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  • Threefold Farm Rooting Observations from Winter '14/'15

    Hey all, I appreciate being referenced in your "Frequently Referenced Topics" post. I did a writeup about a year and a half ago documenting my rooting methods and I hope it's been helpful. I recently added to the post my observations on rooting 400+ cuttings last year. No "Aha!" moments but I hope the tips are helpful. I'll paste them here for those thinking about starting figs from cuttings over the winter. The full writeup is linked below.
    Update: Winter '14/'15 Observations
    • ProMix HP: Experimented with ProMix HP (high porosity) versus BX. Found no discernible difference in success rate. ProMix BX is easier to obtain here and cheaper so I'll stick with BX.
    • Success Rate: Around 90%, with over 400 plants grown from cuttings. This is lower than last year but was somewhat expected that I'd lose a few more due to the number of plants.
    • Don't give up too early: Some plants will push out a leaf or two only to drop it. Many of these recovered and pushed out more leaves with no intervention (humidity chambers, etc).
    • Lighting: Position the lights as closely to the plants as possible, moving them up only as the plants begin to grow into the lights. We use cheap T12 shop lights (around ~$10 at a home improvement store) and hang them from adjustable chains. We use daylight bulbs (5000k) but I'm not certain that it really matters. We look for the highest lumen output per bulb. Lights are on for 16 hours a day.
    • Pomegranates: We rooted a number of pomegranate cuttings using the same method and found that they had a hard time pushing through the parafilm. We rooted several in the spring outdoors with no parafilm at all and they did very well. Next year we'll either avoid wrapping over the bud or wait until late spring to root them.

