Posted on  July 28th, 2012

Misting For Plant Propagation

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The discovery of misting was a huge turning point in plant propagation. Prior to misting, plant propagators had very few reliable ways of asexual propagation. One common method was to take a cutting of a plant, stick it in moist sand, and place a glass jar over it. The jar would let in light and retain moisture around the cutting. This method does work, but the success rate was not high. Plants would burn if too much sun penetrated the glass. The glass would concentrate and intensify the light ( think magnifying glass) which would burn tender cuttings. Another drawback was fungus. Fungus thrives in moist environments. Having the cuttings under glass with no air movement to help dry it off, usually meant the cutting would die from too much moisture. Frequent removal of the glass helped to replace the stale moist air with fresh air, but was very labor intensive with large numbers of cuttings.

Later, it was discovered that if the cuttings were misted frequently by hand throughout the day, greater success was achieved. Again, very labor intensive.

Misting systems allowed propagators to keep the cuttings moist, but not overly wet, and saved considerable time. Cuttings are usually placed out in the open or an open enclosure, not under a sealed enclosure, which allows the circulation of fresh air which the plants require for it’s respiration, cooling, drying, and watering requirements. Because of the automation, many more cuttings could be done at one time.

All mist kits have the same basic components.

A timer to turn the system on and off daily.

A timer to control the misting duration and frequency.

A transformer to reduce the voltage to the voltage the solenoid requires. Please note that transformers and solenoids are AC voltage and others are DC voltage! Voltage for the solenoid and transformer

MUST be the same!

A solenoid valve that controls the flow of the water to the mist heads.

A reliable water supply.

A reliable electrical supply.

A manifold to carry the water to the misting heads

mist heads to spray a fine mist over the cuttings

A simple misting setup would be assembled as follows: A 24 hour timer set up to turn the system on in the morning, and off in the evening. This timer can be hard wired to an electrical circuit, or a simple plug can be installed to facilitate the systems remove for the winter. The 24 hour timer is wired to another timer that controls the duration and frequency if misting. This frequency varies from geographical location and season, but a 10 minute frequency with a 6 second duration is a good place to start. This in turn is wired to a step down transformer that reduces the voltage to what the solenoid requires. If in question, a competent electrician should be sought. The transformer is then wired to the solenoid. The solenoid will need fittings installed so a common garden hose can be attached. Proper installation of these fittings is essential for the solenoid to work properly. The solenoid is DIRECTIONAL, meaning there is an IN and an OUT. Next, the outlet of the solenoid is attached to a PVC manifold that will carry the water to the mist heads. The connection of these heads can be done a few ways depending on the application. Some are suspended from overhead, others are simply attached to a manifold on the ground and raised to allow the spray to cover the cuttings. One option I recommend for the system is a filter. Small particulates will clog the solenoid or render your mist heads inoperable. The cost of a filter is far less than the frustration from losing cuttings due to a plugged head.

Modern technology has given us even better equipment than the two separate timers mentioned. The transformer can also be eliminated due to the fact that it is built into the timing unit. One timer in particular will operate six completely separate stations. This means you could have six separate mist beds, six different irrigation zones, or a combination of the two; one mist zone and up to five irrigation zones. This comes in quite handy, if you have a mist bed and potted plants, grow beds, perennial gardens, or anything else you need watered.

For areas that do not have electricity readily available, there are also units that are strictly battery operated.

Dwayne Haskell owns and operates Hidden Hills Nursery [http://www.hiddenhillsnursery.com]. He also enjoys teaching others how to grow their own landscape plants from rooted cuttings. After building his own misting system for his nursery, he realized he could design and build a system for home gardeners who are interested in starting their own plants from cuttings. He offers complete misting kits, individual components, and advice at Mistkits.com.

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