Paul Nickerson

Archive for the ‘Propagation’ Category

Post-Harvest Update: Messiah College Aquaponics

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

This is a quick overview of the system after we harvested the Thai Basil. The plants have begun growing new shoots and leaves. Cuttings that were placed in the rafted sump tank have rooted and will be ready to put in the gutter system. The cilantro is also doing great!

Drying Thai Basil

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 8, 2012 at 1:00 am

We recently harvested the Thai Basil from the system and are working on drying it in order to use it in the future. The flowers and leaves were spread out on large pieces of cardboard in front of the wood-stove. Hope-fully this method won’t take too long!

Harvesting Thai Basil: Messiah College Aquaponics

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on November 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm

So today we finally got around to harvesting the Thai basil from the gutter system. The plants had become very large and produced a very large crop. We harvested not only the leaves, but also the flowers. The stems will most likely be used for the production of Basil Jelly. We are planning to dry most of the crop for storage and future use; you can only use so much Thai Basil at once. The bases of each plant remain in the system and will sprout new branches and leaves shortly. Check it out!

Wicking Water and Saving Seedlings

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on September 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Last summer we had a number of problems planting lettuce seedlings in the system due to the fact that the root systems were underdeveloped upon transition, and the circulating fan tended to dry out the seedlings at the far end of the gutters.

Learning from our mistakes we decided it was necessary to attach a wick to the rock-wool in order to aid in supplying water to root systems of the seedlings. After running through ideas such as string, cotton thread, etc., we settled on small sections of paper towels, as they effectively wick water, yet dissolve away as the plant continues to develop. This method was used on the first planting of basil, and drastically increased the percentage of plants that took to the system successfully. We recently planted the second half of the system with basil using the same method.

Cultivating Ginger: Zingiber officinale

In Gardening, Potting, Propagation on March 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Plant Credit to Kristen Listor

There are a few of us out there who seem to believe that if it can grow, it should grow. I was walking through the grocery store with a friend of mine when we started talking about cultivation of ginger. She remembered a talk she once heard about how simple it is to propagate ginger from its root. Needless to say, we bought some.

As we were not sure exactly how to go about propagating the root, we figured we would try a couple different methods. The best method was also the easiest. We buried the root just a couple inches deep in pots filled with moist potting mix. The pots were placed in warm locations, and kept lightly moist. After a couple of weeks, we started to see shoots arising from the rhizomes.

ImageHarvesting the ginger is easy. As needed, simply brush back the soil from the rhizome and cut a piece away. The plant will continue to grow healthily.

Aquaponics Compared to Potting Medias

In Aquaponics, Gardening, Propagation on March 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Whenever there are more than one research projects going on in the same space, competition arises. Currently, along side my aquaponic system, a friend of mine is working on a study comparing the development of tomato plants in different medias. The study compares: 3-B potting mix, Worm Castings, Compost.

The tomato plants in the study were planted the same time as those in the aquaponic system. Furthermore, they are the from the same seeds. As you can see in the pictures, whatever the fish are putting in the water seems to be working! The aquaponic tomatoes are about twice as tall as those in soil, and are currently all in flower. Hoping for a good harvest!

Desert Rose: Prune and Propagation

In Potting, Propagation on January 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I recently did some drastic pruning on my Desert Rose (A. Obesum). I bought the plant a while back as a rescue from a local nursery and have let it grow with little training until now. The plant developed a very prominent, Y, “slingshot” formation. The goal if this hard prune was to develop a better shape of the overall plants, while using the cuttings as propagation stock.

Being advised by a number of bonsai fanatics, I lopped off one of the branches, and truncated the other. I am hoping to use a Dremel to soften the hard edges that resulted from the prune.

The lengths of stock were cut into three-inch sections, each containing a couple nodes. They were potted in a well draining soil and are kept moist. A. Obesum is a relatively easy plant to root from cuttings.

