As part of a project designed to sow ideas, grow inspiration and cultivate futures, 300 London schools are growing their own picnic this summer and their reward could be a £500 voucher from GardenSite.
There's no doubt that gardening can be expensive, plants and packets of seed aren't cheap but there are always methods to cut costs. Martyn Loach explains that one of the most satisfying and ultimately rewarding ways to save money is to take softwood cuttings.
Taking cuttings, whether from your own plants or ones you see in friends' gardens, is a fantastic way of propagating plants free of charge.
Softwood cuttings can be taken any time during the summer but June and July are probably best. Take a 4in (10cm) length of new healthy growth. Then, on a bench using a sharp knife, shorten the cutting to just under a leaf joint.
Remove the leaves immediately above and dip the end into rooting hormone, although this isn’t essential if you can’t afford it.
Now you can plant several cuttings to about half of their length in a small pot filled with compost, to which a little sharp sand or grit can be added to improve drainage.
Water and then cover all but geraniums, and any other cuttings with soft downy leaves, with a small plastic bag to conserve moisture and encourage humidity. After about six weeks this can be removed.
For a clematis cuttings, take a portion of shoot that is about 12in (30cm) long. Then shorten it to just above a leaf joint. Make another cutting about 2ins (5cm) below, apply some copper fungicide and plant in compost and cover with a plastic bag.
Stand the pots in good light but not direct sun. Water sparingly and remove any dead leaves and cuttings that wilt and have clearly not taken.
When roots start growing through the base of the pot you know the cuttings have rooted. Now pot individual cuttings on using specialist compost and plant out after a good root system has formed in the new pot.
Shrubs can be propagated by taking hardwood cuttings in the autumn. You’ll have to be patient but at the end of the process you’ll have a free shrub.
Take off a few 9in (23cm) pieces of stem with a sharp knife. Cut off the soft tops just above a bud and cut off the bottom just below a bud. Make a shallow trench in the earth and scatter sharp sand in the bottom.
Stand the cuttings upright in the trench so that about 3in (7.5cm) sticks out and firm the cuttings in after refilling the trench. The following autumn you should find they have taken root. Replant them 9in (23cm) apart and then a year later they can be planted in their final position.
Most gardeners love to save money, taking cuttings lets you propagate your favourite plants at low cost and little effort, you can then have the pleasure of watching them grow. The results aren't instant but they are surely satisfying.
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