CUTTINGS! HOW TO DO A BIG GARDEN of trees, flowers, vegies, ALL BY YOUR LONESOME with no money spent!

CUTTINGS And the MAGIC OF "WILLOW WATER"

 I'm doing an 8,000 square foot garden all myself, no money, no hubby, no brawny sons, no 8$ an hour Pedro or Juan day laborers for me. (By age 65, I started using one worker during his annual free weeks from his real job, 40$ a day to do bed edgings, house painting.) And especially no smelly, homeless guys with windbreakers dirty from sleeping in trash bins. Been there done that. The beaners want huge tips at some point and do extortion midway through the job to get it. The homeless white guy eats your fridge out to the walls, leaves your ghettoblaster in the rain overnight, neglecting to tell you he'd had it out there. He makes long distance calls to relatives in four states and wants to talk smut to you. (I didn't make one bit of that up!)

No thank you. Just little old sixty two year old me digging, building --just little old moi, thorns in my fingers, burrs in my hair, praying mantis and grasshoppers climbing up my skirts and on my shoulder, touching my cheek with twig like fingers, making me scream while I'm making beds soft with amendments,  erecting alley lumber-piece edging, hammering in stakes that would make a fall here lethal -- all so I can get raised beds.

Folks wonder why I Edge and Raise the beds. Hey, because different folks walk in here, don't want them walking on the beds. Soils not the greatest, so by creating a bed, I can super supplement the growing media, ignore the paths. Also, one has a good wander as we delineate paths with throwaway lumber, bricks, concrete (dry stacking the lumps.) I just do freebie gardening.

Folks wonder how it can be freebie when I'm so glad to join pals and visit nurseries, I lean in and caress and sniff  the blooms on plants while I stroll the aisles of HOME DEPOT. Truth be known, as I lean and caress the stem, I somehow accidentally come away with little branches (called cuttings) in my fingertips. NOOOOOOO! Yup. I get at least 15 cuttings when I go buy 3 bags manure, one of peat, two of gypsum while the pal with me buys l00$ worth of annuals. Ask a Hungarian how to make a Paprikosh, the recipe always starts 'first you steal a chicken---' My maiden name is Szendrei! HUNGARIAN.

So my garden is Hungarian in style. Free rocks, free broken cement edging in dry stacks, antique bricks, and I'm planting free treasures, I mean free cuttings, planting seeds from nearly free super market edibles like grapefruit, oranges, apricots which do not need to be grafted hybrids! The seeds work fine. (With citrus it has to be wet, fresh out of the fruit.) One ripe tomato from the market gives hundreds of seedlings. (I had three of last year's tomato plants miraculously live over, this cold winter when temps got down to 45 degrees, here in this interior valley in southern california. These babies are a foot high in January. I took them out of pots put them in a  freshly amended bed for a real early start this spring. A chayote becomes a vine. Spinach plants root. So do Cilantro.

I recall I bought some fairly inexpensive seeds at  home depot, PERENNIAL PHLOX it said on package.  They are doing real well  so I set them out in the new bed with tomatoes.  I mix plants up. I put tomatoes in the bed alongside snowdrift and phlox. Hope no tomato gets an attitude, no Phlox freaks out. What can Phlox  care?

I built the beds in back garden and front with rich black soil out of the compost pile that's next to the driveway. It's a  strip, from curb to garage six feet wide by 30 long, far side of the driveway, filled with everybody's green trashcan which I wheel over and dump at 2 am. I also put up CRAIGS LIST ADS trading baby fruit trees and berry plants (dumpster at 99c store is FULL of berries in summer) for mulch. Men bring 8 barrels in a truck. Women bring bagged potting soils. I usually use that in flats for babies. The COMPOST and MULCH has  rotted down into humus soil...I'm in there on my knees filling 5 gallon barrels. But down in the excavated hole so from street only my upper body head is visible, digging away, finding little grubs as long as my finger, calling in crow language CAW CAW as I let crows know I've found more of their fave snack. (These are JUNE BUGS which would eat all the figs if I didn't cut back on their population.) Neighbors walking by see this lady in the hole cawing, throwing invisible things to the center of street, and think she's mad.

