Posts Tagged ‘Propagating Plants’

Baby Basil plants

Baby Basil plants ready to be pricked out into 3″ pots for the summer.

Growing Basil from seed

Like a great many other gardeners April and Easter more specifically is is an incredibly productive month in the garden.

I’ve just come in from the polytunnel having pricked out about 50 basil seedlings into 3″ pots. The smell on my hands is just fantastic … can’t help thinking of tomatoes when I’m pricking out Basil plants. They go so well together and if you plant a few alongside your tomato plants the aroma will help to keep the whitefly away.

This years basil seedlings

Basil is an annual which basically means it will produce for you in one year but you will need to grow new plants next year.

We’ve been sowing in a light well drained compost mix since the beginning of March right through and so far we’ve been fairly successful with our germination.  I particularly love the broad leaf basil varieties as they are really easy to grow and don’t take a lot of looking after … and they remind me of holidays in the Loire with the children. Wonderful times.

Secret to growing great Basil plants?

Don’t over water and keep the plants in a warm, sunny spot in the garden or window sill. We grow a few outside but mostly in the polytunnel to be honest so we can control the watering and this year we’re also succession planting as we hope to sell to the local pubs and restaurants to raise a few extra pennies for the coffers!

If you want to grow a few plants of your own plant your basil seeds in a tray or pot from March onwards. We’ve sown Basil seed pretty much up until the begining of September and still produced reasonable plants, so the season is generous.

After about 4-5 weeks prick out into 3″ pots and 4-5 few weeks later you should have some handsome basil plants!

What can I do with Basil?

We use Basil all the time in the kitchen mainly on tomato salads, but also have been known to make our own pesto!  I also read somewhere the Amish chew on Basil to treat colds and flu although I’ve never tried it myself.

If you’ve never grown Basil plants from seed then give it a try as the flavour of home grown Basil is simply fantastic.

Basil Plants

Eventually those tiny plants will grow into great little plants.

Happy Easter to one and all!

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Kohl Rabi Plants

I think of April as the ’emerald month’ because it’s the time of the year where everything is bursting into growth in anticipation of delivering the most amazing display in the coming months. It’s the sheer number of different shades of green from the deep green of the evergreen clematis Armandii to the lime green of the Acer’s.

It’s at this time of the year we’re preparing for the busy period ahead which basically revolves around striking this years softwood cuttings from mid May through to the end of June.


Last years softwood cuttings under mist

If you want success with cuttings then there are two things to remember.

  1.  Use a free draining medium like sharp sand or a combination of sharp sand and compost.
  2. Keep the cuttings moist under some form of mist system.

One of our readers wrote the other day and said “don’t you have to have lots of money to start your own plant business?

My answer is absolutely not! We’re starting small to limit the financial risk and we’re only prepared to invest what we’re prepared to lose which is as little as possible!

Honestly you really don’t need to spend lots of money to get started and in the coming weeks and months we’re going to show you how you can get started with very little investment.

Talking of clematis Armandii ours has just finished flowering.



Of all the flowering clematis I think Armandii has the most intoxicating scent and it’s an evergreen so will give you a glossy green backdrop in the winter.  Throw in to the mix a plant that’s really easy to propagate and you have almost the perfect plant!

This cutting was taken in June 2012 and two years on has grown into a wonderful plant. armundii

At the moment we’re busy potting up last years rooted cuttings which have gone through the winter pretty much unscathed and produced some serious roots.

It’s our third year and we’ll be potting our two year old plants up ready for selling in the summer.

We’ve learnt loads over the last 3 years about raising and selling plants, but most of all we’ve realised customers buy with their eyes. By that I mean they want plants with flowers and preferably with a scent. There are of course the old stand by’s like evergreens,  box hedging, the conifers etc … but in the main people want colour and as much of it as you can give them!

Tip for anyone starting out growing plants for profit … Seek out one or two unusual varieties of a plant species and make your customers aware you stock the plants, or if you don’t now you will in the future. Most important of all make sure the plants you raise and sell are not protected by Plant Breeders Rights.

Other stuff we’ve been up to in April.

We’ve changed the layout of the bottom plot this year to make way for the new outbuilding which has meant we’ve had to shift the cutting bed and the compost heaps. Also created a dedicated work area adjacent to the polytunnel as it felt more central to nursery.

