More Resources

Quick Links

Foraging, Hunting and Fishing (Page 1)

Farming and Agriculture (Page 4)

Recommended Books

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! by Carleen Madigan

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation by Alan Toogood

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham

Ancient Agriculture: From Foraging to Farming by Michael and Mary Woods

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Resource for Every Gardener by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W. Ellis

Growing 101 Herbs That Heal by Tammi Hartung.

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by Deborah Madison

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail R. Gehring

Documents:

Edible Landscaping Introduction by the Univ. of Cal. Master Gardeners. (This is a slide show in PDF format.)

Websites:

Home Gardening
Univ. of Cal Master Gardeners

Gardening 101
Sunset Magazine

Gardening Guide and Advice
Almanac.com

Gardening Basics - multiple articles
Seeds of Change

40 Gardening Tips
Beekeeping

Mother Earth News

Permaculture - articles and discussion forum Permies.com

Permaculture - Key Concepts
Permaculture Institute

Cooperative Extension Offices
USDA

The Farm School

U.S. Climate Zones

World Climate Map and Info

Seed catalogs

Growing Vegetables Organically (PDF)
12-page guide from the University of Georgia

Vegetable gardening
University of Florida

Growing fruit and nut trees
U.C. Davis

Hydroponics Online

Farming for Your Food

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Beginner's Guide to Gardening
& Smallscale Farming

Topics Covered Below:

Overview of Growing

Plants are not difficult to grow, but the job of raising them requires more attention to detail than you think. They need sunlight, water, warmth, nutrients, pollination (in many cases), plus the earth or some other base of material that can hold their roots. Caring for them is not a once-a-week job, either. Since they can't move around much to avoid pests, or escape the ravages of weeds and frost, or get a drink of water on their own, someone has to be there to help with all the little chores that make up their surprisingly eventful existence.

Most garden plants are grown either directly in the ground or in containers filled with potting mix. Components of a mix may include mulch, compost, peat moss, sand, shredded bark, perlite (volcanic glass) and/or other organic matter. However, if you don't have access to safe, healthy soil or a prepared mix, there are other options. Remember, after a major catastrophe, the land you live on may be contaminated by toxic waste or nuclear fallout. So while it's nobody's first choice, in a pinch you can create your own planting medium from a combination of ingredients available in your surroundings. These might include sawdust, straw, gravel or shredded coconut.


The most efficient way to manage a garden is to propagate plants indoors ahead of the growing season. Seeds and cuttings are usually placed in fluffy, aerated soil or potting mix conducive to root growth. (As a rule, fertilizer isn't used at this stage.) You can transplant the seedlings into their permanent home when they're healthy enough to withstand the rigors of outdoor life. Photo: wyndyacre

Plant roots need room to expand downward and sideways, so the medium or soil you use must accommodate that movement. It must also allow for nutrient and water absorption. If the medium is too porous, for example, the water will drain through too quickly and the nutrients will disappear with it.

Needless to say, any soil you use out of doors must be sturdy enough so that once a plant matures, only a serious amount of tugging can dislodge its roots. Neither wind nor rain should be able to uproot the root ball. At the same time, soil or other planting mediums must provide an adequate barrier to sunlight. Otherwise, the roots will burn up from the heat and exposure to light, or the moisture in the soil will evaporate too quickly. The planting material must likewise drain water away at a slow, but steady rate. If the water ponds up around the roots, they could rot.

The trick to gardening is pretty simple: You want to keep a plant alive until it reaches adulthood. Only a mature plant can generate fruit, grain, vegetables and other crops. Also, the bigger the root ball, the larger a plant that can be sustained on the surface. So in order for a young vegetable seedling to reach its fruit-bearing stage, it must start absorbing a constant stream of nutrients as soon as its roots are well established. This means feeding the soil multiple times during the growing season, not just once at the beginning.


Anatomy of a flowering plant. Diagram: Univ. of Illinois

Moreover, since roots don't have teeth, anything a plant eats has to be decomposed or dissolved to a microscopic size. Tossing a lump of horse manuer into your garden, or even a shovelful of compost, doesn't mean your plants will be dining on this scrumptuous meal the next day. That's why most busy gardeners today turn to a store-bought fertilizer once their seedlings have formed a second pair of leaves.

Fertilizer provides plant food that's ready to absorb as soon as it's mixed with water. Unlike compost, it contains a measured amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the three key elements of a balanced plant diet. Of course, different species require different proportions of NPK (to use the chemistry symbols for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). So fertilizer products tend to be classified by a few broad plant categories - bulbs, grasses, vegetables, trees and shrubs, etc. This makes it easier to select the right formula.

