Posts Tagged ‘Plants for free’

How To Set Up A Mist System

Quite a few of our readers have been in touch and asked for some information about how to build a simple mist system for raising cuttings.

I have to say if you plan to raise your own cuttings perhaps for your own little nursery venture you can increase your chances of success twenty fold by installing some form of mist system.

Essentially what you’re trying to do is create a moist atmosphere around the cuttings to stop them expiring through the leaves and ultimately drying out and dying.

A mist system doesn’t have to cost the earth and can be as simple as fitting a misting head on the end of a regular hose … but If you want a system that requires a little less management from you you’re going to need:

  1. A hose to deliver the water to the cuttings. I use commercial black polyethylene pipe which you can buy from any good wholesale garden supplier.
  2. Mist nozzles and rods – how many is dependent on the size of your cutting area. I think every two feet is about right, but of course that depends on the spread of the nozzle.
  3. A Timer to regulate the flow of water. I bought mine on eBay for £15 and is powered by a couple of small 9 volt batteries. There are a few on the market but look out for one that has adjustments for both duration and frequency. Also make sure it has an override option in case you need to attach a second hose.

Although you will have to invest some cash while you set up, look at it as an investment in the future. Anyway, when you hold your first plant sale you’ll recoup the investment many times over!

Choosing a timer


There are some pretty fancy timers on the market but for our small venture I thought we’d start small . The one in the picture was bought on EBay for £15. It’s done well and it’s just finished its second year and still works just fine. Just remember to remove the battery’s at the end of the season or you’ll come back to leaking or corroding battery’s.

They operate on fairly simple principle.  There is a dial for adjusting the hourly rate, and a dial for adjusting the length of time the water will flow.

I set mine to come on every hour for 1 minute, at least until the cuttings are showing signs of growth. When the cuttings are showing obvious signs of growth I adjust the timer to come on every two hours for a minute and finally every three hours. I have a second timer on the outside tap at the house set up to shut the water supply off at the end of each day. (No point in spraying the cuttings after sunset)

As soon as the cuttings are growing away I stop misting altogether and water from a regular watering can.

Setting up your mist system

Measure how much hose you need to reach your cuttings and add another couple of feet for spare.  Plug a stopper at one end of the hose and fix the other end to the timer.

Fitting the mist rods

You can buy mist rods from most good garden wholesalers.This is a close up of where the rods fix to the hose.

How To Set Up A Mist System

The nozzles have a sharp end which you push into the hose until they can’t go in any further. If you use heavy duty black hose you’ll need to break the surface with a nail or sharp object. Just don’t be too heavy handed or you won’t get a decent seal.


The mist head is usually sold with the upright and fits onto the mist rod.

In the picture below you’ll notice I’ve added a split hose connector to the timer. This is because we only have a single tap in the nursery so on occasions we need to divert the supply to a second hose for the polytunnel.  You can also see where the black hose is fixed to the connector with a small jubilee clip to produce a good water tight seal.


The nozzles we use are fairly flexible and can fly all over the place if you don’t fix them down in some way. Easiest thing to do is fix a length of timber in the ground or to the side of your cutting box and tie the mist rod to the timber. Looks a bit rough and ready … but it does the job just fine.

How To Set Up Your Own Low Cost Mist System For Softwood Cuttings

This isn’t a great picture but you can just about see the hose and mist rods on the front of the cutting bench. I’ve fixed the hose to the bench using 15mm plastic pipe connectors.


If you’re planning on installing your own mist set up I would definitely recommend growing your cuttings in sharp sand to ensure good drainage. I use a basic box construction filled with builders sharp sand and nothing else.

These are some of my cuttings from earlier this year and I have to say pretty much all of them have grown into good size plants which is why I’m such a great advocate of growing softwood cuttings under mist.


John is planning to produce a short video explaining step by step how you can build your own basic mist system so don’t worry if any of this doesn’t make complete sense as it may be better explained in a video.

