Plant Propagation at Punta Mona by Katryna Bell

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There are multiple methods of plant propagation used here at Punta Mona. The first step in choosing the correct method is to identify the type of plant you would like to propagate. If it is an herbaceous plant, here in the jungle where life thrives, and things rapidly grow, taking a stem cutting and placing it directly into the soil works quite well. There is also the option of raising a mother plant to take cuttings from, and continuing propagation in the green house, until the cuttings have rooted and can be moved directly into the soil.

 

When propagating using stem cuttings, 3” to 5” piece of stem is cut, with sharp scissors or garden friskers, off a healthy mother plant. It is best to cut from a newer growth, above the nodes where buds are already forming, if possible. When taking cuttings from these areas, you are taking highly energized parts of the plant, while still allowing energy to flow into the new growth that is developing on the mother plant itself. Once the cutting has been made, the leaves are to be carefully cut from the lower half of the stem, leaving only the top nodes, alleviating the amount of energy needed above ground, so that most of the plants energy can go into re-rooting itself into the ground. At Punta Mona, there is never a thing called plant waste, therefore these leaves, depending on the plant they come from, either go into a fresh salad, a nice soup, a finely flavored tea or back on the ground as green manure, mulching the very plants they were taken from

 

I found it best to do cuttings early in the day, while the plants cellular structure is less active, and before the sun is too hot. The moisture in the soil is more optimal during this time, and it also helps to minimalize the amount of shock given to both the mother plant and the cutting.

 

It is also worthy of mentioning that in general, gardening earlier in the morning protects yourself from the high heat that comes throughout the day, and also allows you to have a more fluid energy to give into the plants in which you are working with.

 

It is advised to follow biodynamic calendar when germinating, planting, transferring, propagating, pruning or harvesting your plant. Based on biodynamics, the most optimal time to take cuttings is within a week after a full moon, and if you are going to put them directly into the ground it is best to do so immediately. The moon draws energy to and from the roots, at different stages of its cycle, as it moves water and nutrients through the soil into the plant.

 

There is said to be an increase in the soils moisture content within 48 hours of the full moon and that the regrowth of cuttings rapidly increases during this time. Which is believed to be a result of faster cell division. On the contrary, if you are going to allow them to root before the final transfer, it is best to transfer on or just after the new moon while there is more activity happening in the roots of the plants, meaning they will take easier and faster.

 

Once the cuttings have been taken and trimmed, they are to be planted into the whatever medium you are using for your transfer, covering one-half of their total length. If you are not immediately placing the clippings into soil, they need to be pruned and put in water, or wrapped with a moist paper towel and plastic, or aluminum foil. The goal is to never let the plant think it is dying, and the best way to do that is to keep giving it nutrients through water or soil.

 

It is important to ensure that the cuttings are supported so that they can maintain an upright posture and feel strengthened, and that the soil is watered either before the transplant, or directly after to ensure that the plant knows that it is still being nurtured. From this point, the soil should be kept moist until the cuttings have rooted. If you have transplanted directly into the ground, you may presume usual care once the cuttings have rooted, if they have been placed into a transitionary medium than they will need to be tended to until the final transfer is made.

 

At a place like Punta Mona, cuttings do well going straight into the ground, and usual care mostly consists of allowing the nutritious soil, gracious rain, and consistent sunlight to maintain the longevity and health of the plants. It is also worthy to note that when taking cuttings from mother plants, you are shocking them and in this process they are encouraged to stimulate new growth, as well as seed, for it is just as important to the plants existence as any other to procreate, and if it thinks it is in danger or is dying that is exactly what it will do.

 

Another method of plant propagation, commonly used here at Punta Mona, revolves around what we refer to as our runner plants. These plants grow across the ground rather than up away from the ground, rooting down into the soild from multiple nodes stemming off the mother. Because of the way in which these plants grow, it is easy to take multiple cuttings from one plant, without stunting its growth, and it is also very easy to re-plant with the roots still intact.

 

This process is very similar to stem cutting, however, since these plants root in multiple locations this method can include multiple nodes, and the plant does not necessarily have to re-root once it is cut, but rather, simply re-adjust to its new location. Once the cuttings have been taken, they are then to be put lightly back into the soil, no deeper than one half of an inch, because the plant itself is a surface level rooter as is. Once the cutting has been transferred, they typically do not need additional care aside from ensuring the soil is optimally moist and nutritional. Once the relocation has been made, both the mother plant, and the now transferred cuttings, continue to grow at ease, as they would have originally done so.

 

The two methods described above are very applicable to herbaceous, edible, ground level plants, and an odd number of others, but herbaceous plants and salad greens are not the only plants growing in abundance here at Punta Mona. If there is one thing to know about Punta Mona, it’s that there is an insanely diverse forest full of both food and medicine, with trees that continue to produce a multitude of fruit varieties throughout the year. Many of these trees, both fruit and medicine, have traveled quite a long way to begin their life here at Punta Mona, but they too are quite capable, and highly worthy, of being propagated so that they too can grow in more abundance with each passing year.

 

Air layering and grafting are the two most common methods used here at Punta Mona to propagate trees. The reason that these methods are used, rather than growing the trees from seeds, is because it can take many years for a tree to begin producing fruit once it has rooted into the ground, and also, because a seed coming from a delicious, and plump fruit, does not always grow and produce fruit of the same quality, at the same quantity, if at all. By grafting and air layering, one can ensure that their newer trees will produce fruit faster, in more abundance, and of higher quality.

 

Air layering is a rather simple process in which you pick a branch, lacking flowers or fruit, that is still in the growing process from a tree which you wish to clone. Once you have chosen your branch you are to expose the cambium layer closest to the node. This is done by shaving off an area of bark, about one inch in length, around the branch. Once the cambium is fully exposed, a wet, soil like substance, such as peat moss or coconut fiber, is wrapped around the exposed area of the branch. This soil like substance is then wrapped in a material that can trap, and hold, moisture and heat, tricking the branch into thinking it is in the soil while still receiving energy and nutrients from the mother plant.

 

Once these steps are done, you need to do nothing with the branch, other than maybe an occasional watering if needed, and wait for a new rooting system to begin. At a place like Punta Mona, it truly doesn’t take much care to get the now air layered branch to begin to develop a new rooting system within 3 to 6 months. Once that system has begun you simply cut the branch from its mother, and plant it directly into the ground, and your tree will begin to grow.

 

The second method, grafting, is a bit more particular than air layering. In this method you are actually combining the genetics of two trees from the same family, whereas in air layering you are cloning the mother tree. Grafting is done by taking the root system of one favorable tree, and a branch from another, and then combining the two using the same steps one would use to air layer, but instead you are wrapping the chosen branch to the roots rather than just simply wrapping the branch itself. This method can be done multiple times to combine the genetics of multiple trees in the same family, essentially breeding the tree to produce exactly how we’d like it to rather than it producing on its own terms.

 

Resources:

Biodynamic Planting and Propagation

Cuttings Propagation Technique

Grafting Techniques

Air Layering Techniques