Propagating Plants Efficiently

Latest Update 11th June 2018.

I have used this propagation method for a few years and the process has continued to evolve, so some of these ideas are still work in progress.

EcoPropagators have a built-in water tank which maintains constant moisture in a covering layer of soil containing 100% high quality sieved homemade compostThis soil remains evenly moist as long as the tank has water in it, and there is an indicator to make sure its level is easily monitored.  The compost is rich in humus and beneficial microbes and is virtually free of plant pathogens and weed seeds because of the high temperatures developed during the hot composting process. I replace the soil every 6 months to ensure it does not break down to the point of going anaerobic in its constant moist condition.

The EcoPropagator protects its contents against extremes in weather and in winter the timber framed cover is fitted with a polycarbonate "window".  It acts like a small greenhouse, and seedlings are protected against frost .  They benefit from higher than ambient temperatures and growth is kept moving at an acceptable rate.  In summer the polycarbonate window is replaced with a polyester knitted net capable of excluding most insects and other pests and reduces the sun's intensity by more than 20%.

Root and bulb growing plants like onions, beetroot, carrots and turnips are multi sown in clusters of 4 to 6 seeds in each module of a 30 module seed tray containing finely sieved homemade compost.  While the seedlings are quite small, each cluster is transplanted directly into a planting hole in a prepared bed.

Small seeds growing crops like lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, silverbeet and broccoli, which are grown as larger individual plants rather than clusters of smaller plants are multisown into a single module, and then transplanted individually into separate modules.  When ready, these seedlings are planted out into a prepared bed.

Large seeds like peas and beans, are sown singly into modules and planted out when ready in a prepared bed.  Germination has proved to be exceptional using this technique and most large seeds give me 100% success.

My seed trays are kept in EcoPropagators partially buried in moist compost at all times except when seedlings are being planted out.  The compost in which the seeds are sown is therefore kept moist, but a light watering with captured rainwater after sowing is beneficial.  Beneficial microbes are easily able to move into the pots and set up their mutualistic relationships with the new plant's roots as they emerge.

I propagate most of my seeds in EcoPropagators now, instead of by direct sowing, because it helps keep the Ecobeds productive.  Once the ground has been prepared for the next crop after a harvest, the new seedlings are planted out without delay.  If the plan is working properly, new seedlings will be ready to go, usually saving from 4 to 6 weeks growing time in the Ecobed compared with directly sown seeds.

When transplanting mature seedlings into Ecobeds I use a large dibber to place them accurately.  So long as the compost has been firmed in each module before sowing the seeds, the plug of compost enveloping the roots of the seedlings can easily be pushed out with your finger through the large hole in the bottom of each module, without it collapsing.

I also use EcoPropagators to grow plants from cuttings.  The highly active soil and moist humid conditions are ideal, and I have had near 100% success striking cuttings directly into it without needing to use hormone preparations or anything else other than watering them in with dilute seaweed extract.

When taking cuttings (usually in early spring), I like to cut them about 100mm long (not always possible).  In any case, they need to be cut just below a leaf node and stripped of leaves other than the top 2 to 4 small fully opened leaves.  The cutting then need to be inserted to 50% of their length in the compost medium and watered in with dilute seaweed extract.  

Once the cuttings have established themselves and are growing vigorously, they are ready to plant out.   Its important to ensure the root ball is not disturbed too much during this process.