I hope you found this useful and if you have any questions about setting up your own mist system do feel free to drop me a note at and we’ll try to help if we can.

Best wishes,


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Wahoooooo! … It’s finally finished!

I’m actually ready to share my first free gardening eBook with the world. I’m calling it my ‘Introduction To Frugal Gardening’.

Download Your Free Copy

It’s basically a collection of suggestions, strategies and money saving tips that I’ve pulled together from the last few years.

At 25 pages it’s crammed full of useful information for anyone looking to create their own garden paradise, without spending a small fortune along the way!

It did take a fair bit of work to prepare and may not be perfect first time round, but I would really value any feedback you’re prepared to offer as I want to write more stuff so others may benefit.

If you’d prefer not to then that also fine, in which case please enjoy the  content with our best wishes.

Oh, and we’ve also been recording a few videos over the weekend you might be interested in.

Part 1 explains in some detail how to take softwood cuttings, and how you improve your chances of success.

Part 2 introduces the idea of a sand box.


Hope you enjoy the read!

Best wishes,


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How To Start Your Own Plant Nursery

Firstly … so sorry we haven’t posted for a while … it’s Sunday evening and John and I have just come in after a very productive day working on our new little nursery venture. It’s going to be our main focus for this year as it offers a real opportunity to make a little extra money for my garden budget.

It’s soooo exciting to see all the plants all laid out all in neat rows just like a real nursery 🙂

I’m beginning to realise people just can’t resist plants!

We were out to dinner with friends last night and eventually we got onto the subject of our gardens and I happened to mention our new venture. Well, … you’d think we’d won the lottery!  “We’ll be over on Monday to pick out some plants”.

Not quite what I expected … but I have to say that’s pretty much the reaction we’ve had from most of our friends and family.

If you’re considering growing your own plants from cuttings you should read this first!

If you’re thinking of starting you’re own little back garden nursery venture then you need to research something called Plant Breeders Rights.

Basically it’s a law that was introduced to protect the rights of plant breeders … a sort of patent for plants if you like. Essentially it made it illegal to propagate plants for profit … but the good news is there are loads of plants out there that were around before Plant Breeders Rights were introduced that you can propagate.

My advice is:

1. Always read the label on any plant that you buy. It will clearly state if the plant is subject to Plant Breeders Rights.
2. Look for the older varieties and you should have no problems with propagating them.
3. Propagate these older varieties so other growers can access these unprotected varieties.

The more ‘protected plants’ that are introduced to the market the more demand there will be for the unprotected varieties.

June is the time for softwood cuttings
We raise most of our plants from softwood cuttings … except the Japanese Maples which we buy as one year old seedlings and grow them on for the garden.

Acer - Orange Dream ... one of my favourite plants.

Acer – ‘Orange Dream’ … a gorgeous variety … one of my most favourite plants.

I’m so pleased with the roses we raised from cuttings last year. The blooms are not huge, but the plants look really healthy and seem to be growing true to the original old variety.


So wish you could smell these Roses

The most gorgeous perfume is filling the Polytunnel at the moment … and to think these gorgeous roses were all grown from softwood cuttings last year.

The idea of starting a little plant nursery happened quite by accident. A couple of years ago I was growing a few Rosemary and Lavender cuttings for a scented hedge for outside the back door. I realised I was growing far too many  and needed to find a place for my surplus plants.


One year old Lavender plant ready to go into the nursery.

Then one weekend my friend Sarah was round for coffee and she was admiring my new lavender hedge and asked how much it cost to plant.  Absolutely nothing! I grew them all from softwood cuttings … and they all came from the one plants!

I offered Sarah the eight or so I had left over … to which she said … “You must let me pay you for them”  Of course I said no … but that was my eureka moment!

If Sarah was prepared to offer me money for my little lavender plants … perhaps the public would do the same?

