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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Some Suggested Reading for Seed Saving People

Against The Grain, James Scott, © 2017 Yale University Press, Tossing most of our understanding of man's initial impulse to move from hunter/gathererSome Su to living in communities that farmed, Scott takes the whole explanation for why humans made the shift and calls our current hypotheses mostly fictional! Not a seed book or seed guide, but a discussion about the beginning of civilization.

A Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers © 2010 Organic Seed Alliance Publication, available at publications/guide/seed-saving-guide-gardeners-farmers This is a free guide of about 35 pages. For free, it is the best deal on this page. It covers everything you need for saving seeds and it does so without fuss or mess. This is excellent for any seed saver; I have a copy at hand on my desk that has seen its fair share of use. (I downloaded it, put it on a memory stick, took it to my copy center, they printed the whole thing out for a few bucks and I bought a cover for it. The cover has pockets and I've added single pages to that I have found over the years. It, and Deppe's book, make up the most used portion of my library.)

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's and Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, 2nd Edition, Carol Deppe, © 2000 Chelsea Green Publishing This is my go to resource when I have questions about seed saving. Deppe's first half is all about plant breeding and a lot of it is over my head, but the second half of the book is simple, direct and precious. This is my favorite resource about seed saving. And there's all that breeding information in the front if you ever get the call to start breeding your own varieties!

The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, Janisse Ray, © 2012, Chelsea Green Publishing Janisse Ray is a writer with enough awards you'd think she'd give other, less-talented, writers a chance to win a prize or two, but in this offering, she presents a number of essays aimed at seeds and our understanding of them and how they affect our lives, our culture and our future on the planet. Of all the books here, this is the most charming and therefore easy to read, but she really does give instruction on saving seeds as well as everything else! If you can't imagine yourself reading anything about seeds, start here.

The Story of Corn, Betsy Fussell, © 2014, University of New Mexico Press This is a magnificent collection of our understanding of corn, from many different angles. Fussell has a masterpiece of a book, I have read it cover to cover twice and I'm planning to reread it again this year. This is a powerful piece of reading (as are most on this page), but I have special place in my heart for this book.

Where Our Food Comes From, Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2009, Shearwater Books, Gary Paul Nabhan has written a wonderful book describing the work of one of the world's most visionay seed scientist, Nicolay Vavilov and his efforts to end famine in our world. This book, while not about the act of seed saving, introduces the necessity of saving seeds cut against the background of the nascent Soviet Union's violent lurching towards a sustainable country. Surely as exciting as any who-done-it you've ever read and it really happened!

There are more... 


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Syllabus, Urban Food, Spring 2019 (2nd iteration)

    Iteration Two
Course Number: Biology X 489.6  

Instructor: David King


There are no prerequisites for this course, although some experience with gardening will prove useful.

All classes meet at garden space on the UCLA Campus near DeVeve Hall on the north west portion of the campus. It is not easy to find, I suggest going as a group the first time (at least) and getting your bearing that way. We do NOT have a classroom after the first meeting so we will meat at some picnic tables for all classes after the first. ** If it rains we meet any way. Most of our heavy rain is behind us, class will continue in a light rain.**

The production, packaging, and transportation of food are large contributors to our global carbon emissions. Throughout the Los Angeles Basin, food gardens have sprung up to produce local healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables while contributing energy and financial savings in difficult economic times. Using the history of growing food in the city in times of need as a template, this course explores how homegrown food can reduce your food budget and address environmental concerns. Participants each have a small plot for growing food where they can experiment with new ideas and enjoy their harvest. Topics include fruit trees, vegetables, and berries that do well in our climate as well as often overlooked food-producing perennials and how to grow food in modern city lots where the "back forty" describes square feet and not acres.

Textbooks Required If You Plan on Gardening Here A Lot (but not required for the class) 

Title:  The New Sunset Western Garden Book
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2012
Publisher Sunset Books
ISBN 978-0376039170

There will be no assigned reading from the book, but it really is essential if you are gardening in Southern California. The most recent edition is not really necessary, however, it does have more data in it and with each edition Sunset pays more respect to food gardening. It is not required for the course.

This will be supplemented by postings on my Garden Notes blog, . I hope to post most of the material in the days prior to the class when it will be used or immediately afterwards.

