Let me start right off with an apology. The name of this article is a bit misleading. With Arbor Day coming up this Friday (see all the great Arbor Day events you can be a part of at the end of this article), you won’t be able to get new plants, much less trees, going in time for the actual day. However, my intention is pure, as I want you to expand your knowledge of how to get more plants and trees from the ones you already have — at a very minimal cost.
I’m not worried about bankrupting the local nursery centers. That’s because there are different approaches for different plants, and as you master how to propagate plants of one type, there will be others that you’ll continue to buy. Besides, if you can save a large amount of cash on multiplying what you’ve got on hand, you’ll have more to buy some other plants and go on some other horticultural adventures!
Getting plants from cuttings, bud grafting, divisions, and rootings all fall under “propagation.” Many plants are best grown vegetatively from a parent plant material so that the genetics are identical — a clone. This is because plants grown from seed usually have latent characteristics that can be unpredictable or outright undesirable.
You probably have more experience propagating plants that you realize. Anyone that has sprouted an avocado seed, or grown a sweet potato vine from a “slip”, or took a cutting of philodendron and rooted it in water and then potted it after it formed roots is a plant propagator!
While there are propagation “recipes” for various varieties, the principle is constant throughout: provide conditions that stimulate a portion of parent plant stock (young branch, stem tip, crown section, bud, scion, root section) to produce new roots and top growth, or to graft a new variety onto an existing root stock, trunk, or branch.
These practices are so commonplace in the horticultural and plant nursery world that many people don’t realize the skill, technique and creativity that goes into providing the incredible array of plant and tree choices we enjoy.
For instance, a wide range of fruit and ornamental trees are grafted onto a related root stock. Why? Rarely does a tree produce all the desired characteristics such as leaf color, bark texture, fruit taste, flower color and shape, disease resistance, and rooting characteristics all at the same time. Grafting allows use of a highly adapted root stock that does well in a specific range of soil conditions, while growing a variety that is needed for the gardener or the orchardist. In the case of fruit trees, root stocks are used to control the mature size of the tree. If you purchased a dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard apple tree bearing all the same variety name, the top part of the tree is the same variety with differing root stocks.
Grafting is a fascinating and worthwhile practice to master. There are many types of grafts, and describing methods and timing would take more time and space than we have here. That’s why last night’s Master Gardener free public class featuring Dr. Larry Rupp from USU was so valuable.
We enjoyed an overview of the various types of propagation, where further information or education can be had, common tools and approaches taken, and a demonstration of a “bark graft” — showing how to change the variety of an existing apple tree from a less desirable variety to the latest and greatest offering!
One of my aspirations is to become proficient with propagation for many of the plants and shrubs I have around our place. We’ve started cotoneasters, sedums, grapes, catmint, locust trees and blackberries. There’s so much more to do, including multiplying our lilac, Russian sage, viburnum, Rose of Sharon, ninebark and, well, the list goes on and on.
You can use the web to easily find propagating “recipes.” If I want to grow more lavender from what I have, the search phrase “how to propagate lavender” does the trick. I would quickly learn that lavender is easy to propagate in the early spring before it leafs out. Cuttings about 6” long are harvested from the parent plant, roughened on about the bottom 3” and stuck into cups of planting medium. They are keep warm, moist and exposed to light, where they will “strike” (form roots), they can either be potted again or direct planted. Now that’s what I call fun!
As for trees, the larger the tree you purchase from a nursery, the heavier it will be, harder to transport, and prone to wind stripping of the leaves on the way home (if not properly positioned in the vehicle and covered securely). So, my approach is to buy smaller trees and grow them either in temporary in-ground locations or in their long-term home. When we do buy larger trees, it’s because I’m in a hurry to get a more sizable tree in an area, or the end of the season is coming and the price drops, or a particular variety that I really want is only available in a larger size. If you have a need for a lot of trees, consider buying saplings and growing them on.
As for some great Arbor Day events this Friday and Saturday, read on!
Tooele City’s Arbor Day events will be hosted at Speirs Farm at 394 W. 200 South. Beginning at 6 p.m., the Tooele County Master Gardeners will be honoring Mayor John Cluff in a presentation and ceremony. Mr. Cluff served as Tooele City Mayor from 1982-83. His descendants will be on hand, so come and meet them. As is the annual custom of the Master Gardeners, a tree has been planted at the south edge of the Tooele Cemetery, and marked with an honorary plaque.
Stockton’s celebration will focus on the upcoming new Veteran’s Memorial Park. You can get a look at what’s planned beginning at 6 p.m. at Stockton City Hall at 18 N. Johnson St. The Veteran Memorial Park Committee will present the new layout and planting plans. At the end of the presentation, event hosts will be providing free recommendations of drought tolerant plants for our area, as well as tips on using water wisely in your landscape. For more information, contact Kaye at 882-2340 or Ron at 843-5968.
Stansbury Park is featuring a work day to plant the 100 new sycamore trees that have been purchased to replace the poplars that were removed last year. The event begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the ballpark along the Parkway (the road that connects from S.R. 36 and comes out on Hwy 138 by the Gristmill). Bring your gloves and favorite shovel. For more information, contact Randy Jones at 830-7271.
Grantsville always does a great job of celebrating under the leadership of Master Gardener Gary Fawson. This year includes a 5th grade “trees are terrific from every angle” poster contest. Both Grantsville elementary classes will have an assembly this Friday, where four large trees will be awarded to winners at each school. That’s not all. The City leadership has once again approved the “Street Tree Sale”, where Grantsville residents were given the opportunity to buy one tree and get another free. The trees are for planting in park strips or street-facing areas. The trees will be ready for pickup this Friday at the Grantsville City Hall. This program has encouraged planting of more than 1,500 trees since 2003 — no wonder they are a “Tree City USA” designated community!
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that yesterday was Earth Day. Founded in 1970, many consider this to be the founding of the modern environmental movement. You may agree or disagree with the main proponents in the movement. Even so, I do think that we’ve become more conscious of the outcomes our choices as citizens, consumers, producers and community builders have on our environment. For that, I’m thankful. It could be argued that this heightened awareness has had positive impacts in the areas of agriculture, local-sourcing, technology development in clean energy and lower impact manufacturing processes. These are good things. So, here’s to you, Earth. You’re quite a gift, and you’ve been good to us — may we return the favor.
Jay Cooper can be contacted at email@example.com, or you can visit his website at dirtfarmerjay.com for videos and articles on gardening, shop skills, culinary arts and landscaping.