I’ve also been top dressing my borders and beds with a good mulch of compost. My neighbour swears by it and every year she buys eight bags of conditioner and adds it to the surface of the soil. She doesn’t dig it in but instead let’s the worms drag it down over the course of the year.  You’d never believe her garden was on chalk as the soil has turned into this gorgeous friable soil AND growing very nice rhododendrons. On chalk yes!

The Acer’s are waking up and putting on some good growth now.


I bought these as small 10 inch plants on EBay in early 2013  for £6 each and just a year they are starting to look like great little plants.

Just as soon as any sign of frost has passed they can moved from the polytunnel to sheltered position outside.

Also spotted our old friend the Goldfinch on the feeders this week.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

A welcome visitor to the garden.

Really busy time now for us with all that’s going on in the garden but will try and post again soon.

As always please feel free to drop us a comment with any questions.

Best wishes

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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10 Pictures To Restore Your Faith In The English Weather

We’ve had a lot of emails around the subject of plant breeders rights and if it’s possible to start your own little plant nursery without running into problems.

A brief explanation of Plant Breeders Rights or PBR
PBR is essentially a pay to grow scheme, which originated with a number of wheat breeders back in the 50’s. Much like today the originators of the scheme wanted to protect their investment in producing new varieties.

More recently in June 1997 the Labour Minister of State for Agriculture introduced a new Plant Varieties Act to MP’s which essentially strengthened the position of the breeders and introduced many more varieties of plants under the protection of the scheme.

The problem was and still is today proving the breeder owns the rights to the plant. Among the objections raised is if a plant came from the original variety potentially over a 100 years ago by definition any ‘right’ to propagate that plant can’t be proved, can it?

Either way PBR is here to stay (for the moment anyway) and we small growers need a plan if we’re to pursue our passion for growing and selling plants.

Is it still possible for small growers to propagate plants for a profit?
PBR is difficult territory to say the least but I think there is a way forward.

A large proportion of the modern cultivars are covered under PBR, so probably best to steer clear of those if you’re propagating your own for sale. Check the label and look for the PBR logo and the PBR registration id. If they’re not on the label then you’re going to have to do a little more research. The CPVO web site is as good a place to start as any.

I think the safest route is to seek out plants that are not covered by copyright, patent or plant breeders right and start building a collection from there.

There are so many wonderful old varieties out there that people love to grow and more than enough for the small plant growers to kick start a little plant nursery business.

If you really want to grow and sell the modern cultivars then you can always try and track down the owner of the registration and negotiate a license fee, or perhaps work out terms around legitimately taking cuttings for resale. All I would say is I’ve tried it and it’s not easy!

Where do TRG stand on this subject?

I’m pretty clear on where I stand with regards to PBR. I don’t preoccupy myself with it as I don’t believe the people who buy my plants really care where the plants come from, they’re more interested in what they look like, if they have a scent and will they grow in my soil!

I appreciate PBR is there to protect the plant breeders investment, but I don’t like the idea of the small growers like you and me being deterred from making a few extra pounds to support our hobby. If the big growers want to grow and sell PBR protected plants then that’s ok … I just not going to raise them (knowingly) myself. There is too much fun to had elsewhere.

That’s fine but I’m worried out being made to look like a criminal? 

I know of no one that has been fined for selling PBR protected plants … at least not the small growers like you and me. PBR remains a grey area and peppered with inconsistencies, but it’s here and here to stay so my advice? If you’re unsure about a plant’s origin then don’t put it up for sale, other than perhaps from a table at your local charity event or bring and buy sale.

Will PBR put TRG off selling plants in the future?

PBR will not put me off pursuing my passion. My advice to anyone else worried about PBR is, don’t get distracted by it too much or you’ll never get started!

Seek out those plants that are not protected (at least for now) and grow as many of them as you can so we can keep them out there for us all to enjoy.

We sell traditional old cultivars in our back garden nursery, which is fine as there are hundreds of varieties to choose from most of which are real beauties! We’re also looking at becoming a registered reseller for certain varieties, but it’s early days and selling the unprotected cultivars is our preferred route for now. We also include a little logo on our plant labels which we hope will come to represent plants that are free of PBR in the future and provide others like us with plants they can confidently start growing for their own stock.

