Playing with Propagation
The Feck Off bug spray is one of our most sought after products. Every year we run out and people always say, "why don't you just make more." I wish it was that easy, because believe me, we would make more in a heart beat. One year we attempted to get a head of the game, creating a big batch from our fall harvest, and we sold out of stock in December! People really covet this stuff.
We go through a multi-step, labor intensive process to create this popular concoction. If you are interested in reading how we make this spray, hop on over here and check out my blog post on it. We make about a gallon every season and we would love to quadruple that one day. The only problem we have is getting enough herb to distill.
The prized plant in our Feck Off spray is rose geranium. I generally just buy "starts," or small plants ready for planting, from a local Amish nursery. Well, two years ago I could not find the plants anywhere and I started to panic. We did not have enough spray to get us through July that year. I decided that we were going to grow our own plants from seed just to ensure availability. I could NOT find the seeds anywhere. I consulted Farmer Katie, an amazing wealth of knowledge that I used to work with, and she informed me that rose geranium plants are hard to start from seed so they are usually propagated.
I had never learned how to propagate plants before, so of course I immediately started googling. After reading a few different websites I was convinced that it was a pretty straightforward, easy process....that was until I went down the rabbit hole. And I am not sure if I have fully returned from that journey yet.
In a nutshell, I learned that plant propagation was a way to create new plants using the parent plant. There are two types of propagation; sexual, which involves creating reproduction through the union of two parent plants to create a third "child" plant. I have seen herbalists take a paint brush to obtain the pollen from the male plant and dust the female's floral parts to create seed production. As fun as this might sound, I am not well versed in this method and it seemed pretty involved. Maybe something to try another time, but for now I opted to try the other technique; the asexual approach.
Once you start learning about asexual propagation, you quickly find out about a few options. The main ones are cuttings, layering, division and grafting. I decided to try my hand at what seemed like the simplest approach, cutting. In September, right before we were chopping down our rose geranium plants for distillation, I attempted natural selection. I picked out 6 of the healthiest, thickest branches off of our largest plants. I took an exacto knife and carefully sliced the branch off right where it meets the stem. I immediately dunked this freshly severed shoot in some rooting hormone and promptly planted it in some soiled filled pots. I misted them with water and gave them a home in front of our sliding glass door to ensure adequate light all winter long.
I continued to water them for the past six months and I am sad to announce that 5 of them did not grow. They never made it past this phase, they died without becoming more than just a solo branch in the pot. BUT one not only survived, it thrived! Yes, Jake (I name some of my plants....makes it easier to have conversations with them) has made it through the winter and is almost two feet tall now. I am not sure why Jake was the only one to make it....maybe I cut him just right? Maybe he had just enough rooting hormone on his fresh wound? Maybe he was in the warmest location?
Last week a thought occurred to me....could I make cuttings from Jake? He is certainly strong and has many branches, but is he old enough to be able to handle producing more plants? In the name of experimentation I am going to give it a try. I have grow lights and heat mats already running since we are growing seedlings for the rest of garden. I am going to try to chose some branches that will encourage Jake to branch out, possibly make him become more bushy while also giving me viable cuttings to attempt to make him some children.
Stay tuned on our journey by signing up for our Honey Bee newsletter. Join our community by entering your email at the bottom of our home page and I will pop into your inbox every Monday at noon and share a little bit about what we are up to. At some point I will catch you up on Jake's progress. Hopefully we will have lots of rose geranium plants to put in the garden this year. And you know what means, more Feck Off!!!!
I know a lot of people try to get our spray before it is even made, but we have to save our stock for our seasonal boxes. The only way to make sure that you get your hands on this aromatic spray is to purchase a Summer Box. If there are any bottles leftover once we ship our summer boxes out in June, we will be selling this spray a la carte online and at our in-person markets. Let's hope Jake pulls through and we get a huge crop this year!!