The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, August 12, 2001
Garden Life

Time to multiply your plants
Satish Narula

THIS is the only time of the year when you can multiply your plants by employing various methods of propagation. The most common method is by way of cuttings. But often this method results in failures. The reasons are minor and avoidable.

Soft wood cuttings should be four inches long
Soft wood cuttings should be four inches long

In case of soft wood cuttings ie chrysanthemum, dahlia, coleus etc, take 4-inch-long cuttings. Remove the lower leaves by pinching between the finger and thumb. Leave one or two pairs of terminal leaves intact. This will enhance the success rate. Insert two-thirds of the cuttings in pure sand.

Remember, a cutting has sufficient food material to sustain itself. Do not add any soil or manure. This may lead to rotting due to pathogens. Another reason for the failure of propagation through cuttings is dessication or dehydration so keep the sand medium moist by watering at least twice a day and keeping the cuttings in the shade. It is better to give a slant cut at the base of the cutting. This will provide more surface area for water absorption as well as rooting.

The same principles hold good in case of semi-hard or hard weed cuttings of various plants, mostly shrubs. The only difference is that the length of cuttings in such cases should be six to eight inches.

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One expects and likes to see fresh and healthy growth in the home garden during the monsoon but what prevents this is the unwanted growth of parasites and weeds. They need simultaneous and complete eradication.

Such growth appears in beds and the lawn as weeds. The unwanted growth feasts on the resources reserved for the main plants. Chemical control is advovated for broad-leaved weeds but such methods are used during the summer months when the weeds are ‘dehydrated’ and weak. At that time, use of 2 4-D (sodium salt), with the precaution of not letting it spread to the adjoining vegetation, helps in effective control.

During the monsoon, weeds gain from the good amount of moisture and a season conducive to growth. It is, however, easy to pull them out along with roots for better control. Another very easy and logical way of keeping the unwanted growth under control is the repeated mowing of the lawn. Repeated removal of weeds above the ground starves the roots of such plants, leading to reduction of their population.

Another obnoxious growth which is a parasite is cuscuta , popularly called Amarbel. I am surprised to see that nothing is usually done to remove it. Probably because its presence is felt only when it acquires a huge mass. This plant parasite appears as long ‘wires’ hanging on all sides of the tree and hedges almost completely covering it. The photosynthesis area is completely cut off and the underneath growth becomes weak and yellow. Starved of food, the branches and even big trees start drying.

Amarbel spreads mechanically, thanks to birds, animals or children who pull at it at one place and then throw it elsewhere. The only effective way to get rid of it is its complete removal. Even if a week is required per plant to do it manually, it is worth the effort. After all it takes many years and lots of resources before a tree is raised.

At the same time take care that your surrounding is also clear of this deadly growth or else even a small segment of this parasite could spell disaster for your plants. It grows very fast and within a matter of few days covers the whole tree. After all, saving a tree is saving a generation.