We’re about a month away from something like Spring, here in sunny Southern England. Therefore the starting gun has definitely fired and the mad dash to get everything sown, rooted or generally propagated has started properly. The living room has been taken over with propagaters and the mini greenhouse and cloches have been set up. But it is not all seeds for the permaculturist, we are interested very much in perennials and methods of propagating annuals and biennials that don’t involve spending money.
This has led me to look again at a couple of small plants that I have had languishing in pots on the patio, waiting for a new home in the soil, which quite frankly was ‘touch and go’ until I took on my wonderful new allotment. These two plants are cabbage cuttings – yes pieces of a cabbage (these a variety called ‘greyhound’) that have taken root in compost in a pot. I thought it might be helpful to people out there on the interweb to go over again how to do it.
But first a warning. This method I found was a little ‘hit and miss’ but not a failure. I take cuttings in about June and then either put them out in the ground in autumn for spring cabbage or keep them in pots until late winter and then put them in the ground to grow on. I found about 50% got twitchy and tried to make flowers before they had made a head which I responded to by nipping off the flower stalks. The plants then made heads but instead of only one (like a normal cabbage) they made two or more. This is not a problem for me because I ate them anyway and they still looked nice (if unusual). This method is best, I think, for making identical clones of a special plant you want to keep and then take seed from.
Anyway the two cabbage babies I have waiting to go in are clones of clones which means the natural cycle of one year ball cabbage to second year flowering plant (biennial) is short circuited by the cutting process. I take cuttings after the main head has been harvested and a couple of weeks after, little heads have formed in their place that start to look a little like brussels sprouts. Take them in hand, and with your thumbnail remove them from the stalk with a little yank. Pop them in pots and wait up to 8 weeks. Have a sneaky look if you see new growth or if you have waited too long already and you should see little roots on the cutting, and away you go.
I haven’t really paid much attention to cabbage cuttings because I get all the cabbage-y leaves I want from my perennial kales (which root very,very easily) but I think there is more to discover on this subject. The cabbage is not the hardest brassica to take cuttings from, though. That crown lies with the cauliflower and its cousin the romanesco broccoli, both of which don’t readily form sideshoots, and it is the sideshoots that I use to take cuttings, but again more experimentation might prove fruitful.
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