Monday, March 21, 2016

A living heirloom is better than a dead one

Does a family tree grow better in potting soil or perlite?

Am I mixing up my hobbies?

Or just combining them?

Wait, there's an "heirloom vegetable" pun to be made here somewhere!

My late grandfather's house is for sale, and with it, of course, the various improvements he made on the property as a life-long gardener. And since a living heirloom is better than a dead one, my mom and I recently made cuttings of his fig tree, in hopes of keeping its descendants in the family.

I'm not sure that anyone is positive about where Grandpa's fig tree came from, but the consensus seems to be that he probably got it from my grandmother's cousin Mike Rossano.

I spent weeks reading up on how to root fig trees from cuttings, and what I gathered was:

It's so easy, anyone can do it!

Everyone who's ever done it has used a unique method.

And everyone's method is the only method that works this well!

The house will be sold by the end of the month. These cuttings are my only chance to have a piece of this tree. I was terrified of committing to the wrong method and losing them forever. (I do not respond well when you threaten my heirlooms . . . of any variety.) My mom? Her cuttings are still in the damp paper towel she put them in over a month ago! She keeps meaning to do something with them . . . If only I could be that relaxed about heirloom plants.

I took four cuttings for myself. I live on a teeny tiny piece of property with no room for four fig trees, but I was leaving room for error.

I put one cutting in a plain jar of water. I had read that rooting cuttings in water leads to weaker, more delicate roots, but I figured I'd give it a try, as that's the only method of rooting cuttings that I'm familiar with.

I put two cuttings in pots of perlite.

I put one cutting in a 50-50 mixture of perlite and potting soil. This mostly because I ran out of potting soil and had to cut it with perlite.

Several weeks out:

I'm lucky enough to have an active toddler in the house to rip my cuttings ("BIG stick!") out of their pots every so often so I can check whether they have roots or not. The one in potting soil and one of the ones in perlite have been subject to this treatment. Neither one had roots yet when last we "checked," prior to moving them out of reach.

At least they still look alive. The other one in perlite, safely on the dining room table out of harm's way, looks positively dead, and may in fact be rotting from the bottom up. I'm days away from resigning it to the compost pile.

And the one in a plain old jar of water has nice little white buds under the water where roots should be forming, and - get this - green leaves showing up on top! But its roots seem to have stopped growing once the leaves appeared, so I need to troubleshoot before my only thriving fig gets too big to sustain itself.

heirloom plants, genealogy, family history, gardening, figs
Figs, Day 1
heirloom plants, genealogy, family history, gardening, figs
Figs, week 8ish

Do you keep any living heirlooms?