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Plant propagation refers to sowing seeds, taking cuttings from existing plants, and dividing roots. This section features products associated with seed germination and includes heated propagators for starting seeds indoors in early Spring as well as seed trays, compost and other plant propagation accessories. Propagating seeds in seed trays results in a more efficient vegetable garden as plants are protected from pests in their early stages of growth.

Plant Propagation

A good propagator is designed to create the ideal conditions for seedling propagating and can be used throughout the year to have plants ready to go into the ground when outside conditions are favourable. Electric propagators provide bottom heat which heats the soil or compost to the required temperature and encourages seeds to germinate quicker. Heat is especially important early in early Spring when temperatures outdoors or in an unheated greenhouse are too low for seeds to germinate. Using an indoor propagator allows you to get a head start on the season by having 4-6 week old seedlings ready to plant out when any risk of frost has passed.

Propagating cucumber plantsElectric Propagators with thermostat control
Propagators can be simple clear plastic covers which trap heat from the sun just like a greenhouse, typically they will be placed inside a greenhouse or polytunnel which creates a double glazing effect. These basic propagators work well on days with sufficient light but in early Spring when you need your propagator most they will not provide sufficient heat for most seeds to germinate. Spring nighttime temperatures are also often below freezing which is too low for young vegetable seedlings to survive.

Electric propagators provide bottom heat using an electric element which heats the compost rather than the air inside the propagator, this is because seed germination is governed by soil or compost temperature rather than air temp. The advantage of a thermostat is the propagator is only active when the compost temperature falls below your set levels; this means you can choose the optimum germination temperature for your chosen seed while also saving energy. Remember on a sunny early Spring day the temperature in a tunnel can be above that required for germination so using power to create extra heat is not required.

Modular seedling trays on propagation heat benchA thermostatically controlled propagator also serves as frost protection device as temperatures inside the unit will never fall below freezing. If you are using a simple heat mat or soil warming cable a layer of horticultural fleece laid over seedlings in cold weather is more than sufficient to keep heat in and avoids running expensive greenhouse or polytunnel heaters. We grow commercial scale seedlings in out tunnels using this method with great success.

We stock a range of propagators and thermostats to suit your needs including the 'best propagator in the World', the 'Vitopod' heated propagator. The 'Vitopod' is a semi professional unit which combines unparalleled heat control with a modular stackable system to suit tall growing plants. We also stock the West German made 'Biogreen' range of heat mats, cables and propagators which have been leaders in the professional horticulture industry for many years. Please feel free to contact us using the details at the top of the page if you need advice on which is the best and most cost effective product to suit your needs. We have particular expertise in using and installing heated propagators, building heat benches and using roll out propagation heat mats and are always happy to help.

Propagating Seeds
For propagating seeds use a seed compost as it has a lower nutrient content than regular or multi-purpose composts. Too high a nutrient content can inhibit germination. Seeds can be sown in seed trays or pots, but a modular seed tray with individual cells is best as root disturbance and damage will not be an issue when planting out.

The compost should be kept moist but not wet, more watering will be needed as shoots emerge. This "under-watering" method makes the plant grow more roots out in search of moisture, strengthening them in the long run. A garden fleece should be used to cover your seed trays or pots at night if they are not in a heated propagator.

Taking Cuttings
Taking cuttings is the probably easiest way to propagate. They can be taken from an existing plant's leaf or stem. A stem cutting is taken, the leaves are removed and it is placed in a good seedling compost in a pot or container until roots have developed. A leaf cutting is propagated in the same way, it is cut carefully from a plant and planted in compost until roots develop. Choose a strong and healthy plant to take cuttings from as new plants grown in this way will take on the characteristics of it's parent plant. This is one advantage cuttings have over seeds which can be a bit unpredictable. Like seed propagation, cuttings require warm and moist conditions and adequate ventilation. The pot or container should be covered at first with a clear plastic cover.

Propagating rhubarb by dividig rootsDividing Roots
Dividing roots is, exactly as it sounds, dividing the roots of an existing plant to create a few new plants. It is achieved by digging up an existing plant over the winter or early in spring when it is dormant  and dividing it's roots to create two or more new plants. This method requires a bit of patience as established roots can be difficult to separate without damaging them. This is the way to go with plants that don't root easily, they don't require much light until shoots start to break the surface.

After Propagating
Most vegetables will grow better if started off indoors, plant out after about 4 to 6 weeks so they don't have to deal with any harsher conditions too early in their development. Plants should be hardened off before planting out, this is a process of introducing seedlings to the elements gradually. This can be done by leaving them outside for incrementally longer periods or by having them in the ground under a cloche and removing the cloche for longer periods each day.

Our Propagation shop contains a range of specially selected propagating products for the vegetable gardener. We have a large selection of electric and non electric seed propagators, Seed trays and pots, seed and seedling composts, plant labels, delicate waterers and much more.