My favorite afternoons are digging in the pile, getting a basket of soil, excavating the fine, black, fragrant compost  always with a pitchfork so as not to kill worms, which shovels will do.....(and upturning grubs, and throwing these huge ugly caterpillar things, size of your finger, to crows. The neighborhood crows assemble when they hear my 'feeding' signal, 'caw, caw,' very loud. They swoop into street where grubs are, and strut up to the grubs and cock heads to make sure they're alive and moving, then carry them off whole. I'm entranced. Clients phone me, I don't hear the ringing outside. I'm  carrying barrel after barrel of this nice black  compost to the beds in the front yard and communing with ravens!

This land was once a chicken ranch. It is high mineral and fertile but you cannot get a shovel through the firm adobe clay of this valley 22 miles to the north of L.A.. I have added peat by the fifty pound bag, gypsum by the 50 pound bag, sand by the fifty pound bag. The cost for those bags? l0$, 6 and 2,$ in order given. And it started the soil loosening up.

That cost me, so I had to do something free. That was making wood edging for the beds. When neighbors cut down venerable trees, I beg the logs that are calf to thigh diameter, for rustic edging. In alleys I find real lumber. Edgings are 8 to a good l0" higher than the paths. With lumber I find thrown away in alleys, I must stake, every few feet, so the soil holds lumber up on one side, stake holds it erect on the other. Wish we could sketch on these things. The final effect is raised beds. Paths are narrow, you excavate the soil to the bed, add compost, amendments, sand and that's it.

 Walk your neighborhood and pick twigs and tiny branches. Some you graft onto your seed-grown peach trees. Peaches really are mutts from seed. Grafts from good trees are needed. Get those flower cuttings. My neighbor has a low row hedge of pink ice plant two hundred feet long. Fist fulls of the cactus strings come off, get snipped into smaller cuttings which dot the newly amended beds chez moi. Conversely, I give back. My fig trees have dozens of branches too low, or in the path, which I don't want. In cooler weather, you clip them at the base, plant them under a foot of soil in a big pot. In a year, you have a valuable fig tree. That's how I got my figs, now 30 feet tall. A good clipped off branch. The best ones are said to grow lowest to the ground.

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 USING WILLOW WATER TO ROOT ROSE CUTTINGS

 Pamela Ashworth Puryear
 1986

 WHAT IS A CUTTING?

A cutting is a piece of rose stem about the size and length of a pencil. As it will not be able to
 support rooting and all its leaves, the leaves should be stripped from the bottom. Dip the bottom in rooting hormone after having soaked the re-cut cutting overnight in willow water.

 ABOUT WILLOW WATER

 As willows root easiest of all flora, there must be some substance in the
 sap of the willows which promotes this. Still not isolated, "rhizocaline"
 is actually three or four different unknown elements or compounds.

 This was discovered by Dr. M. Kawase, who reported on it, as have others
 since. One cuts branches of current growth from any willow species, that
 are very green and supple. Then, cut them into one inch pieces and smash
 them with a hammer, or cut them lengthwise. Drop them in a pot of boiling
 water, remove from the heat and allow them to steep, stirring
occasionally. Like all herbal teas, we DO NOT BOIL THE WILLOW
ITSELF. After the mixture cools it is ready to use.

 HOW TO USE WILLOW WATER

 Soak rose cuttings overnight in the willow water, having re-cut the stem
 ends on the bottom by holding them under the willow water and dropping
them in. DO NOT LIFT THE CUTS TO EXPOSE TO AIR as the air will "plug up" the
sieve cells that take water up into the plant.

 Cuttings should be taken about the size and length of a pencil from newish
 wood, and with a minimum of 5 leaf joints. Old barky twigs will not root
 well. If possible, include the heel - the hump on the main cane from which
 the stem emerges to serve as the cutting. These heel cells are very active
 and are prone to produce roots even better than the leaf joint nodes. Mrs.
 Bollye Fridaye, of Anderson, once told us on a Rustle that the old timers
 said to tear off the laterals, which is correct, for then one will get the
 heel section - and lacerated hands! Strip off all the lower leaves from
the cutting stem, leaving only one set at the top if desired.

 The rooting bed should be WELL DRAINED, about half sand and half good
 rooting soil, and located in a shady spot that is well protected from
 strong winds and other disturbing features, like heat from a car exhaust
or air conditioning compressor, etc. I then take rooting hormone, clippers
(that have been dipped in a solution of 1 quart of water + 1 Tablespoon of
 bleach to disinfect), name tags & pencil, and the cuttings in their
 container of willow water and plant the cuttings in the cutting bed.

