Propagate Edible Plants

Growing veggies from seeds is a rewarding activity, as we watch the seedlings develop into delicious veggies we can bring to the table. There are other ways to propagate plants besides growing them from seeds. We can also grow new plants from from cuttings, by division, by layering, and by grafting. 

By collecting seeds at the end of the harvest from the produce in our backyard organic veggie garden, we can grow new plants from the open pollinated seeds. Some seeds are found inside the fruit, like tomatoes and pumpkins, while other seeds are held in pods, like peas and beans, which can be left on the plant until they begin to brown. On some plants with small seeds like lettuce, we can tie a fine mesh bag over the seed heads to catch the seeds as they fall. For other plants, we can harvest the plant after it has seeded and turn it upside down in a paper bag to catch the seeds as the plant dries.

Cuttings from some plants, like most herbs, lettuce, and celery, root very easily when we remove the leaves from the lower part of the stem and stick it in a glass of pure water. Or put a sweet potato half way in a vase of water with match sticks to hold it, like in the picture, where it will root and grow vines. When the shoots form, we can divide the tubers into pieces with shoots attached and plant them in our raised bed veggie and herb garden.

Some plants can be divided, like raspberry suckers, which come up from the roots and can be divided and transplanted. We can divide organic garlic into cloves and plant each clove to grow a new garlic bulb. Dividing established plants is an easy and safe propagation method.

The stems of many plants, like blackberries, naturally form roots when they are in contact with the soil. If a blackberry stem arches forward and touches the ground, it is likely to root there. Layering to propagate plants is more complicated. Many fruit and nut trees can be air layered, like the fig tree in the picture, using a plastic bottle cut to fit over a branch and filled with 5-1-1 to promote a new root to grow from the branch itself. When the plastic bottle is removed later, there should be a root ball which can be planted. 

Grafting is an advanced technique, but fun and exciting once it is mastered. We can create an orchard in a small space by the successful grafting of several fruit cultivars onto one established rootstock. Grafting also helps produce heirloom fruits grown on dwarf tree rootstocks, or grown on rootstocks that are resistant to disease, or to shorten the wait for fruit to form. 

Start a new adventure today and propagate a basil plant from a cutting or grow lettuce from seed in a pot or window box near the kitchen and pick fresh leaves for dinner salads. 

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