With any fertilizer you buy, be sure to pay attention to the instructions that come with the product. Among the other cautions, you'll be warned not to let the fertilizer directly contact the leaves, because it's too concentrated and can burn them, sort of like an acid. Normally, you'll dissolve the fertilizer in water first, then pour or spray it on on the soil around the base of the plant, without splashing the leaves or stem.

Where a store-bought fertilizer isn't used, a plant's diet may include manuer, compost, seaweed, algae, fish emulsion (dried up and ground fish carcasses), blood or bone meal, bat guano, urine, and any other natural plant food accessible in your environment. Unlike the store-bought fertilizer, most natural plant food sources will need some time in the ground to decompose or dissolve. Microbes and certain kinds of insects (like worms and potato bugs) help break these food sources down so the roots of a plant can absorb their NPK. (Ants and snails are not very helpful and should be deterred from entering the garden.)

Plant watering and warm soil also expedite the process of decomposition. Click here to learn about natural fertilizer recipes for home gardens.

It's important to irrigate young plants frequently for other reasons, too. Except for cacti, you never want your roots to run out of a drinking supply for more than a few hours. Seedlings are a lot like infants, needing to eat and drink often. In their formative phase, they also have to be guarded from too much heat or cold, as well as from predators who like to munch on their soft leaves. As the plants mature, more and more leaves develop, and the more water the roots need to drink to keep all those leaves supple. That's why it's essential to develop a substantial root ball before fertilizing each new plant. In hot weather, leaves transpire water (similar to the way humans perspire), and any moisture in the ground will evaporate. In this scenario, plants require more frequent irrigation.

Master gardeners like to point out, however, that once plants mature, it's better to give them a "deep watering" infrequently, rather than spraying them with a hose a little bit every day. Deep watering creates a reservoir in the ground which roots instinctively move down toward once the water on top goes away. The farther the roots spread, the more securely they'll be fastened into the ground, so the less likely they'll be upended by a strong wind. Also, the greater a range roots enjoy, the more access they'll have to nutrients in the soil.

Some plants, like corn, require cross-pollination in order to spawn a crop. This process involves moving flower sperm at the center of one flower to the female parts of its neighbors. Bees, butterflies and other insects are responsible (along with wind and rain) for most pollination. But if you're growing indoors, and sometimes even outdoors, you may have to move the sperm yourself. It also helps to include pollinator-friendly plants in your garden, like Rosemary or Calendula. These should attract a sufficient workforce of insect pollinators for the growing season. For more on pollination, click here.

In time, each growing plant develops cellulose in its stem, chlorofill in its leaves, flowers (which beget the fruit), other organic materials that can be harvested and put to good use, and of course the seeds needed for reproduction. Besides food, plants give us spices, herbal medicine, material for cloth, cordage, ink, oil and building materials.

Note: It's a good idea to learn the basics of hydroponics, an indoor form of growing and harvesting food, in case an inhospitable climate unfolds for us in the future. Read this quick introduction.

Role of Climate and Geography

All plant species have their own particular habitat requirements, just like animals and humans. So what you can reasonably expect to grow at a certain location on earth depends on a few things, such as:

If you live high up in the mountains, for instance, your growing season will be pretty short because it's cold for most of the year. If you live at a low altitude, but on the far side of a high mountain chain away from the ocean, you probably don't see much rain, while the occasional flash flood can wipe out a garden if you're not careful about placing it. Close to a seacoast, you'll notice that the soil contains a lot of sand, there's a great deal of fog and humidity in the summer, and the temperature never gets hot enough for bell peppers and tomatoes. But pumpkins, artichokes, potatoes. lettuce and blackberries seem to thrive.

Meanwhile, latitudes nearer the Equator experience hotter temperatures, more rain, lush growth and much more acidic pH levels. This is where coffee, cocoa beans and bananas grow - but not grapes, potatoes, carrots and apples. In deserts like you find in the American Southwest, some types of cacti and succulents provide the primary plant food sources. While they may not sound too appetizing, you should probably study up on how native peoples grow, harvest and cook this stuff... just in case.

