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Save Money and Time on Gardens

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The end of July marks the start of fall gardening in Georgia.  Now is the time to root new tomato, some herb (basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage), and pepper cuttings so they continue to produce through the prewinter months.  Not that we need more to do.  This is one of the busiest times of the year and now in the midst of mad-harvesting, we’re planting!

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So how do you root from cuttings and save yourself time, energy, and money?  Easy.

12" tomato cuttings in a vase

For tomatoes (also for peppers):

  1. Cut a 12 inch long branch and submerge it in 6 inches of water.  Keep it in a shady area outdoors or a window indoors.
  2. When the roots are about an inch long, the branches may be moved directly into the garden or potted for about two weeks (this is up to you but if you decide to move it directly into your garden, you need to plant it quite deep).
  3. Water the soil thoroughly every two days and you’ll soon have wonderful new plants!

Tomato cuttings with 1 inch roots

For herbs (basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage):

  1. Take the cutting at a node on the stem (where the leaves attach), because this is where root formation is more abundant.
  2. Remove the lower leaves and insert the cut end of the stem into moist media such as soil mix, vermiculite or perlite.
  3. Cover the container with plastic to help increase relative humidity. If the plastic lays on the foliage, it can decay. Place the pot in a warm, shaded location.

sage
Some herbs, including mint, lemon balm and thyme propagate easily by layering.

  1. Bend a stem to the ground, remove leaves from that stem section, cover the section with soil, and water gently. The new plant will be nourished by the mother plant until it is ready to survive on its own.
  2. Leave about 6 inches of the upper portion of the stem above ground and upright.  If necessary, stake stems to hold them in place, or put a rock or other heavy object on top of the mound.
  3. To help stimulate faster rooting, cut a wound just below a node on the stem portion to be buried. Once rooted, the new plant can be severed from the mother plant and potted for indoor growing.

I think we are trained to think that we need to run to the nearest greenhouse for seedlings to start over with all new plants for each season of gardening, an expensive and wasteful habit and not necessarily a time-saver.

In the past few years, more and more people are planting gardens to cut food costs or just to be able to afford chemical-free vegetables.  This means that those who are new to gardening fall prey to profit-hungry commercial gardening centers who urge us to buy trays of seedlings and packets of seeds.  There is no mention of seed-saving, cuttings, or any form of propagation in most beginner gardening books/pamphlets.  This saddens me because new gardeners are being robbed of an opportunity to have a level of self-sufficiency even within the confines of apartment gardening (container gardening,rooftop gardens, and balcony beds).  I vow to show more posts on seed saving and low-cost gardening tricks.

Any requests?  Tips?

  • Lucy - Lacy,

    I hope this finds you rested from our trip to the beach and enjoying your day.

    Very interesting article! I have not been successful at growing basil. In fact, I’ve failed miserably! Several times! Every time I plant it, it gets lush and beautiful, there is so much I make arrangements out of it for our house. Then like someone snaps their fingers, it dies. It starts turning black at the base, it wilts, leaves fall off and it’s all over! I’ve tried watering less, I’ve tried watering more, I’ve tried full sun, partial shade, containers, garden… you name it. It’s very disappointing. Any advice?

    Thanks,
    LucyReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' gal - Hi Lucy!

    The best (and only) advice I can give you for growing great basil is to regularly harvest and pinch off the top leaves as soon as the plant reaches 6″ in height. Don’t let it go to seed or flower. I always grow my basil alongside my tomatoes but I don’t know if it really helps keep it happy. I plant them about ten inches apart and wait until it’s in the 70s every day before setting them out.

    Maybe I’ve just been really lucky. 😉

    I know that basil doesn’t like cold weather at all and will need to be covered or brought indoors once the temperature drops even a little bit.

