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  • Bottom watering cuttings.

    I just thought I would share some results from my limited experience.
    This year I thought I would give bottom watering a try. Harvey the rat killer and many others have had good success with it and it seems very easy and time efficient.
    First, when I make my cups I melt four equidistant holes on the bottom and twelve on the sides. In the past I have used a spray bottle on rough mist to water gently on top and through the holes wherever moisture is needed, or tip the cup at a 45 and spray on the lower top edge to run a bead of water straight down the side of the cup, always erring in the side of too little vs too much. Time consuming, but I try too keep my numbers under 20 with 12 or less figlings being even better. My cupping mix is 2:1:0.5 screened perlite/peat/screened vermiculite. I started using the bottom watering on my front runners, luckily there were only 3. I would partially set them in a cup of about an inch of water for 3-8 seconds, then let them drain for a bit and then set them on a paper towel as well to pull more excess water. I think I used this method 3 times. Two of the three front runners are dead from rot. The third seems okay but will still have a droopy day if it's clear skies with higher light levels coming in to it, which indicates to me it definitely took some damage but has roots that are above the rot as well, however this girl still isn't in the clear. The funny(or not) thing is that the roots against the cup don't ever really look bad so you can't go by that, it's the cutting wood that is rotting and not the roots. Heck, sometimes I've watched a root get damaged on the proximal end and completely dry up(by an air hole) while the distal end still grows for days with no evidence of it's imminent doom.

    I had said in a some thread a few weeks ago that I thought of way to remedy this scenario, but it didn't work. I took one of the doomed cuttings and cut the bottom 1/3 off to what looked to be 90% or more clean green wood. Then stripped all the leaves except the biggest most terminal one, just like you would do a summer cutting and put it in a cup of water. Within a couple hours the leaf had regained full turgor pressure and was looking good. Over the next week or so it gradually lost pressure and finally gave in. I think the rot had enough of a foot-hold above where I cut that it just didn't matter. So, this could still work but if you try it make sure the clean cut is entirely green with not a speck of brown in the green layer; that's what I had..a speck of brown.

    I'm not sure, but I think the cup mix I use isn't favorable for bottom water of cuttings. Harvey and the others I have read about who have success have been using ProMix HP or similar. I think these mixes don't absorb as much water as quickly, whereas the mix I use allows the water to penetrate very fast and drains well.. but it will still hold way more water than the cutting can use when totally saturated and it doesn't have enough peat to wick the remaining water up into the upper levels of the cup.

    Just my thoughts, hope it might help someone. Oh, and all of my later cutting that I have only used the spray bottle with are fine.
    Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
    Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!

  • #2
    How well established are your cuttings that you tried watering from the bottom? I dunk all my indoor plants in a bin full of water each time they need it. Granted, they aren't fig cuttings. But I probably would water from the bottom with them, too, if they were well established. I normally don't worry about what mix I use if the container is mostly filled with roots.
    Alma from Maryland 7b


    • #3
      They were young with a fair amount of roots, young fragile roots not tough older roots. As I had mentioned above some people have had very good results with this method, I just wanted to share that it may not be a good option for everyone depending on your set-up. The numbers are very limited in my scenario, but it cost me two figlings which were very valuable to me so I promptly stopped that method. Luckily I have 2 more of that variety but they aren't as fast growing as the two I lost, they will be fine once they get established but still..it's a bummer when things don't work out like you thought they would. Welcome to growing figs eh?
      Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
      Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!


      • #4
        Calvin, try putting a extra cup with holes in it under your dirt cup.
        You will find it is very hard to over water a cutting so long as you keep that extra cup in between.
        Then just drain the bottom cup when it fills with water from drainage.
        I have a thread somewhere on how I use a 3 cup method that works using this extra cup in between
        for a air gap to keep fig roots happy.

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        Last edited by SCfigFanatic; 03-13-2015, 12:32 PM.


        • #5
          I posted this last year, it will work for any container used for growing fig cuttings, including yours.
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          Regardless of the potting mix ingredients or the planter type (nursery pots or SIPs). Its as simple as finding out the actual amount of water that is needed to get your mix "watered".