    It’s true, I have a bit of an obsession with fig trees.  I think it has to do with the challenge of growing figs up here (zone 6b this year, 7a most years).  Plus, if you haven’t tried one, a fresh fig is hard to beat.  What’s great is that figs are easy to propagate from cuttings! As I write this there are approximately 150 fig trees at various stages of rooting and growing in my basement (hey, what else am I going to do in the winter?).  For several years now I’ve been looking for a cutting rooting method that gives the most bang for the buck.  Go ahead and google ‘fig propagation’ and you’ll find a variety of techniques.   Some of these have you sterilizing your cuttings, setting them in a plastic baggie with a moist paper towel, in a container with damp sphagnum moss, or in a water bottle.  I’ve experimented to some degree with most of these before and found them somewhat wanting.  Many seemed like a whole lot of work for a not-so-great success rate.  By all means, find a method that works well for you on a consistent basis.  I’ve been searching for a method that satisfies the following requirements and I think I've found it. Method Requirements * High success rate (80+%) * No pre-washing, mold control, shuffling, potting up, root formation monitoring, or otherwise babying the cuttings * Use of readily available inexpensive supplies (potting mix and containers, shop lights for growing) * Must work in my basement (65F, ~35% humidity in the winter) Supplies * 1/2 to 1 gallon pots * Lightweight potting or rooting mix * 1" Parafilm I use 4x4x9 Stuewe Treepots for the pots, straight Pro Mix BX for the potting mix, and the 1" parafilm available on eBay. Rooting Method1. Take cuttings in the late fall during dormancy before the low temps dip into the teens * In south-central PA, this is done in late fall (typically late November through early December) * I’m told fall is the best, as the sap flow is into the roots at this point and is preferable to taking cuttings in the Spring when sap is flowing upward. * Cuttings from this year’s growth seems to work well (wider than pencil width up to probably 1” in width). This year’s growth is the most susceptible to dying in the winter anyways, so I don’t feel bad cutting it off. As long as the base of the tree survives in the winter, the tree seems to bounce back the next year. * Cut a whole branch and worry about cutting it into pieces later. 2. Cut the cuttings into pieces to fit your pot * I use 4x4x9” treepots as I can fit the most under grow lights and it offers a lot of soil surface (height) for roots to shoot out. * Cut about a quarter to a half inch above & below the top and bottom buds (respectively) to help keep the buds from drying out) * Cutting length should allow 1-2 buds above the soil surface, but it’s okay if you have more (some cuttings have closely spaced buds) 3. Fill the pots with a loose potting mix that’s labeled for cuttings * I use Pro Mix BX.  It’s readily available here, fairly inexpensive, didn't contain fungus gnats like I've seen with other mixes, and seems to work well. You can add a little coarse perlite if you feel it’s too “heavy”.  I haven’t seen much of a difference in success rate with just straight Pro Mix but adding perlite may help with overwatering issues. 4. Wrap what will be the exposed end of the cutting (the part sticking out of the soil) in parafilm down to ~1” below the soil level * Parafilm prevents the buds and wood from drying out prematurely.  Since the parafilm breaths mold never forms.  The stuck cuttings aren’t placed in any sort of humidity dome. * Parafilm stretches really well, make sure to stretch it well over the exposed buds.  The pressure of the swelling and opening bud will break through the parafilm as long as it’s stretched well. * Parafilm is the only “odd” supply needed here.  I use the 1” width and find cheap rolls on eBay. 1 roll should do 100+ cuttings as you’re only covering the tips. * Remove the parafilm later in the year while potting up when the new tree has outgrown its pot. 5. Stick the cuttings in the soil and thoroughly wet the soil under water runs out of the bottom. * Rewater when the top inch of the soil is dry (probably in a few weeks, depending on the humidity of the rooting place) * Cuttings can be stored in the dark until the buds start to swell and open.  At that point I introduce them to the grow lights (cheap 4’ fluorescent shop lights).  There shouldn’t be any drawback to placing them immediately under lights (other than the cost of running the lights) 6. Water as needed, and only as needed. * Water when the top inch of the soil is dry.  Overwatering can kill an otherwise good cutting by causing it to rot before it roots * Remember that cuttings starting out don’t need much water.  You're just trying to maintain high humidity in the mix to force the cutting to push out roots. * Don’t fret if a newly pushing out cutting loses a leaf or two.  I’ve seen them recover. * Once a cutting is growing vigorously (has put on and kept 4-5 leaves) it’s far less sensitive to overwatering so feel free to water it well. That’s it!  Seems like a lot, but there’s no babying, no monitoring (besides for water), no mold issues, no supplies beyond potting mix, pots, and parafilm. What are the downsides?   I’ve only found one: you can’t monitor root development.  I think this is likely a really good thing, as formation of roots (or lack thereof) probably causes premature action to the detriment of the cutting.   What’s my “take” rate?   As of approximately 6 months into the cutting process, my success rate is 142 rooted out of 152 total cuttings, or about 93%.  Check out our Store  to see what's available for purchase from the rooted cuttings this year. At least half a dozen cuttings were pegged for being dead but ended up surviving.  They originally pushed out a few leaves that withered and fell off.  In many cases these cuttings shot up growth from below the soil level a month or so later after I set them in the "probably dead" pile. Pictures Pictures are worth a thousand words, so check out some of the photos below to see growth progress and some shots of the parafilm wrapping. Parafilm-wrapped cuttings just starting to push out a little Cuttings pushing out their first set of leaves.  Notice how the buds just push through the parafilm. The cuttings a few weeks later.  I use simple shop lights for lighting as they seem to be the most cost-effective.  Fixtures at the big box stores can be found for around $10 and the bulbs are inexpensive as well. New healthy fig trees 4-5 months in.  Most cuttings were started in December and January. Update: Winter '14/'15 Observations * ProMix HP: Experimented with ProMix HP (high porosity) versus BX. Found no discernible difference in success rate. ProMix BX is easier to obtain here and cheaper so I'll stick with BX. * Success Rate: Around 90%, with over 400 plants grown from cuttings. This is lower than last year but was somewhat expected that I'd lose a few more due to the number of plants. * Don't give up too early: Some plants will push out a leaf or two only to drop it. Many of these recovered and pushed out more leaves with no intervention (humidity chambers, etc). * Lighting: Position the lights as closely to the plants as possible, moving them up only as the plants begin to grow into the lights. We use cheap T12 shop lights (around ~$10 at a home improvement store) and hang them from adjustable chains. We use daylight bulbs (5000k) but I'm not certain that it really matters. We look for the highest lumen output per bulb. Lights are on for 16 hours a day. * Pomegranates: We rooted a number of pomegranate cuttings using the same method and found that they had a hard time pushing through the parafilm. We rooted several in the spring outdoors with no parafilm at all and they did very well. Next year we'll either avoid wrapping over the bud or wait until late spring to root them.
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  • #2
    Thanks for the update. I like your method.
    Don - OH Zone 6a Wish list: Zaffiro, Moro de Caneva, Nerucciolo d'Elba, Bordissot Blanca Negra, Rubado

