Air-layering-Teaching a Friend

I once shared my method of air-layering with a friend who had made many attempts at making a cutting and various other techniques with little or no results. I made my usual bags and set him up with everything he needed, went over the information again and reassured him about making the right cut.

Then, away he went. Imagine my surprise when he came running up my driveway a couple of weeks later. He had a beaming smile on his face and he was jumping up and down with what looked like a twig in his hand. “I did it”, he shouted. In his hand was a cutting of a lemon tree with my little bag at the bottom.

After some good old chit chat and what I considered too many high 5’s, I decided to take a closer look and calm the mood down a little. He had seen a single root and got so excited, he basically snapped it off the tree and drove over to show me it.

After cutting away nearly 80% of the leaves and branches to help the plant with the shock, I finally got it into a pot with a good homemade soil mix.  The poor thing looked like it had seen the wrong side of a Canadian winter and it was almost ready to star in the next post-apocalyptic movie nevertheless, I took him to his new home on the windowsill. I came to moisten the soil with rainwater that I had been collecting once every couple of days. For months it seemed, there was no life, no growth and no hope for the little fella.

One morning I decided to make a very tough decision and send what was basically a twig to compost heaven. I started to break the soil away, getting closer and closer to the base with no hope that it had survived. Just when I thought that all was lost I saw the tip of a single root. I rushed to the pond and rinsed off what was left of the soil. To my amazement, there were three good strong yellow roots about an inch long. I repotted what was left of this once-proud tree in a new pot and moved it into the shade for a couple of months.

The cutting eventually took root and started to show good growth so I took it back to my friend’s house and he couldn’t believe it was the same tree. He has since had a crop of fruit and taken two more cuttings from this tree. If there was one thing we learnt from this experience, it was to observe the roots and wait until they turn yellowish before you make the final cut.


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