Hardwood cuttings to propagate your fruit plants.

October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came;
The ashes, oaks, and maples,
And those of every name.
George Cooper (1838–1927), U.S. poet.

You may have noticed over the last few days the signal that October is on its way. The leaves have ever so slowly begun to fall from our trees.

Being early in the leaf fall season the trees seem to be shy about shedding their clothes in one go, opting instead to drop a leaf here and there anytime they catch you looking away. However come the end of the month and they will be throwing off their outer layers faster than an Irish man strips off on the one fine day available to him each summer.

With the leaves falling it easy to enter the hibernation mindset, one where you take in the hanging baskets, pack away the mower, and close the door on your garden for the rest of the year. The canny gardener though will have their eye on next year growth and what they can do to prepare for it right now. With this in mind let me introduce you to hardwood cuttings.

Make a copy.
Hardwood cuttings provide a cheap and relatively easy method of creating an exact copy of a desired currant or gooseberry plant. A well-struck cutting could see you have your own version of a neighbour’s plant or a back-up of your own cherished specimen, just in case your original fails.

So this method of propagation is ideal for gooseberry, and all the currants, red, white, black, and flowering. Besides the fruit garden plants, some of the other decorative garden specimens you will be able to propagate include the butterfly bush (buddleia), willow, elderberry, cotoneaster, dogwood, rose, Spirea, Viburnum,

However, as the new plant is to be a clone of the original, along with sharing the same strengths as the parent plant, it will also share the same weaknesses. Due to this fact you must be careful not to take cuttings from diseased specimens, as you will be just propagating the plants original failings. This is especially important where gooseberry and currants plants are concerned as disease in these results in disappointingly poor fruiting.

Hardwood cuttings in a nutshell.

Hardwood cutting explained, photo / pic / image. Click to enlarge.

Hardwood cutting explained, photo / pic / image. Click to enlarge.

You will require a strong growing parent plant, sharp secateurs, rooting powder, a few shovels of sand, and a partially shaded growing-on location.

1. To start you should take a series of cuttings about 30cm (12 inches) long from shoots produced this year. Create a straight cut across their base just below a leaf or bud.

2. Then using a cut sloping away from a bud, snip off the top of the cutting, leaving the remaining cutting in or about 23cm (9 inches) long. Follow this by removing any thorns or leaves.

3. Gooseberry and currants need to be grown on a “leg”, so for these cuttings only you should cut off all except the top three buds. This prevents shoots from growing near or below ground level on the fruiting bush. For all other hardwood cuttings it is advisable to leave all the buds on.

4. Create a trench in your garden soil approx 15cm (6 inches) deep in a partially shaded spot. Ensure one side of the trench is vertically straight and place a thin layer of coarse sand in the base.

Irish stock.

UK stock.

5. Dip the base of each cutting in rooting powder (rooting hormone) and place in the trench with the stem against the straight edge. Space the cuttings at 15cm (6 inches) apart; I would suggest setting ten cuttings to ensure you gain at least one viable plant.

6. Backfill the soil around the cuttings and water heavily, do not allow the new plants to dry out and within a year you will be ready to pot up or transplant your new garden arrivals.

The gooseberry and currants usually begin bearing fruit within 2 years once grown from cuttings, so not too long to wait. Give hardwood cuttings a try. It’s plants for free, just as nature intended. :)

More debate about this topic on our forum, click Irish gardeners forum.

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