Propagation

Growing from seeds and cuttings

Growing plants, either from seeds or cuttings, can range from child’s play to difficult for the professional. My advice – start simple and work your way up the difficulty scale step by step.

It’s incredibly rewarding, from mustard and cress on kitchen paper (or micro greens if you’re trendy), to exotics in a state-of-the-art propagator. It’s the most cost-effective way of aquiring new plants, so give it a go.


Propagators: for every need, size and skill level

Bananas and Aeoniums on BioGreen heat mat
Bananas and Aeoniums on BioGreen heat mat

If you’re getting into seed/cutting propagation seriously, you’re going to need an electric propagator.

In descending order, these are the propagators I use – a varied lot:

New in 2016 is a large Biogreen thermostatically-controlled heated mat (about £80 – a birthday present). It’s approx 40x120cm and is used mainly to overwinter tender plants like my expanding collection of bananas, but also comes in handy for propagation. I fit it into a gravel tray in a tomato house for overwintering, as some of the bananas are quite tall.

Jumbo propagator
Jumbo propagator when new – it’s not been empty since

Then there’s “Snow White’s glass coffin” –  the BioGreen Jumbo Propagator that was my 2013 birthday present.

It’s thermostatically controlled as well and has a large domed cover, so accommodates a lot of trays and plants. You set it at the optimum temperature for seeds to germinate, or plants to overwinter. It cost £110, but it is in constant use from January to May.

I coped with the Garland Super 7 for five years (retail prices vary wildly – shop about) and before that, a Stewart sealed unit propagator I was bought for my 14th birthday, still going strong.

Super 7 and old Stewart heated propagators
Super 7 and old Stewart heated propagators

Neither of these is thermostatically controlled – the base units are heated, raising the ambient temperature of the compost by 8C, which is good enough to grow most things – I used them to grow tomatoes for years.

At the cheapest end of the spectrum are unheated propagators, basically plastic seed trays with lids. They are fine if you just want to raise the temperature a couple of degrees or keep in moisure – but you could do that with a transparent plastic bag over a tray/pot.

The most important thing is moving newly-germinated seedlings to the lightest place possible, especially if you’ve started them off early in the year.

If you don’t, you’ll get weak, leggy seedlings that can fall victim to damping off disease – you’re better off waiting until March when there’s more daylight.

Saying that, they will still need a constant temperature – swings between freezing and a superheated greenhouse will spell the end for seedlings.

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