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Juniper Workshop - Saturday March 9th (18 Feb 2019)

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Air Layering 1.

10 years 2 months ago - 10 years 2 months ago #16069 by Taffy
Aerial layering (air-layering or marcotting) is another way of propagating new material. It can be used for most types of trees and shrubs. There are many ways of doing Aerial Layering, and I’ll do a couple of posts to show a couple of them.

What I explain below is one of the ways I do air-layers. The material in the photos is a narrow leaf Ficus Benjamina.

To start with, select round about where you want your layer to be and if possible, find a node near that position. In the first photo you can see where I have removed a small branch - that is a very suitable place for the layer. The red arrows show nodes on the trunk. On other species, the nodes may not be visible, but if there is a branch where you wish to apply the layer, then that is an ideal spot. Aerial Layers can be applied where there aren’t any nodes and they will work, but in my experience I’ve found it appears to send out roots quicker from close to a node.



Next, with a very sharp knife (Stanley or similar) and just below the node, push the blade into the bark till you feel a lot of resistance. Don't saw at the bark; push the edge of the blade in. When you come up against that resistance, and keeping the pressure on the blade, cut right round the trunk to where you started. Do the same about 3 cm further down the trunk. You now have two rings round the trunk. Make one cut from the top ring to the bottom one and lever the bark off all the way round the branch. It may not come off all in one piece so keep peeling till it is all off.
It’s important to go as far as the heartwood - but no further! Ensure that there are no strands left between the two cuts. The exposed wood needs to be clean. Those strands would most likely be from the cambium layer and if left on, the ring-bark will heal over instead of sending out roots. The new roots will shoot from the top of the cut section, so put some rooting gel or powder all round this area. My preference is one of the gels because it is wet so doesn't draw any moisture from the cut.



Now you need a piece of clear plastic sheet. Cut it wide enough to extend way above and below the ring barked section and long enough to go round the area with plenty of room, then put it round and join it with some tape - gaffa or duct tape is fine. Make sure you have enough overlap to be able to seal the join completely.



Bring the bottom of the tube into the trunk and seal it against the trunk with duct tape
I put a bit of wire over the tape as well because I can twitch it up tight.



Now you need some sphagnum moss (available at the B store or nurseries). Sphagnum moss is completely sterile and inert - but don't try eating it – it’s reputed to be toxic so be a bit careful with it. Dip it into some water and gently squeeze out the excess but don't wring it out completely - the new roots soak some of it up. Put the moss in the plastic tube you've created and make sure it goes down below and up above your ring-bark and fill the tube with it. Then seal the top the same way you did the bottom. The whole thing needs to be as watertight as you can get it otherwise you will be continually un-wrapping it to add water to the moss - if the moss dries out, your air-layer could well die off.



Finally, wrap a piece of black plastic sheet round the whole thing and tie it in place with a nice little bow - that's so you can undo it easily to see how your layer is going. This step isn't mandatory - you can just leave the clear plastic as it is. I do it because my reasoning is that roots grow naturally underground in the dark so I try and replicate that by covering it with the black plastic. It will also ensure the layer is kept warm – a good idea in cooler climates.



That is now a completed Aerial Layer. All you have to do now is watch it and make sure it doesn't dry out. If you do need to add water because it is leaking somewhere it is better to use a syringe pushed through the clear plastic rather than undoing the layer. Undoing the layer runs the risk of breaking off any new roots that are forming - they are extremely brittle.
When you see the tube is full of new roots - they will be round and fresh as against the sphagnum moss which is flat and ragged - it is then time to remove the layer completely. Have your pot ready with some potting mix in the bottom. Take off the black plastic but leave the clear plastic alone, and if the branch is too thick for a branch cutter or secateurs use a pruning saw and cut just below the bottom wire. Take the wire off the top and the bottom and then remove the tape - be very careful how you handle it now because the roots are extremely fragile and delicate. Cut the clear plastic up the side and take it off. Now, without disturbing the roots or the moss, put the whole thing into your pot and fill with potting mix to above the moss level. At this stage the roots will be a tangled mess, but don't worry about that - they will be sorted out on the next re-pot and root prune. Some will stay tangled but others will venture out into the potting mix - those you will keep, the others will be removed. Dunk the pot into a bucket of water and leave it for an hour or so to completely soak the potting mix. Some Seasol or Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) added to the water can help to relieve the shock Let it drain then put it into a semi shady position for a couple of weeks to allow it to settle and help the new roots to develop and for the new tree to settle in. After about a month it can be put out in full sun.

