You’d think that winter would be a season of rest for us backyard growers. However, winter is just the beginning for hundreds of thousands of tiny plants to get their start for the following fall or second spring nursery sales season.

Winter turns backyard growers into stick farmers. There are so many landscape trees, shrubs and perennials that get their branches pruned way back just to be turned into cuttings for the purpose of providing new plants for the following year.

Cuttings become exact clones of their mother plant. That row of arborvitae are most likely children of the same plant. Same for the apple trees in the orchard and the blueberry bushes at the pick-your-own farm. Certain desirable traits can be cloned on and on.

Cuttings are not always taken during the winter. In fact, most cuttings are taken during the spring and summer. These softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings require special conditions including timed misting of the top growth.



SW, SHW and HW cuttings

Winter cuttings are know as hardwood cuttings or HWCs. The new growth from the previous spring has gone through being softwood, SW to semi-hardwood, SHW at the end of summer to hardwood, HW as the plant enters winter dormancy.

For backyard growers, winter season allows much more time for planting sticks without all the distractions of summer. Gone are the daily waterings and constant weeding. There is much less chance of rot, disease or mold.

Winter gives me the time to reflect on the past year. There were failures and many more successes. There were surprises. You just never know what your customers will buy. The biggest surprise of last year was the interest in grapevines.

Grapevines from HWCs

Taking that cue, this winter I’m sticking more than double the grape cuttings of last year. That means there will be more of the vines that ran out plus more cultivars than were offered.

Our area has seen a sharp increase in vineyards. Coastal areas offer perfect microclimates for ideal vineyard growth. Many of these vineyards host tours of their farms. Customers get inspired to use their land for more than a place to run their lawnmower. Besides, many remember their grandparents making wine, juice and jelly from the backyard arbor.

Grape cuttings are done in a large scale as hardwood cuttings. The mother vines are pruned yearly from December through February to maintain good production of fruit. Pruning produces a good crop of cuttings.

Not all plants can be propagated from hardwood cuttings. However, there are so many that can to make the winter a most productive time for backyard growers.


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