Indoor Propagation Bench

This is the story of my propagation table I built in my garage in order to root cuttings of plants such as Virginia Sweetspire, Winterberry Holly, Willows, and many other species. I started this project in the summer of 2013, and as of this writing in November (I think!) it’s finally complete. I made plenty of mistakes and learned a lot along the way, so I thought it would be a good thing to write about.

The physical structure of the table is made up on 2 simple parts- cinderblocks and wood. Originally I stacked cinderblocks and placed plywood on top to hold the propagation media. I found cheap fence slats on sale at Lowe’s to use as the sides.

My first try at the propagation bench-the sand and plywood were epic fails

I quickly found out that the plywood did not work. Originally I wanted to use sand (bad idea) as my propagation media since it was cheaper than perlite. It ended up being way too heavy and clogged the drainage holes I had drilled in the plywood. It turned into a soggy wet mess and my cuttings rotted. Whoops.

I realized perlite was definitely the proper media for my cuttings. It allows for a coarser root system to grow and is a lighter media with plenty of air circulation and drains easily. I also adjusted the bottom of the table. Gone was the plywood and in was 1 x 2 lumber with chicken wire and permeable weed fabric to allow for proper drainage. The perlite went on top of this base. Water drains fine now and everything appears to be working properly.

Chicken wire base with lumber supports-weed fabric goes on top, followed by the perlite propagation media

Speaking of water, I’ve found that intermittent mist is probably the most important part of this system in order to properly propagate plants. Here is how my misting system works. Water comes in from outside and goes to a large valve that is normally closed and stops the water. When my timer goes off (every 10 minutes for 10 seconds) the valve opens and water flows into the misters, misting my plants.

The timer!

The valve!

After experimenting with a few different (rather expensive) misting systems, I became fed up and tried something unorthodox. I ordered a few Misty Mate misting systems that are normally used on patios to cool off people on a hot day. I was pleasantly surprised that they worked amazingly! They provide the right amount of mist and it didn’t break my budget. I was thrilled. Now, every 10 minutes, my cuttings get misted in a perlite media and they are on their way to great roots!

An early picture of the misters. IGNORE the black misters, they did not function for me. The PVC piping originally was used for water but now I use it for support for the white Misty Mate misters. You can see I zip-tied the Misty Mate to the PVC.

The Misty Mate system- I used 3, 20 ft hoses

Full view of propagation benches- the sand and overhead polytent are now gone, but I wanted to post this picture to show the overall size- 12 feet long