Textbooks, Recommended:

Title:  The Kitchen Garden
Author Thompson, Sylvia
Edition First
Publisher Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-08138-1
*(She has a companion cookbook that is worth investigation too!)
Title:  Heirloom Vegetable Gardening
Author Weaver, William Woys
Edition Second!!
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 978-0760359921
A NEW edition at last!!!
Author Flint, Mary Louise
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN-13: 978-1879906402
Title:  The Resilient Gardener

Author Deppe, Carol
Edition First
Publisher Chelsea Green
ISBN-13: 978-1603580311

There will be no assigned reading from any of these books. The rest of the literature, as references, will prove invaluable to any serious student in this field. There will be bibliographies describing other books as the quarter progresses, I am a ferocious reader and not at all shy about suggesting books I think deserve your attention. From the bibliography, you will choose one book to read and report on. This report will be turned in at the end of class; see the point assignment structure on the next page.

Course Schedule:

07 April
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Visit Garden
14 April
Books/The Journal/Food crops of summer/growing up
21 April
28 April
Tools/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
05 May
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Water/
12 May
Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
19 May
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping?/Introduction to goat keeping (?)
26 May
02 June
Goats in the Urban Foodscapes
09 June

16 June
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade.

(Syllabus may be changed as needed to reflect reality.)

Please note that in Spring quarter there are a few holidays and plants do not take a holiday. – we will need to ensure that watering happens to keep the plants alive if there is no rain while we all enjoy our celebrations.

Point Assignment Structure
Class participation (and cooperation)

Grade of A
Garden Journal

1 page book review

Planting Project

D and F

I have two over-arching goals in all the classes I teach:
      1. To teach folks how to grow some of their own food.
      2. To teach folks how to be a part of a community. 
If you want a good grade, keep that in mind. These are the things we will need as a people in the very near future. If we don't learn this, we will be in deep trouble.

Therefore, please note, I try to grade you on your personal improvement. Cooperation is counted more than competition in my classes.

Office hours are by appointment only – please call or email me. I am willing to meet with you; I want you to learn; I do not want you to struggle. Please do not hesitate to call me, rather than try to talk to me in class when I can't really give you undivided attention. Extra points are available if you wish to earn more credit.

Each class, as we start, will usually begin with lecture and then proceed to the garden where we will share the garden chores and harvest.

You are encouraged to experiment in the garden plot. Your process should be thoroughly documented in your journal – your thinking and your understanding of what is happening in your garden. If you have a problem, research a solution.

Pick one book from the ones presented in class to read and report on.

As often as I can, I will prepare some seasonal food to eat. There are no places to buy food while in class and we are here for four hours. Students are encouraged to bring in food to share with the class at all meetings. Students should bring in their own plate and eating utensils so we can have a minimum waste event. The last class meeting will be a potluck where we will all share local and fresh food! (That's the point, right?)

Criteria for your garden journal grade:
  1. Documentation of what you planted when
  2. Documentation of weather elements – temperature (minimum and maximum) as well as an precipitation and noting humidity or dryness, especially of Santa Ana winds.
  3. Germination per cent of plant sown from seed
  4. Choice of varieties sources and reasoning
  5. Success/failures discussed – alternatives to failures/expansion of successes
  6. Plans for the future
  7. Drawings (or photos) of the garden (either done by hand or by computer program) NOTE: this notebook is NOT your class notes – they might be included, but what I want are your garden observations!

Criteria for your garden plot grade:
  1. You should experiment and try something you have never done – explore!
  2. Our plot and adjacent pathways must be cleared of weeds.
  3. Our plot and adjacent pathways must be well mulched. (Up to me to find the mulch.)
  4. All of our plot should be attractive and be growing some food.
  5. Your journal should indicate you learned something from the plot, your journal and your plot are intertwined and work together.
  6. When presented with the opportunity, you should cooperate with other students, help those in need and be team member of this class.

The person who starts from seed vs. bringing in growing plants, will have plants not nearly as far along as the others – but stands to make a better grade if they have experimented with growing from seed – I am more interested that you LEARN in this class – just doing what you already have done doesn't teach you anything. We are all gardeners here, if we don't have patience yet, we soon will. Cultivate patience with your plants in this class setting.

