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Growing Stuff  Articles:   1. Growing on the Cheap
4. Buy Plugs

So far we’ve been dealing with creating plants from plants   At the opposite end of the spectrum is buying plants in pots from the Garden Centre.  Between these two extremes is sending away for plug plants.

Make sure you notice what you’re sending for; there are mini-plugs which obviously are the smallest of the plugs, normally about 4-6cm tall, and these tend to become available mid-March, in trays of about 100. They need a lot more nurturing and potting on than bigger plugs but of course they are cheaper.

Then there are standard plugs, 6-8cm tall available mid-April and a lot easier to grow on, probably 40-60 in a tray. Having said that I’ve had some which were wonderful and others that struggled and never seemed to do very well. Probably my fault somewhere down the line!

Large or garden-ready plugs are probably what you tend to buy at the garden centre in trays of 20-30 plants

Right, that should be enough to be going on with

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1. Growing on the Cheap!

If you are an amateur, how do you go about turning a dowdy patch into colourful life – without great expense. So how do you grow things without spending a lot of money?
1. Collect Seeds

Autumn is probably the best time of the year to go collecting seeds. Having said that, earlier in the year is fine for those plants that go to seed, such as say Aquilegias in late May or early June.

It does mean you’re going to have to keep your eyes open in the gardens of friends and neighbours and be a bit bold in asking for seed heads. An obvious one in early Autumn is to collect seed heads from African Violets, which are still in good bloom but also needing dead heading because they are starting to go to seed. Collect the seed, put them in an envelope and keep them cool and dry until next year. Sweet Pea seed pods (see right) are also easy to collect for next year,
Tomatoes are almost impossible not to grow. Let them go over, pick them, cut them open, let them dry out and collect the seeds from them. There are your next year’s harvest!

If you really want to be cheeky, find a gardener, get talking and ask them if they grow plants from seeds. If they say yes, and they are someone you know well, ask them if they have any seeds left after sowing, could you have their left-overs.
2. Divide Plants

Now if you haven’t grown much in the past you may not have realised that one of the problems that avid gardeners have is plants which grow and spread until they have no more room left. Now, remember this is plants on the cheap but it may cost you your pride is asking others for cast offs. If you know avid gardeners, ask them if they are dividing their perennials either in Autumn or Spring, and have they got any stuff they are about to throw away. I am afraid I am suggesting a whole new way of life here, but why not.
3. Take cuttings.

What you don’t want.
You don’t want to think about taking cutting from Annuals, because they die off at the end of the season and carry on next year by dropping their seeds (which I’ve encouraged you to collect!)

What you do want
The plants you want to take cutting from are the perennials in your (or your neighbour’s) garden, which grow year after year, but if you want them to spread faster, you need to take cuttings (assuming you don’t want to go out and buy them). They tend to be shrubby type of plants with more woody stems. The tender ones you really need to put inside out of the reach of frost but others shrug off the frost most of the time. Easy plants for this are likely to be fuchsias and the softer stemmed pelargoniums or geraniums, and you also try Hebes or Lavenders.
Soft stemmed Begonia cuttings in a a jar of water  waiting for roots to grow
This is what you do with your fuchsias
If you’ve never done it before it’s quite simple:
1. Choose healthy shoots about 10cm long, without flowers if possible.
2. Remove the cutting just above a leaf on the stem of the parent plant.
3. Remove the bottom leaves of the cutting, and cut the stem just below the ‘node’ where the leaves had been.
4. Fill a small flower pot with seed sand cuttings compost (if you’ve got it) , slightly press it down and insert your cutting around the edge of the pot. Keep the compost just moist.
5. Put a see-through plastic food bag over the top of the pot, held by an elastic band to create a mini-greenhouse.
6. Place on a light window sill indoors and after about six weeks check they have rooted.
7. Give each rooted cutting its own pot of multi-purpose compost and keep moist indoors for the rest of the Winter
.. and with Geraniums...  
As above but remove leaves from the bottom half of the cutting and to improve success rates dip a moist end of the cutting into hormone powder, tap off excess powder and then insert them in the compost.
Do NOT put plastic over them and keep the moisture on the drier side.