Besides the aforementioned NPK diet, all plants require soil containing a variety of minerals and other trace elements to supplement their nutrition. For instance, the color red (rust) in a soil indicates the presence of iron. Even more important to plant life are the minerals calcium and magnesium. As previously mentioned, it takes microorganisms, worms and other live organisms along with water and warmth, to break down these nutrients so plants can absorb them. If you grow a plant that never flowers, or the green leaves turn yellow despite sufficient watering, this can suggest that a vital mineral or other nutrient is missing from the soil. More on this subject in the Soil Preparation section below.

(Check the climate links in the gray box above right to learn more about different terrains and growing zones around the planet.)

If all these details feel a bit overwhelming, don't fret. Even the most experienced grower relies on a gardening encyclopedia or plant propagation bible to do his or her job. You can easily pick up an old edition of one of these books from a used bookstore, or online using allbookstores.com. Then you'll have it handy whenever a gardening question arises -- like what to grow, when to plant, how much sun or shade is needed, the required soil pH and composition, details about pollination, insects the plant attracts, or what nutrients it will withdraw from the soil in excessive amounts (or deposit). For your survival notebook, be sure to photocopy those pages that list concise growing specs for a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, grasses, fruit and nut trees, grains, cacti and succulents.

Something else to think about: In the wake of a mega-disaster, you may not be able to buy garden tools, supplies or seeds. That's why it's essential to assemble a portable assortment of these items in advance. Nowadays, an almost inexhaustible inventory of seed varieties is available for purchase online. Heirloom (i.e. traditional) and organic seeds are preferable to modern hybrids and genetically mutated crops, at least from a biological perspective. Unfortunately, most seeds have a shelf life of about 4-5 years, and even less than that if you don't keep them in a cool, dark, dry place. So you may need to replace your seed stock periodically.

And if you do decide to stockpile seeds, remember to include a wide of variety on your shopping list. Considering that you may have to evacuate to a foreign climate which will not be known until the last minute, you should be ready to respond to multiple scenarios. Read the section Evacuation Strategies for more on this aspect of mega-disaster planning.

Steps to Creating a Garden

Here's a brief tutorial of the process, followed by a closer look at smallscale farming on Page 3:

1. Picking a Location

If you ultimately evacuate to the wilderness and have to settle in for the long haul, choosing the best site to garden or farm will amount to a life-and-death decision. If the crops fail in one spot, it may be too late in the season to try again at another location. For a typical garden plot, here's a short guide on how to assess the soil.

Besides a good patch of ground, access to the sun is a principle criteria for growing plants. Some vegetables, like tomatoes and squash need several hours of sunlight per day. Others, like lettuce and parseley, need only a small amount of sun and enjoy shade protection for the rest of the day. In either case, light is essential for a plant to engage in photosynthesis. This chemical process transforms light energy into sugars. These sugars, in turn, are necessary to produce the fruits, vegetables and other crops that humans and other biological organisms depend on for survival.

Keep in mind that in the event of a "nuclear winter", caused by a massive volcanic eruption, meteor strike or nuclear disaster, a dust cloud in the upper stratosphere may block out the sun for months or years, forcing you to turn to hydroponic gardening with artificial light -- that is, if you have a power source to generate the needed electricity.

A garden's location and landscape design must take into account not only the amount of light, but the path of the sun through the year. Other considerations in picking a garden or farming plot include its distance to the watering source, bugs and predators in the area, and access to the location by you, the gardener.

To get around shading caused by property border fences, hedges, small trees or buildings, gardeners routinely construct raised beds. Raising the ground a couple feet can translate to a few hours more sunlight each day. In the most typical scenario, a wooden frame is built to encase the above-ground soil, as shown in the photo below. (This approach also affords greater protection against plant predators.) Frames can be any length, but their width is usually limited to how far a gardener can reach in and access each plant from the side.


Agape Community Garden

In a rural area where lots of space is available, you'll generally want to look first for an open field on flat ground. If that's not available, you may be able to re-landscape a slope by terracing it (see photo below). Terraces are a great way to prevent soil erosion and implement an irrigation scheme that takes advantage of gravity to move water through the garden.

Planet Natural

Undoubtedly, access to a reliable water source year round will be the first priority in choosing a site in a long-term emergency. If a river or creek is within shouting distance, you can dig a canal that diverts water to your garden from the high side of the stream running downhill. (State and local laws usually require you to apply for water rights before tapping into any water resource.) If the stream or creek runs dry in the summer, you may also need to build a reservoir alongside the canal to store a temporary supply. It's also not a bad idea to dig water basins or construct other types of catchments so you can harvest as much rainwater as possible. Read this manual (PDF) from the Texas Water Development Board to learn how it's done.


