Start an Herb Garden for Pennies
I just moved to a new part of the country and had to leave my herb garden behind. It’s not the first time that I’ve been “herbless” and had to start over again. It can get expensive to start again and since I think being herbless is just wrong, I need a way to frugally build up my herb garden again. I have a great way to remedy my dilemma for only a little bit of money. Follow along as I teach you how to propagate herbs from cuttings. It couldn’t be simpler.
While I could go down to the local nursery and purchase all new plants (and I may purchase some of the more unusual ones) the main way I plan on getting my starts is to ask other gardeners. I’ve found that gardeners love to share, and in the fall people will be pruning back their herbs anyway.
The best way to increase your garden holdings is to ask and then learn how to make new plants from cuttings. You can also go to nurseries and look for closeout plants.
You only need a few cuttings from each plant to be successful.
Which Plants Can You Use to Make Cuttings?
This simple technique, once mastered can be used on any perennial plant that has a stalk. With only a few exceptions. Taking stem cuttings does not work on plants that come right out of the ground in a big clump, like aloe and hosta, bulbing plants like garlic or chives, and grasses or annuals. Those are best propagated by division or seed.
That still leaves a lot that it will work with. Propagation by stem cuttings works fantastic on these herbs:
- Winter Savory
- Summer Savory
- Scented Geraniums
- Sweet Woodruff
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Verbena
- Pineapple Sage
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There are three kinds of stem cutting you might take – softwood, semi-hardwood, and hardwood. It will depend on the maturity of the plant which you use. The best time to make softwood cuttings is from the spring to late summer as plants are still growing. Clip off a stem of rosemary and you can tell a softwood cutting, the end 3 inches is probably very green and pliable.The softwood section will root the quickest, sometimes only requiring water to root.
Next on the stalk is the semi-hardwood section. It is still somewhat pliable but is turning brown. You may get this section to root in water but success most likely comes with rooting in soil or sand. This is best done after the active growing season, usually in the summer or early fall.
The hardwood part of the stalk will be last years growth and will resemble a stick. You’ll know it because the stick will not bend, but only break. Rooting this part of a stalk will require rooting hormone and soil or sand. Of course, not all plants will have this stage of growth. If you look closely at a mint plant you will see that it is only a softwood stem. All plants that winter over above ground will have a hardwood part of the stalk.
How to Propagate Herbs From Cuttings
Take cuttings from several stalks of the plant you want to propagate. I made my cuttings about 10 inches long. You should use sharp garden shears and clean them with rubbing alcohol after each plant. You don’t want to spread disease!
Make new cuts based on the way the stalk looks – separating softwood and semi-hardwood sections.
Cut below a leaf and remove two sections of leaves at the node. The joint on a stem where a leaf starts to grow is a node. The area of stem between joints is the internode. This section is where the roots will begin to emerge. You should be careful to pinch off the leaf, never tear it away from the stalk. It will ruin the node and may introduce disease. I just pinch these off with my fingernails (clean hands of course.) You could also use a knife or clippers, but I find these cumbersome for the small job.
Now your cuttings should look like this – ready to go into the growing medium. You can use a soil / sand mix in a used 6 cell plant tray or just use fresh water.
The greatest threat to your small cutting is the loss of water through the leaves that remain. To minimize this, you can create a mini greenhouse around the plants. This will provide high humidity while the stalks produce roots.
Place your cuttings into a small jar of water and cover it with a plastic bag. No leaves should be in the water. Your cuttings need to be in a well light area but not in direct sunlight. Keep an eye on it and change the water once a week or as needed. That’s all there is to it! In 3-4 weeks you will have roots growing from the node areas and you can plant them into potting soil.
Learn the art of how to propagate herbs from cuttings. Knowing this one simple trick will save you a ton of money as you plan your new herb garden.
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