Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Herbs for Free

By June everything in the garden and greenhouse is growing furiously. Plants are set on their mission to make seeds and gardeners and greenhouse owners across the country and desperately trying to keep up. But in between the weeding, tying in, planting, training and even harvesting, there are still ways to make more of what you have. One of the delights of gardening (for me anyway) is propagating. I love sowing seeds in the greenhouse and then nurturing them into young plants. I still am amazed how every speck of seed germinates into a perfect replica of the parent plant group and then goes on to make its own seed (usually). But there’s an even cheaper way of growing plants. Cuttings. And with the sap rising in just about every plant in the garden, now is a great time to get rooting.

The great thing about taking cuttings is that it is the only sure fire way (apart from micro propagation) to get plants identical to the parent plant. So if you’ve got a favourite cultivar you can guarantee that cuttings taken from it will create more of the same. It is also a really cost effective way of filling the garden and greenhouse.

One of the most useful groups of plants that can be propagated by cuttings now is the herbs. By taking stem cuttings and heel cuttings from your favourite herbs in June you can grow lots and lots of plants. Perfect for summer plant sales, to delight your friends, or to simply fill the garden. You might want to plant a lavender hedge. Instead of buying dozens and dozens of plants, choose a variety that you really like, buy several strong plants and take cuttings now.

Cuttings are a great way to get youngsters interested in gardening. Not only is it an easy project, but also you don’t need any special tools, it has fairly quick results and if you choose edible plants you can eat the results.

Great herbs to propagate from stem and heel cuttings now include rosemary, lavender, sage, and lemon balm. lemon verbena and mint.
If you want an absolutely failsafe plant to grow with the children choose mint. Let them taste the leaves and compare them to the minty sweets they sometimes eat. Make them a cool minty tea with herby ice cubes to brighten up a summers afternoon and get them growing in your greenhouse

Taking Mint Cuttings

  • Choose a strong growing mint plant. Take a sharp pair of secateurs (adult supervision here please) and cut off a length of stem about 15cm long. Take several cuttings.
  • Hold each stem the correct way up and pull off the bottom two pairs of leaves by tugging them with a downward movement.
    Fill a clean flower pot (a 1 litre pot is ideal) with a gritty, cuttings compost.
  • Using a dibber make about 7 holes in the compost about 6-8cm deep.
    Push the leafless end of the cutting into one hole. Repeat for the other cuttings.
  • Water well using slightly warm water and place the pot in a shady, cool spot in the greenhouse.
  • Keep the cuttings moist and watch for new growth (a good sign that the cuttings have rooted).
  • When the cuttings have rooted, tip them out gently and repot each one into fresh multipurpose compost and grow on.
  • Take care when planting in the garden. Mint plants can be very invasive and are better grown in large containers or bottomless pots buried in the garden to control their spread.