All handouts (including this syllabus) will be available on the blog site:

Please keep a sweater or jacket handy. Class is not canceled on account of rain. As long as you can hear my voice, class will go on, though I will try to get us out of a rain.

First Adjustment to Our Class Schedule, Urban Food, Spring Edition

As mentioned in the first class there were adjustments that had to be made to the syllabus as the dates on the syllabus didn't match up with reality. This is still not final, there is still one day blank (09 June), but I think I might have some excellent material to cover on that day - though I am still open to suggestions! I appreciate your input! 

Course Schedule:

07 April
Introduction/Seed Starting/Urban gardening in context today/12 Points to a Better Garden Sustainability and Food Issues in Modern America/Visit Garden
14 April
Books/The Journal/Food crops of summer/growing up
21 April
28 April
Tools/Urban Gardens Bigger Picture
05 May
Planting/Sheet composting/Composting/ Planting Timing and Design/SLOLA/Seeds/Light/Water/
12 May
Sources/Annuals/ Soil Contamination and Remediation
19 May
Planting/Companions/Crop Rotation in a Small Garden/ Beekeeping?/Introduction to goat keeping (?)
26 May
02 June
Goats in the Urban Foodscapes
09 June

16 June
Planning for Continuous Harvests/Potluck/Submit your journal etc for a grade.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Propagating California Native Plants

This is the URL to get the PDF book on propagating California Natives from Santa Ana Botanical Gardens.  This text was referenced in today's talk! 

Follows are the handouts, if you didn't get them in class.

A Reading List for California Plant and their Propagation

Assembling California (Annals of the Former World); McPhee, John, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers, ©1993 A small and quick read that is as delightful as it is informative. Find out about the soils of the California Floristic Provence and how they 'call the shots' for many of the plants we have in this part of the world. It's fascinating!

California Native Plants for the Garden; Borstein, Carol, Fross, David and O'Brien, Bart, Cachuma Press © 2005 I was around at this books' publication and it really caused a storm – the photos of California plants put to creative use in glossy photographs made this book fly off the shelves! It really is a delightful and colorful addition to those gardens using plants native to California.

California Plants, A Guide to Our Iconic Flora; Ritter, Matt, © 2018 Pacific Street Publishing; A concise guide with many color photos! A foreward from the Goveror, Edmund Brown! Newly in print so it has more up to date plant names. Good photos make identification of plants a cinch.

California Plant Families; Keater, Glenn, University of California Press, © 2009 Keator is one of the more prolific botanists on the scene at this time, and this is written with authority – Illustrations by Margaret J. Steunenberg, and beautifully done. Definitely a must have if you are really getting into Californian plants.

Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California; Keator, Glenn, Chronical Books, © 1990 I got my copy when it was rumored that it was no longer published – those rumors came true a few years later, but I know you can buy used copies of this marvelous book from used book outlets. As above, this is hand-illustrated with detailed drawings and is definitely a keeper.

Gardening with a Wild Heart; Lowery, Judith Larner; University of California Press, © 2007 Not a book of facts and figures, but a story of California Natives and a woman's love for them. When I first started in California Natives, I was ordering seeds from Larner Seeds and this is the woman we meet on these pages. Lowery's wonderful measured point of view comes thru on a variety of essays that include discussions of wildflower gardening, the ecology of native grasses, wildland seed-collecting, principles of natural design, and plant/animal interactions.

Seed Propagation of Native California Plants; Emory, Dana; Emory was the plant propagator for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden in the 1950's. There was no book on propagating California Native Seeds, and it was Emory's job to do just that. So Dana Emory wrote the book. It was never meant for publishing, being just the notes year after year that were accumalated. If you're looking for a thriller, this aint it. However, even though somewhat dated, it is a resource and if you can find one, it belongs on your shelf. The only one for sale I found writing this was priced at $143.52!

