How to take hard­wood cut­tings

Gardeners' World - - Hardwood Cuttings -

Choose stems that are about pen­cil thick­ness and fully ripened and woody, but not old and gnarled (ex­cept in the case of mul­berry, poplar and wil­low, which don’t seem to mind). Wil­low and poplar both have pre-formed root ini­tials, which make them so easy to root. Even branches of pussy wil­low stood in wa­ter will soon be­gin to push out roots, so ea­ger are they to grow. On de­cid­u­ous plants, the leaves should have fallen by now, but snip off any that re­main. On ev­er­greens, re­move all but the top­most pair of leaves. Root your cut­tings out­doors in open ground if you have the space. If you don’t, then the cut­tings can be rooted in pots, but choose large con­tain­ers so that the com­post is slower to dry out, and the pots un­likely to blow over and spill their con­tents in the slight­est breeze. For any­thing that is slightly tem­per­a­men­tal or slow root­ing – such as cor­nus or labur­num – it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to use pots so that they don’t lock up a piece of ground that might be needed for some­thing else in a year’s time. In se­vere win­ter weather, pro­tect these pots in a cold frame if you have one, or shel­ter them by the house if not.

1 Hard­wood cut­tings should al­ways be firm wood, about as thick as a pen­cil. Snip away any sideshoots or soft top growth. Make a clean, straight cut be­low a bud at the base and above a bud at the top so that the cut­ting is 25-30cm long. The cut­tings can be as short as 15cm, but the longer they are the bet­ter they seem to be able to sur­vive the vi­cis­si­tudes of out­door life.

2 Make a slit trench by push­ing a spade into the ground to the full blade depth and wig­gling it to form a nar­row V-shaped chan­nel. The soil needs to be moist to pre­vent the earth from fall­ing back in. Trickle sharp sand or horticultural grit into the bot­tom of the trench to make sure drainage is good. This will help to pre­vent the bot­tom of the cut­tings from rot­ting (this is not nec­es­sary in sandy soil).

3 Push the cut­tings into the trench one by one, mak­ing sure they are the right way up, spac­ing them 15cm apart and in­sert­ing them to fully two-thirds of their length, so that only the top 8-10cm is vis­i­ble. Firm the earth back into place with your foot and la­bel the rows well, not only to re­mind you what the cut­tings are but also to show you where they are!

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