Since then I’ve grown over 400 cuttings, from Roses, Philadelphus (Mock Orange and different species of Weigelia, Viburnum and Variegated Dogwoods, to Honeysuckle, Clematis and Blue Fescu Grass.

What’s so great about this whole back garden nursery thing is you can get started with virtually no investment … all you need is a plant pot, some compost and a plant from which you can take the cuttings. The rest you can learn … there are so many growers out there willing to share how you can make it work … and You Tube is also a great source of inspiration.

If you’re planning on having a go at starting your own little back garden venture I’d recommend reading my earlier posts on growing plants from softwood cuttings. It will help you get started and dramatically improve your chances of success.

Until my next post … please enjoy these few photos with our best wishes.

We’re planning to record a short video tour of the garden tomorrow (weather permitting) which I’ll try and post to the You Tube Channel tomorrow evening.

As always please leave any questions or comments below and feel free to drop us an email if you’d like to know more about any of our projects.

Best wishes.


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I’d like to show you How to Propagate Softwood Cuttings.

There are many methods for propagating new plants but June is the perfect time for taking softwood cuttings. For the last 3 weeks I’ve been busy taking lots of softwood cuttings of all kinds of plants. I haven’t counted them but I must have stuck well over 500!

If you’re considering growing your own plants from cuttings you should read this first!

If you’re thinking of growing plants from cuttings then you need to research something called Plant Breeders Rights.

Basically it’s a law that was introduced to protect the rights of plant breeders … a sort of patent for plants if you like. Essentially it made it illegal to propagate certain plants for profit … but the good news is there are loads of varieties that were around before Plant Breeders Rights were introduced that you can propagate.

My advice is:

1. Always read the label on any plant that you buy. It will clearly state if the plant is subject to Plant Breeders Rights.
2. Look for the older varieties and you should have no problems with propagating them.
3. Propagate these older varieties so other growers can access these unprotected varieties.

The more ‘protected plants’ that are introduced to the market the more demand there will be for the unprotected varieties.

Taking your own cuttings is a really cost effective way to gain extra plants, which you can either plant in the garden, or pots or perhaps share with friends and neighbours.  In these tough times you might even be able to generate some extra cash by selling a few at the local Jumble Sale, providing they are not protected by PBR.

By the end of last summer which was my first year I’d managed to raise around 50 mixed plants and shrubs which may not seem like a lot, but it gave me the confidence and belief that with a little organisation I might just have found a way to bring a little extra into the household budget and at the same time have some fun at the same time.

How can I increase my chances of success with my cuttings?

Good question and something I’ve blogged a few times about before   so I won’t go into too much detail on the different methods, but suffice to say if I can do it, anyone can.

All you need is suitable plant material from which to take the cutting, a 4” plant pot, or seed tray, growing medium, (sharp sand from the builders merchants is the cheapest option) and some hormone rooting powder.

Propagating from cuttings - Penstamons

Choose your cutting material carefully making sure you select from this years growth. Each cutting should be approximately 3-5 inches long (not an exact science) and not with too much of the new green sappy growth at the end of the branch.

Cut just below a leaf node, (just below a pair of leaves) and remove most of the leaves on the cutting leaving 2 or 3 leaves on the cutting.  I cut the top out of my cuttings to encourage roots rather than leaf growth but they’ll grow just as well without doing this.

Before planting the cutting dip it hormone-rooting compound, then dib a hole and plant as many cuttings as you can fit into a 4” plant pot. You can pack those cuttings in as they won’t be in there for long before they are planted into separate pots. And above all don’t forget to label them with as much info about the cuttings as possible.  I include the name, date the cutting was taken, and the botanical name if I know it.

Water the cuttings in to settle the compost around the base of the cutting and cover with a plastic bag to preserve moisture, then place on the windowsill.

These are my latest batch of cuttings I stuck in the bench 10 days ago.  As you can see they are settling in nicely and I’ve invested almost nothing other than my time and a couple of bags of builders sand.

