Firstly you might be wondering what on Earth propagation means. Well, there are many different technical definitions but the easiest way to think of propagating is to think ‘planting’. When you cut off the stem of a neighbours plant and take it back to your house to grow, you’re propagating. It’s the act of creating new plants from seeds, cuttings, and bulbs.
In this blog, I’ll give you some techniques and detail of how to propagate plants in the Vegepod. Have a read if you’re interested in how to propagate (plant) seeds and various cuttings.
Propagation with Seeds
Seeds are mother nature’s propagation packages. They’re tough, resilient and generally need very little by way of environmental control to thrive. The standard Vegepod cover will be adequate for seedlings, as it’ll keep away their biggest threats - predators, such as possums and snails.
If you are propagating seedlings in the Vegepod, we recommend directly sowing your seed straight into its final growing position in the Vegepod. For large seeds, such as dwarf beans and peas, simply push each seed into the mix to a depth about twice the diameter of the seed (i.e. about 2-3cm). As an extra insurance policy against dud seeds, plant two seeds in each hole and space them about 10-15cm apart.
For finer seeded plants such as carrots, tomatoes and capsicums, create a shallow furrow with a stick or pencil. Then pour some seed into your hand and with the finger and thumb of your other hand take a pinch of seed and distribute it as evenly as you can in the furrow. Once the seedlings germinate and are large enough to handle, you can thin them out and either discard any extras, or you can transplant them to fill any gaps in the Vegepod or your outdoor garden beds.
Propagation by Cuttings
Propagating plants by stem cuttings is a very effective way of multiplying plants for free. It’s especially handy if you have a big vegetable garden you’d like to transfer your healthy cuttings to - after they’ve established themselves in the Vegepod.
For a wide range of vegetable and herbs, soft tip cuttings 5-10cm long can be snipped off using a pair of scissors or sharp knife (you can use secateurs but it is a bit of overkill frankly). If you are going to grow the new plants directly in your Vegepod then they can be planted into their final growing position. However, if you are using the Vegepod as a mass propagation unit for your outdoor vegetable garden, you should plant your cuttings very close together (2-3cm spacing) into pots that are then embedded into the mix in your Vegepod.
Once the cuttings start to show new shoot growth they are ready to take out of the Vegepod. Simply remove the pot from the Vegepod, knock all the cuttings out of the pot, separate them carefully and plant them into their final growing position in the garden.
As far as maintenance of your seedlings and cuttings is concerned, I always like to give them an organic liquid feed such as the juice from my worm farm to get them into their stride as quickly as possible.
If you are only doing a few cuttings then you can create a mini propagation greenhouse inside the Vegepod Raised Garden Bed Cover, by using a plastic drink bottle with the bottom cut off that is then placed over the top of your cuttings while they are forming new roots. If, however, you live in a cold climate, are planting in winter, or you want to bulk propagate - the Vegepod Winter Propagation Cover is necessary for a safe, greenhouse environment.
The Vegepod Winter Propagation Cover
As I mentioned, the new Vegepod Winter Propagation Cover is an extra protection layer that is particularly handy for keeping out frost in cold climates, and also for maintaining higher humidity for more demanding plant propagation activities such as doing soft tip cuttings from plants such as tomatoes. It should be said that if you live in a frost-free climate or have a protected spot such as a courtyard or balcony, then you will probably not need the Winter Propagation Cover for simple propagation such as raising seedlings.
Things That Can Go Right
The Vegepod is a mini greenhouse that provides a very versatile protected environment that can be used to grow plants in all sorts of different ways. With its standard cover on, it provides a wonderful place to carry out the easier forms of plant propagation such as raising plants from seed, as well as growing cuttings of plants that strike very easily, such as sweet potatoes or geraniums. By using the Vegepod for propagation you can save a fortune on plants as well as getting the jump on spring to raise seedling and cutting plants to either grow in the Vegepod, or for an outdoor vegetable garden.
Moreover, the Vegepod can rapidly increase stocks of rare and hard to come by edible plants such as heirloom varieties or special disease-free planting stock that you may want to purchase for crops such as potatoes. For instance, small ‘seed’ potatoes are available that are free of debilitating viral, fungal and bacterial diseases that can wipe out or drastically reduce your yield. Whilst these ‘seed’ potatoes are a lot more expensive than simply planting potatoes that may have sprouted in the kitchen and seem like a good idea at the time, you will get a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ by growing seed potatoes in the Vegepod and then taking lots of little cuttings from them to increase your stock for outdoor planting. The same technique can be used to multiply edible crops with expensive seed such as heirloom tomatoes and herbs.
Things that can go wrong
In our experience, most propagation problems occur as a result of overwatering and subsequent waterlogging of seedlings and cuttings. If the mix becomes too wet for too long the increased humidity around the roots and shoots creates ideal conditions for a variety of problems. A group of fungi called water moulds cause seedlings and cuttings to rot away, a condition that is often called ‘damping off’ because the plants go slimy and collapse. Fungus gnats can also cause a problem. They’re tiny flies whose grubs (larvae) eat their way through the tender young roots and stems of your new seedlings and cuttings.
The best solution to both of these problems is to manage the water levels in the growing mix in your Vegepod. If you are having problems with rot or fungus gnats then you can go a long way to overcoming it by growing your seedlings and cuttings in pots that are filled with a free draining mix (such as a specialist seed raising mix you can purchase), or for cuttings you can use a 50/50 mix of perlite and general-purpose potting mix.
Snails and slugs are sometimes an issue in propagation and if there are any tell-tale shiny ‘slime trails’ across your growing mix then you can trap the pests by embedding a saucer filled with beer in the corner of the Vegepod that will attract them and they will drown there in a drunken stupor.
Presumably, the snails and slugs die happy and your plants live on!
Want to know more? You can learn everything you need to know about plant propagation in Angus' new book 'Let's Propagate'.