How to use a Propagator to Grow From Seeds & Cuttings
In this guide we will discuss propagators and propagation which is something on every gardeners mind at this time of year.
Propagating your own plants can give you so many benefits in the garden, rather than sowing seeds direct and maybe losing them to insects or animals. You've got everything controlled in a nice environment to bring your little seedlings on, and then you can plant them out.
At Greenhouse Sensation we have a wide range of award-winning propagators made from recycled materials – including heated, electric or with lights, as well as some much needed propagation essentials to help you on your seed sowing journey.
What is propagation?
When we talk about propagation we are talking about the process of getting seeds to germinate. Seeds can fall into 2 separate categories. Firstly, those that are hardy, meaning they will germinate happily at the temperatures that are available at that specific time such as peas and broad beans. Secondly, seeds that are somewhat hardy such as tomatoes and basil seeds.
Tomatoes and chillies are the most common seeds gardeners look to propagate that require slightly more heat. In order to get tomatoes to germinate you really need to grow them in a temperature of 21 – 25°C so that they can germinate. Any lower temperature than this and they will fail to germinate and inevitably rot in the compost.
Sowing Your Seeds
If wanting to sow seeds in small pots or seed trays, fill your posts with multi-purpose compost. This type of compost should contain very little nutrients or food, as an abundance of these can be severe for seedlings.
Many gardeners tend to sow seeds in Jiffy Pellets which are individual coir sowing pots. They come flat packed, you just simply water them with lukewarm water to help them swell. As they swell you end up with a small coir pot which is completely sterile and perfect for sowing your seeds into.
Growing Plants in Unheated Propagators
You then have the option to transplant your seed pot into an unheated propagator which creates an enclosed environment as the temperature gets warmer inside in relation to what is outside and keeps your seedlings much more moist and humid. This is however, determined by the temperature of your surroundings.
The Unapod Unheated Propagator displays a classic propagator design with a plastic seed tray and plastic lid which provides more humidity and prevents drying out. You don’t have as much control over the temperature but these are an extremely cost effective method to propagating seeds, especially when starting out or for beginner gardeners.
Growing Plants in a Heated Propagators
For more serious gardeners a heated propagator is often the most logical step up when propagating your seeds. Similar in functionality to the unheated basic propagator with the additional feature of a heated base when plugged in to your mains.
Those seeds that gardeners most want to germinate that are popular crops to grow such tomatoes, chillies, aubergines or geraniums (if growing from cuttings) need warmer temperatures to grow. Chilli growers will be aware that optimum temperatures to grow chillies should be 25-28°C up to a month to get them to germinate successfully.
This is where heated propagators with built in thermostats such as the award-winning Vitopod Heated Propagator is an incredible option. The Vitopod is the Rolls-Royce of propagators and is amongst the best propagator money can buy. Don’t just take our word for it read the rave reviews from the Telegraph, The Times, BBC Gardner’s World and more.
Not only are they spacious but they are built with adjustable vents which allows you to determine the amount of moisture that is kept in the propagator so it doesn’t get too wet.
The lids are designed in a way that if they get too wet, moisture is funneled to the corners down into the base, rather than dropping on your precious seedlings.
You can also purchase multiple layers to the Vitopod Heated Propagator so that you can accommodate larger plants – just like having a mini-greenhouse but without the cost or maintenance of one!
Additionally, all our heated propagators come with the option to add propagation lights which allow you to keep growing throughout the darker months. That way your seedlings get the energy source they require to get going before being transplanted outdoors or into a greenhouse.
The Vitopod is a gardener’s dream, especially amongst chilli growers looking to grow hot varieties as you have a perfectly controlled environment within the propagator.
All of our heated propagators come with a built in digital thermostat with a temperature sensor which allows you to program that exact temperature you want your propagator to be at. This means your temperature will not go above or below the set mark, rather it will keep it constant which is the trick to really successful germination of tomatoes, chillies, aubergines or geraniums.
Growing Plants from Cuttings in a Propagator
Another hugely popular method of propagating amongst gardeners is from taking plant cuttings. This method of plant cuttings whether you are talking about softwood, hardwood is all the same. You can use this method on a wide variety of plants and the success rate is remarkable.
You will need to tweak a few things based on the stage of growth and the size of the plant. It works perfectly for Fuchsia, Chrysanthemum, Geranium, Hydrangea, Begonia, Dahlia, Pelargonium, Honeysuckle & other plants you want to grow from cuttings.
The Hydropod Mist Cuttings Propagator costs a penny a day to run with incredible results. The propagator itself contains a water pump that sits underneath a tray that has 6 little sprayers which creates a moist atmosphere underneath at the roots surface and dry at the top of the plant. This promotes the roots to start growing. After 2-3 weeks your cuttings will then be big enough to pot on!
Check out our step-by-step guide to taking cuttings in a Hydropod in the video below.
When to pot on your plants?
After you raise you plants in your propagator you will then have to decide when they are ready to be potted on into the ground or in a planter.
It often depends on what plant you are growing. Its important to make a good judgement when you think they are ready, you will often easily be able to tell by gut instinct.
Don’t be afraid of potting on your plants when they are too small. If your ground is ready or the conditions are correct outside and maybe you are running out of propagation space these are often good indicators they are ready. Small plants often adapt better in the ground.
If your plants get really big or slightly outgrow your propagator such as cabbage plants, your plants may go pale which is a sign your compost is running out of nutrients. In this case you can feed them with Nutrigrow Plant Food which provides all the nutrients your plan will need for healthy growth.
If you want to grow your plants bigger still you can add more layers to your Vitopod Heated Propagator to accommodate these taller plants or to plant them directly in the ground or a self-watering planter before they get too big.
Protecting your plants
Once your plants complete the hard part of getting established and avoiding pest damage from such things as slugs through preventative pest control measures.
A plant protection fleece helps keep your compost warm even on colder days, as it traps solar radiation and turns it into warmth for your plants. This is a very efficient way of getting your seedlings going.
Looking for some more advice about propagation?
If you need any more hints or tips, we've got loads more information you might find useful.
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