It’s been a long, hot summer, and there’s probably more to come. Pretty much the only thing growing in my garden at the moment are indigenous succulents and stuff that’s well protected from the sun. It’s very hard to do any new planting, or grow from seed, when it’s like this. To be honest, even finding the energy to go into the garden is hard when it’s so hot.

If you want to carry on growing in comfort over the summer, a solution is to build tiny greenhouses from 2 litre bottles and a plantpot. Done right, you can carry on growing small seedlings and propagating new plants even when sun is bearing down and everything else is gasping.

First, make sure you’re cutting the right thing. Most succulents, and flowers like geraniums, will propagate from cutting very easily – all you have to do is cut just below a node (the bulgy bit that leaves grow out of).

Mostly, planting guides will tell you that you need to use a sterile medium to grow cuttings in, but that’s not really true. If you pick the right plant, then all you need is a standard plantpot, with nice rich soil or compost in the top inch or so. If you’re making your plantpot from a container, remember to put a few holes in the bottom for drainage, as well as some sticks and stones so the holes don’t get clogged up.

Once you’ve got your cutting and pot, you need the cover. To make your tiny greenhouse, get hold of a plastic bottle, cut off the top, and then stick it upside down over your plant. You’ll need to take it off for a little while each day to water the plant and to make sure it can breathe a bit, but otherwise you’ve created a perfect single-plant tunnel. It’ll let in the sun, but keep the plant nice and humid, so that it doesn’t wilt or dry up.

For the first few days, your plants will look a bit sad, but don’t worry; a quick dusting with water each morning should have them thriving in no time. Make sure you clip any leaves or flowers that are wilting, since they’ll waste energy that the rest of the plant needs for growing.

You can use this technique on almost any plant. We recently took cuttings from a range of roses in our garden that we want to plant elsewhere, and of the ten plants we cut, only one didn’t make it. However, we did have the magic ingredient, which you don’t need for all plants always helps. It’s a powder that comes in a very small tub called ‘rooting hormone’.

The most common rooting hormone is called Dynaroot, and it’s both cheap and widely available. You can get it from the nursery, but also from some hardware stores and supermarkets. What this amazing substance does is make the cut part of the stem grow new roots. All you have to do is dip the stem of the plant in the sugary powder, just before you put it in its new home. It’s a cheap and essential gardeners friend, especially if you have plants you’d like to spread around your garden or area.

If you’re looking to plant a new bed, now is the time for you to be concentrating on nightshades. This includes plants like brinjal, peppers, tomatoes, and chillies. You’ll need to make sure they get enough water, but nightshades will thrive in the summer heat and the light. Lettuce and cabbage will also grow nicely if you plant them now, but be careful – without regular watering and care, they’ll struggle to grow into fully healthy plants. Late January and early February are one of the year’s big planting times, so make sure you’re tidying up and watering the beds you’ll be using once the weather turns a bit.

 

Do you have a project you’d like to see featured in Gardening in G’Town, or a gardening question? If so, please get in touch. Feeding The Self is a cross-NGO project focused around building gardens and using them for teaching and community building. You can find out more about us from our website, and if you’d like to get involved please email me at chirag.patel@feedingtheself.org or send a message to me on 0735 578 909.