» Propagating Can Be Simple, Productive, and Fun

Propagating Can Be Simple, Productive, and Fun

Have you ever wished you could grow sweet, fresh pineapples like those great Del Monte ones you can sometimes find in the stores? How about bananas or other tropical delights – wouldn’t it be fun to grow your own, right in your back yard?

There are certainly some limitations, but not as severe as most people think. Let me give you a few ideas to get your imagination going:

Traditionally, pineapple is grown from cuttings from old growth. The crown or growing tip is left in the field until it dries out, then it’s harvested and stuck in newly prepared soil to grow again. This method requires 18-24 months to produce new fruit from the old material.

How about trying a different approach, which you can do with the pineapple you buy at your local store? Just break off the top and prepare it for immediate planting in your greenhouse or other warm space with ample sunlight. Here’s how:

With your fingers, take off the green fronds nearest the broken end for about one inch (2 1/2 cm), leaving the stalk exposed. Place in a 4″ pot or tray of pre-moistened sawdust/sand mixture that has been prepared for planting seedlings, with Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed mixes included at 1 1/2 ounces and 3/4 ounces per 1/2 cubic foot of soil.

Water regularly to maintain soil moisture with clean water until roots appear, then use the constant feed solution of 1 ounce Weekly Feed for 3 gallons of water for every watering until plants are placed in the garden – about 4-8 weeks, depending on your growing conditions inside and in your garden. You should have a strong, healthy root structure by the time they are planted into the garden.

Transplant into the garden only after all danger of frost is past and the soil is warm. Apply Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed to the soil before transplanting into the garden. Feed weekly with Weekly Feed until 8 weeks before harvest.

If nights get cold before the plants reach maturity, cover them with greenhouse plastic using the “mini-greenhouse” frames shown in the Mittleider gardening books and the Photo section of the MittleiderMethodGardening group on Yahoo Groups, or the Mittleider Gardening Group on Facebook. Apply heat as needed to avoid any possibility of frost, and keep the plants from going dormant.

This simple process changes the time needed to grow mature pineapples from 18+ months to 8 months! Sweet potatoes’ growing times can be reduced from 10 1/2 months to 6 months or less, and other crops see similar improvement.

With those numbers, I hope some of you – especially in the warmer climates – will have the courage to try your hand at propagating plants. It can be both fun and rewarding.

Just remember that these plants are grown in the tropics for a reason, and make sure they have ample heat and sunlight, along with plenty of water. And always start with healthy propagation stock! Never expect or even hope to get healthy seedlings from diseased or weak plant materials.

What about propagating the plants in your traditional vegetable garden? Most vegetables mature so fast that propagating isn’t very practical. However, some folks like to propagate new plants from their tomatoes, and that’s easy to do by removing the sucker stems – gently to avoid bruising the root hairs that grow along the stem – and placing the stem in a tray or pot as described above. The problem with doing this is that the new plants will be substantially behind the parent plants, so unless you were planning on a later planting anyway, don’t bother.

Remember that tomato plants that are fed and cared for will continue to produce for more than a year if there is no frost, so you don’t need to plant a new set of plants for a second crop.

Budding and grafting trees is also very interesting, and can help you improve your orchards, however that article needs more space than we have here, and will have to wait for another day.