Plant Propagation: The 10 Essentials

To begin with, you are all very welcome back, I know it’s been a while but I have been busy with so many exciting projects. Some of which I will be sharing with you on my social media pages over the next few weeks and some are already up there. Check them out.

To kick things off again, I’m going to post a series of blogs on plant propagation over the next couple of weeks. Delving into a few of the different methods that can be used and discuss the steps in achieving success.

Plant propagation is one of the most rewarding elements of gardening. You can take a little seed and see it germinate and grow. The wonders of nature are just astonishing. It’s definitely one of my favourite elements of horticulture.

Here are my top ten essentials to achieve success in propagation. Have a read before you delve into the world of plant propagation. Enjoy!

1) Secateurs.

It’s worth your time and money to invest in a great pair of secateurs. As we will discuss further in the next blog post you want a clean-cut to reduce the likelihood of diseases occurring and a sharp smooth secateurs will provide that. The great thing is once you look after them they will last you a lifetime.

2) Propagation Unit. 

A propagation unit that you can regulate the temperature and exposure to sunlight will see a vast improvement in the success rates and the time from sown to grown. Again a worthwhile investment and worth spending a little extra on.

3) Labels.

I’m an advocate of ensuring that everything is labelled correctly with a date. It can take up to six months for some of these propagation methods to see any results. I can hardly remember what happened yesterday never mind six months ago!

4) Growing Media.

Perlite, as well as vermiculite, will become your new best friend in propagation. It’s a great additive to add to your compost and as a topdressing during seed sown. Remember at this stage you will not need fertiliser in your compost, it will burn the new roots! Allow for a growing media that is free draining and allows for root development. Remember the new roots will be very tender.

5) Record Book.

Keep a record of everything from the time of year to the number propagated This will allow you to compare and contrast your success rates and the number you have grown. It will also act as your gardening diary as you will know the time of year you completed tasks the previous year. Again ensure everything is recorded correctly. I would also encourage  using Latin names as they provide more information on your plant

6) Seed Trays & Pots.

Have the correct size of growing container to put your seed, cuttings and other propagated material into. Seed trays are very useful for not only propagating seeds but much more. Again we will discuss this point in further detail in our next blog posts.

7) Bags.

You will need both paper and plastic bags as certain material requires certain requirements when collected. I wouldn’t recommend reusing bags too often as they can be an environment for pest and diseases to thrive in.

8) Watering Can.

A fine nozzle watering can is an essential piece of equipment for propagating. The fine nozzle reduces the likelihood of compost been washed out of your trays and with it your seed!

9) Knife.

You will need two knives, a sharp penknife and a bread knife. The pen knife is suitable for taking softwood cuttings while the bread knife for dividing.

10) Permanent marker.

A fine tip permanent marker is ideal for writing on labels although not full proof it greatly reduces the writing being washed off. Just make sure it’s clear and easy to read.

In next week’s blog, we will be discussing the do’s and don’t’s of plant propagation and how to choose the correct material.
If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Thank you for reading my latest blog post.

Happy Gardening!


Seedbeds, Seeds & Seedlings

With the bareroot season coming to an end for another year, the focus now turns to the stock of the future (three years’ time).  Taken advantage of the good weather we had a couple of weeks ago preparation was in full swing, from ploughing the ground to forming the lazy beds.

Ready to be made into lazy beds
Ready to be made into lazy beds

The ground that has been selected tends to be rested for at least year. This gives the chance to carry out soil test to examine the nutrient levels and pH.

Following up on these requirements ground limestone and fertilisers can be applied. For this year we decided magnesium lime was best suited.

The reason behind this was that magnesium is an important macro nutrient for growing and this was an easier way  to get it into the ground and therefore to the plant. It is a basic component of chlorophyll.

Farm yard manure is also applied to the site and ploughed in to added nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.  In previous years green manure crops of kale have been sown on the ground left to rest. This ensures that soil erosion does not occur i.e. leaching and is also a great way to add back nutrients to the soil.


This process is three years long from the time they are sown next week until they are lifted out of the beds and sold to the customer.

They are main different stages in this three-year process. Immediately after sowing all the seedbeds are covered over in a net, this is to prevent pests such as birds eating and destroying the seed.

This is particular important when it comes to the conifer seedlings which keep their seed shells when they sprout. So what happens is that the birds tend to go along if they get the chance and pull out these seed shells and in turn pull out the seedling leaving it exposed.

Conifers which include Pines and Spruce require the most work in the three years, as another important stage is lining-out. I will cover this in a later blog again but basically what happens is that after two years the plants are lifted out of the bed and lined out in rows.

The reason behind this is that a high density of seed is covered in the bed in year one and a high germination rate causing overcrowding.  If they are not lined out a bad growth habit will entail and a higher likelihood of diseases and pest problem will set in.

Lazy beds with seed sown
Lazy beds with seed sown

Think about this one where will you be in three years’ time or in fact would you know what trees you would like in three years in time?

These are things we need to think about at the nursery when selecting the quantity and varieties to sow.

A difficult task to say the least, with the current unsettling times with agriculture schemes and little prospect of trees or hedging being included in them this has a knock effect on the business.

Although one area that may see a growth in the coming years is forestry with new schemes being made available and the vast amount of mature forests that will be needed to be replanted could offer some potential.

It’s hard to predict the future but harder to predict the quantities required for the market in three years’ time.

Fine grit that is used on the lazy beds
Fine grit that is used on the lazy beds

Although there is newer and more modern ways in spreading the seed onto the lazy beds, spreading by hand is still the preferred method on the nursery.

This is purely down to scale and cost of purchasing this kind of equipment and has hindered any kind of progression to advance into these more modern techniques.

Basically what happens is that is that you walk along the edge of the bed (the wheel tracks) and throw or shake the seed on top of the lazy beds (see photo for lazy beds). The beds are then rolled to improve seed-soil contact and then covered over in a fine grit.

The fine grit locks in heat and moisture and also prevents the seed being exposed to the elements such as pests and weather.

Lazy beds ready for seed to be sown
Lazy beds ready for seed to be sown

As always people are more than welcome to call up to the nursery and have a look around. It is a fascinating place seeing the set up and how it all works. After all we are the only private tree nursery in the northwest so get in contact with us. Gallinagh’s Finn Valley Nursery Ltd on Facebook or find our web page where all our details can be found.

Thanks once again for reading my latest blog and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated.

I have also set up a new Facebook page ‘A Horticulturist’s View’ which can be found here Give it a like and share.