This time of the year in the garden is a good time for planning ahead and we are thinking about the soft fruit we grow. Most fruit bushes will crop for many years in return for an annual mulch and prune. But a few of our fruit bushes are becoming old and less fruitful and may need to be replaced in a couple of years time, so now is a good time to propagate new bushes to replace them. As long as there are still a number of healthy, vigorous stems on these older bushes, we can easily propagate new plants from them, and this is a good way to ensure a steady supply of fruit for years to come.

It is easy to grow new plants from hard wood cuttings which are taken from mature wood (unlike softwood cuttings which are taken from younger, more flexible growth). Hardwood cuttings are usually made from mid-autumn to the end of winter while plants are dormant. At this time of year there are no leaves to contribute to moisture loss and cuttings can break dormancy gradually when the warmer, lighter spring days arrive.

Hardwood cuttings are easy to take from black, red and white currants, and gooseberries. The big advantage that hardwood cuttings have over other types of cuttings like soft and semi ripe cuttings are that hardwood cuttings require very little aftercare. They root more slowly than other types of cuttings but they are tougher and need less time and attention.

When selecting cuttings material it is always important to check that we are taking this from healthy, disease free plants and from branches that are still growing vigorously. When choosing hard wood cuttings, wood stems should be woody, mature and ideally about a pencil thick. We will avoid using any pest-damaged stems or any stems showing signs of disease. We will take cuttings of 20-30cm long using clean secateurs. It is useful to make a horizontal cut just below a bud to form the base of the cutting. It is possible to take multiple cuttings from a single stem if it’s vigorous. It’s worth taking a few more cuttings than we need as insurance against any losses.

Then we will tidy up our cuttings by removing any soft growth from the very tip, and make a diagonal cut at the top of each cutting, just above and sloping away from a bud.

We will plant cuttings into deep pots with about two-thirds of each cutting below soil level so that just a few buds are showing above.

We will use equal parts sand and general-purpose peat-free potting mix in the deep pots. The sand will help with drainage, which is important if the cuttings are to get through winter without rotting.

Most cuttings should root within a year. You can tell when roots have started to grow because this is when the buds above ground will break.  This may be as soon as the following spring or as late as autumn. Once the buds have opened, we will tease the cuttings apart and pot them on or plant into their final growing positions.

A plea for recycled bricks! Our bricklaying volunteer team have made a good start to repairing the crumbling brickwork on a number of our raised vegetable beds. However we could do with more bricks in order to be able to make more extensive repairs. So if you have any recycled bricks that are unbroken and have had the mortar removed i.e. are clean, then we would love to hear from you!  Please reply to this email.

In other BPCG news, this weekend of 11th and 12th December, we are doing tastings of fruit gins and vodkas so do drop in and try a sample along with some of our jams, chutneys and pestos!  Remember the days are short though so do come btw 11 and 3 if you can – Sat or Sun, and stock up for Christmas and for stockings!  You can also pick up great wreath kits too from us – with loads of gorgeous ever-greenery and natural decorative stuff which you can pick yourself from our ‘wreath buffets’. And we have a very few tickets still left for our Wreath Making Workshops so do snap these last ones up from the website: https://www.brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk/events/?tribe_paged=1&tribe_event_display=list&tribe-bar-date=2021-12-08&tribe-bar-search=wreath