The water table well is the most common groundwater resource available. A flowing artesian well, however, is the most prized, since it provides its own water pressure to move water to the surface. Naturally, this type of well requires a cap. A "confined" aquifer is one in which the groundwater is sandwiched between two layers or clay, or some other unporous material. Aquifers are typically recharged by precipitation or melting snow. Diagram: Environment Canada

Where there are no waterways in the vicinity, and no public water utility available, your third option is constructing a well and either pumping or pulling the water up to the surface. Groundwater flows through the earth in many more places than you think and reading up on the geology of your location can help you decide if digging or drilling a well is a worthwhile venture. Contrary to popular belief, the water table is more likely to be found closer to the surface in a valley than in the hills. Water dowsing (or water witching) is a traditional method for sniffing out an underground aquifer or spring. Once you tap into the supply, you'll have to assess the extent of this water source, especially whether or not it's recharging itself fully each year. In the continental United States, many aquifers appear to be drying up.

To learn more about how to find water below ground and bring it to the surface, check out this comprehensive USGS-sponsored website.

Finally, your choice of a garden location should meet these other criteria:

2. Soil Preparation

Seasoned gardeners like to talk about how "loamy" a garden soil needs to be in order for idyllic plant conditions. Loam refers to a mixture of particle sizes that allows for water, drainage, moisture retention and an aerated, not too densely-packed soil, all at the same time. For most (though not all) crop-growing, the soil should be composed of roughly equal parts river sand, silt (rock particles grounded down to a fine sediment) and clay (the tiniest of all particles, aka hardpan when the ground is dry).

At the outset, you should perform a particle test of your soil at selected locations to determine its proportions of clay, silt and sand. The average loamy soil is about 20% clay, 40% Silt, and 40% sand -- not counting any any organic material (e.g. decomposing compost). An easy way to perform this test is to fill a jar that has lid with a trowel full of soil. Add water, leaving about an inch of air at the top. Then seal the jar and shake it vigorously for a few minutes. Wait till the water becomes transparent (which can take awhile), then look at the layers of soil below it.

cultivatorscorner.com

As the photo above shows, organic matter drifts to the surface. Sand drops to the bottom. Silt settles above the sand, and clay above the silt. You can roughly measure each of three particle layers and figure out the proportions, which will add up to 100. If you don't get the 20-40-40 division,you may need to look around the site for deposits of one material or other, then add in what's needed.

Once you've got the right proportion of particles in the groun, the next thing to consider is the soil's pH. Master gardeners fret a lot about pH levels. The pH scale is a tool of natural science that measures the percentage of hydrogen in a substance. A number range of 0 to 14 distinguishes acidic material (0 to 6 on the scale) from alkaline material (8 to 14). A pH of 7 is considered neutral. Soap, for instance, is a neutral substance. Coffee grounds are acidic. And eggshells, because they have calcium, are an alkaline (or base) material.

Depending on your location, the pH of the soil can be either a non-concern or a total showstopper. Most vegetables in the U.S. thrive with a pH between 5 and 7. If you have the time, you should check online to find out the standard pH levels for soil where you live, plus any other location you've chosen as an evacuation spot in a long-term emergency. Ground pH levels vary extensively between the eastern and western U.S., between low and high altitudes, in different latitudes on earth, and as a consequence of the local micro-climate. Also, there's no chart or map for pH like the ones that exist for climate zones and average daily sun hours. In a pinch, you can make a guess about the pH of an area by looking at the kinds of plants currently growing there.


Soil pH chart from Auburn University. The five colored boxes correspond to the correct range on the scale above for each category.

While soil pH testing usually involves dipping colored pH paper in a watery solution of the material in question, there are more bootstrap ways of roughly figuring it out. Red cabbage paper, hibiscus leaves, dark-colored berries and violet-dahlia petals can all be substituted for the pH paper. If they turn purple, this indicates a more acidic pH. If they turn green, it's more alkaline. Be sure to read our chemistry section of the Mega-Disaster Planner. And here's the recipe for performing several homemade PH tests.

If the pH of your soil turns out to be unacceptable, you can always change it by adding soil amendments. If, for example, you dump a lot of coffee grounds into soil or compost that's very alkaline, you can lower the pH to make it sem-acidic. Sulfur is also commonly used to increase acidity. On the other hand, an overly acidic soil can be fixed by adding alkaline substances. Lime is a substance easily found in nature that you can add to make soil a bit more alkaline. Lime also furnishes soil with calcium and magnesium, making it a common soil amendment used by master gardeners and farmers in large quantities.


