The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Propagation preparation

Hardwood grape cuttingsThe last week in March is cloning week around here.  First, I pulled the grape cuttings out of the crisper drawer, where they'd been sitting on top of a dwindling pile of last fall's carrots since December when I pruned Mark's mom's vines.  Scionwood is supposed to keep for months in root cellar conditions, which I simulated by draping a damp dish towel over the top of the drawer's contents, rewetting weekly to keep the carrots and cuttings moist.  I really didn't think the grapes were still alive after three months off the vine, but when I snipped off one end to test them, the cambium was fresh and green just under the bark.  Storage success!

Soaking hardwood grape cuttingsI tossed all of the cuttings into the kiddie pool where we're experimenting with duckweed for the chickens.  The grapes will take a few weeks to grow roots once I stick them in the ground, so it's essential that the cuttings hydrate now in preparation.  After three days of soaking, I'll push them most of the way into the ground in a well-drained and semi-shady spot, mulch them well, and ignore them until the fall.  I consider grapes to be one of the easiest perennials to propagate --- read last year's tutorial about starting grapes from hardwood cuttings and give it a shot!

Starting sweet potato slipsNext, I pulled nine firm tubers out of the cupboard to begin sweet potato slip production.  I submerged the bottom third of the sweet potatoes in warm water and placed them on a heating pad (only necessary because our house is kept cold.)  In a couple of weeks, the bottoms of the tubers will grow roots and the tops will sprout shoots.  I'll clip the shoots and place them in another cup of water, then set out dozens of free slips in May.  Sweet potato slips are extremely expensive at the feed store, so it's thoroughly worth setting aside a bit of space in a sunny window to start them yourself.

Cutting up seed potatoesFinally, Mark cut fifteen pounds of seed potatoes into sections, retaining two or three eyes on each one.  Last year, my potatoes were an abject failure, mostly because I planted them in heavy clay, it rained all summer, and a blight swept through the east coast.  I want to take a bit of extra care this year, letting the cut portions of the seed potatoes callous over before they go into the ground by leaving them exposed to air for a day or two after cutting.  I also plan to give them well-drained raised beds in hope that our potatoes will do better this year, regardless of the weather.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Awk, you didn't tell me I needed to clip them months ago.
Comment by Errol Wed Mar 24 11:49:03 2010
If you mean the grapes --- don't worry, you're right on track. I only clipped Rose Nell's in December because I wanted to get them before the growing season started. You can prune your grapes right now, as long as the buds aren't opening yet, soak them, and then start new vines.
Comment by anna Wed Mar 24 11:57:58 2010
To insure good growth of your cuttings and not use any store bought growth hormone (if you use it, many don't), you can make your own with "willow water". The leaves of the willow are full of growth hormone. Here's a video about fig cuttings you might like
Comment by vester Wed Mar 24 12:06:28 2010
I've used willows as a root hormone replacement once with good luck (though I can't seem to remember what I was rooting... :-) ) With grapes and sweet potatoes, though, there's no need for rooting hormones of any type --- both plants root quickly and easily with no help.
Comment by anna Wed Mar 24 14:39:07 2010

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