It’s packed with cuttings that will all grow into perfect little plants with a little care and attention.

The secret to success with cuttings is?

Keep your cuttings moist!

When you first plant up a cutting it needs to be kept damp.  I’ve installed a cheap and cheerful mist system that cost me a total of £20 which includes a battery-operated timer. I fitted cheap and cheerful timer from EBay so I don’t have to worry about constantly watering the cuttings.

Alternatively you could use a hand sprayer but you will need to spray every 3-4 hrs.  As soon as they start to perk up you can reduce the frequency of the mist.

Here are the first batch I took on the 2nd of June, and in just 4 weeks they have developed a healthy root system, which I find truly amazing.

I did move away from using sharp sand last year as I didn’t have a great deal of success, but after much research I’ve realised it had nothing to do with the sand, but all to do with the way I was looking after the cuttings after they were planted. The great thing about sharp sand is (apart from being cheap) you can pack in the cuttings and when you lift them out the roots separate really easily.

After about 6 weeks I transplant the cuttings into single pots using my own free draining compost mix.

… and here is the end goal, last years cuttings all potted up and ready to be planted in my garden or perhaps sold at the local farmers market.

Do I need lots of space to raise my own plants?

Depends on the number of plants you want to grow I guess. I’m using a corner of the garden, which is about 20 paces by  20 paces square. It feels small, but It’s more than enough for me to get started as I still have much to learn.

This is  my potting bench and preparation area, which I use mainly for mixing compost and potting on plants. You can just see in the corner where I keep my plant pots that I’ve collected over the last 3 years from here there and everywhere.

Doesn’t look like there is much going on at the moment, but in a couple of weeks it will be stacked with new plants.

If you’re looking for free plant pots try your local garden center . They often chuck out old plant pots for recycling. If you have a word with the manager they are bound to have a few kicking about. I only know this as I have a friend who works for the local garden center and she told me to ask.

Below is one the beds where I plant my cuttings after they have rooted. I’ve worked in a few buckets of compost and sprinkled a few handfuls of bone meal into the soil to get the plants off to a good start and they are responding well. They make look small at the moment but by the time next summer comes around they will good size plants.

Lots happening in the garden I know, but if you do nothing else this week try taking a few cuttings and see if you can get them to root.

Best wishes to one and all.

Rural Gardener

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Last Wednesday I had an urge for a little retail therapy, nothing serious, but as it’s about this time of the year I buy my vegetable seeds for the season, I thought a trip to the garden centre would raise my spirits. I set my budget at £12, and off I went, salivating at the prospect of what might await at the garden centre.

It took an age to find a space as the car park was packed with lunchtime diners Have you noticed just how many garden centres have started selling food? My local garden centre has really gone for it in a big way. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s a brilliant idea and if it helps to keep them in business  it has to be a good thing, but interestingly there was also a noticeable decline in the amount of plants on display.

On my way to the seeds I walked past gorgeous pots of spring bulbs and some rather sad looking plants, all at knock down sale prices. I was tempted by the most gorgeous clematis Armandii for £12.00, but managed to resist. Then I noticed a whacking great sign on the display in front of me, FOR SALE, QUALITY SEEDS, 10p a PACKET.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at first, then as I got closer there they were, a huge collection of vegetable and flower seeds of all varieties, classic varieties, vintage varieties, F1 hybrids, and all as good as new!

Being a little suspicious I thought they must be out of date or damaged, but on closer examination they were all dated 2013 and in perfect condition. So I started to sort through the rows and rows of seeds and found pretty much everything I needed, from early carrots, beet root, radishes, lettuce, lollo rosso lettuce, parsley, purple sprouting broccoli, to curly kale, tomatoes and a whole lot more besides. I was in heaven!

So rather than buying a few packets for my £12 budget as intended, I spent £2.20 in total and went home with enough seeds to last me right through the season. Now I call that value for money.