A List of Cismontane chaparral plant species

In Central and Southern California chaparral forms a dominant habitat. Members of the chaparral biota native to California, all of which tend to regrow quickly after fires, include:

  • Adenostoma fasciculatum, chamise
  • Adenostoma sparsifolium, redshanks
  • Arctostaphylos spp., manzanita
  • Ceanothus spp., ceanothus
  • Cercocarpus spp., mountain mahogany
  • Cneoridium dumosum, bush rue
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat
  • Garrya spp., silk-tassel bush
  • Hesperoyucca whipplei, yucca
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia, toyon
  • Acmispon glaber, deerweed
  • Malosma laurina, laurel sumac
  • Marah macrocarpus, wild cucumber
  • Mimulus aurantiacus, bush monkeyflower
  • Pickeringia montana, chaparral pea
  • Prunus ilicifolia, islay or hollyleaf cherry
  • Quercus berberidifolia, scrub oak
  • Q. dumosa, scrub oak
  • Q. wislizenii var. frutescens
  • Rhamnus californica, California coffeeberry
  • Rhus integrifolia, lemonade berry
  • Rhus ovata, sugar bush
  • Salvia apiana, white sage
  • Salvia mellifera, black sage
  • Xylococcus bicolor, mission manzanita


Monday, March 12, 2018

Handout From Katarina Eriksson

Plant Propagation by Leaf Cuttings:
Instructions for the Home Gardener
by Katarina Eriksson, Horticulturist.
Owner of Kat Eriksson’s Landscaping & High End Garden Maintenance
Why use vegetative propagation? VP.
The new plants are clones – Genetically identical to parent plant, not sexual propagation with 2 parents, as in seeds.
VP. Preserves unusual and valuable plant traits that may not pass with seed.
VP. Used to reproduce plants that seldom flower or are sterile.
VP. Can be much faster than growing an equivalent plant by seed. Some like african violet will bloom faster than seedlings.
And it's fun!!!!

WHAT YOU NEED, Types of Media used for propagation:
(All equipment should be clean and sterile at all times, Use rubbing alcohol or mouthwash on the blades and hard surfaces).
Sterile soil, and a clean bucket or container to mix in.
Sterile pots, 3 to 4 inch is good.
Sharp knife or scissors/pruner or snips.
Rooting hormone or willow water (see last page) paper towel or clean rags.
Hair pins or thin wire.
Container to act like a mini greenhouse, like clear plastic shoe box. Can re-use clean plastic food containers with lids.
Watering can with soft nozzle, spray bottle, clear filtered or rain water.

Personal safety: Wear mask when mixing soils or handling chemicals that can irritate breathing. I use medical gloves when mixing soil. Safety glasses are recommended for contact wearers. I use a very sharp blade on my cutters and knifes, keep them sterilized and always point away from you. Use common sense and safety first!
  • ½ clean sand with ½ good quality potting soil. NOT STERILE
  • ½ clean sand with ½ moistened peat moss, or coir. (Good for Begonias, African Violets and succulents)
  • perlite and ⅓ vermiculite with ⅓ peat or coir. (This is my usual mix for most plants. it's completely sterile so less chance of fungal rot disease.)
  • clean sand with ⅓ perlite and ⅓ or less vermiculite. (best for succulents, and plants that need very good drainage)
  • (cactus and succulents can be in straight clean sand)

MIX IN A CLEAN BIN OR BUCKET ADD WATER VERY SLOWLY. (The propagation medium should be as sterile as you can make it and moistened before use. Many organic materials, like coir or peat moss, resists wetting at first. (Its aquaphobic). Warm water helps.

Be sure to apply warm water (Distilled or rain water is best) slowly while mixing to obtain uniform distribution. This may require 2-3 applications a little at a time. It is not uncommon for a medium to look wet on the surface but to be powdery dry in the middle. A well moistened media will make it easier to stick in the cuttings later on. But if it's too wet, it may rot your cuttings, it should be able to be squeezed in a ball and not be soggy.
Non chlorinated or rain water is best, and a watering can with a soft rain spout. MAKE SURE IT'S THOROUGHLY MIXED AND MOIST.

LEAF CUTTINGS, Vegetative reproduction
Use with African Violet, Mother-in-law tongue, piggy back plant, etc.
USE ONLY HEALTHY LEAVES, not too old or too young, if spotted, diseased or damaged, you may have less than average chance of success.
Few plants can be propagated from just a leaf or a section of a leaf. (Not all plants can be propagated this way, they usually just decay) Because leaf cuttings do not include an axillary bud, they can be used only for plants that are capable of forming adventitious buds.