This standard chart representing mineral availablility in soil in correlation with pH levels may be a little befuddling at first. But stick with it and you'll see that the data is quite powerful. If you can identify the pH level of your soil, you can extrapolate from this chart about how much of each mineral should be present. The fatter the black line, the larger the quantity.

For more on soil pH and how to make adjustments, click here. And here's a more technical but comprehensive overview. Organic Gardening has an article online with how-to links. Also, Clemson University Extension provides an informative website dedicated to this subject. For more on minerals, click here. For information on soil analysis and how to test for what's in it or missing, read this article.

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Soil Preparation - Cont.

To prevent water from ponding, you'll also need to insure good drainage of your soil. To do this requires plowing or turning the proposed garden area. Although it's not always possible, it's recommended that you dig 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep. Before the tractor came along, an ox or horse-driven plowshare was used by farmers to break up hardpan and other dense and difficult terrain. More on this subject in the Farming section on Page 4.

For a smaller area like a vegetable garden, a pickaxe, shovel and/or hoe will get the job done. If the ground is really hard, however, you may have to hold off plowing it until after a good rain. Water loosens up and separates particles, making it easier to turn. And turning soil has the added benefit of aerating it. Oxygen is an essential ingredient of a fertile landscape. Potato bugs and earth worms also appreciate the added space you're giving them to move around in.

To enhance a soil's ability to sustain plants, it's common to add 5-25 percent organic matter (compost or decomposed leaves) to the loamy ground. Compost adds microbes and nutrients to the soil, aerates it some more, keeps it from hardening, and helps retain moisture long enough for roots to get a good, long drink before sunlight and gravity take the water away.


Raised beds planted in rows can be irrigated by streaming water down the middle aisle between them.

An irrigation plan must also factor into the landscape design. A gardener sets up irrigation routes to make daily watering easier once the plants have developed sufficient root balls. For vegetables, it's a common practice to raise the plants higher than the irrigation tract, as shown in the photo above right. This allows water to flow easily sidewise to reach the roots. Raising the plants also protects their root balls against ponding. Initially, of course, each new plant will have to be watered directly overhead with a hose or water can until a sufficient root ball is established. Another common watering technique uses a drip hose, which delivers tiny amounts of water to the soil over the course of several hours. This keeps the ground moist while at the same time avoiding unnecessary runoff and soil erosion caused by a high-pressure water stream or hose. To learn more about garden irrigation techniques, click here.

3. Ways to Propagate (Start) Plants

There are four basic methods for starting new plants in a garden. Take the time to learn them all. Propagation is key to successful gardening and farming. The versatility of multiple techniques allows you to work with the widest possible range of plant types and produce the highest possible yields expeditiously. Here's an overview of the four methods:

Seeds - Seeds are produced by live plants at a certain time in their growth cycles, typically after they've delivered their fruit or other edible parts. You can collect seeds directly from the plants, off the ground or from the excrement of seed-eating animals. Ripe seeds are generally plump, dry and colored something other than green.

Next, separate the seeds from any shells or chaff using a screen or by hand if they're big enough to handle. Store the seeds in labeled paper envelopes without any added moisture; otherwise, they will grow mold. If stored in dark, cold, dry places like a freezer, they should remain viable for up to several years. However, if the seeds come from tropical plants, store them at room temperature.

Before planting seeds, you'll sometimes have to replicate their natural process in the wild that would ordinarily cause them to germinate (sprout). That may mean:

If you're not sure about how to handle a certain type of seed, you can plant a test quantity, water them everyday, and wait 4-6 weeks to see what happens. As a generaal rule you should plant seeds into the soil at twice the depth of their diameter.

Alternatively, you can use flats or containers for seed planting. This way you'll have greater control over the growing conditions. At first, you'll cover the flats to eep the soil warm and moist. Don't use any fertilizer, either. Plants don't usually have much of an appetite until they reach the seedling stage. Once the first and second set of leaves form, you can remove the covering from the flat. When the seedlings are strong enough to move, transplant them into small containers or (if the weather is right) directly into the ground.

root division

Division - This easy method of propogating perennials, some bulbs and grasses requires you to dig up an existing plant and cut it into several sections. You should generally NOT divide a plant during its active growing season.

