About a month ago, I wrote a guest post for Apartment Therapy/Re-Nest on propagating herbs by cuttings. This is how I quickly double my basil harvest every summer at no extra cost. Basil grows easily from seed too, but stem cuttings are fast and easy — they’ll produce roots in water in about a week or two! By mid-summer my collection of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) are huge! Why not take a few cuttings and share the wealth with friends?
On the Re-Nest site someone asked a question about taking cuttings from bolting plants. I have not been able to post a comment so I am adding a reply here.
SoRad: We grow basil like an annual in colder climates, but in tropical conditions the plant is a perennial. There are also varieties of basil that are reproduced by cuttings only… they don’t produce seed. Some basil varieties bolt quickly and constantly, while others only do-so when the weather gets really hot.
Bolting when it comes to basil is more about the conditions a particular variety prefers rather than “age.” It is better to take cuttings from plants that aren’t under heat-stress, but I have found that it can be done successfully — your best bet is to move the rooting cuttings to a cooler spot.
Project “Let’s Not Kill the Corsican Mint” is well underway and so far so good. You see, I tried to grow one in my community garden plot last year and failed. If I can manage to move from not-killing the plant to encouraging it to grow lush an over the sides of it’s pot I will be very happy indeed.
Looking back I have a few theories around that failure that I am testing on plant number two, the sequel. I was naive and a bit lazy with plant #1. I just shoved it into the part of my garden where the other mints grow and called it a day.
Done and done. Literally.
But Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is not the same as tough as-nails mint. It is very diminutive, spreading plant — more like a moss than a mint. It has delicate roots, while regular mint can bust through all sort of barricades.
- Good Drainage: Corsican mint is the sort of creeping plant that grows well between paving stones. It is sometimes used as a ground cover and can take a bit of foot traffic. This leaves me with the impression that it requires very good drainage. Regular mints like good drainage too, but they are less picky. I have worked hard on the soil at my community garden and it is good. However, I lost a thyme (also requires good drainage) in that exact spot so I think the drainage may not be as good as other parts of the plot where thyme has survived. Although, wild strawberries live there now and they have overwintered and happily spread themselves about. Go figure.
My strategy with Corsican mint #2 is to grow it in a pot in which I have added a bit of sand and grit for extra drainage.
- Dappled Light: Mistake number 2 was planting the Lilliputian Corsican mint (they don’t grow more than an inch tall) nearby much taller mints. Over the course of the summer, the monster mints grew and took over the space as mints are want to do. Corsican mint likes dappled light, but I do not believe it likes to be shaded out completely. I am currently keeping plant #2 on this shelf, which resides in the partial shade portion of my roof. So far it looks happy and is growing. Life on the roof is hot but it is protected in that spot and I can check on the plant daily. I only visit the community garden plot weekly or twice weekly. The most fruitful observations are made when you can check on a plant every single day.
- Soil Moisture: This was the one thing I did right, but without the proper drainage. Corsican mint likes to be kept moist, but not too moist. It should never dry out. In a word, it is finicky. It likes things just so. The trick is to figure out what that means exactly and keep doing it.
One of our weekend projects was turning this vintage doll buggy into a mint planter. The plants inside are, from left: ‘Orange’ mint and ‘Ginger’ mint.
I bought the buggy last fall. It cost 5 bucks at a street sale. At the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, I just knew I had to have it. Davin thought it was a bit of a wreck and did not appreciate taking turns pushing it home so I could finish drinking my coffee.
Since then it has sat outside on the roof. I originally stuck a pot of marjoram in it because I was concerned about damaging the integrity of such a gem by putting holes in the bottom. It held straw mulch a few days ago. A neighbour suggested I transform myself into the somewhat scary local eccentric by pushing the miniature pram around the block filled with straw. Baby needs to get some air!
Over the weekend I finally broke down and made some holes in the bottom using a hammer and a giant nail so we could turn it into a planter. Or rather Davin made some holes, although I want to make it public record that I did not force or even ask him to do it! There was some nasty water sitting in the bottom of the carriage. And let me tell you there is nothing nicer than a refreshing splash of rancid water on the face on a sunny Saturday morning.
