Nursery (7m 23s)

Quote: The fact that you lack the fruit is not proof you don’t lack the seeds.

  –Israelmore Ayivor, Leaders Watchworld

The principles of the nursery chapter is to save seeds and propagate plants.

Up to now, we’ve been in preparation to grow. We’ve been talking about how to shift the earth to catch rain, establish water systems, build healthy soil… we’ve been talking about the how. Now, we’ll address the what – what kind of plants do we want to or can we grow on our site?

What is a nursery?

Okay, a nursery is a structure designed to propagate and care for young plants, protect seedlings from weather, save and store seeds and prepare fertilizers.

Nursery demonstrates how nature appreciates in time. When you plant a seed, it gains value, everyday.

What is a greenhouse?

A greenhouse provides a controlled environment to grow plants in cold climates. It’s good to build a nursery or greenhouse near a compost pile and a water tap for easy access to the essential growing elements. In cold climates, you can also put a compost pile, or even keep small animals like chickens or rabbits, inside your nursery to retain heat in cold months. Check out Growing Under Glass for a good reference on some finer points on building a greenhouse.

Potting Soil, how-to make potting soil

Okay, so we have a place to put our seeds. Now you need potting soil. Potting soil is useful for making cuttings in bags and sowing seeds in seed trays. To make potting soil:

  • First, dry sand and compost in the sun and use a screen to sift out fine particles,
  • Next, mix equal parts of sifted compost, sifted sand and other chopped mulch material like coconut fiber, sawdust, chopped straw or woodchips
  • Don’t use clay in potting mix. Clay prevents drainage and you want good drainage. Also, if you’re planting smaller seeds like lettuce, use more sand in the mix so the tiny seeds don’t slip through to the bottom.

Selecting seeds and plants

When deciding what plants to grow at your site. Here are a few places to start:

  • First, walk around your site. What is already growing on your site? These plants have the highest likelihood of survival.
  • Next, visit a local nursery, seed bank or agricultural university and ask someone what grows well in your area.
  • You can also buy seeds online. Here are a few websites to help you get started:,,,,,
  • Just to note: When buying seeds online or anywhere else, look for the words “heirloom” or “organic”… to make sure they are natural, organic seeds.

Plant propagation

Plant propagation is a method used to rapidly multiply plants. There are two general kinds of plant propagation: sexual and asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction is when you plant seeds and asexual reproduction is when you reproduce mature plants.

  • Sowing seeds – Sexual

The advantages of planting by seed is that you can grow many plants quickly and less chance of transferring disease from seed to seed than plant to plant.

Although the drawbacks of planting seeds is that it takes a long time to mature, not true to the type – when you plant seeds, you’re planting the offspring of a plant. Whereas when you propagate, you’re actually taking a clone of the plant.

When sowing seeds, sow seeds 2-3x deeper than the widest part of the seed.

There is also a moon calendar which you can download, it will tell you which plants are best to be planted during the position of the moon. So you either be plants, flowers or leaves or fruits or roots.

Plant propagation

Propagating plants produce exact replicates or a clone of the original plant. It’s good to propagate plants that are difficult to grow from seed because they reach maturity faster. There are four methods to propagate plants: Cutting, division, layering and grafting.

Okay, cuttings. Here are a few types of plants that can be propagated using cuttings:

  • Root (guava, breadfruit, comfrey)
  • Leaves (succulents, Brazilian spinach)
  • Soft-tip (softwood, pinto peanut)
  • Brown/green branches (hardwoods, lucaena, mulberry, taro)

To do this, first find a branch between the size of a pencil and your finger. Cut it on an angle, just below the node – the place where a new stem grows. Leave 1-2 leaves when you cut the branch. Cut the branch at least 15cm long, or cut a longer branch and make additional cuttings from that. Paint the tip with honey to stimulate growing. Replant in moist compost immediately.


Here are several types of plants that propagate via division.

