August offers your last opportunities to take cuttings of green growth from woody herbs. It is a good idea to consider undertaking this garden job this month if you have not done so already. Softwood or semi-ripe cuttings from woody herbs can be taken at any time over the summer months.
I find that those taken later in the summer often have the best chance of success. These should root successfully, and can be overwintered in a polytunnel before you plant them out where they are to grow next year. Earlier softwood cuttings may root a little easier. But these earlier cuttings can be more susceptible to fungal diseases and other issues. Hardwood cuttings of woody herbs can also work. But may not be as quick to root, and may not root as easily.
Why Take Cuttings of Woody Herbs?
Taking cuttings of woody herbs allows you to propagate your plants. This means that you can increase your plant stock. You can make new plants to place elsewhere in your garden, or to give away, perhaps, to family or friends. Of course, this is a cost-free way to generate new plants to use in your garden, or create great gifts of free plants to give away.
Taking cuttings of woody herbs also acts as a sort of insurance policy. It can help you to make sure you have ‘back ups’ incase the parent plants do not make it through the winter months unscathed. Many woody herbs can survive perfectly well over the winter months in UK gardens. But sometimes, a harsh winter may damage or even kill off your plants. Having cuttings as back ups in a polytunnel can mean that even if outdoors herbs are damaged over the winter, you have new plants ready to replace them next year.
Which Woody Herbs to Take Cuttings From
Some of the woody herbs which you can take cuttings from this month include:
All of the above are incredibly useful and versatile herbs to grow in your garden. They are culinary herbs which also have medicinal applications. Often, they can also be used to make other eco-friendly, natural, sustainable products for your home, and your health and beauty regime.
These herbs are also excellent companion plants for a range of crops and other plants in your garden. They can have applications in attracting pollinators an other beneficial insects. And can be useful in organic pest control. Many Mediterranean herbs can also be very useful in relatively drought tolerant planting schemes, for a climate-aware and resilient garden, which can adapt to our changing climate.
Of course, these woody herbs can also be very attractive – creating ornamental appeal in your garden. They look good, and aromatic herbs can also smell wonderful too.
Remember, you might take cuttings not only from herbs already growing in your own garden, but also from herbs growing in the gardens or homes of your family, friends or neighbours. Asking nicely whether you can take cuttings from someone else’s healthy plants can be a great way to get new plants for your edible garden for free. So this is a great thing to consider if you want to expand your own edible garden without it costing the earth.
How to Take Cuttings
Choose healthy woody herb plants from which you would like to take your cuttings.
Take clean, sterile tools (secateurs or a garden knife).
Prepare pots filled with a suitable potting mix in which to place your cuttings.
Early in the morning (ideally) cut off healthy, disease free shoots of fresh, green growth from the woody herbs, around 10cm long. Cut just below a leaf node.
Trim off the lower leaves.
(Optional) Dip the end of the cutting into a rooting hormone powder or preparation. This is not strictly essential and many cuttings can root successfully without this step. But using a rooting hormone powder or, for example, a homemade solution like a willow bark rooting solution, can increase your chances of success.
Insert five or so cuttings around the edges of a pot or container.
Water your cuttings, label. And place them in a suitable sheltered, somewhat shaded spot until they have rooted successfully. (Which should take place within around 4-8 weeks.)
Caring For Your Cuttings
Keep the growing medium around your cuttings moist. But equally, take care not to overwater. This is especially important with Mediterranean herbs which like free draining conditions. While some cuttings benefit from being placed within propagators or being covered with a plastic bag, this is not usually a good idea for cuttings of woody herbs, which are usually best left uncovered.
After a few weeks have elapsed, check your cuttings to see whether they have rooted successfully. Gently upturn your pot and check for roots when cuttings cannot easily be pulled up from the growing medium.
Once the new roots have formed on your cuttings of woody herbs, it is time to pot up each one into its own individual pot. Gently tease the roots apart and repot the new plants into their own containers.
Keep watering your plants as required (but not excessively) over the winter months. An unheated polytunnel can be a good place to keep your young plants, as this means that they will be kept relatively cool and yet frost free.
You can also keep your young plants indoors, though you should remain vigilant to make sure your new plants do not dry out too much. Keep them away from heat sources inside your home, and in a spot with adequate ventilation but away from chilly draughts.
Planting Out or Potting On Your Woody Herbs
By spring, the cuttings should have formed large enough plants that these can be planted out into their final growing positions or potted up into permanent containers for indoors or container growing in the spring. By this point, larger, healthy root systems should have grown, which should more or less fill the small pots in which they are growing.
Taking cuttings from woody herbs this month is definitely one job to consider doing in your garden or home.
Do you take cuttings from the herbs that you grow? Share your own experiences, comments or suggestions below to help other gardeners learn more about propagating their own plants for their own herb gardens or edible garden spaces.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.