    Blessings!
    LacyReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' gal - Lucy —

    I called my friend (a master gardener, who once ran a successful greenhouse). She reports that basil wilt is quite common. She says to take special care in how you are pinching, only moisten the soil instead of misting or getting the leaves wet, and to make sure that you are not planting your basil in the same location year after year. If you have a fungal or bacterial issue within the soil — your basil will wilt over and over again. Pull up any plants that turn dark and wilt — throw them away and wash your hands. The disease can be transmitted to other surrounding plants by infected seed, compost or sap regurgitated from another infected plant by aphids.

    Gosh, I hope that helps.

    Blessings,
    LacyReplyCancel

  • heatherj - If I could successfully have bay leaves and rosemary from my garden, I’d be happy.
    I have a butternut squash plant that I’m trying to grow in a pot. The plant is vigorous and healthy, but the flowers pop off and the teeny baby squash turns black and dies. sigh…. When everyone is drowning in squashes of all sorts, I can NEVER seem to have any success with them, no matter where I live. arrrghhh. Also, I am trying to grow loofah, but I have not seen any flowers at all. The plant is huge, but… no flowers… no fruit… no sponges.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - Duh question of the day….once these are rooted and new plants start, what do you do with them? (as in, during the winter?).

    I love the idea of not depending on garden centers, but to me that meant planting tomatoes from seed (and possibly saving the seed from our tomatoes to plant next year).

    thanks for the help!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - Great ideas. Living in the south has led to a whole different gardening style for us. We would barely get one complete crop in the summer in the Pacific Northwest.ReplyCancel

  • Rosa - I am jealous ;-P! What beautiful produce…. I admire your dedication and patience…

    Cheers,

    RosaReplyCancel

  • kerry - these are great tips, thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Marlene - Hi there,

    Welcome back. I hope your trip to the lake was enjoyable.

    Your advice about propogation and seed saving etc. is great to know. You are so right about many not knowing how to save etc. You have a wealth of info so keep writing.

    I plan on moving some plants that are in the back to the front so I can grow a garden next year. I will be following you write ups very closely. .. Love Always xoxoReplyCancel

  • Simple Livin' gal - Maureen —

    To answer your question: it depends on where you live. If you live up north and you have a short growing season, you may want to take your rooted cuttings and place them in large pots in your house through the winter months. If they have enough light, they will likely offer up some fruit even in winter (a nice treat). Be careful that they don’t get too cold in front of a drafty window. They like temperatures 70 degrees and above with lots of sunlight.

    If you live in the deep south (as I do), then you can take your rooted cuttings right out to the garden patch to continue producing in the fall months. You may have to use row covers in some spots (should the weather take a dip in temperature).

    How did I do?

    Blessings,
    LacyReplyCancel

  • Kath - Another very interesting lesson on gardening!ReplyCancel

  • Angie - I am from Ga. now living in Va. The growing season is so different here it is a huge learning curve. We can’t even get plants in the ground until nearly May! I miss my Ga garden but not the humidity and heat – which are both very different from the heat and humidity up here. The gauges may read the same but the effects on the body are clearly different.ReplyCancel

  • Lucy - Lacy, Thank you for your response and for checking with your friend about the basil. I will try again next year.
    Take care and many blessings,
    LucyReplyCancel

  • warren - This is brilliant info! Maybe our garden has a chance afterall!ReplyCancel

  • Leah - Hi Lacy!

    Honestly I had never even thought about taking cuttings from our veggies and herbs to start new plants – we’re definitely going to have to try it out now though. =)ReplyCancel

  • Sophie - Thanks for this wonderful info!!

    I love your pictures too!ReplyCancel

  • amy - what a pleasure to read your post and see your photos! thank you letting us share in your gardening successes. i grew up with my dad gardening when we lived in illinois growing up. now i live in co with my family and have been attempting gardening in this harsher climate for about 6 years now. i have learned lots and there is a lot to learn! i appreciate your last paragraph; it’s very true!ReplyCancel

  • Chris and his Thyme - Hello there! I just divided my newly bought Thyme so I’m pretty happy about that. It’s my first time.

    You know what? I’m not sure if it’s a problem, but the stems / leaves seem to be tangled all the time. I spend time trying to “comb” the stems. I’m not sure if that’s necessary though.ReplyCancel

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