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Please help me keep these cuttings (and my sanity) alive!

 
pollinator
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Hi everyone,

As some of you may already be aware, due to the Covid-19 lockdown we have been confined to our gardenless third floor appartement for these past 2 weeks, and will very likely be so for at least another month.
Although we have our recently purchased property with a large garden and some forest, we are not allowed to travel to it. The government has also banned people from going out to walk in the forest or parcs, and we are only to go out to go to the supermarket (which is literally across the street from us), or to go to the doctor/ pharmacy. As you can imagine, the cabin fever is getting pretty real, and I dread the long month of confinement that is still ahead of us. I really miss our garden, but have been coping by doing various little gardening experiments on our window sills and little balcony with whatever seed and potting material I had lying around the house (can’t go out to buy them).

I was speaking over the phone with some friends of ours that are local biofarmers, about how I missed going out into the garden, and how I was going to miss out on taking cuttings from the berries this years to try my hand at propagating them via cuttings for the first time. Yesterday, when delivering the fresh veggies we bought from them, our friends, bless their hearts, also delivered a pile of cuttings from their ribes and elderberries for me to have some fun with. I had not expected this, and thus am not really prepared! Watching things grow on the balcony has been one of the things calming me down and giving me something to look forward to. So I’d love to give it my all to keep these babies alive and prosperous. I tried cutting and planting them to the best of my limited knowledge, and would love your input to help me improve my setup, or correct my mistakes.

A few of the Ribes were bare root suckers, so I just planted those in a pot. One of the plants had some very long shoots, which I decided to cut as I established that the sap-flow hadn’t started yet. I decided these shoots into two cuttings to try and propagate as well. On one of the cuttings I wasn’t exactly sure how deep I should burry it. (Check the picture) Do I burry it so that the first buds with the side branch are also covered (red line), or do I leave them above ground (blue line).The other cuttings had more buds that were easier to burry.

I cut the elderberry long shoots into smaller cuttings, so that each cutting had about 4-6 buds on them. I buried 2 to 3 buds and left the rest above ground. I buried them in regular potting soil, because it was all I have.
I put the pot inside on a warm spot that doesn’t have direct sunlight, but still is a light spot in the house. Should I leave them here or move them to a darker/ cooler spot in the house?

I don’t have any products that could help with the root development. Are there any house-hold products I could use to stimulate root-growth and to give extra fertiliser to my bare rooted ribes plants? Could I make a tea of basic ingredients I might have at home?

Thanks for your help!
3AE0F572-E3C1-4FDD-A901-61E65CD81BD3.jpeg
How I got the cuttings. A few of the ribes were naked-rooted suckers. The elderberry were long cuttings.
How I got the cuttings. A few of the ribes were naked-rooted suckers. The elderberry were long cuttings.
665585C9-B1FF-4EFC-B707-6B9E6BADFF1C.jpeg
How deep should I bury this cutting. Up to the blue line or up to the red?
How deep should I bury this cutting. Up to the blue line or up to the red?
9D3CCE69-AE72-401A-9304-2D858CDD7DAA.jpeg
The elderberry cuttings ready to be planted
The elderberry cuttings ready to be planted
618E0CEF-5DD1-4D5A-95C3-A80E7B848A35.jpeg
The pot in the current spot I picked out for them. No direct sunlight, but reflected light from the balcony window
The pot in the current spot I picked out for them. No direct sunlight, but reflected light from the balcony window
8E0D4FDD-52F5-46BC-954A-83BCAEB3F7A3.jpeg
The naked-roots Ribes planted in the back, with some other experiments around it.
The naked-roots Ribes planted in the back, with some other experiments around it.
 
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S.Bard,

I feel for you.  At least I can go outside.  Alternate rooting hormones you can look into Aspirin, Raw Honey, Cinnamon, and Apple Cider vinegar.  I'm guessing you don't have access to willow.

Hang tough and Stay safe.

Regards, Scott
 
S. Bard
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Thanks Scott!
Unfortunately no access to willow. I do have honey, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon!

Any thoughts on if I could make a compost tea out of spinach (the stems and roots) and beet leaves that could give some nutrients to the bare-root plants?
Maybe some other vegetables/ kitchen scraps?
 
Scott Foster
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I don't do much with composting teas.  Maybe a pro will chime in.

This method for kitchen composting in a ball jar looks pretty easy. I say try it with what you have.

