage, but pottering in the garden with a pair of secateurs and growing them for free was a great way to connect with my new garden.

All you need is a cutting that’s got a to, some foliage and a bare stem. Look for healthy vigorous growth and cut lengths about 100 millimetres long. Remove the bottom leaves from what will become the trunk, from about 30-40 millimetres down. I remove from the top any noticeable new growth as it will probably wilt anyway.

I like planting into seed raising trays as each cutting can produce its own root ball separate to each other, but you can easily plant up to a dozen in a small pot. There are specific propagating mixes you can buy but I just use a premium potting mix that’s well draining.

I like to dip my plants’ trunks into Vegemite before planting. I find it protects the cutting from rooting a little and have been told by some keen gardeners that the yeast helps with root growth. I have done it for years and had great success.

Now the hardest part is not letting them dry out while they have no roots. Keep them out of direct sunlight. I like to water them in with Charlie Carp as it can be absorbed well into the foliage, to feed the cuttings until the roots start to take over. Charlie Carp has phosphorus which promotes root and shoot growth – perfect for cuttings.

If you stick with these simple rules I’m confident most of your cuttings will strike to become healthy, happy plants. Once you see strong, white roots they can be planted in the garden. Once you realise how easy and fun propagating is you will be doing it even when your garden beds are full….like mine.

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