Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Next Batch...

Now the needed bands are arranged and will be available the beginning of next week, I've planted those which should benefit from the larger soil ball the foam cups provide. I'm quite pleased how well wrapping has worked in this very warm, dry, sunny "winter". I'm not surprised how successful the Fortuniana cuttings callused as this method was originally used to root this variety commercially as root stock. I'm thrilled mine, for the same purpose, responded as well. 

Little Meghan, a miniature I wanted to reproduce because it is a friend's name and not easily replaced, also responded quite well. 

Some needed to be longer than would fit completely within the cups. Leaving them exposed to the brilliant sun, increased heat and drying winds without green house or plastic cover, could cause them to fail. I came up with a cheap, easy fix, cheap being the operative word. I never throw anything away I may be able to repurpose. Shirt boards used by dry cleaners when they fold shirts made the perfect "tubes" or cylinders to increase the soil holding capabilities of the 16 oz. foam cups. The boards are fairly dense card board which will stand up to water and the elements better than news paper. The boards are twelve inches long, so I cut them into three, four inch strips across their longest length, rolled them and stapled them together to create cylinders. 

It's pretty much what I've done to mound bare root plants for years. Back in the mid eighties, Gurney Seed sold translucent plastic cylinders for "winter protection", which were strips of heavy plastic you rolled and inserted tabs into pre cut slots so they retained their shape all winter. You would slip them over the plants and fill with mulch, the cylinders retaining the mulch around the plants until removed in spring. I purchased a number of them and reused those cylinders for many years until they finally deteriorated. I wasn't able to find anything like them for replacements, but found many layers of news paper, folded in half, then rolled and stapled, or even a length of corrugated card board, cut to the desired height then stapled or tied into a cylinder with plant tape, string or rope, could easily serve the purpose at my favorite cost...FREE! Once formed and secured, the cylinders are easily slipped over the plant or cutting, then filled with potting soil to insulate and shade the plant until new growth begins from the exposed inch or two of exposed canes. 

I felt due to the length of cane between growth buds, some of these would benefit from longer lengths providing greater stores of nutrients to carry them through wrapping and, hopefully, result in more successful new, own root plants. I potted the cuttings deeply in the cups, with the callused bottoms half an inch or so from the cup bottoms, then filled to the level I wished the cylinders to be inserted to. I slid the cylinders over the exposed cutting ends, then filled with potting soil, firming it inside the cups and cylinders as I filled, then watered them in well. 

Prior to thinking of the cylinders and before needing any quantity of them, I thought of using the smaller size band pots I'd collected over the years, but thought too small for propagation as they dry out too quickly here. I cut the bracing out of the bottoms so they are simply square cylinders, then used them the same way as my shirt board cylinders. 

The shirt board cylinders only have to last a few weeks until new growth begins pushing from the cutting ends. At that point, I can safely invert the cups while holding the cylinders securely in place and slip off the cups to view the soil ball bottom and inspect for roots. Once there are nice roots, I can remove the cylinders, exposing more of the cutting length to harden them off gradually. At this point, the plant is absorbing nutrients and water through its new roots, replacing the stored nutrients it relied upon to callus and survive until the roots formed. It no longer needs to be kept dark, cool and damp as it needs the warmth and sun to begin photosynthesizing its own food. Exposing just that little extra of the green stem provides more light and heat to start the food production while permitting the cutting to begin hardening off gradually, without the shock of being fully exposed to the more extreme conditions. 

A week or so later, depending upon how vigorously each plant is producing roots, I'll slide the cups off the soil balls, put two or so inches of fresh potting soil inside, then set the root ball inside the cup to lift the plant higher in the pot, providing more room for root growth. I'll gently begin filling the cup with the soil which has been used to keep the cutting length cool, dark and damp until the cutting is planted the desired depth, then water in well. At this point, nothing other than keeping them watered is required until the roots begins filling the expanded soil balls. Once sufficiently filled, it's time to plant in larger pots. 

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