First, dip the wet ends in rooting hormone, gently knocking off any excess
hormone powder before inserting them in the ground. (Rooting hormone is primarily
a disinfectant and it is vital that cuttings be kept free from harmful bacteria if they are to root. This is also the reason we disinfect our clippers, as mentioned above. This is to try to prevent canker, which is the rose stem turning brown and dying. Canker spreads by entering the stem when it is cut. Being out-of-doors in the sterilizing action of the sun also helps prevent other scourges. Discard any used hormone as it is contaminated.

 Firm the soil well around the cuttings. Old timers used to tell us to step on the soil around the slip with your heel to pack the soil, that "air is death to rose roots", and that roses should be grown in lots of clay. We have since tempered this advice and just firm the soil, allowing the moisture to settle it evenly. If planted in the winter, the slips may leaf out in the spring. They may be covered with a fruit jar and allowed to grow a second set of leaves before gradually removing the jar daily.

 THE WILLOW WATER STORY

 For the old rose fanciers who order grafted bushes, advances in the rooting of hardwood cuttings may not seem so earth-shaking but to rosarians who prefer own-root plants, and more especially to collectors, this is good news indeed!

 Dr. Makota Kawase first began his research into the rooting problem in  Manitoba, Canada, in the 1960's. Previous experiments in the 1930's had  shown him that natural plant hormones, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA),  naphtalene acetic acid (NAA), and indolebutyric acid (IBA), promote
 rooting. Yet another substance, tentatively named "rhizocaline", and NOT a  plant hormone, he also assumed to be present in root formation. The  separation of a cutting-from a plant causes IAA to move polarly and  accumulate at the base of the cutting stem. This "auxin gradient" then
 causes the hypothetical rhizocaline to follow suit. Rhizocaline then  assists the IAA to form roots. This substance has been suggested by  researchers to be either vitamin B, vitamin H, Boron, sugar, various  Nitrogen compounds, or something else. Further chemical research is  continuing to identify rhizocaline with certainty.

 In this early experiment, Dr. Kawase proposed to use a centrifuge to
 physically push the two substances to the tips of cuttings to determine if
 this would promote root formation. Then an "accident" occurred: He had
 placed some water in the centrifuge to prevent his cuttings of Salix alba
 L. from wilting. When the water was tested as a control the root-promoting
 substance was discovered! Willow is perhaps the easiest to root of all
 woods, and thus contains more rhizocaline than hard-to-root plants. As
 rhizocaline is perfectly water soluble, it is very available to plants,
and as it is natural in all vegetable matter, it is non-polluting in large
concentrations.

 Various strengths of "willow water" were tested by Dr. Kawase (who is
 currently with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, at
 Wooster) who concluded that it had "the ability to stimulate rooting
 unmatched by any previously known rooting substance, including plant
 hormones." All plants contain rhizocaline and other factors in greater or
 lesser amounts, and it is also seasonally variable, with the highest
 concentrations observed in the early spring.

 To manufacture willow water in the home, Dr. Kawase recommends cutting
 current year's growth from any Salix species. Then, remove the leaves and
 cut into one inch pieces. Place these right side up in a glass, add 1/2"
 of hot water, cover with a plastic bag and let sit 24 hours. Steep your
 cuttings in this for 24 hours, and then place in the rooting medium with or
 without rooting hormone, as needed. The willow water may be stored in the
 refrigerator, covered to prevent contamination, but is best used up within
 three days.

 Other Kawase discoveries include the use of etoilation in promoting
 rooting. Total darkness, he found, increased rooting "sharply" up to four
 days. The basal tips MUST be in darkness for rooting to occur. (The writer
 discovered this principle by rooting a rose in willow water alone, but in
 an opaque container which excluded the light from the basal tip.)

To do this in the garden, lay black plastic on the soil. Poke holes, insert
cuttings thru this.

Another help in rooting is the presence of ethylene gas. Shall we include
 ripening apple in our covered containers of rose slips? These new rooting
techniques, especially after the identification and synthesizing of
rhizocaline, are predicted to totally revolutionize the nursery industry.
And how easy it will be when all us amateurs have "green fingers" as well!

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