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Flower plant cuttings for the farm

One of the tasks on my epic autumn to-do list is 'take cuttings'.

I have one high tunnel so space is precious. During the summer, space is filled with chrysanthemums and scented geranium. In spring, those places need to be filled with ranunculus. But it's costly to pull all my chrysanthemums & scented geranium plants and rebuy them all the following year. So I take cuttings to overwinter - freeing up space in the high tunnel while preserving my 'mother' stock. In the spring, when the potted chrysanthemums and scented geraniums are bigger and sprouting new growth, I take cuttings off of the cuttings. My plant volume increases and when the high tunnel is cleaned out and ready for May planting, the chrysanthemum and scented geranium go into the ground.

I also take mountain mint cuttings and yarrow clumps and pot them up for overwintering. I do this with mountain mint to increase my plants if summer was particularly brutal and the plants are sad: I can plant fresh ones from cuttings. With yarrow, if I want more of a particular color in response to floral trends, I simply dig up the plant and divide the clumps into pots to produce more plants of that color for spring.

It might seem like a lot of work, but really it's just a few hours during one afternoon and it saves me hundreds of dollars. I have to give up space in the house during the winter (my cuttings usually take up one full folding table) but honestly, it's kind of nice in the winter to look over and see green things growing :) They don't need a grow light or anything special, just warmth and water.

Taking cuttings is really simply. The supplies are:

Good quality potting soil (I like this one)

Very sharp knife or floral snips, cleaned and disinfected

Rooting hormone (I use this one)

Gloves (especially since you're using a hormone)

Pots (like these, you can use them over and over if you run them through the dishwasher to clean them between seasons) If you're diving a yarrow plant, you'll need a bit bigger pot for the root ball.

A few tips will make your cuttings successful. First, take your cutting from new growth at the base of the plant. Second, make sure the potting soil is very moist. Third, be sure to trim off almost all the leaves. Only one small leaf is needed for photosynthesis. If there's too many leaves, the plant can't keep them hydrated and won't have enough left over energy to grow roots. Make a hole (I use a pencil) put the stem coated in hormone powder in the hole then press the soil in around it. Fourth, don't water from above, it will wash away all the rooting hormone, always bottom water. Keep in a warm, well-lite place, but not in direct sunlight. I simply put mine in a shady area outside under a tree, so it gets dappled light, until it gets too cold to stay outside. I also protect them from rain storms, moving them onto the porch so they don't get hammered by inclement weather.

These four plants: yarrow, scented geranium, chrysanthemums, and mountain mint are SO easy to take cuttings from. It's really satisfying and best of all, you can recycle your stock of plants every year for continued growing. If you're short on space, it's especially helpful.

Happy Growing!

sarah jo

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