          Since 99% of my cutting losses in the past has been to too much water in the potting mix or over watering, I had decided to test the effectiveness of mini-SIPs. While testing mini-SIPs (sub-irrigated planters) with fabric wicks for growing out rooted cuttings, I quickly realized that the SIP could easily water log the potting mixes if the reservoir or the wicks were over sized or if the reservoir was continually filled with water. Checking the weight has been one of the usual recommendations for watering potted cuttings and fig trees, so I decided to quantify it. The dry potting mix in the container can be weighed and then watered, the difference is the maximum amount of water to be added when the mix is "dry". Since I do not have a kitchen scale, I was able to get the actual amount of water by adding water from a measuring cup to the dry mix until it was "watered". For my test SIPs, 2 liter soda bottles with 5 cups of seed starting potting mix (85% to 95% Peat based) it was 8 oz of water.

          I also realized that this test can be done on almost any potting mix to get the maximum amount of water to use for any small planter. The only commercial type mix that I have not tried are ones with moisture control Gels or pellets. The moisture control additives will increase the water holding ability of the soil mixes and should not be used in SIPs.

          Once you figure out the correct amount of water for your mix and planter size, that amount is the maximum "Fill Amount" of water that is added when the mix needs to be watered. You are almost guaranteed to never over water again, and it will work for any planter type...
          Last edited by AscPete; 03-13-2015, 01:32 PM.
          Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


          • #6
            Thanks for the input guys.
            Pete, I know that too much moisture was the problem for sure. I just thought that the rooting medium would be able to distribute the water better. It seemed that the lower percentage of peat(35%) and higher amount of air voids prevented the up-wicking of moisture from the bottom of the cup. Maybe had I been using a seed starter mix or ProMix blend the results would have been different, either way I will finish out this season using a tried and true method here.
            Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
            Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!


            • AscPete
              AscPete commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes, the porous mixes do not wick the moisture properly, but they can be watered with the fixed amount of water from the top... SIPs need ~60% peat (coir) to wick properly.

          • #7
            I used AscPete's method last year with a variety of mini-SIP sizes. The smaller SIPs, under 32 oz size, had a moderate failure rate, but I think I only lost one cutting that was moved from a root starter box with paper towel or perlite to a 32oz or 2L sized SIP constructed as above.

            This year I decided to try something different, and am doing bottom watering of rooted cuttings in 32 or 44 oz drink cups, and have lost only one so far, but am watering very minimally. All of the potting mix was initially moistened with water with Gnatrol, and am using a weak MG solution for watering now that the cuttings have several leaves and are in open room air getting sunlight from a sunny window
            Last edited by eboone; 03-13-2015, 03:10 PM.
            SW PA zone 6a


            • #8
              I had a high failure with the sip 2 liter,
              I tried many variations but ended up giving up and looking for a easier way to root cuttings.

              I'm glad you found a way that works for you Ed, there are so many ways to root a fig cutting....it is my winter fun.



              • eboone
                eboone commented
                Editing a comment
                yes it is fun, and interesting...I tried a new method this year just for fun and to find out what works. I agree, there seem to be lots of methods that work, but also lots of ways to fail with any method.

            • #9

              I would agree with Doug that his method is the simplest and easiest to master... http://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-ho...rooting-method

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              Its similar to the 1st method, cup in cup, http://figs4fun.com/Rooting_Bag_New_Style.html that I learned and even with all the experimentation it will be the method that I recommend to beginners on this forum. With the addition of the "Max Fill Amount " as explained above it could be the easiest to duplicate successfully.

              I used 16 oz cups and they only need 1/3 cup of water each, with my cutting mix. A set of measuring cups cost $1.00 or less ($0.88 @ Walmart) and can increase the cutting survival rate.
              Last edited by AscPete; 03-13-2015, 07:35 PM. Reason: added link for 2 cup clarification
              Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


              • #10
                I never saw you display my method to root with 3 cups pete.
                But, if you put a additional (with holes in it) cup between your dirt cup and your red cup you will see improvement on root development within a week.
                Try it, it really works.

                edit :with the middle cup you can water from the top or bottom or sides and not over water it.
                I have attempted to over water and the plant shows no signs of it so long as roots do dot sit in stagnant water.
                Over watering is the easiest to do, throw the extra cup in there and keep the water drained.
                Last edited by SCfigFanatic; 03-13-2015, 06:51 PM.


                • #11
                  I've never used your 3 cups method, just the 2 cups with a large plastic bag as the humidity dome for each group of 8 cups...

                  That's why I've been recommending your Topic when asked... Its a Very Good step by step procedure and explanation.
                  From my earlier results with the 2 cup method your improvements should only make it better...
                  Last edited by AscPete; 03-13-2015, 07:17 PM. Reason: typo
                  Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b