It is a bit early in the season for sowing seeds in the kitchen garden, but I’ve thought id try a row of early carrots, a few radishes and maybe a few beetroot  in the Polytunnel, and see if i can persuade them to provide me with an early crop.

Also planted a few tomato seeds in 3.5 inch pots. I find the best way to get them to germinate is to plant them in a light seed compost that is free draining. Also don’t over water them or they will rot in the compost before they’ve had a chance to get started.  They need a minimum 60-65 degrees to germinate, so I think I will start them off in the house.

I guess time will tell if my lucky seeds will grow into succulent vegetables, but someone was certainly looking down on me last Wednesday, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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In May of last year I planted a Beech Hedge, (Hornbeam to be precise) against the fence at the front of Blackbirds.

After 12 months of growth I have to say I am a little disappointed how long it’s taken these plants to get going.  I used bare rooted plants, incorporated lots of compost in the planting hole and have been diligent with my watering.

I have read Beech and Hornbeam in particular is slow to grow away so I’m still hopeful we will have a half decent hedge in the next 5 – 10 years.

Unfortunately about 30% of the original plants have failed which I guess could be down to the extreme winter we had and the lack of any serious rainfall in Hampshire this year.

Anyway I’ve decided to plant a few Laurel plants in-between to try and fill the hedge out in the short term.

My neighbors all grow them very successfully, which must be down to the abundance of lime in our soil.

I grew them from cuttings which my neighbor very kindly let me have last summer. They grew really well and only 10% failed, so I’m going to have another go at growing a few more this summer.

Now I’m off to do a rain dance in a bid to help my vegetables through this terrible drought we’re experiencing in Hampshire.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Made a start on the soft fruit garden over the weekend

Firstly apologies for not posting for a while but it’s a really busy time at Blackbirds. We have a few projects on the go at the moment, one of which is the Soft Fruit Garden.

What a fantastic weekend! I managed to clear the last of the rubbish from the bottom of our plot and made a start on the second phase of the kitchen garden.

Believe it or not this will be our soft fruit garden

Believe it or not this will be our soft fruit garden

We’re now approaching our third season at Blackbirds and we have some fun projects lined up for the summer.  Ruby and the rest of the girls (our 6 free range chickens) have been moved to a new spot so we can finish off the kitchen garden, although I have to say they seem to spend more time exploring the surrounding fields than anything else.

I’ve decided to divide the left side of the kitchen garden in half, with the front half dedicated to fruit, and  the other half for a modest back garden nursery for growing and selling a few plants. It’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while now, but it’s not happening quite as quickly as I’d hoped.

I spent most of the weekend preparing the fruit patch, marking out a couple of beds approximately 20ft long by 5ft wide. I tend to make my fruit and veg beds fairly narrow to make them easier to manage.

Having first  removed the turfs, I forked over the ground mixing in a good helping of compost, along with a few handfuls of fish blood and bone. This should help get the  seeds and plants off to a good start and as  there has been nothing but grass growing before, the soil should be in pretty good shape.

The Fruit Garden at Blackbirds

My lovely son James helping me out with the heavy digging.

I plan to move  my raspberry canes that I’ve had since we moved in, but I’m not sure if they will provide any fruit this year if I do? Alongside the raspberries I’m going to plant a couple of red currants and blackcurrant bushes, along with a gooseberry and blueberry bush that I was given as a birthday present.  After planting them I’ll add a dressing of potash as I’ve read that fruit bushes respond well to a dose of potash.

I might also plant a few strawberries, but I tend to find they do so much better in the polytunnel. On the subject of the polytunnel John has agreed to install a small solar photovoltaic panel on the roof of my potting shed just powerful enough to  provide electricity to power a couple of lights. That way I’ll be able to stretch the days out a little further and spend even more time in the garden 🙂

Id like to grow a few more exotic fruits but I don’t have much experience with them, so  if you can think of any that will grow in our Hampshire climate do let me know.

Best wishes

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