Kitchen Compost in a Ball Jar
 
S. Bard
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Hi Scott,

I just looked into the alternative rooting hormones like the honey and cinnamon. In all cases they say to stick the cuttings into the honey / cinnamon powder before planting. I unfortunately already planted mine. Would it be a good idea to pull the cuttings back out, rinse the bottom part, apply the honey/ cinnamon and replant? Or is it better not to disturb the cuttings once planted? Would it do any good to apply the rooting hormone by diluting in water and just watering the cuttings with it?
 
Scott Foster
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S. Bard wrote:Hi Scott,

I just looked into the alternative rooting hormones like the honey and cinnamon. In all cases they say to stick the cuttings into the honey / cinnamon powder before planting. I unfortunately already planted mine. Would it be a good idea to pull the cuttings back out, rinse the bottom part, apply the honey/ cinnamon and replant? Or is it better not to disturb the cuttings once planted? Would it do any good to apply the rooting hormone by diluting in water and just watering the cuttings with it?



If it were me I'd leave as is.  If you just planted the cuttings I don't think it would hurt them to pull them out, scarify, slather with honey and cinnamon and replant. , If the cuttings have already pushed roots I'd leave them alone and proceed with just your compost tea.  Or, get crazy and experiment.  
 
S. Bard
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I’ve just planted them this morning.
What do you mean with ‘scarify’? This is my first time working with cuttings, so I really don’t have much of a clue.
I also burried buds that already started producing leaves. Should I have removed the leaves?
 
Scott Foster
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Check out this article:

Scarification is just scraping the area at the bottom of the cutting before applying the rooting hormone.   I would remove the leaves or only leave a couple at the top.  Check out this article from Purdue University.

Purdue Propagation
 
S. Bard
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Thanks for the article! Looks like I have a lot to learn still!
I didn’t remove the leaves and didn’t scarify the bottom. I also didn’t use a specific depth for planting the cuttings, I just pushed them into the soil deep enough to cover 2 buds, which resulted in the cuttings being planted at varying depths.
I apparently also need to find enough transparent plastic to cover them with so the humidity remains high enough. I will have to get a bit crafty with the small amount of shopping bags I have lying around.
 
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yeah honey is a good substitute for rooting hormone, but you really dont need to use anything.

water is what you really need for roots, humidity and the the right, moist- not soggy -medium.

you also do not need to worry about any nutrients for the plant while it's rooting. at this point you dont need forward growth of leaves and the plant, just roots. actually any forward growth of the plant detracts from the formation of the new roots. this why you strip off the leaves, so the plant focusses on roots not leaves, and also the leaves need moisture. light spraying once a day with a fine mist, or spray bottle for a few seconds can also help, if you dont cover them with plastic. covering them with plastic though is better, to keep the humidity level much higher than your indoor conditions.

imo there's too many cuttings in that pot, they should have a bit more room, though...well it may be ok. i would personally spread them out further., if you have more pots.
you are not wanting to encourage any funk and places where the stems touch, or tight spaces may encourage bad funks.

i also see that all those cuttings could be cut down further, you could get more cuttings by cutting some of those in half.

the exact specifics of how deep and etc...well this isnt that important, except to say the more of the plant thats under the surface the better, mostly because under the surface of the soil it's moist.
this is why some people do cuttings horizontally, where the entire cutting is underneath some moist (not soggy!) medium.

so one way to do cuttings, depending on that you have some stuff to do so...is in plastic storage containers, like big tupperware or small plastic storage box with lid....or even a large plastic ziplock....then place the cutting HORIZONTALLY under some sphagum moss or in peat or other sterile seed starting soil (non soil...you know, seed starting mix). in this way sometimes you can even get multiple sites where roots come out, so that after being in the plastic container for ...ooo probably a month ish...the cuttings form multiple roots and could be cut into 2 or 3 pieces after the roots formed.

with certain things this can even be done in the fridge...though certain things wouldnt like the cool temps...but some do.

but yeah thats an alternate way to do cuttings...in tupperware or other covered plastic containers...again MOIST not soggy...and the ideal medium for that being moss, but other mediums will work...sand, perlite...i think some people use, etc....

otherwise...you could look into wrapping your pots with saran wrap or plastic baggies...to keep the cuttings in the right high humidity
 
leila hamaya
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and yeah scarify is just slash it up a bit, cut into the bottom with a knife or tool.... some people have very precise methods that they swear by, but really it doesnt need to be precise. i cant say this way is best, but for me i often do it with my fingernail ...quite randomly and not precise, mostly because i will be too lazy to go find scissors! but yeah that works for me...quickly rough it up with my fingernails...though theres a lot of various ways to do.

times when i do go get a blade or scissors...i tend to like...grate of a few spots...like you would while grated the skin off a carrot...just a bit in a few spots in the bottom.
 