Because leaf cuttings do not include an axillary bud (Axillary bud refers to structures that develop in an unusual place) they can be used only for plants that are capable of forming Adventitious buds.
Some leaves develop adventitious buds, which then form adventitious roots, as part of vegetative reproduction; e.g. Piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii) and mother-of-thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana). The adventitious plantlets then drop off the parent plant and develop as separate clones of the parent.
Leaf cuttings are used almost exclusively for propagating of some indoor plants and succulents, these are common easy plants to try, e.g. African Violet, Gloxinias, Begonia - rhizome types, Peperomia, Episcia, ZZ plant, and piggyback plant, which is a Calif native forest plant.
Some succulents are usually propagated by leaf cuttings. Genera typically propagated by leaf cuttings include but are not limited to: Gasteria spp. Christmas cactus, Haworthia, Hoya, Sansevieria, Kalanchoe, Sedum, Graptopetalum, etc.

There are several types of leaf cuttings:


  1. The knife must be very clean, or you risk infecting the leaf. Remove a leaf and include up to 1 1/2 inches of the petiole (The stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem or crown base). Or carefully pull down and off mother plant. Allow to dry a little to develop a callus bud.
  2. Leave the leaf some place protected from sun and kept warm, long enough for a film (callus) to form over the cut part. This can take as little a few days to as long as two weeks, depending on type of plant. This film will help keep the cut part from getting infected by the soil, or rotting.
  3. Hold the leaf gently and dip the cut end of the petiole into a rooting hormone.
  4. (Figure 1). Insert the petiole of the leaf into an appropriate medium at a 45 degree angle. Since new plants develop at the base of the leaf it is important that the leaf does not shade the new plants or touching anything moist that might cause mold or rot.
  5. Keep leafy cuttings soil moist and humid at all times. Don't keep leaves below soil line. Remove fallen leaves and diseased cuttings or parts regularly.
  6. Increase the humidity around the cuttings. For a single pot use a clear plastic bag propped up with chopsticks. When using a standard black seedling tray, a clear plastic humidity dome works well. Bottom heat of about 65-75 degrees F should be provided if possible. Keep in a protected area that is like a mini greenhouse or terrarium. I like a covered clear plastic storage bin/container, or you can also use clean recycled clear food containers, like salad boxes.
  7. Keep moist by misting often in warm weather and lightly misted in cool weather. Never let dry out.
  8. Once the new plants have formed, (Figure 1) in approximately 8 weeks, carefully separate (divide) each new plant from the parent. (Chopsticks or tweezers can be used) Avoid damaging the delicate roots. It is these new plantlets which form around the stem which are used to transplant. The old leaf can be discarded. Sometimes is a mass of clusters of plantlets, so divide carefully.
  9. Transplant each new plant into a 2 ½ -4 inch pot, using a lightweight, pre-wetted, potting soil and water thoroughly.
  10. I still keep them in a greenhouse like environment in a shady, bright area to help them get stronger, you can also use indoors under grow lights. And then pot up each stage to the size you want. Slowly add diluted fertilizer -I prefer organic houseplant food.

It's a slow process, but I hope you enjoy how new plants are made asexually, and hopefully appreciate their will to survive and the way plants create a way to clone themselves without sexual means.


Figure 2. Take a healthy leaf. Cut the leaf into sections, each with a main vein.

This method is used for plants with thick, fleshy leaves.
  • A monocot, (Monocot seedlings typically have one cotyledon seed-leaf, like a blade of grass) The Mother-in-law or Snake Plant (Sansevieria), and ZZ plant (zamioculcas zamiifolia) can be propagated by cutting the long leaves into 3- to 4-inch pieces. Insert the cuttings vertically into the medium. (Figure 2. see drawing)
  • A dicot, (a group of flowering plants whose seed typically has two embryonic leaves or cotyledons as seedlings.) like a African violet, or Begonia it can also be propagated from the leaf blade itself.

