The pace of scientific discovery in the gardening field has been greatly accelerated in recent years. Gardening is being made less laborious and success more certain. State Agricultural Experiment stations and private research laboratories are constantly turning up new chemical achievements. Watch for reports made in garden magazines, newspaper garden columns, and in advertisements in these media.
The observant gardener will learn that plants may be fed by spraying a fertilizer solution on foliage; that root insects are controlled by mixing insecticides with fertilizer; that sprouting of stored root vegetables is prevented by spraying; and that plant growth can be inhibited by spraying without killing the plant. Trees, he will discover, can be transplanted at any time of the year by giving the foliage a protective spray, and drought worries eliminated by a chemical which holds moisture in the soil.
Plant propagation, in its commonest forms of seed sowing, root division and cuttings may not strike all children as particularly startling. But show the blase youngster some of the more unusual methods of propagation and you may arouse his interest.
There is something very appealing about little plants in miniature replicas of the mother plant appearing on the big leaves. Several plants reproduce in this fashion-kalanchoe, bryophyllum, some waterlilies, and the pick-a-back plant, to name a few.
Certain lilies, such as the tiger lily and Lilium henryi, sometimes produce little bulblets in the axils of their leaves. Stems of Madonna lilies layered in sand will form bulblets. Occasionally a daylily will have tiny, fully-formed clumps on its stems, ready to be plucked and planted. Hyacinths are sometimes increased by a peculiar process known as "notching," whereby a series of cuts across the base of the bulb become filled with minute new bulbs.
Some plants, such as forsythia, black raspberries and winter jasmine, will tip-root while still a part of the parent plant if a pendent branch tip touches the ground. Others form roots along branches pegged down in close contact with the soil.
Many shrubs and trees will produce roots on rather large branches high off the ground by a process known as air-layering. To instigate this a little bark is removed from the branch and the scraped area is dusted with a rooting hormone powder. This section is then covered with a wad of damp spaghnum moss and a plastic covering is tied on to keep the moss moist. Kits containing the needed materials can be purchased, which make this a simple undertaking. It is a profitable one, too, since larger plants may be acquired in this manner than by ordinary cuttings.
Other equally unconventional ways of reproduction are to be found in various garden books, with detailed instructions.