It’s the ‘polythene-bag period’ of the gardening year

Propagation in a plastic bag.
Propagation in a plastic bag.

We’re entering the time of year I regard as the polythene-bag period.

This is because there are so many opportunities for propagation in the garden and this is the best way to keep plant material fresh for a short time.

A quick look around the border brings this home, with fuchsias, penstemon and erysimum, at the front of the queue to offer soft stem cuttings. Armed with a roll of freezer bags, pen and labels, visit the host plants in turn, removing non-flowering tips or side shoots of approximately 10cms in length. Best time to do this is early in the morning before the sun is up and stems are fully charged with moisture. If they are limp to handle, submerge them in water for an hour.

No heat is required to root these stem cuttings but if you have a propagating frame with a soil-warming cable it will certainly speed up the process. The simplest rooting medium option is gritty sand. This can be bought by the bag at a garden centre and other outlets. It matters not that this has no food value because soon after rooting, the young plants are transferred to containers with first potting compost.

The other special receptacle in my gardening life that you won’t see features fortnightly on Lionheart Radio, which broadcasts live on 107.3 FM or online at

It holds a number of plant surprises which are revealed when co-presenter Carl Stiansen asks ‘What’s in the bag, Tom?’. Listen up for it tomorrow afternoon if you can spare the time!