School Gardens Teaching the Next Generation of Gardeners
The art of growing food to feed your own family, the ability to be self-sufficient in successfully providing nutritious meals for oneself and others, and the knowledge of growing these healthy foods is dying with our older generation. Gardening edible foods was once held at the highest esteem; it meant the difference between having food to eat and starvation. We were once independent producers of our family’s food. We grew and tended to plants, knowing, if treated correctly, they would produce food for our family and fodder for our animals. (Read more: Reclaiming Our Food Independence)
My husband and I, along with two dedicated teachers at a local elementary school in my corner of the woods, are teaching several students how to garden in an after-school garden club. We recently talked to them about making new plants through propagation using stem cuttings. My husband and I brought stock plants from our farm such as camelias, roses, English ivy, wisteria, rosemary, crape myrtle, house ivy, azalea, blackberry, euonymus, spirea and grapes for the students to use.
We taught them that taking a cutting involves removing a piece of a leaf, stem or root and placing it in a growing medium where it then develops the other parts that it left behind. For example, a stem will then grow roots. Stem cuttings have about a 50-percent success rate, so we have to make more stem cuttings than we need because not all of them will survive. We also explained why we propagate from stem cuttings; it is a simple and frugal way to get more plants.
We showed the students how to take a stem cutting by using clean scissors and making sure that each cutting measures 4 to 6 inches long and has at least four leaves. We explained that the cuts were made at a 45-degree angle and should generally be made just below a node, the point at which a leaf joins the stem and the point at which roots form most readily. After cutting, we showed the students how to remove the bottom leaves from the cutting, immediately dip into rooting stimulator and insert it in water or soil depending on each plants’ required growing medium.
We explained to the students how to care for their stem cuttings, explaining that the soil needs to remain moist and they will need to mist the plant leaves with water. We also discussed the necessity of monitoring the plants and checking for root growth, which could take a few weeks to a few months to develop. The students agreed to add more water to their containers if it dips below the original level and they also will make sure the potting mix in the pots remains moist.
The students enjoyed the stem-cutting activity. When their parents came to pick them up, they eagerly showed their parents what they learned. They even explained to younger brothers and sisters how to do it. I even heard one student tell his mom excitedly, “When we get home let’s make more plants! I know how to do it!”
To learn more self-reliant skills, please visit my website.
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