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    • #3
      Thanks for the detailed method. I wonder if they would do as well dipped in paraffin or wax down to just below the soil level rather than wrapped with the parafilm. Would be much quicker to apply to a bunch of cuttings.
      Ed
      SW PA zone 6a

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      • #4
        Thanks for the update, Tim. I used pretty much the same process, though I'm considering rooting solely outdoors next year to reduce issues I had. But the February boredom will kick in, I'm sure!
        https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
        SE PA
        Zone 6

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        • #5
          Good question eboone . Wanna give it a try? :-) It would be much faster than wrapping and presumably just as effective. I may give it a try with a few cuttings this year.

          Kelby , what sort of issues did you have? You're right, rooting outside was very easy. In late May I wrapped the cuttings, stuck them, and put them in the barn until they started to push out. I then put them in the shade of a tree for a few weeks until they got growing well. I don't think I watered them until July or so, but we had some nice rains that kept them consistently damp. The growth I get out of the earlier-rooted plants though is hard to beat (since they have a 5-6 month head start). Still, spring rooting is easy and would give me plants to sell in the fall or over the winter.
          facebook.com/ThreefoldFarm
          threefoldfarm.org
          instagram.com/threefoldfarm

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          • eboone
            eboone commented
            Editing a comment
            I am thinking of trying it too. Not your volume, though

          • chuckell
            chuckell commented
            Editing a comment
            ed,let me know how that turns out ,just found out about parafilm method,i bought a roll of it and am going to root soon using this method,and also,straight in the ground method i just learned about also.

        • #6
          Hey Tim,

          Thanks for posting your info, I'm sure it will help a lot of people. By the way, the trees I got from you have done great and are now in winter storage.
          Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

          “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

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          • #7
            timclymer , there were a couple problems I had. One was mites and fungus gnats (mites shouldn't be an issue since I gave away my lemon tree), fungus gnats just kept coming back after BT treatments. The rest of the problems had to do with the space available to root being too cold and then providing enough light once the cuttings rooted. I just don't have the space for decent setup indoors where it is safe from the toddler . Cuttings that I started outdoors in late spring are pretty much identical to those started earlier, all reaching 3-5'. I also had great success with summer cuttings putting on 1-2' of growth despite being largely ignored.
            https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
            SE PA
            Zone 6

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            • #8
              thanks for the update, Tim. I had similar results with ProMix this past winter.

              I also had good results from rooting in coco coir and then up-potting to ProMix when a decent amount of roots appeared.
              Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)

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              • #9
                Is there any reason rooting hormone of some kind wouldn't help increase the propagation rate of this method?
                Bryant...Franklin County, VA...Zone 7a. Wish List: a 32 hour day....more sleep

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                • #10
                  Is there any reason rooting hormone of some kind wouldn't help increase the propagation rate of this method?
                  Bryant...Franklin County, VA...Zone 7a. Wish List: a 32 hour day....more sleep

                  Comment


                  • DBJohnson
                    DBJohnson commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Thanks! Adding some Clonex to my order. I plan to start mine either end of December or first of January.

                  • timclymer
                    timclymer commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Keep me updated! I haven't ever used rooting hormone but would be willing to try if the results are promising.

                    I'm fairly satisfied with 80-90% take though so it'd have to be close to 100% to get me to change :-)

                  • DBJohnson
                    DBJohnson commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Set all mine up this week. Yours is one of 3 methods I'm using. As for the Clonex, I apparently got something different than I was expecting--it's a concentrate liquid rather than a gel. I used it on about half of what I set up so we'll see. Will keep you posted.

                • #11
                  Rooting conditions are different this year. Temps in our current basement run around 75F so the cuttings seem to be popping out more quickly. Haven't seen any dropping of leaves yet despite humidity levels near 30%. Will do an update on our website or here when the season is over. Happy cuttings season everyone!
                  facebook.com/ThreefoldFarm
                  threefoldfarm.org
                  instagram.com/threefoldfarm

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                  • #12
                    Hopefully everything works as well as normal in the new place Tim.

                    Good to see you posting as well!
                    Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

                    “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

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