As we seek out more varieties we’ll share them with our readers and periodically publish a list of known PBR exempt plants which we hope might prove useful to other like minded souls.

If you’d like to know more about PBR protected plants there are some excellent posts out there. – The proprietor has much to share around PBR. – Interesting read. – particulary we’ll prepared post.

Don’t forget the clocks go forward this weekend!

Happy days.

Best wishes,


John And Tania The Rural Gardeners



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We’ve been working towards building our own little back garden nursery business for the last 2-3 years. Nothing too ambitious … a micro nursery with attitude I call it. 🙂

I’m confident I have a good grasp of the propagation side of the business and have been sharing my experiences  through the blog and on our YouTube channel.

This year I’m looking to up my game and see how best to use the space I have available. I’ve already started to collect some ideas together and have to say I’m getting very excited about the whole idea.

It’s our major project for this year and it won’t be long before the growing season kicks off in earnest, so I need to kick things along a bit if I’m to make the most of the Spring season!

Plans For The New Plant Nursery

I’ve put together a rough plan to share and would welcome your comments as I’m really not very good at this kind of thing.

You’ll see from the plan I’ve included a newly built covered area which will double up as a potting shed, as well as a general store. It will also offer shelter from the April showers and provide a nice space for pottering about or maybe running a couple of courses in the summer.

Also I need to make sure there is an electric point for a kettle. After all you can’t garden without a steady supply  of tea!

John is planning to install solar power with mains back up for days when the sun stays away. I’ll be interested to see exactly how much power we’ll be able to generate.

We’ve split the plot into different areas or spaces, each serving a specific function. Over time I’m hoping the plants will spill out onto the paths and soften the edges creating a more natural feel to the space which is the general effect we’re after.

A. The Cut Flower Garden.

Approximately 40ft long by 8ft wide dedicated to growing a range of gorgeous English cut flowers.  I’ve always been a lover of cut flowers and this year I’m planning on growing  more than ever. I might even try and sell a few bunches at the village shop.

(If you’d like to know more about growing cut flowers I’ve put up a few blog posts that might help you to get started)

B. The Sales Area.

This will be for showing off the plants and will be arranged in such a way that customers can wander freely and really get a feel for the range of plants we sell.

I guess what I’m looking for is an environment where visitors feel comfortable and leave thinking they can’t wait to come back again.

C. Workshop & Potting Shed.

Basically a shed that will provide shelter from the rain and shade in the height of the summer.  We’ll use it as a store and build a potting shed in one side. The design will be based on a traditional wood frame structure. (John is planning to put up some plans when his workload will allow)

D. Propagation Center.

I’m going to create a dedicated propagation area. It’s easier to manage and I won’t end up with cuttings here there and everywhere.

I tend to get better results if the cutting boxes are positioned in a shady spot, which is why we chose this particular part of the garden. There is a Victoria plum tree immediately adjacent to the propagation area which casts  dappled shade in the summer months which will help to keep the cuttings from drying out.  Should be perfect.

If you’d like to know more about growing your own plants from cuttings there’s lots of advice on the internet. If you’d like know how we got started head on over to the Rural Gardeners You Tube channel where you’ll find a series of short videos John recorded last summer explaining about how easy it is to get started propagating your own plants from cuttings.

F. Rainwater Collection

Really important to have good rainwater collection, especially if you’re on a water meter.  Every penny helps as they say.

I plan to have a series of barrels on a plinth with taps about half way up the barrel. Saves bending down so much.

Next steps?

Well, as soon as the weather improves in March we’ll get started but can’t do too much until all this rain passes and the ground starts to dry out, or we’ll simply make a terrible mess everywhere.

Be sure to check in on our You Tube channel as we plan to share our experiences with everyone. Also feel fr)ee to drop your email details here and well keep you right up to date. I promise you’ll not miss a second of the action!

Thanks for reading and as always any questions fire them over and we’ll endeavor to answer them.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

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First we’d like to wish everyone a very happy new year! It feels like it’s going to be a great year and I dream of when the days start to stretch out and Spring delivers those first rays of warm sunshine.We received literally hundreds of emails in 2013 from those of you that want to learn more about how we manage our little patch of the Hampshire countryside and for that we are most grateful. It makes it all worthwhile!

