Thursday, 8 May 2014

Perennial Kale Cuttings

Perennial vegetables have loads of advantages to both the gardener and the planet. Where perennial crops are grown the soil can relax and get on with being great soil with abundant microlife, while ploughed soils for annual crops lose their vitality and are more prone to leaching and erosion. An area filled with perennial plants, which mimics nature, supports much more wildlife than an area that's replanted each year or each season. For the gardener, perennials save on labour and often need less care thanks to their extensive established root systems, and plants tend to suffer less from insect damage. Perennial food plants also get a head start on the new season and can help fill the 'hungry gap' around this time of year, after the winter crops have finished but before the summer ones are ready.

The perennial Daubenton's kale I bought from Backyard Larder last year did really well and was tasty and productive, putting out new shoots at every leaf node, but I neglected to give it the support it needed and it ended up a bit unruly and bent-over - and I had to move it to a pot early this spring to make way for a new raised bed.

Towards the end of the winter it put out loads of new shoots all up and down the main stem, and I saw the opportunity to propagate some new plants from it, to add to my new perennial patch on the allotment and perhaps to replace this original one if it didn't make a good recovery.

I'd never taken cuttings before and I couldn't really find any information on how to take brassica cuttings online, but in January I carefully cut a few shoots from the plant, poked holes in some soil in a deep tray, popped the cuttings in and firmed them down. I left them outside in the cold and made sure to keep them moist. They wilted a bit and some of the outer leaves died off, but then they perked up again and seemed sort of healthy.

When I lifted them after a few weeks, however, they still hadn't formed any roots. So I tucked them back into the soil and tried a second batch, using bigger shoots this time as I thought perhaps they'd have more energy. They looked even worse than the first lot had!

I stuck with both batches though, and after another month or so I noticed some looked different to the others; some looked blueish and dark, while others were a brighter green. I lifted them again and sure enough, the greener ones had lovely white healthy roots.

Another month on, all seven plants have now rooted and are potted up and doing well, albeit at different stages of development! Some of them took as little as four weeks and others took nearly four months, but it just goes to show that a little patience and care pays off. The most important thing is to keep the soil moist and the slugs away! The original plant is now propped up and doing well again but still stuck in a pot, waiting for a new home, and I'm looking forward to planting my new perennial kale plants out on the plot and giving the rest away at our allotment association plant swap this weekend!  :-)


Robert Brenchley said...

I find smaller cuttings root more easily than larger ones. I'm not sure why yours wilted so much, but I keep them in a moist atmosphere - easily done by putting a plastic bag over the pot if there's nothing else - and this will minimise wilting.

Nome said...

Ah, thanks Robert - I will try that next time :-)

Lee Burns said...

Great, and useful, read, thanks. I'd never even heard of perennial kale.

Anni Kelsey said...

I think it is likely that all kales can be propagated by taking cuttings. I have tried it with quite a few now and they all worked, the perennials and those more usually grown as annuals (which I find usually are able to keep going for year after year).

I think, as you found out, the key things are to keep them moist, away from slugs and to leave them as long as they need, it is very, very variable.

Azzari said...

Hi, read your comments and thought that's really interesting. I've just put some Rocket into a glass of water to see if it will develop roots. The reason I'm doing is that my rocket has been going for 12 months, is looking and is, tired so want to propagate for next spring which is about 2 months away (September Down Under). Has anyone else tried other crucifers beside Kale? It would be interesting to give brocolli a go.

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