Plant Propagation At Our Nursery
A beautiful crimson Cockscomb Celosia, plant propagation results on
Blackberry Blossom Farm.
We like propagating the endless variety of plants to add color to the
garden, pest control by companion planting, and add taste and texture
to our diet. We try to use only organically grown seeds and are
becoming more concerned with the hybrids, Genetically Modified
varieties creeping into the marketplace under seemingly innocent labels
and companies. Heirloom varieties are a good bet, and we always plant
plenty of these each year, and save the seeds from the best of the
Making baby plants for the nursery...
We do most of our plant propagation with softwood cuttings during May and
early June. By that time most plants have new growth which has not
hardened. I use cuttings 5" to 6" long. Multiple cuttings can be taken
from the same plant stem as long as there are several leaf buds on each
After I have collected my cuttings, I "stick" them into my plant propagation
trays. Mine are nothing more than 6" x 10" plastic containers 3" deep
which I bought at one of the "marts" ( Wal or K) . I drill drainage holes
in the bottom and fill them with construction sand. Saturate the sand
with water before sticking the cuttings.
I make planting slots in the sand with a knife and place the cuttings in
the slots. Remove the lower leaves but try to leave at least two layers
of leaves in tack. Coat the bottom of each cutting with a rooting
compound before sticking them. The number of slots per tray and the
number of plants per slot depends on the size of the cuttings. You can
really pack the cutting into the trays. It is not unusual to have 50
-60 plants in a tray.
I don't try to mark much information on the trays. I tried that at first
but it never stayed legible. Now I just mark the tray in several places
with a number which correspond to information in my plant propagation
log book in which I enter the plant name, date, number stuck and where
the cuttings were taken.
By providing water and sunlight on the leaves the cutting will begin to
develop roots. This usually take 6-8 weeks for most plants. My first
few attempts at this were unsuccessful. It was very time consuming to
keep the cuttings wet. I would get busy and forget, or have to leave
the farm, or for whatever reason, it kept a regular misting schedule
from actually happening. The cuttings really need to stay wet or they
dry up quickly.
This hoop house is the ideal place to stick our seed trays, propagation
cuttings and other small pots to get the right water, light, heat
combo. Eventually we plan on building a greenhouse, in the meantime,
with about $200 we got the space and environment we needed to get
things going. It also keeps the German Shepherds out of the nursery
operation. Scroll on down this page for pictures and step-by-step
instructions for how we made this simple plant propagation miracle.
The propagation house. Small, simple, it does the trick...
I finally solved the watering problem by installing an "Intermittent
Mist System" in a small hoop house with a plastic cover. At one end I
screened in an air entry opening and at the other end I mounted a small
electric fan blowing out to continuously draw air over the cuttings.
Above the cuttings I hung a manifold of 1/2” PVC pipe with mist nozzles
spaced along the pipe. This manifold was connected to a water supply
through a solenoid value.
The fan end of the house, just a cheap $10.00 fan, simple and easy.
The other side is this piece of screen hardware cloth over the same
size hole, approximately 8 inches in diameter.
Metal Leaves, handy little jewels...
To control the value, I purchased what is know as an
. This little gizmo is a finely balance frame covered with a wire mesh.
It is placed among the propagation trays. As water is misted onto the
cuttings, it also collects on this leaf mesh. Just the weight of the
collected water lowers the arm which opens an electronic switch which
in turn closes the solenoid value and shuts off the water. With no
mist, the cutting leaves and the control mesh dry out. When the weight
of the water is removed from the mesh, it moves up, which turns on the
water and whole process repeats.
The great thing about this setup is that it compensates for the weather and
makes plant propagation much less labor intensive. If the day is cloudy
the cuttings won't dry out as quickly but neither does the "electric
leaf". The watering schedule is self regulating. You really can just
turn it on and forget it. Plant propagation at it's simplest!
Black Snakes and such...
I must warn you that certain reptiles seem to have an affection for mist
systems, at least for mine. I once found a huge Black Snake inside the
plant propagation hoop house with his head up in the air right behind
the fan. With the cool mist and the gentle breeze, he must have thought
I'd made it just for him, because he moved in until I persuaded him to
Here is a good place to read about all of the different methods of
Building a Plant Propagation House
Here's how we built a simple Plant Propagation hoop house to get our plants
and seeds growing.
Lay out the size you want with some string and a piece of wood or a stick
to mark each corner post. We made the sides out of 2x8' hemlock we had
cut at the local sawmill. Naturally rot resistant and no yucky
preservatives to leach into the ground. Lay out black plastic, 6 mil
thick for strength. The black color helps absorb the heat.
We didn't cut out the sod or remove anything underneath before starting.
The sod will die and help enrich the soil underneath, and it would've
been a lot of work for no real reason. We'll probably cut a weed trench
around the edge as the season gets on so the weed eater doesn't cut the
plastic along the edges and make a mess.
The photo above shows the completed house with seedlings in it.
After laying out your plastic and getting your sides built, bring the bottom
plastic up over the outside sides and staple them to the top of the
side boards. This will help retain the moisture inside your plant
propagation hoop house.
Ed bent electrical conduit over an old chicken hoop house we had, but you
can get the same bend by making a form.
Making a hoop form to bend conduit
Take a piece of scrap plywood at least 6" longer than the hoop house width
will be, and about 4" wider than 1/2 of the hoop house width.
Mark the center bottom of the plywood, drive a nail at this point near the
edge. Tie a string on the nail, tie a pencil on the other end so it is
one half the width of the hoop house away from the nail. Draw a half
circle on the plywood using the string and pencil as a compass. On one
end nail a 2x2" block with the outer end of the block touching the
circle and it's edge against the bottom of the plywood.
Lay a piece of conduit against the end of the block, perpendicular to the
bottom edge of the plywood. Slide another block against the conduit,
opposite the 1st block and nail it to the plywood. These blocks will
hold the fixed end of the conduit as they are being bent. Put 6 more
blocks on the inside of the circle, touching the line about every 30
degrees. Bend your conduit around these blocks and there you go! It
will spring back a little when you take it out of the form, but don't
worry about that, it springs back when you put it in the plant
propagation hoop house.
"How long does my conduit need to be?"
The length of the conduit needed is approximately 1.57 x the width of the
propagation house. For example, a standard 10' length of conduit could
be used for a house up to 6 feet wide.
Fasten the hoops inside the plant propagation house frame using pipe clamps to
fit the conduit size. Two clamps per side for each hoop. We placed the
hoops every two feet. Take straight sections of conduit, connect them
end to end with conduit connectors to make a section the length of the
house. Place that under the top section of each hoop and use duct tape
to fasten it.
Lay 6 mil clear plastic out on one side of the propagation house. Fasten
this edge to the outside top of the frame. I just used an electric
staple gun to make short work of this. Then put a 2x2 or any size
larger scrap lumber along the inside of the plastic and nail it to the
frame. You want to fold the plastic up over this board and then drape
plastic over the hoop house. Nail the plastic on the opening side
between two more 2x2's for weight but don't fasten it to the frame so
you can open it from this side.
We finished it up by stapling clear plastic on the ends and fastened the
top to the hoop conduits with plastic poly pipe, about 2" pieces, split
down the side so that they snap onto the metal conduit.
Please see the photos at the top which show Ed's plywood and 2x4 ends with a
fan and a screened opening. These are very simple and easy to make.
This is an important step as the air circulation keeps mold and mildew
from growing in this moist propagation house.
We finished this off with gravel in the bottom of the hoop house to drain
the water away from the containers and protect the bottom plastic.