It seems  there are a lot of you out there that also want to ease the pressure on their family life and find a more sustainable lifestyle … for a whole bunch of reasons. Well, my goal in 2014 is to help you achieve that change in lifestyle by sharing as much our knowledge and experience as we can through the pages of the blog.

It’s usually about this time I post plans for the new year and I must say we’re both really excited about the projects we have planned in 2014.

My son Tom (electrician) is starting his own electrical services business this year, which is a brave move in these challenging times. We wish him well with his new enterprise.

I do like to Plan!

Not sure about you but I like to put some thoughts together on paper right about this time.  Apart from making me more organised the results give me something to look forward too and something other than the ironing to focus on during these short days and long nights.

Everyone plans in different ways. I like my plans to be rich and visual, as well as informative. I include a few pictures alongside each project to remind me of what all the effort is about. I find pictures also help me to focus, to be motivated on the outcome.

More Ebooks planned for 2014!

After the success of our first Ebook “An Introduction To Frugal Gardening’ I thought it might be nice to share some more stuff so will be releasing an update to Frugal Gardening along with a new idea centred around reducing spend and increasing income. It’s as a result of a couple of things we experienced earlier this year which led to an unexpected windfall.

I’ve already started typing up the first draft so should be ready to share fairly soon.

Cut flower garden.


Two years ago I planted a cut flower garden which was absolutely beautiful. I planned to do the same in 2013 but didn’t get my act together in time and so missed out. 😦

So this year the cut flower garden will be back, even bigger and more lush than before … at least that’s the plan. 🙂

 New Building projects planned for 2014

workshopWe have access to our plot at Blackbirds via a delightful country lane which we’ve been planning to do something with pretty much since we arrived.

Although we constructed a fence and gate soon after we moved in we always wanted to make more of it.  Original plan was to build a barn, come food store, come office, come weekend hideaway … But it never really came together due to other commitments.

John and I have agreed it’s key to our plans and really needs to happen the year, so looks like it’s going to really happen this time.

We plan to start in early April and will be a timber building and entirely self build. If you’re interested in timber frame building we will be posting progress reports on the blog, so if you I recommend subscribing to the blog and subscribing to the RG You Tube Channel.

Whilst we’re on the subject of timber buildings … when we blogged details of our home built workshop and wood store we received several emails requesting dimensional plans. As with many of our projects the design and construction is in John’s head … but he’s promised to draft something and post some measured drawings early in the new year.

‘Blackbirds Tiny Plant Nursery’


Our modest little plant nursery continues to grow and we will be posting progress updates throughout the year. Phase 1 was all about learning and getting the plant production side of the venture up and running.  Phase two is going to be all about creating a professional looking space and generally getting more organised on the selling side.

We’ll post progress updates throughout they year and will definitely be posting more videos on the You Tube channel.

A Brand New Kitchen Salad Garden

If you’ve ever wondered how to build your own raised beds or perhaps you are new to vegetable gardening and stumbled across our little blog, then there is some good news!

One of the projects we have planned is a brand new salad garden. It will be located outside the kitchen which will be really convenient for the BBQ season.  John will be in charge of construction and I will be selecting the varieties and growing some gorgeous produce.

We plan to grow all manner of salad veg from the good old standards through to some of the more exotic varieties. I can’t wait to get started!

Weekend courses at Blackbirds?

I wanted to canvas opinion on an idea we’ve been discussing for this year.

Gauging the reaction we’ve had from our readers we’re  thinking of offering a couple of weekend courses over the summer.  We’re thinking practical courses in gardening, basic timber frame construction, plant propagation, that kind of thing.

General idea is to share our experiences and pass on the skills and knowledge we’ve acquired along the way. I know when we started on our lifestyle change I could have done with a little help and guidance along the way.

What do you think? … Would it be something anyone would be interested in?

The weather is gorgeous down here pretty much from late May through to the end of August.   Should be fun!

Well that’s a brief taster of what’s to come this year and I’m sure you’ll agree there is much to get excited about.

We’d love to know what you have planned for 2014.

Back soon.


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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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