Garden Propagation Tips: Stooling and Tilling

What do you know about the propagation technique called stooling? I visited a garden recently, and the owner said that she only uses this method.

This is a simple layering method of propagation. The established parent plant is cut down to the ground, and resulting growths from the stub (stool) are covered with soil no more than one-half their total height. It is repeated after further growth, being careful to work the soil amongst the shoots and thus excluding all light from the base of the shoots. The soil ends up being 6 to 8 inches above the base of the shoots.

At the end of the growing season (plants are dormant), the soil is removed, and all the shoots are cut or broken away from the stool.

These new rooted shoots form new plants. The stools are left exposed until a further crop of shoots arise, and the whole “earthing process” is repeated as in the previous year.

Stools have been known to remain productive for 20 years or more.

Is it possible to rototill my vegetable garden too much or to often?

Tilling the garden performs a number of necessary functions. It mixes manures, fertilizers, com post and clippings into garden soil. And, it temporarily loosens the soil and helps control weeds that compete with crops for moisture and nutrients.

Frequent tilling, though, may do more harm than good. Soil loosened by cultivation usually returns to its original condition after one or two irrigation. Continued tilling tends to destroy the structural qualities of a soil and may eventually leave you with a soil that is better suited to making bricks than producing crops.

Till garden soil only when it will accomplish some useful purpose, such as turning under organic matter, controlling weeds, breaking crusted soil for water penetration, or loosening up a small amount of soil for planting seeds.