Growing your own plants from semi ripe cuttings couldn’t be more satisfying and rewarding. And invaluable in Covid’s cash-strapped times.

And yet another pernicious plant disease also means that garden centres may not always have the plants you want. This year, growers have been strongly urged not to import lavender, rosemary and olives, species that could be affected by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa first identified in Italian olive trees.

In April, Gerard Clover, from the John Innes Centre in Norwich said: ‘There is very little propagation of lavender and rosemary in the UK.’ Although growers may be able to import stock, Clover has now added: ‘We urge growers and gardeners to only buy high risk plants [such as rosemary and olive] that have been grown in the UK and avoid sourcing them from Europe.’

The disease is thought to affect 560 species in 72 families, so growing your own may be the only option and this episode shows the importance of supporting Scottish nurseries propagating from local material.

If your greenhouse is overflowing like mine, cuttings come to the rescue. A few little pots of cuttings takes up much less space than all those large planters with tender salvias and pelargoniums needing overwinter protection. I also like to take out an insurance policy for dianthus, lavender and rosemary that could succumb to age or winter ice. If I lived in a lower, more sheltered place than here where I could grow ceanothus I would also now take cuttings from it.

I like to take semi ripe cuttings over the next few weeks, immediately after flowering and while there’s still time for the young plant to put on growth.

Firstly prepare the pot, I use an 8cm one. Cuttings need very free draining compost, so I mix 50% general purpose or good home compost: 50%% coarse grit or sharp sand.

Take cuttings early in the day when stems are fully hydrated after the night and before losing moisture through evaporation. Select from this year’s growth, obviously selecting straight, healthy undamaged material. Use sharp, clean secateurs to cut 10-12cm firm stems with a growing tip, snipping just below a leaf node. Carefully remove the lower leaves, keeping 3 or 4 at the top.

Reducing the number of leaves helps turn a cutting into a plant. The stem and leaves continue to photosynthesise and transpire: they absorb energy from the sun, roots receive moisture from the soil and pump it up to leaves where it evaporates. It’s much easier and less stressful for tiny forming roots to supply very few leaves.

Then either pot up the cuttings immediately or place in a plastic bag containing a sheet of damp paper. Wrap the cuttings in the paper and place the bag in the shade to keep cool and moist. In hot weather you may need to store in a fridge.

When putting in the cuttings, you can first dip the tips in hormone rooting powder but only do this if you’ve been finding it hard to get cuttings from an individual species started. I have always found this unnecessary.

Using a pencil, make holes 5-8cm deep: the more leaf nodes in the soil, the more places for roots to start growing. Each cutting should be 5-6cm apart round then perimeter. Water well and let drain thoroughly.

Keep cuttings in a cool place away from direct sunlight and heat. At the moment, I have them on the ground in the greenhouse, but a bright, frost-free shed or cold frame would do nicely.

Cuttings should usually strike within a few weeks, though some may take much longer. Once growing away, they can be potted on and hardened off in spring.

Plant of the week

French Bean ‘Purple Cascade’ bears prolific bunches of bright purple pods that are easy to see when picking. Keep the purple colour when cooked better than some varieties.