This is a photo of a newly severed air-layer:



One of the advantages of air-layering is that if it is a mature tree that sets fruit that you are working on then the planted layer will fruit as well as opposed to using seed that might take up to five years or so to produce its first fruit.

Try an air-layer - but don't use your prize tree for the first couple of attempts (just in case).

As I said, this is one way I do air-layers, so I’ll do another couple of posts on other ways of doing them as well.

Regards,

Taffy

A seed is actually a tree packed ready for travel. (Bill Funk)

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The following user(s) said Thank You: Brenden Prazner, adam k, Jerry Meislik, Rod Lovett, aubrey preece, Anthony R

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10 years 2 months ago #16070 by Rod Lovett
Mate thanks for that, you have done a great job very informative. Valuable info when it comes with pics that support what you are saying. Well done look forward to to your next post.
Cheers Rod....

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10 years 2 months ago #16071 by Peter Woosley
Good work Taffy. It's certainly a method i have thought about but never really put into action. Might start to do a few now. Wonder how Cork Oak would go....:)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Shannon young

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10 years 2 months ago #16083 by Shannon young
Good one Taffy, I dont use air layering enough, have to invest some more time I think its well worth it.B)

.....BONSAI ON THE BRAIN.....

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10 years 2 months ago #16096 by Anthony W
Excellent post Taffy, explanation first class mate, like Shannon & Pete, will try this more, plenty trees to experiment on. Cheers mate.

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10 years 2 months ago #16100 by Taffy
You're welcome guys. I'm happy to do stuff like this if it's helpful to someone.

I do heaps of air-layering. it's a great way of propagating new trees - especially with rarer types. For example, I've just put five air-layers on a variegated Chinese Elm. It's in a black plastic 140 litre tub and stands about 2 1/2 metres tall. There are some very nice bends in some of the branches, but I particularly want the main lower trunk. So rather than just waste the branches by cutting them off, there should be five new trees coming along very shortly.

I did one of those layers slightly different. Instead of using Sphagnum Moss, I used Diatomite as an experiment. It's going to be interesting to see how it goes.

I'll definitely keep you posted on that one.

I've also got a good 4 inch thick Ficus Natalensis that I've already layered about 6 branches off because I want to get down to that main trunk. I've got two or three more air-layers to put on that one before I can get to it though. I might even separate the main trunk into two with a air-layer as well.

Regards,

Taffy

A seed is actually a tree packed ready for travel. (Bill Funk)

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10 years 2 months ago #16102 by Rod Lovett
Taff that should be an interesting experiment I will be curious to see what happens. Taff can I also congratulate you on the quality of your pics , they are very clear. Are you using a fancy new camera?
Rod

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10 years 2 months ago #16103 by Taffy
Thanks Rod.

Fancy new camera? No mate, it's just a 4 megapixel 3 x zoom Olympus that we got six years ago. I'd love a new one, but this one does just about everything we need it to, and it still works ok - so no need to spend out on a new one just yet.

Regards,

Taffy

A seed is actually a tree packed ready for travel. (Bill Funk)

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10 years 2 months ago #16104 by Rod Lovett
It takes great pics , they are very clear.
Rod...

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10 years 2 months ago - 10 years 2 months ago #16105 by Leong Kwong
Thanks muchly Taffy for a fantastic pictorial workshop on air layering. Guys this is from the horses mouth no excuse now if you want to do an air layering.

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