Sometimes you divide the roots and sometimes other parts of the plant. In a root division, you split an existing rootball into sections and replant them. Most of the time, you'll dig up the root ball out of the soil (as shown in the photo above). Use a very sharp knife to separate the whole plant into two or more divisions. Each section must contain both roots and stems. Replant the sections immediately, water them, and then prune the leaves, shoots or grass.

Try to avoid undertaking this task at high noon or on really hot days, since roots are extremely delicate whenever they're removed from the soil. (The leaves are pruned, incidentally, because they suck up a lot of water and detract from root growth.)

plantlets

Some plants cast out runners, which often take root in the ground on their own. These are called plantlets. You can help this process along or place a plantlet in a pot while it's still connected to the mother plant. Use forked twigs,bobby pins or wire to pin the plant firmly in the new soil. Leave the runner attached for a couple weeks, then cut if off, leaving a couple inches still joined to the plantlet..

offsets

A third type of division takes place when you pull out and replant an offset, which is a miniature version of the plant that takes root at the base. (See the photo above.) This is the case for many types of cacti and succulents. Unlike normal plant division, here you should let the roots of the offsets dry out overnight (or longer). During this time a protective callous will form over the spot where the plant was cut. Then you can plant the offset into a pot or other prepared soil.

Division is a little different for plants classified as bulbs, corms, rhyzomes and and tubers. When you separate a small bulblet from one of these plants, you'll want to brush the cut part of the plant with some powdered sulfur to prevent a fungus from growing. (Sulfur is the yellowish substance found near hot springs and volcanoes.) Afterwards you can plant the bulblet in new soil with some fertilizer added in the spot where you place the roots. Rhyzomes should have their long horizontal section partially visible above the soil.

Cuttings - Not all plants can be grown from cuttings. This method works best for perennials, trees and shrubs. A small stem or branch is typically removed from a plant when it's in optimum health. You'll snip off 2 or 3 smaller branches at the bottom of the cutting, leaving behind what are called nodes. The new roots will grow out of the nodes and the base of the stem or mini-trunk, as the photo above demonstrates.

Be sure to dip the base of the plant in a rooting hormone before planting it in a pot or flat. (Otherwise the buried stem will rot.) And since rooting hormone is a chemical compound that may not be available, you can also use seaweed extract (dry seaweed mixed with a little water.) Prune the remaining leaves on the cutting, since your baby roots won't be able to service all that real estate.

Pots with cuttings should be kept warm, since this encourages root development. Also be sure to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.

Some plants don't have branches to work with, so you may have to grow roots from a leaf. This is true for cacti and succulents. Cut the bottom parts of these leaves at a diagonal, so you'll always be able to identify that end as the bottom. (You don't want to plant it upside down.) For a few plants, like begonias, you may need to lay the inside part of a leaf flat on top of soil to sprout roots. There are visible veins on these leafs that support new plant growth, and to access them you have to puncture the leaf across these veins. Then you dab those spots with rooting hormones and then pin the leaf down in the pot. Once the punctured areas start tgrowing, you'll have to scoop the little sections out and replant them in a separate pot or module.

You can also cut a branch off some desiduous trees (like a ginko tree), afer they lose their leaves in the fall. As with a stem cutting, you'll cut the side branches at the bottom to create 2-3 nodes, then dip the base into rooting hormone and plant it in a pot. It can take several months for a new plants to get started, so be patient.

Cacti, succulents and desiduous tree cuttings are hearty enough to grow outside in temperate weather on their own, but with most other cuttings you'll want to place a plastic around the pot to preserve the moisture and prevent the new plants from drying out.

Grafting - By far the most complicated form of propagation, grafting combines the stem of one plant onto the rooted part of another. The idea is to fasten together the cambian layers of the stems (or branches) of the two plants so that they fuse together. This only works between similar plant species.

Often the two plants are from different stocks (although the same genus or species), and your goal is to combine the best features of both. For instance, you may want to produce a fruit tree that doesn't tower so high that you can't reach the fruit at harvest time. Thus, you'll combine its stem with the rooted part of a smaller stock. There are several grafting techniques, including spliced-side, whip, apical wedge and spliced-side veneer, whip-and-tongue, all of which require training and practice. Grafting also requires expert knowledge of rootstocks. On the up side, this form of propagation can produce fruits and other crops more rapidly than other methods.

The fastest way to learn propagation techniques is to check out a video from the public library, or purchase/rent a DVR. ACBurke.com offers "An Introduction to Plant Propagation", which is available on the company's website..

Gardening Guide Continues on next page...

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