One of the key components of a self sufficient life is to have plants that reproduce without too much effort. Tip layering is a great method for propagating more berry plants to increase your production, but also make excess plants to sell if desired.
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Today we're going to be talking about tip layering. Tip layering is a way of propagating plants,
particularly woody stem plants, and it's a great way to get free plants, to take one plant and turn
it into ten, a hundred, so on and so forth.
Tip layering is basically mimicking what happens in nature anyway. In nature, plants, such as blackberries and strawberries, propagate themselves by effectively reaching out with a branch or a stem, touching the ground, forming roots from that bit of the plant and then shooting off a new plant from there. So, you can do it with almost any woody stemmed plant, and the actual process is very, very simple. Every plant is slightly different insofar as which parts of the plant contain the genetic code for the entire plant.
Watercress is a great example of this. It’s one I use all the time. Every single part of a watercress plant, a bit of stem, even a tiny bit of leaf, contains all the genetic coding required to make a brand new plant. If you just tear a bit of a leaf off of a watercress plant and put it in a bowl of water, it will grow roots and eventually grow a whole new plant.
Within most Woody plants such as blackcurrants, red currants, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, all these kinds of things, the genetic code required is in all the stems, all the branches, and this is also true of a lot of trees – almost all trees.
One thing that’s not quite so easy to do with trees though, that is quite simple to do with the plants I’m talking about today, is you can bend the stems down and pop them into the ground. So, if you’re doing it with a pot plant, you’d get a pot of whatever type of soil you want and next to the pot that the plants are growing in, you’d bend the stem over and you’d force it into the ground. That will eventually root and a new plant will come up from that set of roots, forming a whole new plant.
How you do it is really, really simple. So, you take the stem of your cranberry plant, for example, and some of this season’s growth towards the end of the stem at the tip, then you scratch off a bit of the bark with your thumb and you place that into the soil in your second pot, or just into the ground next to where it’s growing, and you force that to stay below the soil. Then, in addition, you have a small amount of that stem coming back out the other side, just a few inches. That’s literally all there is to it.
How I do it is by following those steps, and then I break off a twig in a sort of y-shape and I turn that upside down. I pin the y-shape either side of our stem to hold it under the soil, put a bit more soil on top, and it’s as simple as that. Then, if you come back in six months or whenever it might be, you will find that, if you dig that soil around, you’ll see that there are roots growing from the stem.
There’s one super important advantage of doing it this way rather than taking cuttings. That’s because we’re utilizing all the same tricks as taking a cutting, but a big bonus of doing it this way is that you’re enabling the new plant – what would otherwise be your cutting – to remain attached to the mother plant and continue to draw nutrients from it while it’s establishing its own root system. That’s really important. So, the failure rate is much lower with tip layering.
You’ll find in nature this happens anyway. This is how blackberries propagate; this is how strawberries propagate. If you watch a strawberry plant, you’ll see that it sends out runners all across the garden and it just pops itself into the soil, sorts out its own roots and builds a brand new plant for you. This is exactly the same as tip layering. Once you’ve done this and it’s established itself, you literally snip the original stem on the mother plant side of the new root and you’ve got yourself a brand-new plant.
A couple of things to think about when you’re doing this: this is not the same as sexual propagation when plants are pollinated by bees or whatever other insect. This is an asexual reproduction. What that means is you’re creating a genetic clone of the mother plant. So, it’s only worth doing this with your best plants. If you’re going to do it with your gooseberries, and you have five gooseberry bushes and you want five more, then take five tip-layered clones of the best plant you have. There’s no point doing it any other way.
There is a product called rooting hormone, which you can purchase and it is supposed to increase the chances and the rate of roots forming. Personally, I’ve never really had a great deal of success with it. What I mean by that is I’ve not seen it increase my success rate, so I don’t bother with it. I just do it without and the success rate on the right plants is nearly 100% without it. So I personally don’t see the need.
If you have got yourself some berry plants or other currants and that kind of thing that you want more of, go ahead, get out there, tip layer them and get yourself some more plants. The time to do it is right now in the early spring, and then it’s got all summer to get itself set up, ready for next year. I personally like to leave it a year. So, I will do my tip layering now. I’ve actually done all the tip layering I’m doing this year and I won’t touch those plants now, or at least I won’t touch that portion of the plant now, until next spring. Next spring will be when I sever the original stem, which acts a bit like an umbilical cord throughout this process, and then I’m ready to transfer the new clone plants to their final home.
It’s a great way of increasing your stock of plants. If you don’t need to increase your stock of plants, it’s a great way of getting yourself a small residual income, because this is just one of the other things that you can sell, so that’s how we use this.
So, there you go. That’s all you need to know about tip layering. It really is as simple as that. Get out there. Give it a go. I hope you have fun.