With Spring almost appearing its time to think about taking cuttings. Here at Montrouch we have a series of strong mother plants awaiting a hair cut, the Rosemary, Mint, Thyme are all looking suitably shaggy. The problem however is how to maximise the survival rate and to ensure strong growth. For chemical gardeners this isn’t a problem, a good hormone rooting powder does the job, organic growers however have to be a little more creative.
Organic growers don’t use hormone rooting powders for a couple of reasons, firstly the most important active ingredients are synthetic plant hormones, produced in chemical plants nor real plants, and secondly many contain fungicides to prevent infection which can damage plant growth and yield.
One of the most important active synthetic ingredients of hormone rooting powder is Indole-3-butyric acid, fortunately this snappily named plant hormone is also naturally present in weeping willows.
A willow tea can be made using either the bark of a willow, or preferably, as it doesn’t harm future growth the free spring yellow branch shoots. There are a number of ways to make the tea but this is the one I find works best
Simply cut the shoots into 3 centimetre lengths in warm water for a good 48-72 hours, leave for a day and then dip your cuttings in the tea and plant. Put in the fridge the mixture seems to last for three to four days.
A Honey tea is also a great way to get cuttings to take off, take a spoon of organic honey, dissolve it in a cup of warm water, leave in a dark place until cool and then use as with the willow tea. I don’t quite know why this works, I think it probably has something to do with honey being a natural antiseptic, and preservative. I use it on those herbs I have had problems with disease and anecdotal evidence from last years shows it seems to reduce rust on my mint. Warm the tea is great for sore throats as well, particularly with a dash of lemon and a splash of whisky.
Give it a lick
Saliva, literally licking the cutting end before planting some says has similar effect as honey tea, probably because saliva is an antiseptic. Personally I haven’t tried this one on large enough a scale to make any reasonable comment. Do 1,000 rosemary cutting and you will have one dry mouth, let alone the burning from all those traces of essential oil.
If you are lucky enough to live in France we have a French supplier, Frayssinet Nutrion, that produce a plantation soil called Orgasyl that has an organic rooting solution in the soil. We have had great results from using it for cuttings.