Thursday, 26 November 2015



We all love to grow a few extra plants for free, and late autumn is a good time to propagate many plants. Winter may be just around the corner, but the ground still has a bit of warmth to help new plants get established. Hardwood cuttings of numerous fruit bushes and ornamental shrubs can be taken now, grape vines under cold greenhouses will be fine and on the fruit patch both raspberries and saskatoons from suckers and strawberries from runners will all help to increase your stock.
John checking over his Bramley apples
Blackcurrant cutting
Red, white and blackcurrants as well as gooseberries, and most deciduous shrubs such as forsythia, philadelphus, cornus and even roses can all be grown from hardwood cuttings. The best time to take these is about two weeks before dormancy when the leaves fall off till about a month later, before winter sets in and the soil turns cold and wet. Take cuttings about six to nine inches long cutting above a bud at the top end and below a leaf joint at the lower end. Prepare the soil in a sheltered spot outdoors or in a cold frame. Add grit and fork into the top few inches to help drainage, then dibble the cuttings in burying two thirds of the stem at spacings of four to six inches apart. This gives the rooted young plant room to grow as it will remain there for a year. If you are growing gooseberries on a leg then remove all the lower buds except the top three or four.
Lining out gooseberry cuttings

Difficult shrubs like Cornus are better when the prepared cuttings are bundled together and heeled into the compost heap where they will get bottom heat over winter with cool tops. This will help the cutting base to callus over ready for lining out in early spring before roots emerge.
Taking grape vine cuttings
Some trees such as willow and poplar are very easy from cuttings which can be quite big (four to five feet) to get them off to a quick start.
Blackberries (bramble) can either be propagated from layering the tips of the growing shoot in summer where they will root and produce a plant by autumn, or in winter you can take a root cutting. Dig up a few roots at least pencil thick and cut into lengths about six inches long with a straight cut at the top end and a sloping cut at the root end so you don’t mix up which way to insert them. They can be lined out in a cold frame or in pots in a cold greenhouse over winter.
Raspberries grow very easily from suckers growing away from the centre of the bush where they would be just a nuisance. These can be planted into permanent position any time during the winter spacing them about eighteen inches apart with rows six feet apart.
Saskatoons also produce plenty of suckers, but new shoots appearing one year may not have roots on them so always give the suckers two years for good root growth.
Planting fresh strawberry runners
Strawberries usually produce plenty of runners in the first few years after planting, and once you have left enough in to thicken up the rows, surplus can be dug up to plant new beds. Keep new plantings spaced about a foot apart with rows three feet apart. Row spacing may look a bit wide at first, but the rows soon thicken up and you need some clear space for your feet at picking. Replace strawberry beds after three years cropping, as any later and the older plants only produce small fruits and not much runners.
Grapes both indoor and outdoors can be propagated during the dormant season once the leaves have fallen off and the growth has ripened. Take cuttings from November to the end of the year, as any later risks bleeding from the cut ends on the vine. Take cuttings about four inches long from strong young shoots with at least one good bud at the tip. Insert these into pots with gritty compost and over winter in a cold greenhouse. They will start growing in spring.

Wee jobs to do this week

Dry Keep checking on apples in store as any damaged ones can quickly go brown and the rot can spread to other healthy apples. Slightly damaged apples can still be used before they go bad for crumbles, stews, pies, tart and juice. Some dessert apples such as Falstaff, Fiesta and Red Devil can last up till next March if kept in an airy cool dark place that is frost free. Cooking apple Bramley may last even longer as it is a great keeper.

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