“Normal” rooted cutting harvesting.
Normally you stick Softwood Cuttings in June and they are rooted in four to eight weeks. If you remove them from the bed right away you can do so without doing any root damage, so it’s okay to remove them during the growing season. You can simply dip your hand in the sand, working it under the roots then gently raise a group of rooted cuttings and tease the roots apart easily by shaking away the sand.
Don’t the roots get all tangled up when the cuttings are stuck so close together?
No they don’t. I’ve never had a problem with roots being that tangled. When you root in sand, the sand easily falls away and it’s very easy to separate the rooted cuttings.
This is extreme rooted cutting harvesting.
The rooted cuttings in this bed have been in there for way too long simply because we rooted so many we ran out of room to put them once potted. Leaving them in the bed too along allows them to root into the soil belong the sand which isn’t a huge problem, but it does mean that you have to wait to remove them until they are dormant because many roots have to be cutting in order to get them out of the bed.
Doesn’t cutting the roots harm the cuttings?
No. Cutting the roots doesn’t harm the plants, as long as the plants are dormant when this is done. In Ohio our dormancy period starts around Thanksgiving after we’ve had at least one really hard freeze and continues through the winter into early spring. Once the plants make new leaves the dormancy/digging season is over until late fall.
As you can see in the above photo I am using a spade to cut the roots below the sand, where they entered the soil below the bed. Once cut I pry the spade upward to further loosen the cuttings so they can be removed.
I have to say it again, had we been able to remove these sooner, I wouldn’t need any tools at all, I could simply lift them out with my hands.
As you can see, these cuttings are very well rooted. So much so that we will trim the roots before potting them.
Racing Mother Nature’s ticking clock.
If you look closely you can see that many of these plants are starting to make tiny leaves. A month early! Normally we’d have until mid April or even late April to getting this kind of digging done, but February and March have been warmer than normal and things are way ahead of schedule.
No dilly dallying allowed!
This is important. Really, really important. This work has to be done now. Right now. Every single plant that we have to dig has to be done right now. It can’t wait! The plants are making leaves and everything that needs to be dug has to be dug immediately before they leave out.
While the girls are upfront working on getting these cuttings out of the beds Duston and I are out back digging hundreds of Japanese maple trees. All we are doing is bare rooting the trees, tying them in bundles then heeling those bundles in the potting soil pile until we can find time to get them potted.
Same with the cuttings. We are not potting them. We are removing them from the beds, taking them in the building where we can work on a table, then the roots are trimmed, the tops are trimmed, they are then tied in bundles with rubber bands, then taken back outside and heeled in large pots filled with potting soil. We’ll make time to pot them later, but right now it’s all about getting them out of the beds and pruned.
Prune, prune, prune, prune. Dog gone it prune your plants!
The worst thing in the world you can do to your rooted cuttings is to not prune them. It completely ruins them! I made a movie about this and I am Clearly Aggravated in this Movie about Pruning! I prune my rooted cuttings as soon as they are rooted with hedge shears! I just whack the tops off. Seems brutal, but it’s good for them.
Heeled in? What do you mean heeled in?
I’ll snap a photo the Japanese maples that we heeled in, remind me to get that added to this page. Basically all we do is take the bare root plants, make a hole in the potting soil pile, or in the ground if need be, put a bunch of plants in one hole, then thoroughly cover the roots with soil, being sure to eliminate any air pockets. Roots exposed to air for any time at all will die.
Right now we have four beds full of rooted cuttings and One Bed Full of Hardwood Cuttings that are Still Rooting. That’s a tad too many. The bed that I am working on here, those cuttings have been in this bed for two years, they’ve been trimmed in the bed at least two or three times, now it’s time to get them out. Past time really. The bed behind me, those cuttings haven’t even been in that bed for a year yet. I’d love to get those out now but I’m not sure that we’ll have the time, we have so much else going on. But we’ll get three beds cleaned out this week.
Makes no sense to do your hair if you are going to work in the nursery right? But when I whipped out the camera she wasn’t all the pleased being the model. So don’t look at her hair okay? Girls!
But she’s pretty happy, our fifth grandchild was born while she was doing these cuttings!
So instead of looking at her hair check out the bundle of plants that she is putting together. Wildly roots, wildly tops.
As you can see, we are doing some serious root pruning on these rooted cuttings. It’s much better to cut them rather than have them all bunched up in a ball in the container when you pot them. Pruning them stimulates new root growth, encouraging the plants to quickly establish themselves in the container once potted.
The finished product!
All trimmed up, both top and bottom! As you can these Gold Flame Spirea still have nice, but trimmed roots and we have cropped the tops pretty close. Trimming the tops is really important. That’s what makes for nice full plants. You have to trim them hard when they are small.
Into the bucket they go!
Once the rooted cuttings are bundled and trimmed we put as many bundles as we can fit into a large nursery pot and cover the roots with potting soil and keep them watered until we can pot them. Doing all of this ahead of time makes potting a breeze for all of these reasons
- When we have a few minutes or an entire day to pot we don’t have spend time removing the cuttings from the beds and trimming them.
- I am building a New Potting Station Up Front where customers enter the nursery. That way we have work to do in between customers.
- Any and all trauma that the rooted cuttings might experience in the process happened while dormant. In these pots they will leaf out but we won’t leave them there long enough to root in. Moving them from the big pot to individual pots will be a harmless transition for the plants.
- We can pull as few as just one of cuttings to pot instead of hundreds that might dry out when a customer shows up and we have to leave the potting station.
There you have it, lots of important tips about when and how to remove cuttings from the sand propagation beds.