Just for the sake of it, I tried a method typically used with ficus to develop a more developed caudex. Some of the segments I cut length-wise twice, creating a cross that could be opened up when potted. This should create a more flanged caudex. We’ll see how it goes!

Large Jade and Cactus Flowering!

In Gardening, Propagation on January 11, 2012 at 12:55 am

Just a picture of one of the jade and one of the tall cacti (an ID would be helpful anyone?). I snapped these on my ipod. Sorry for the bad quality, I just really wanted to share theis! One of the large jade is flowering all over. The cactus has two large buds on it.

Garlic: Fall Planting

In Gardening, Propagation on December 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

If you haven’t planted your garlic yet, there is still time. Garlic is a member of the Liliaceae (Lily) family, along with onions and leeks. Because of this, garlic is grown in a similar manner to onions. While many people like to plant their garlic on the winter solstice (Dec. 22nd), it is not an exact science. A fall planting of garlic should be in the ground shortly after the first, hard frost.¬†Due to the warm weather this winter, there is still ample time get a planting in.


Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow in your home garden. A bulb can be purchased from any local seed supply store this time of year. The bulb is separated into individual cloves. The cloves should be planted in well draining soil so that the top of the cloves are about an inch below ground level. After the bulbs winter over, they will sprout in the spring.


Garlic will be ready toward the end of the growing season, once the scape and spathe begin to die back. Some of our shareholders at the Community Garden receiving the entire scape to use in soups. Depending on the soil, the garlic plant can usually be pulled up by the bulb neck.


Garlic can be prepared and stored in a number of ways. Some people prefer to braid or bundle the stalks of their garlic together to allow them to be dried and stored in a group. In the garden, I prefer to hang the garlic out to dry the stalk and bulb slightly. The bulbs can be cut from the stalk, leaving about an inch of the bulb neck. It is best to store garlic away from sunlight, in an area with good air circulation. Storing garlic in a refrigerator for extended periods of time can lead to softening or mold.

Christmas Cactus Confusion

In Propagation on December 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Each year as we approach Christmas, stores line their shelves with beautiful leaf cacti with attractive fluorescent blooms. With these plants comes a lot of discussion on blogs and forums about the differences between the Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera sp., Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, and Easter Cactus, Rhipsalidopsis sp..

All three of these cacti are all native epiphytes to tropical forests in Brazil. As epiphytes, they are found attached to the sides of trees or other plants. This is not to say that they are parasitic, as they do not obtain nutrients from their host. Through hybridization, cultivators have alters these plants to bloom in a wide range of colors.

These cacti have received the name “leaf cacti” due to their modified stems that very much resemble leaves. The Christmas Cactus has ‘stem margins’ that have slightly lobed protrusions, while the Thanksgiving Cactus has very define points along the edges of the stem segments. The Easter Cacti have very smooth stem segments that are almost perfect ovals.

Although Christmas Cactus, and Thanksgiving Cactus, are both members of the Schlumbergera genus, while Easter Cacti as member of the Rhipsalidopsis genus, they are very similar plants.


All of these plants bloom in response cool temperatures and short days. I have heard a number of different stories about people whose plants fail to bloom well. This is commonly due to the fact that they treat these plants with the same care as other houseplants. In order for these plants to bloom, they must be exposed to cool temperatures (10-20 degrees Celsius) for a short while, while also being exposed only natural light during the short-day period.

To accomplish this, it is best to place the plant next to a window in a room that is not commonly used after dark. This will allow for the appropriate temperature change and lighting. During the winter period, watering is not necessary until blooms begin to appear. Once buds show, water the plant sparingly. Commercial growers will force blooming by creating an artificial spring inside greenhouses. This same process if used to bloom mums for Mother’s Day.


All three of these species propagate very easily with the same method: Stem Propagation. Segments from the stem can be buried just below the surface of the medium. With slight moisture, they will root fairly rapidly. It is common for leaf cacti to put out adventitious roots from nodes, making them incredible easy propagate.

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