S. Bard
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Thanks for your advice, Leila. I hope you don’t mind me barraging you with some follow up questions.

I planted my cuttings in soil that was dug up from the forest plus some leftover potting soil I still had. I can’t go outside, so don’t have acces to peat or sphagnum or anything of the sort. Will the soil I used be a problem?
I can try spacing them out a bit more, I still have leftover containers. I don’t have an endless supply of soil though. Perhaps the horizontal approach might be a solution. Do I just place the cuttings horizontally as they are, or do I need to alter them first? Scarify them or remove buds/ leaves?
You say I could get some more cuttings out of this length of cuttings. How many buds should there be in each cutting? And how many buds should be sticking above ground once planted?

I’m also still a bit confused about what to do with the buds that will be below ground. Do I remove them and the leaves that might have started to grow. Or do I just burry them as they are? Also, am I correct to assume you need a few buds to be bellow the ground? Or is this irrelevant, and you just need as much wood surface underground and the roots will just sprout everything along the length of the buried cutting, regardless if there are buds/ nodes?
 
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Here is a diagram of the way I did it. I had tried rooting elderberry cuttings before (the wrong way) and none survived. These I cut correctly and all of them rooted. I just stuck them in jars of water and put them out on the enclosed back porch. As you can see, they are really healthy! Some I'm going to pot up before planting and some I'm going to plant bare root to see the difference.

On another note, my husband has a former student who is a doctor in Italy so we have been keeping up. Hang in there! I know this is rough.
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leila hamaya
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this is where the "scarifying" comes in, the places where you rough it up or slice into it a bit is where you are encouraging roots to come out. as i said i am not very precise about this, but in general i am not very precise about many things, and that works for me. there are several different methods for people that are into being precise and many people have their favorite way that they develop after trying a few. the point is to slice in towards the middle of the plant and to encourage roots to come out in those spots.

forest soil is not ideal, but you can make it work, and the plants you are rooting are easier and more forgiving than most.

forest soil is great outside in it's context, but you dont necessarily want the various microorganisms and living soil for this type of method. additionally it can sometimes have bugs...this is an ask me how i know type thing =) cause i have definitely brought in lots of garden soil or forest soil to make my potting soil go further inside...and then consequently had some bug issues.

if you have access to sand? or seed starting mix, or just straight peat or sphagnum moss thats more ideal. some people use perlite, coco coir, and all sorts of other things. at this early point you dont need "soil" or nutrients or much...really...just proper moisture levels.

BUT work with you have and it's not like...youve ruined it or whatever...i think it can work still.

for future reference i would stick with something more "sterile". your enemy when you are rooting is funks, because you have to keep it much wetter than normal and funks are the major drawback and most common problem that can happen. this can also be an issue if you root straight into water...that and transplant shock when you finally move it into dirt. but this can be done too, with some things...just stick your cuttings in a jar of water, be sure to change the water every few days...and you will see roots develop pretty fast in straight water. this is ok for really easy to root things like willow or figs...and some others i would put in the super easy category. elderberry and ribes...well i would say mostly easy, fairly easy, they may root ok in straight water.

i think i have even seen people using that plastic storage method with coffee filters...or paper towels...at the beginning of trying to get roots..you dont need any soil at all...just some thing to hold that moisture against the cutting and your slash spots.

one way to sterilize soil is to bake it. its a PITA really...but worth it for a small batch...i have actually baked soil in the oven for use inside...to sterilize it and also kill any potential bugs. just stuck a bunch of dug garden/forest soil on a baking sheet 300 for a couple of hours...leaving in there afterwards for a while to just really make sure it's baked through.

and i personally dont worry to much about...how many buds...or exact length. i do tend to take smaller cuttings, or maximize what i cut by cutting long cuttings in half. i think...maybe 2 buds or so is the general rule of green thumb, but like i said i dont pay that much attention to those details as they dont seem to really matter.

but yeah if theres a bud spot thats on the bottom of your cutting and that part will be under the soil, just chop off all of it, and i would go further and even gouge out the bit around that bud spot...use that as one of the spots where you cut into it a bit to encourage new roots...
 
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