Monday, 22 February 2010

Not just for wreaths

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Maybe you just read Sadge's recent post on grape vine pruning or are coveting a neighbors grapes, or that grapevine you see on your walk in an old vacant orchard gives you a sly look every time you pass by. This is the time of year to take cuttings for rooting, and bring that special grape to your small fruit orchard.

I know grapevines are abundant in catalogs and garden centers, but propagating your own is a skill that will stand you in good stead. It's fun, easy and a very inexpensive way to get more plants. This tutorial is about grapes, but the process is the same for other small fruits like currants, gooseberries, and kiwi, just to name a few.

Now is the time to take hardwood cuttings of last year's growth. If your neighbor is pruning his grapes he will have an abundance of trimmings that will be headed to the craft room or compost pile. Just ask. It only takes a stick or two to make a new grape vine.

Items needed:
Grape cuttings
Sharp Pruners
Large nursery pot with drainage holes
Well rotted compost or potting soil
Pencil or clean stick or dowel
Positive attitude

Bored dog

A rooted cutting from last year.

Your cuttings will root and put out new growth over the course of a year and be ready to plant in a nursery bed or row by the next spring.

Grape vine prunings, make sure you only keep last year's growth for your cuttings.

Well rotted compost works well for a rooting medium. Or native soil will work with a little sawdust mixed in to ensure that the soil will hold some moisture. You don't want the cuttings to drown or dry out - strike a happy medium.

The process isn't as boring as he makes it seem... .

All the vines look dead at this time of year, if it is confusing, look at the cut end - if you see green, the vine is dormant and you're good to go, if it is brown, discard it, it is a dead vine.

To discern the top from the bottom, look at the buds - the buds grow up, not down.

Angled cut at the top of cutting.

I like to have 3 buds per stick for my cuttings. Top, middle and bottom.

Starting at the bottom of your pruned vine, make a straight cut about 1/2 inch below the first bud. Count up three buds. This will be the top of your cutting, make a 45 degree cut about a 1/2 inch above the bud. That bud at the top is where the new growth will appear. The angled cut helps the cut shed rain, since this baby grape vine to be will be outside for a year, rain or shine.

Move up to the next bud and make a straight cut about a 1/2 inch below it. If you make straight cuts on the bottoms and angled cuts on the top, it helps you tell the top from the bottom. Continue in this manner until you have made all the cuttings you will need.

A handful of cuttings. Plan on at least 50% to make it. You may get more, and maybe a little less. If more root than you need - a plant you propagated from just a dead looking stick makes a great gift for a gardener or foodie. A little provenance never hurts, a gift of an heirloom grape vine can be more meaningful than one purchased at the home improvement store.

Here is where the pencil or dowel comes in. You need a dibble to make a hole in the soil to stick the cuttings. Insert your dibble, make a hole.

Insert the cutting at least half way into the soil. The roots will form in several places along the stem under the soil line, as long as the soil is kept moist.

After your cuttings are stuck, water them in. Place your pot out of full sun, and in a place where you won't forget to water it. Most gardeners have nursery area like this. Come spring you should see the buds start to push and grow. And hopefully underground, the roots are doing the same. By mid summer it will be apparent if the cutting has rooted. Resist any temptation to pull out the cutting to check on the progress. Instead, watch the leaves on the new growth - if they wilt and die, the cutting did not root, if they are growing along, your cutting rooted.

The rooted cuttings should stay undisturbed until at least fall. At that time you could re-pot them or just leave them until planting time the next spring.

Happy propagating!