The two mint plants that are now planted in the carriage/pot were originally intended for the community garden plot, but I already have a ‘Ginger’ mint over there anyways and the colourful foliage just looked like it was meant to live in that rusty old carriage. It’s not uncommon for me to grow or buy plants with an intended purpose in mind, only to switch gears at the last second. Some of my best ideas have evolved this way. I like this one a lot and was mentally patting myself on the back all weekend for coming up with it.
I can’t wait for the plants to grow and start trailing all over the sides of the buggy like gnarly tentacles!
Total cost of this container planting: under 10 bucks. Pretty good when you consider how much mint we’ll get out of it at the end of the season.
This was going to be a much better post wherein I was going to tell you all about the goings-on in my little community garden plot, however I started writing it ten days ago and then…. well… clearly that ball was dropped. But I didn’t want to leave it, stuck forever in the drafts folder with 20 other half-written posts that are so far past their due date that they will never see the light of day. Obviously much has changed in ten days but regardless, here’s what was happening just over a week ago.
Parkdale Community Beer Garden (facing north). My plot is the one to the forward right of the frame. The big leafy thing in front is my ever-expanding patch of white valerian (Valeriana officinalis). This is a gorgeous plant that grows to be taller than me producing massive sprays of fragrant white flowers. Some cats like valerian and go crazy for it like catnip. Mine does not so the only personal use I get from it are the flowers that I snip to put in vases on occasion. But the real reason I keep valerian in the garden is because the plant is known to be an immune system boost to the plants that live around it and it makes a good addition to the compost heap. It also attracts a lot of beneficial insects becoming a little microcosm onto itself by mid-summer.
My plot (facing west). I keep an assortment of perennial herbs in that corner leaning towards a mix of bright green and chartreuse plants. I added some black pansies to the mix this year which made a nice colour combination.
Most of plot (view facing north)
Harvested that day. Lots of herbs, onions, and garlic mustard roots (later made into horseradish).
Plot (Facing north east). There’s that valerian again. The spiky leaves sticking up all over the place are mostly garlic and onions.
The mint corner. They’re coming up strong including last year’s over-priced purchase, Mojito mint. This is one of the mints I intend to propagate this year. They say growing an assortment of mints together is a bad idea as it can dilute the quality of each variety over time. But I’ve only got so much space and there are too many interesting mint varieties to grow so what can one do except break some rules.
Pansies amongst the onions. I’ve got violas and pansies all over the place as spots of colour until the self-seeding calendula, borage and other edible flowers mature.
The sage corner. I’ve got 4 different varieties living here. I think we’re pretty much set for sage into the next millennium. Since I took this picture the plants have EXPLODED with buds forming that will soon bring that corner alive with colour. Thankfully there are lots of interesting things to be done with sage and it dries very well. Here’s a yummy sage and walnut pesto recipe. I’m also growing white sage on the roof.
The onion sets I planted 2 weeks prior are already growing. How’s that for fast service?
Mint has got to be one of the easiest plants to grow. Just plop it into some reasonably rich soil in a reasonably sunny spot and watch it take over. Evidence of its opportunistic habit probably lives in your garden right now. It certainly does in mine. The ‘Chocolate Mint’ I attempted to reign in by planting in a pot last year has busted loose spreading into the soil outside my community garden plot and into the plot next to it. Thankfully my neighbor doesn’t mind the invading plant and I am not short on friends willing to take fresh ‘Chocolate Mint’ off my hands. Everybody wins.
So while making even more mint may seem a bit ridiculous, I’ve got a project on the go that requires mint and lots of it. I could go out to the store and buy a couple of ready-to-go seedlings but since the timing isn’t critical I figured I’d save some money and make my own using the five or so varieties living at my community garden plot.
The process is easy. Simply cut a few stems about 4 or 5 inches long just below a node (the juncture on the stem where leaves are attached). Pluck off one or two sets of leaves, stick the stems in a small cup or jar of water and wait.
Most mint varieties will produce roots by this method in no time. Yes, you can go the soil route, rooting cuttings directly into potting soil or a vermiculite/perlite mix instead of water. Some say this is the best method for the health of the plants and while I would agree when it comes to most other plants, I couldn’t be bothered with the added hassle when reproducing easy-rooting plants like mint or basil.
Once roots have formed, pot up or plant the new plants in-ground and you’re done. You can add a little vermicompost to the hole if you want and of course water them in well to get things going.