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  • Writer's pictureJanice Gill

Get More for Your Gardening Buck

Roots on a cutting from a tomato plant.
Tomato Plant Cutting, well rooted. Photo by Janice Gill

Buying plants for your garden can seem extraordinarily expensive, and you may wonder whether it's going to cost more to grow your own than to buy from the supermarket.

But there are a few tricks up a gardener's sleeve that can multiply the number of plants you get. And it doesn't mean waiting for years.

Taking Cuttings

This is one of the simplest and quickest methods of multiplying your stocks. All you need is a sharp knife, some hormone-rooting powder and a pot of compost. Sometimes you can even root in a jar of water.

Each plant has a particular method that works best, so you'll need to look that up on the internet or find it out in a book.

But here are a couple of examples.

  • Tomatoes - these plants send off side shoots which you don't want on the plant. Leave these till they are about three inches long, and cut them off the plant close to the main stem. Pop them in a small jar of water and put them on a windowsill. They'll spontaneously produce roots in a couple of weeks. These plants won't have time to produce the usual five trusses of tomatoes, so stop them out at three by nipping out the leading shoot.

  • Lavender - this herb is difficult to grow from seed but is much easier to propagate from cuttings. In summer, look for side shoots that don't have flowers on them. They should be green all the way to the main stem. Shoots about four inches long are ideal. Tear these away from the main stem with a little of the woody bit. These are called semi-ripe cuttings and will need hormone rooting compound to produce roots. Make half a dozen cuttings and insert them around the edge of your pot of compost. Water lightly and cover with a plastic bag using an elastic band to hold it to the pot and seal in moisture. After about four weeks, you can take the plastic bag off. Leave to grow for a couple more weeks before planting in individual pots.

Lavender with Bumble bee

Root Division

Herbaceous plants are often purchased with roots that fill the pots and which are often rootbound. The roots can be teased out, and the plant set out in the ground, but some plants can be divided at the roots to create two or three plants. Examples include many herbs, such as Chives and Marjoram, plus strawberries and Rhubarb.

Root division involves breaking plants apart into clumps. These clumps then have room to grow and spread when replanted. It may seem a little brutal at first, but the plants will flourish. When you separate plants in this way, you need to make sure each clump of roots has shoots attached.


Plants such as strawberries produce runners; a stem from the main plant grows outwards and has a tiny plant on the end. These plants can be harvested to produce new plants for placement elsewhere in your garden or plot.

Punnets of strawberries among rows of plants with straw covering soil
Strawberry harvesting

This is extremely easy to do. Put a pot of compost under the plant at the end of the runner and pin it down loosely with a hoop wire such as a staple. Keep the compost moist, and the baby plant will soon produce roots. Snip the connecting runner off after a month or so. and plant up your new plants next spring.

Share the Bounty

Once you have produced your extra plants, you could also swap with friends and neighbours to create variety in your plot. Once people know you are interested in growing your own, you'll soon find plenty of gardeners sharing when they have a glut.

There are plenty of resources to help you decide if your plants can be propagated. My favourites include Gardener's World and the Royal Horticultural Society for my garden here in the UK. Check some out for your part of the world and expand your collection for free.

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Jul 27, 2023

Great tips! I haven't tried any of those but Lia does put her carrot tops in water and when the roots start growing she plants them. I'll have to try this on our lavender.

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