  • Runners (grass, mint, strawberry) – Pull apart and plant
  • Suckers (called succulents, banana, aloe vera or cactus) – Pull and plant
  • Bulbs/korum (garlic, onion, tulips, taro) – Pull apart and plant whole
  • Rhizome/tuber (ginger, turmeric, galangal, potato) – Plant directly

To propagate using division:

  1. First, dig up the plant up, when flowers have faded,
  2. Shake the soil from the roots,
  3. Break the plant into several pieces at the The important thing is to make sure each divided piece has shoots and roots on it.
  4. Then replant and water immediately in good soil.


There are two types of layering: Air layering and ground layering. To air layer a plant:

  • First, find a branch about the size of your finger you want to air layer
  • On the branch, locate the internode, the space between nodes
  • Slice the outer layer of bark about 5cm wide, then peel the bark away
  • Wrap the exposed wood with a plastic bag filled with moist compost, coconut husks and clay. Then wrap the plastic in aluminum foil to keep light out.
  • Tie both ends of the bag well
  • Let this grow for 8-10 weeks or when roots poke through the foil
  • Cut the new branch just below roots, replant immediately

Ground layering

Ground layering blasts roots into the soil from drooping branches. This type of layering can be done on most plants with low-growing branches. Here’s a brief list of plants that can be ground layered: Climbing roses, forsythia, rhododendron, honeysuckle, boxwood, azalea, and wax myrtle.

To ground layer a plant:

  • Bend a low growing, flexible stem to the ground. Cover part of it with soil, leave the remaining 15-30cm of branch above the soil,
  • Then bend the tip into a vertical position and stake into place. This bend will often induce rooting.

Here are many other ways to layer plants


Grafting is another way to propagate plants. So for grafting you have two parts – the stock and the scion. The scion is the branch being grafted and the stock is the tree you are grafting to. Put them together, tie it up. Boom, two plants are now one.

Seed saving

Okay, now let’s talk about saving seeds. Seed saving helps develop seeds that are well adapted to a particular environment. Following are four basic steps to saving seeds:

  • Choose seeds to save

First, saving seeds from the healthiest plants year after year enables you to select traits that are most suitable for their growing conditions. Plants can be divided into two types of pollinators: self-pollinated and wind/insect pollinated. Here are a few types of self-pollinating and wind-pollinating plants.

  • Self-pollinating plants: Tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce, peas and broccoli. These are easiest to save seed from because they rarely cross-pollinate.
  • Wind or insect-pollinating plants: Cucumbers, melons, corn, pumpkins, gourds, and squash. These plants readily cross-pollinate.
  • Collecting seeds

When collecting seeds you want to allow the seed to reach full maturity before picking from the plant. Once ripe, pick and dry the seed. Seeds contained in a pod or husk should be left to dry on the plant.

  • Cleaning seeds

There are two methods for cleaning seeds, depending on the type of plants: wet- and dry-processing. To clean wet processed seeds:

  • Cut open fruits and scrape out seeds. Place seeds, pulp and juice from the fruits in a bowl with a cockroach or other dead insect. The insect helps the seeds to ferment for a few days. This eliminates seed-borne diseases that can affect the next generation of plants.
  • Place seeds in a large bowl or bucket. Rinse.
  • Add water and stir mixture. Good seeds will sink to the bottom, while poor quality seeds are more likely to float.
  • Pour the seeds into a strainer and wash under running water.
  • Dry the cleaned seeds by spreading them as thinly as possible on a flat, dry surface such as a glass, wood or screen.
  • Shuffle the seeds a few times a day as they dry.

To clean dry-processed seeds:

  • Separate seeds from husk, flower head or pod.
  • Place seeds on screens with a wire gauge small enough to prevent seeds from passing through. Coffee filters allow for excellent air circulation.
  • Leave in the sun to dry. Make sure seeds are protected from wind and the elements. Source:
  • Storing seeds

Once seeds have been cleaned and dried, place them into an airtight container. Leave in a cool, dark place. Make sure to label all seeds.

So as far as our site designs go for this chapter, what plants are already growing? What plants do you want to grow? Consider the location and design of your nursery. You want it to have access to water, and be in close proximity to your garden.

This concludes the nursery chapter, thanks for your time.