Well it’s officially Fall but forever Summer in my mind 😊 I do enjoy this weather for longer cooler hikes, annual Fall social events/traditions and gathering all sorts of pumpkins and squashes to decorate and eat! It’s also a great time to bring out the crockpot to use for a plethora of recipes and a perfect time to make soup for the soul.
In addition, Fall is a great time to plant in the garden and collect those favorite plants from summer you hope to overwinter with success. Which made me think how do we get these plants to overwinter and bring us more joy next Spring and Summer?
First I had to acquire the right soil and it has been a challenge lately finding soil without the famous fertilizer we all know that begins with the letter “M” my experience with these new soils is they hold A LOT of water and thus rots the plants especially tender cuttings, I did however end up finding an organic potting soil that might work; we shall see. The next thing that is needed in helping our plants form good and strong roots is a rooting hormone. In order to save some money and practice sustainability, I thought it would be great to use a natural rooting hormone and better yet maybe use something we had in our cupboards and storage bins as a source.
What exactly is a rooting hormone and what is it used for?
Rooting hormones act as catalysts for the promotion of new roots, they also protect the cuttings from fungus and disease that could have occurred when you initially cut the plant of interest.
A rooting medium is the mixture you would use to grow your new plants. It is not a garden soil, but is usually much lighter; it actually is not a soil at all. You can purchase pre-made rooting medium mixtures or you can use a combination of various commercially organized components as a rooting medium.
The trick is to get something that will retain water but not bogged down the newly forming roots.
I will share some homemade natural root hormone mixtures to try, just remember to make sure to separate your stock from your working mixture, just place what you think you might need in a small container or paper cup and dip your plant cutting into that mixture vs. the stock mixture to avoid contamination.
So the first idea was to just spit on the cutting, yup you heard it right “spit on it” Hmm, that is a bit crass so I am going suggest you use your saliva sounds a little better right?. With all the new DNA tests out now to help us find out who we really are and which ancestors we came from you may have recently had to “spit in a cup” so this might not be so hard to do. The idea is to use your saliva and dip your cutting in it. I’ll try if you will, LOL! Just make sure you do not lick the cutting as some instructions suggest since your cutting could be poisonous or toxic so do not lick it!
Second idea is a honey root hormone mixture. Just boil 2 cups of water add 1 TBSP of honey, let it cool place a small amount in a separate container and then dip your cutting. The honey is antibacterial and antifungal so it will keep your cutting healthy and also promote new roots. This can be stored in a dark place for two weeks.
Third idea is using 3 tsp of apple cider vinegar in 1 gallon of water. This is a large volume of root hormone mixture but if it works you will have an abundant supply of it.
Fourth idea is crushing an aspirin tablet and dissolving it in water, just use enough water to dissolve the tablet and it should produce a weak paste or loose slurry after it goes into solution.
Fifth idea is making a stinging nettle or comfrey tea let the leaves of these plants soak in water for a few days. I would say a cup of water would make a strong enough tea to create a good root hormone mixture. First picture stinging nettle, second picture comfrey.
Sixth and last idea is a classic old school natural hormone and that is using the new stems of a willow tree, best time to retrieve this is in the early Spring when the Willow is filling out and new shoots are emerging in abundance. Once the stem is retrieved cut into pieces and allow it to sit in water for three days, producing a willow stem tea. Maybe try a stem now and see if it works and let us know.
Keep in mind you can also root your plants by using the water method but not all plants will root this way successfully or may take longer but it is the “go to” option for sure.
Hopefully these homemade ideas will allow you to save some of your favorite summer plantings by creating some really strong roots. Once the cuttings have rooted plant in a good potting soil mix free of fertilizer and keep in an area that gets good lighting and warmth during the winter while inside, then after the first frost move outside so your plants can begin to get established.
Till next time; clean up your garden but leave some seed heads for birds migrating thru they make a nice flight snack and try gathering those seeds you want to share with the club in November, remember collect in a paper envelope or bag never anything plastic because seeds are living organisms in a dormant state and lastly enjoy saving your summer favorites and maybe try one or two of the ideas above and let us know which ones worked the best for you.
Happy Fall, ENJOY!