How to grow kale & other plants from a cutting in 5 steps (illustrations & photos)

img_9733
How to take a cutting in 5 steps by Lana

I popped into Soil for Life again this weekend and was shown how to grow kale from cuttings.

Hopefully my rough illustrations and the attached photographs explain how easy it is to grow these and other new plants from cuttings. Note that cuttings should be taken from recent growth or shoot areas and can be around 20cm long (there’s no rule on this).

The same method can be applied to various woody herbs, trees, shrubs or herbaceous perennials (plants that live for two or more years and die down to ground level at the end of the growing season). Do some research to be sure or just take the risk, who could have guessed that kale can be propagated this way?

Note that you only have to cut off the top half of the stem’s top leaves if the leaves are large. Otherwise simply remove all the side leaves. Pinch out the top growing tip to create a bushier plant if you wish.

Keep your well spaced cuttings in a shady area and water/spritz the leaves of the plant a couple of times a day (keep the sand damp but not wet).

The plants should root within three weeks. From there you can harden them off by exposing them to a little more light and less water. Plant them once they have branched in about two to three months.
 

img_9757
Cut off stem from parent plant then…Cut side stems (but not top leaves)

img_9758
Cut off the top half of each remaining top leaf before cutting off the base at a 45 degree angle (see close up below)
img_9759
Cut bottom section of stem…just below a node
img_9756
Dip the bottom of the stem into rooting powder and/or place directly into moist sandy potting soil
img_9753
Spritz leaves once potted & keep moist (note rooting powder used here is wood ash… not coal ash)
Advertisements

How to create a compost or trench bed for vegetables

A trench bed is like a compost bin, dug into the ground and consisting of alternate layers of fresh green ‘live’ organic material, brown ‘dead’ organic material, fresh manure and soil. Note that each layer of dead or live organic matter is covered with soil & watered before another layer is added.

Trench beds are worth considering if you have extremely poor soil of if you live in a dry climate. The result is better water retention, good soil aeration and an on-going supply of nutrients for micro-organisms and plants. It’s important to keep feeding the soil organically thereafter for long term success.

MATERIALS NEEDED

Gather a spade, water (hosepipe or buckets), live organic matter in bags/piles: green garden and kitchen waste, moist seaweed, horse or cow manure or any other fresh untreated organic matter, dead organic material in bags/piles: newspaper, sticks, dead leaves & cuttings and any other dried out organic material. Compost is optional if you want to plant soon. You will also need four 1/2 metre long sticks (to be used as markers).

PREPARATION

Measure out your trench (however long you like but no wider than a metre (for easy reach). Dig out 30cm of top soil (pile it besides the trench, remove stones).

20140724-062838.jpg

Dig another 30cm of sub-soil (create a separate pile and remove any stones).
Loosen the base of the trench with a garden fork.

Cover the base and sides of the trench with cardboard or newspaper. Moisten with some water.

Lay sticks on the bottom (or other rough material) up to a height of 20cm.

Place 10cm of your subsoil over the sticks. Give a light shower of water.

Place 10cm of dry/dead organic material over the subsoil. Water lightly again.

20140724-063036.jpg

Lay 10cm of green/colourful live material over the brown material (I included rinsed seaweed), cover with a layer of soil and water.

20140724-063316.jpg

Place bits of horse or cow manure over the green layer and water, add some soil & water.

20140724-063304.jpg

Repeat the layering process until your trench is full (leave out the stick step).

20140724-064015.jpg

COMPLETION

Place 1/2 metre long sticks at each corner of the trench to use as markers.

Place the topsoil you dug out earlier over the top. The bed will now stand about 20cm higher than the ground but will drop with time. Add compost (one bucket of compost per m2), level out & water well.

20140724-073037.jpg

Place a mulch of your choice onto the ‘skin’ of the soil to protect it.

The bed is ready to be planted (wait for a month if you prefer to leave out the composting step). Just add a little patience and before long, you’ll be so glad you put in the effort.

MAINTENANCE

Once your plants have taken, feed them with a liquid natural home-made fertiliser every week or so and compost every now and again. Avoid walking on the bed to keep it soft and aerated.

20140724-073248.jpg

My little vegetable garden by the seaside

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The courtyard vegetable garden is blossoming in every way! I’m happy with the final layout  — hard to believe that all these plants fit into such a small space.

Fruits: Passion fruit, gooseberries (with gorgeous hanging lanterns intact), melon (no fruit as yet), blackberries and rasberries (growing well but no flowers as yet), baby avo tree (grown by my sister), forest of tomato plants (around 2m high in places with flowers and green fruit), baby grapefruit tree (grapefruit flowers smell incredible but unfortunately every one of the tiny fruits that developed dropped off — why, I have yet to find out), strawberries

Vegetables & herbs: Broccoli, cabbage, spring onions, rocket (Italian and wild), watercress, lettuce, carrots, radish, potatoes, celery, brussel sprouts, spinach, mint (three kinds but especially loving the spearmint), lavender, basil… self-seeded nasturtiums… and a couple of unidentified plants

The front garden is also pulsing with life. It pretty much looks like a jungle though with blueberries, leeks, broccoli, tomatoes, basil, spinach and almond trees all doing their thing. Everything has grown incredibly well except for the pak choi which was constantly nibbled at. Oh, and the poor baby lemon tree which gets all the wind (it has produced two flowers and one fruit).

Nothing other than water (and some salt from the sea-breeze) has touched these plants… not a single drop of pesticide, organic or otherwise.

Starting a vegetable garden (with one square metre of land)

20120721-104925 AM.jpg

Growing and maintaining a vegetable garden always seemed beyond me until recently — thanks to a book called One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein.

Houbein, who witnessed the devastation of famine in Holland during the second world war, has made food security education a top priority. She lived through a time when 24 000 people starved to death in an area about as big as Gauteng in South Africa. She witnessed all the beautiful trees being chopped down for firewood and all the birds, animals and fish in her home town being killed and used for food. This thick little square book is a gift for survival and is especially encouraging to those who’ve never planted a vegetable garden before.

After reading the first few paragraphs my boyfriend and I were heading off to the hardware store to buy some seedlings, compost and a spade. These are the words that inspired: ‘To start growing your own food without delay, put down this book, go out in the garden and select a spot in the sun. Dig over one square metre with a garden fork and remove all the weeds by hand.’

Houbein doesn’t allow for analysis paralysis —she encourages the wanna-be-gardener to go out immediately and buy some seeds or seedlings, some blood meal and bone meal ‘since you don’t yet have compost and composted manure’. It’s easy to go ahead with your garden once you have these items: sprinkle and rake a few handfuls of the meals into the soil and then loosen it to a depth of 15cm before watering it. You can then read up on the vegetables you’ve bought before the seeds or seedlings are planted and watered. That’s it, to begin with.

We simply dug some compost and bone meal into the earth before planting the seedlings. And that was that… a few weeks later we were eating beautiful fresh rocket, parsley, chives and watercress from our one square metre garden.

20120720-030615 PM.jpg

We’ve been dreaming of expanding the vegetable garden so that every spare metre of the property is covered with home-grown edibles. So far we’ve only been able to add another square metre, besides a few pots… been slowed down somewhat by our puppy who just loves getting her paws (and everything else) dirty! But then, as Houbein says, ‘most food gardening failures occur through starting too big.’ She recommends extending the garden by one square metre each season. By doing so, the pleasure is not lost ‘even as your self-sufficiency increases’.

Here’s a photo of our miniature vege garden three months later (with emergency dog-proof fence).

20120720-030713 PM.jpg

Click here for a review of the book.