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DIVIDE AND MULTIPLY

Many perennials grow fuller over time, especially when they are fed and nurtured according to their specific needs. However, while it is true that a few(peonies,Siberian iris and balloon flowers,for example) seem to go on for decades without much effort on the gardener’s part, many die out if left on their own for more than a few years. As a rule of thumb,figure that most of the plants that return each spring needs some sort of division or thinning after three to five years.

Dividing and moving perennials can be done in early spring or early fall. Let the plant tell you when to divide.When blossom production falls and the blooms are smaller than normal, it is time. Some perennials, like the spiderwort, yarrow and obedience plant, could stand a yearly division. Bee balm, chrysanthemums and evening primroses reach an overgrown state in two to three years. Others, such as daylilies,peonies and lamb’s ears may take five or more years before the need to divide.

It is best if you plan to divide plants to wait until after a good rain, or water the area a day or half-day ahead. Dig around the plant making sure you have kept the entire root system intact. Perennials that grow in big clumps such as daylilies can be divided by inserting two digging forks in the centre, back to back. Rock the handles of the forks until the roots separate. Dig up smaller plants like primroses by hand. If a plant doesn’t pull apart easily, take a knife and slice it into sections. Each division needs some root and one growing shoot. Use a pointed shovel to separate perennials with tight, thick clumps of roots like hostas.

Plants that grow from rhizomes, like bearded irises are best divided in the spring just as new growth emerges.

Many gardeners cut back the tops of new divisions so that the plant is at least one-half its original height. This allows the smaller root system to put out new growth without the burden of feeding top leaves.

Dividing perennials isn’t as difficult as it sounds. The most rewarding part is increasing the number of plants for the garden and sharing the favorite plants with friends and neighbours.

FROM THE ARCHIVES OF DOWN TO EARTH GARDEN COLUMIST MARGERY DYKEMAN WHO PASSED AWAY IN FEB. OF 2010.

AUNT MARGE WAS THE DAUGHTER OF FLETCHER AND BEULAH

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