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Learning to Make Plants for Free

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Plants for free was the theme of our latest in-service training day, held at the Leicester Botanical Gardens on Saturday.  Garden Organic’s Sally Cunningham, a fount of knowledge on plants and gardening, led our volunteers through a whistle-stop tour of propagation techniques to enable them to create new plants from old throughout the year.  The tone for the day was set when Sally managed to diagnose a diseased sample of quince leaves brought in by one of the volunteers without even seeing it.   Jane only had to say ‘What’s wrong with my quince’, for the quick-fire answer, ‘quince blight’ to emerge from under the table, as Sally unpacked her papers for the day.  Apparently it’s the commonest problem with quinces and pears at this time of year.

20180609_142046After the informal plant clinic we went on to take softwood cuttings of African perennial kale and to learn about ripe, semi-ripe and hard-wood cuttings.   We found out that although placing geranium stems in water produces masses of roots, they are of the wrong type and so do badly once transferred to the airier environment of compost; far better to just stick them direct into a pot of compost and trim the larger leaves away to reduce water loss while they are establishing.
We learned how to sharpen and clean our pruning knives and secateurs and the essential hygiene needed to prevent the transfer of disease between plants on your tools.  Sally’s top tip: carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you in an old sock and use the sock to rub the sanitizer well into the blades and the nooks and crannies of your tools.


20180609_123732 copyAfter a buffet lunch with a Heritage Seed Library lettuce and sorrel salad, decorated with chive flowers, followed by gooseberry sauce cake, we had the extra treat of a walk around the gardens with Sally, taking samples of various plants for a practical session on taking cuttings.  Please note that we had permission from the staff at the gardens for this.  Please do not take cuttings from plants that don’t belong to you without asking for permission.  The best time to take cuttings is not when the owner is not looking, but when the plant is ripe and healthy and the owner is feeling generous!
We finished the day with another tour of the gardens, looking at interesting specimens and different plant families, and particularly enjoyed the background music provided by the Wigston Brass Band.  They were still playing after all our volunteers had gone home and so Coordinator Alison enjoyed a brief rest in the sunshine with tea, cake and music.  What a wonderful venue for a day that fulfilled its brief of being both a learning experience and a reward for all the effort our volunteers put in to supporting food growing in Leicestershire.

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