Busy bee, Fleming property, UNSRB, Alberta (Photo by Carys Richards/NCC)

Busy bee, Fleming property, UNSRB, Alberta (Photo by Carys Richards/NCC)

Your guide to a free garden

Plant propagation (Photo by Nancy Hoang)

Plant propagation (Photo by Nancy Hoang)

Molly Dube was the 2019 communications intern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Alberta Region. Molly is passionate about Canadian conservation and environmental protection. Her goal is to communicate conservation information in a way that will get people excited, inspired to learn more and take action.

It can be intimidating to get started in gardening. When you walk into a gardening centre, you are faced with rows and rows of plants to choose from. These little plants can be expensive and quickly add up. There’s also the risk that something will go horribly wrong in your garden, and all the money you’ve invested will turn into dry, crunchy leaves and sticks.

There’s a gardening trick that makes it practically free to get started! It’s called propagation, or planting from cuttings. This involves cutting off a branch or sprig of a living plant, and growing a new plant from that branch. The bottom of the stem of the new plant can then develop roots and continue growing.

Cuttings grow much faster than seed, and you can also skip the cost of buying seed packets. Not all plants can grow from cuttings, but a quick online search can tell you whether or not a plant species will grow from this method.

How to take a cutting

Grab a sharp pair of scissors and cut off three to six inches of the plant that you’d like to grow. For reference, this cutting should be at least as long as the length of your index finger. When taking a cutting, your best bet is to take from bright green, new growth.

Cut below the leaf node, where the leaves attach to the stem, at an angle. Next, pull off all the leaves on the bottom half of the cutting, leaving only a couple at the top.

Dipping the end of the stem into rooting growth hormone mixture will increase the chances that your cutting will develop sturdy roots. You can even make your own rooting growth hormone mix at home!

Luckily, many basic herb garden plants can all be grown through this technique. Thyme, basil, sage, lavender, rosemary, oregano, and mint all grow well from cuttings.

Rosemary cuttings (Photo by Cristina Sanvito)

Rosemary cuttings (Photo by Cristina Sanvito)

Planting and care

Once you have your cutting, it’s time to let the plant do the hard work. Place the stem of the cutting in a glass of water or a pot of soil, and water the soil every couple of days.

After about two to four weeks, the plant should have its own roots. At this point, it’s ready to move to its permanent home in a pot or in the garden. If there are no roots by this point, you will need to take a new cutting and try again.

Enjoying your new garden

You now have the tools to start gardening. The cost of creating a garden shouldn’t get in the way of trying a new hobby. Gardening is a great way to spend some time outdoors doing something fun, and it can help grow an appreciation for nature.

If you continue to forget about watering your plants, succulents are a great option! These little cacti do best when they’re forgotten, and can also be grown through propagation.

Having nature in our lives is important, but sometimes we don’t have time to head to head out an epic nature adventure. Fortunately, having nature in our lives can be something as simple as surrounding yourself with living plants. And if you’re going to have plants around, why not grow something useful, like an herb garden?

­­The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.

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