Monday, April 20, 2009

Pleasures of Propagation

Each year in my garden, I've been thrilled to experience a little more of the garden beginning to take care of itself. One of the ways that happens is when a desired species self-propagates. It's funny how it actually works that way.

Not to take a thing away from all of the wonderful people with calloused hands and permanent nail-dirt I've purchased starts from, but the bottom line is that healthy plants make their own offspring. It's a sure sign of a maturing garden when you start to keep your own seed from year to year and produce your own cuttings.

It's cheaper too!

Early this season I was delighted to discover a dozen or so Red Flowering Currant starts that had tunneled down from low branches and rooted. I bumped into the starts while on hands and knees taking out some pesky grass. With my face in the duff beneath the currants, I saw how the west-facing branches had been deployed by the currant stand as a sort of advance guard on a rooting mission to march towards the sun which they clearly crave. I snipped several of these and potted them up. They're all super healthy and now looking for new places to be marvelous. My original currants cost me a good $10-$12 each. I'm not in it for money, but that's $100 I can now spend on some other cool thing for my urban micro farm.

I also propagated a dozen or so hop rhizomes. Most of those found good homes already. I kept a few for another sunny spot I've got my eye on. I believe my original eight hop starts cost me $4 each. So, there's another $50 for the bee fund or the tree fund or ???

Many of my annual edibles already seed themselves from year to year. Arugula, for example, does very well. Potatoes are easy. Poppies are easy. The Siberian Miner's Lettuce in one of my shady native beds has been super.

Long term I'll steadily move towards all saved seed and heirlooms for my annuals and learn enough about cuttings and starts to keep my perennials rolling along. I've now learned to keep my eyes open in early spring for things that seem ready to multiply. Rather than fighting or forcing (with rooting hormone or some such thing), many species just do the work for you.

It's all part of working less and enjoying more.

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