I have figs, stone fruit, pome fruit and various berries. Some are still maturing but I would like to be able to share cuttings with those that want them next year. I’m pretty familiar with packing and shipping regular items.
The main thing I am not sure about is timing:
When do you take the cuttings
When do you offer up the cuttings
When do you ship the cuttings
Clearly the wood needs to be dormant, and I guess the ideal time of offering them up would be a month or so before the receiver would do their grafting?
Any other tips for sharing cuttings?
Here is my current schedule (Eastern PA - 7a), will update it as I get more advice:
I’d say February is peak season for cutting and shipping scions. Plants (with roots) could potentially be sent earlier in the dormant season. A lot of trades seem to be arranged in January, but I like to work out whatever trades I’m going to make at least a month earlier than when most people seem to arrange trades.
I guess the only thing with taking Jan/Feb cuttings is with figs frost damage can be pretty hard to assess (for me, at least) until spring. I would hate to send someone completely dead cuttings. With figs too I think you want to receive your cuttings by mid-December at the latest so you can start rooting them.
Late Jan and early Feb is also the time when temps can dip to below 15°F around here - I’ve heard of mixed advice about not pruning (or taking cuttings) when there is a big freeze. Its one of the main reasons why I didn’t offer / share cuttings this year.
I think the “ideal time” depends on the species.
For the figs I’ve gotten in trade/sale/etc, I’ve arranged for them in the fall and that’s worked pretty well. Or you could offer to send the figs in spring when things warm up.
For stone fruit, I’ve been reading that optimal scion collection time is while they are still fully dormant, so well ahead of optimal pruning time. I’ve been trying to puzzle out how I want to handle that in the future. My best guess is to cut scions from branches you plan on pruning later in the season, then make your pruning cuts farther back from where you cut the scions. It would probably also be a good idea to cut the scions when at least a few “warm” (as far as winter goes) days are in the forecast.
I’m still new at the trading game (and I think I’ve gotten more generous gifts than trades at this point), but I try to start making my arrangements early, especially if it’s something a little rarer that I’m after. I think I’ve started posting in mid November each of the last two years.
Has anyone compared taking cuttings before the first frost vs after the first frost? I’m not talking about 20F type temps, but just cold enough to make figs drop their leaves for the fall.
No frost yet here, with forecast lows in the mid-30’s over the next 10 days, so it will likely be soon.
And does the answer differ depending on whether I am trying to start the cuttings now, or ship them over the winter? I’m guessing that if I am going to start them now, I should leave a bit of leaf on? Or just cut everything off?
I’m a bit embarrassed that I forgot to include that the type of fruit I was looking to propagate is figs. Gooseberries and currants seem to work pretty well when I just stick them in the ground in the fall. But, I wanted to know if figs would be easier to root indoors if I take the cutting before the first frost, or after. And if I do it before the frost, keep the leaves (or a bit of them) or strip them off?
If possible, you want the fig cutting to form roots before any buds break. The reason is that if leaves pop too soon, they’ll tend to dry out. The stick doesn’t have enough energy to repeat that process. Dead leaves also promote mold.
I suspect that buds will be delayed longer if the sticks are cut later when the tree is more deeply dormant. .At any rate, I generally take cuttings when I do dormant pruning, which is mid to late November, which is after many frosts.
Strip off the leaves, if any remain. Any superfluous organic material will promote mold, which is Public Enemy #1. I’d also suggest rooting in Coco Coir, which helps maintain a sterile environment better than soil and also helps manage moisture. Excess water promotes aerobic bacteria. which is Public Enemy #2.
You can start the cuttings anytime, but you will need lights. If you start soon, you can have a 2+’ tree by April. But you will need good lights.
I highly recommend rooting figs in DE with a sprinkling of coco coir (less than 10%) mixed in. As Drew has had long term success using DE, I tried rooting 9 Hardy Chicago cuttings this year with 100% success using the mix I mentioned above. DE retains moisture while remaining well drained, it’s the best of both worlds.
Are you referring to the powdered DE or the stuff like Napa floor dry /optisorb that is almost like bb gun pellet sized? The powder version is definitely a bad idea for this application (but great for other things). The pellet sized stuff like optisorb has not broken down a single bit for me yet. Just making sure we are talking about the same stuff. I have heard perlite begins to break down after a couple of seasons, but more importantly it does not retain moisture like DE does.
Yeah, the floor dry stuff. I’m not saying that it breaks down. I’m saying that the particles don’t necessarily stick together so well when you try to re-pot the rooted cutting, especially where the DE has become somewhat dry. As the medium crumbles, it can damage roots.
As an example of the difference, if you want to take a rooted cutting out of a cup, a common method is to roll the cup between your hands, which unsticks the medium from the side of the cup. With DE, this rolling motion can break up the mix. With coir, the rolling motion just makes the mix more compact.
I have never had de crumble. It can freeze and still not crumble. One of the best soil amendments around too. I mostly use it as a soil amendment after seeing the numerous studies that confirm the multiple benefits.
I also disagree it damages many roots. It falls away better than any soil I have ever used. Whatever stays I leave. I guess some finer roots might get damaged but I never seen larger roots fall off at least compared to other souls which often pull roots off from weight if you are not careful. The best way to remove DE is to turn it upside down root facing up. I have run into it sticking when left in a long time. Or using it outside algae can glue it together.
Right, well, I don’t want my mix to fall away at all. Any movement just disturbs the roots. I want the rootball plus mix to transfer intact.
I’d probably agree that DE is better than “any soil.” Soils tend to be moldy, soggy, heavy. DE does have the advantage of being reasonable sterile and light weight, and out drains well. I just find that coir is not only sterile and light weight but it also holds a proper amount of moisture better / longer and, finally, hangs together around the roots better. Don’t get me wrong, I like DE as a soil amendment. I just find coco coir better as a cutting mix for figs.
Those are important points to make. For me, the big reason I will shy away from a pure coconut coir setup is that I have a tendency to over water rather than under-water. DE removes all of the guess work with that strategy as I could water every other day and it would still drain properly and retain a reasonable amount of moisture in the process. If I water coco coir every other day, I’m sure my cuttings will be moldy and soggy in no time. The big takeaway being, if you find something that works well for you, stick with it.
Regarding over vs under-watering, I’ve found a simple solution: Soak the coir, then squeeze it hard. Use the damp coir to totally fill a cup; ideally the cup will be at least as tall as the cutting. Insert the cutting into the coir, leaving ~2-3" at the bottom in case there is a perched water table (there shouldn’t be). Cover the top of the cup (e.g., Saran wrap), with the upper 2 nodes of the cutting sticking out. With this set-up, the coir will stay suitably damp for at least a month. So it’s “fire and forget” until the cutting has both roots and leaves.
Two key points are that (1) if the cup is closed, there will be no evaporation; and (2) if the cutting lacks either roots or leaves, there can be no loss of water through transpiration. The cup-coir-cutting are a closed system until either the top is removed or the cutting sprouts roots and leaves.
@jrd51 has the right idea with set and forget. I like to use the fig pop method for this reason. Just set your cuttings up with the right moisture level of whatever you’re using (I usually just use the same potting mix they’ll eventually go in), and you don’t really have to worry about watering. I usually go up to about 6 weeks from initial setup before it needs any water, by which point the figs should be well rooted. In fact, pretty much the only reason any significant water gets out is from the top growth. Some of my fig pops I’ve potted up without needing to water.