The fourth item needed to start a plant propagation business is rooting media for your cuttings.
As I mentioned in part 3, sand can be used to root softwood cuttings. Common everyday sand. The best thing about using sand is the fact that it is usually readily available and inexpensive.
What kind of sand can be used to root cuttings?
Before deciding to use sand to root your cuttings you should check to be sure you can get the correct type and enough of a quantity to fill your misting bed. River sand, beach sand, and other fine sand that packs tight is not the correct type. These types of sand will not allow fast enough drainage of water and will cause the stems of the cuttings to rot. You need to locate builders sand, concrete sand, coarse sand, sharp sand, or whatever else it may be called in your geographical location. This type of sand will usually have small stones and pebbles which aids in the sands ability to drain quickly.
So what happens if you cannot locate the correct type of sand? Two things. You can try to mix your own by adding pebbles and small stones to your sand, or you can use an alternative.
Using a mixture of peat and perlite as a rooting media for softwood cuttings.
In the event that you cannot locate the correct type or quantity of sand, a mixture of peat and perlite can be used. A good starting mixture is 50% peat/50% perlite. The mixture is by volume, not weight. To get the correct ratio, fill a 5 gallon bucket of peat, dump it into a larger container, fill the 5 gallon bucket with perlite and dump it into the larger container. This gives you a correct 50/50 ratio per volume.
Rooting directly in the misting bed:
Yes, you can root your cuttings directly in the sand that is in the misting bed. I started out that way myself. However, I quickly found that it is best to use rooting flats. The flats can be moved out of the mist when the cuttings develop roots. If you root directly in the sand, you must dig up the cuttings to move them. When first starting out, rooting flats are not a necessity, but are a big time saver.
Is a misting bed and misting system really needed?
Not when first starting out, but to be able to root hundreds or thousands of cuttings at a time, then yes.