Like the last instructions: take a leaf of Mother-in-law-tongue, (Sansevieria) cut a leaf from a plant and remove the petiole. Make sure you keep the tops at a slant and bottom straight. Let it callus, dip in rooting hormone, Insert the leaf vertically into the medium making sure that the midvein is buried in the rooting medium. You can cut many pieces from one leaf blade.
(Figure 2). New plant(s) will form from the midvein. Remember if cuttings are stuck upside down they will not root. Leaf cuttings can be literally crowded together, almost shoulder to shoulder. This crowding will not harm them, and once the root systems have been developed they can be separated for transplanting into individual pots.
Other plants: Some Cactus (particularly varieties producing "pads" like Bunnies Ears), Crassula (Jade Plant), Kalanchoe, Peperomia, Sedum and many other succulents. Some Aloes (Difficult, has too high moisture content),

Figure 3. Split leaf cuts and (2) new plantlets forming

LEAF CUTTING - Split-vein and leaf wedge
I usually use clean, plastic storage boxes like little greenhouses. Begonias especially like high humidity.
Note: Everything needs to be sterile.
  1. SPLIT-VEIN, Detach a leaf from a Begonia - rhizome types (Begonia sp.) and remove the petiole. (stem) Make cuts on several prominent veins on the underside of the leaf (Figure 3). Lay the cutting, lower side down, on the medium. If the leaf curls up, hold it in place by covering the margins with rooting medium or staples (Hair bobby pins). New plants will form at each cut in about 6-8 weeks. (This method is more challenging.)
  2. LEAF WEDGE, A variation of this method is to cut the leaf into wedges, You can get more plant Letts from one leaf. (Figure 3b) so that each piece has a main vein. The leaf wedge should be inserted into rooting hormone and then into the media with the main vein partially covered. (I prefer this method, it has a better chance of success.)

Figure 3b. Wedge cuts

Figure 4. The stem portion produces roots, and a new shoot develops from the bud

Leaf-bud cuttings are used for many trailing vines and when cutting material is limited. Each node on a stem can be treated as a cutting. This type of cutting consists of a leaf blade, petiole, and a short piece of stem with an attached axillary bud. Place cuttings in the medium with the bud covered (1/2 to 1 inch) and the leaf exposed (Figure 4). Examples of plants that can be propagated in this manner include: Clematis, camellia, jade plant, rubber plant, grape ivy, dracaena, blackberry, mahonia, and heart-leaf philodendron, English Ivy, pothos, Pelargoniums-Geraniums. Plant material selected for leaf cuttings should be healthy, actively growing and free of insect or disease problems. Large, mature leaves provide the best source of propagation material. THIS IS A SLOWER WAY TO PROPAGATE, BUT YOU GET MORE OF THE SAME KIND OF VARIETY FROM 1 STEM.

(Notes: Many plants will easily root in water. However, the roots that form can be extremely fibrous and stringy. Plants rooted in water often have a difficult time becoming established after they are transplanted into a container.)

The propagation medium should be thoroughly moistened before use. (SEE PAGE 1)
KEEP SOIL SLIGHTLY MOIST, (like a squeezed out sponge) if too wet, plants will rot. Make sure you have holes in bottom of pot and good drainage.
Misting everyday in warm weather and watering with a soft nozzle till the plants are strong enough to hold up to regular watering.
After you've potted up to next size, you can give them a very low dose of liquid fertilizer, like sea kelp every 2 weeks.
When you get to the 4 inch size you can transplant into good potting soil.

Light is an important environmental factor in plant propagation. Generally speaking, low light levels cause plants to root slowly. However, too high light intensities can stress cuttings, causing them to burn or drop leaves. Diffused sunlight generally provides enough light for optimum rooting without causing injury to the cuttings. but still bright enough to read a book by.

Since cuttings do not have roots, they cannot replace the water lost through transpiration. Therefore it is important to maintain high humidity around the cuttings to cut down on the amount of moisture lost to the atmosphere.
These conditions can be provided by placing a clear piece of plastic over the propagation area. This causes condensation to form on the underside of the plastic that provides the necessary humidity. Adequate ventilation is also required to avoid disease problems. The plastic covering should be placed such that air can flow freely around the cuttings as they root. If the leaves are touching the sides of the container they may rot.

For best results, maintain day temperatures at 70 degrees F. During winter months, soil can be as much as 10-20 degrees less than air temperature, so provide bottom heat when possible. Ideal rootzone temperatures for most plants are approximately 70-75 degrees F. If the hot sun hits the container it may cook the delicate cuttings or young plants.

ON ROOTING HORMONES (Please follow safety directions on container)
Rooting hormones are often used to promote root formation. These materials provide supplemental auxin, a naturally occurring plant hormone that is responsible for root development. These products kill fungus and bacteria to prevent the stem from rotting, and contain a growth hormone to speed the formation of roots.
The end of the cutting is dipped into the chemical prior to sticking it into the propagation medium. These products come in different strengths and will vary according to the type of plant being propagated.
IMPORTANT: To use rooting hormone, place the amount needed in a separate container. Any material that remains after treating the cuttings should be discarded, not returned to the original container. These precautions will prevent contamination of the entire bottle of rooting hormone. Let the stem set for a minute.

Though some plants will root readily without treatment, application of rooting hormone to the base of the cutting will often improve your chance for success.
BUT there are always exceptions: Pelargoniums - Geraniums, some Roses and Succulents. do much better without root hormone.

Homemade organic rooting hormone
The active ingredient of many commercial rooting products is Indolebutyric Acid (IBA), a natural plant hormone and and Salicylic acid (SA) (which is a chemical similar to Aspirin) is a plant hormone which is involved in signalling a plant’s defences. (Do not use Aspirin, it's too strong and contains too many other chemicals.)
When you make willow water, both salicylic acid and IBA leach into the water, and both have a beneficial effect when used for the propagation of cuttings. One of the biggest threats to newly propagated cuttings is infection by bacteria and fungi. Salicylic acid helps plants to fight off infection, and can thus give cuttings a better chance of survival. Plants, when attacked by infectious agents, often do not produce salicylic acid quickly enough to defend themselves, so providing the acid in water can be particularly beneficial.

  1. Collect a handful of young first-year twigs and stems of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has brown or gray bark. Remove all the leaves, these are not used.
  2. Take the twigs and cut them up into short pieces around 1" (2.5cm) long.
  3. The next step is to add the water. there are several techniques to extract the natural plant rooting hormones:
  • Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with boiling water, just like making tea, and allow the “tea” to stand overnight.
  • Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with tap water (unheated), and let it soak for several days.
  1. When finished, separate the liquid from the twigs by carefully pouring out the liquid, or pouring it through a strainer or sieve. The liquid is now ready to use for rooting cuttings. You can keep the liquid for up to two months if you put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keep the liquid in the refrigerator. Remember to label the jar so you and other people know what it is, and write down the date you brewed it up, and to aid the memory, write down the date that it should be used by, which is two months from the date it was made! You can also freeze it for years of use.
  2. To use, just pour some willow water into a small jar, and place the cuttings in there like flowers in a vase, and leave them there to soak for several hours so that they take up the plant rooting hormone. Then prepare them as you would when propagating any other cuttings.
  3. Now remember since this method isn't very exact, the strength of the willow water can vary depending on the time of year, the number of twigs, the concentration of hormones in the twigs, and the amount of time that the twigs were soaked. You will, however, still get a solution that will help your plants root.

WARNING: Latest FAD on the internet: Cinnamon as rooting agent
  • Cinnamon as a rooting agent is as useful as willow water or hormone rooting powder. A single application to the stem when you plant the cutting will stimulate root growth in almost every plant variety.”. FALSE
  • Give your cuttings a quick start with the help of cinnamon powder. Pour a spoonful onto a paper towel and roll damp stem ends in the cinnamon. Plant the stems in fresh potting soil. The cinnamon will encourage the stem to produce more stems, while helping to prevent the fungus that causes damping-off disease. FALSE
Whether or not the antibacterial properties pertain specifically to real cinnamon or cassia (what's usually in the bottle when you buy cinnamon at most grocery stores) is up in the air. I also found these other claims, remember just because it's on the internet doesn't make it true.
To promote root growth, create a rooting solution by dissolving an aspirin in water.” or “try mixing 1-3 Tbs of honey per gallon of water” FALSE!
I am trying these as an experiment, but I am VERY sceptical.


by Katarina Eriksson, Horticulturist.

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