2018, October 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to transplant?

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For similar reasons to why it is a good time to plant plants in the fall, it can also be a good time to transplant them. (See the post from Sept 27th for why.) With transplanting, however, the plants aren’t neatly in pots, dying to be planted,  they are already growing in your garden, so you have to give a little more thought as to whether it’s a good idea to disturb them or not.

A decent rule of thumb is to transplant/divide spring blooming plants in the fall, and fall blooming plants in the spring. When a plant is blooming, it has just expended a lot of its energy to make those flowers, and will expend even more in the near future to set seed, so it doesn’t have a lot of spare energy to rebuild itself in a new place. So if you really wish that your Asters were in a different place, make note of it, and do both of you a favor and move them in the spring. But if your Lady’s Mantle has outgrown its space, by all means, cut it up and move it around.

Dividing perennials is an involved subject in itself. Tools needed can range from a simple trowel to an axe or a saw (I’m not kidding!) And it’s always preferable to do a quick Google search on the particular plant that you are about to divide, in case it has any peculiarities. (Baptisia, and other plants with tap roots, for example, do not like being transplanted or divided much at all, so it’s best to know that going in.) But in general, when you divide something, you need to make sure that you have a decent amount of both root and shoot (stems) on each piece that you plan on putting back in the soil. That ensures that there are enough food gathering parts (the leaves) and water gathering parts (the roots) to help get the plant established.

 

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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is an ephemeral, which means that it blooms in the spring but then goes completely dormant in the summer, dying down below the ground. This needs to be divided after flowering, or you’ll never find it again. I recommend putting in some sort of marker once you have transplanted it so you don’t dig it up again by mistake.
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Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is the plant with the chartreuse flowers in this picture. This plant flowers in June and can be divided easily in the fall. The Geraniums in the picture (the magenta and purplish-blue ones) can also be divided in fall.
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This is one of the tall Sedums – ‘Neon’, maybe? Sedums flower in the fall so would be something to transplant and divide in the Spring. They take to division really well, although I’d recommend a nice sharp horticultural knife or spade to help you along, unless you have very strong hands!
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Japanese Anemones don’t really like being divided much, and don’t really need it more than once every 10 years or so. When you do, do it in the early spring, when the first leaves start to emerge, so that the plant can have a good long time to recover.

 

As with any new introduction to the ground, an important thing is to water, water, water! As plants go into winter, they need a good store of moisture in their cells to help them survive. Transplanting and dividing on a rainy day is a great start.

So if you’re in a “tidying up” frame of mind, and want to move some things around, the next week or so is a great time to do it for certain plants. (It’s no coincidence that I send these blog entries out just before the weekend… 🙂  )

2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

A good time to plant

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I get asked a lot if fall is too late to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials, and the answer is a resounding “No”. In the fall, they are starting to get ready to retire for the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the strength to establish themselves- quite the contrary. In the fall, perennials, trees, and shrubs don’t have to spend their energy on making leaves and flowers and attracting pollinators, so what energy they have can be used for root growth and getting settled in their new place.

Some caveats apply – if the summer has been very dry, and the plants seem stressed in their pots because they haven’t gotten enough water, you might want to pass them by and find others that have been better cared for. You don’t want to start with a stressed plant.

Also, if it’s a dry fall, and there is water rationing, it’s better to wait until spring when hopefully more water will be available. Just like any other time that you are planting, the new plants need to be well watered for several weeks in order to do well.

In New England, it’s best to stop by Halloween. But until then, as long as there is enough water, you can have great success with new plants. And sometimes they are on sale, because nurseries are often looking to get rid of stock so they don’t have to overwinter it. Win-win!

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to order bulbs!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s that time already, but it is, in fact,  time to think about ordering bulbs so that they can be delivered at the best planting time. At this time of the season, when the garden is still pretty full, it’s hard to think about where to put them, or why you would even want them, really. But try to remember that feeling that you had in March, of wanting spring to come, and how nice it is to see the first snowdrop, or have daffodils outside your front door, or to see a drift of Grape Hyacinths at the edge of your walkway or patio, and consider adding to the display. It’s a gift to your future self.

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As for where to plant them, that’s a little trickier, when the garden is full. So here are a few tips:

-Plant some near the front door, or the garage if that’s your main entrance, or where they can be seen from a window that you look out often. It’s often too cold or rainy or muddy in the spring to explore the out-of-the-way parts of the garden, so they will be wasted if you put them there. Put them where you can enjoy them.

-Don’t plant bulbs where you usually have piles of snow from the plow or underneath the roof where snow is likely to pile up. Those places will melt last and the bulbs may never get a chance to do their thing. (I know this from experience!) Likewise, don’t plant them in a shady, north facing place – same problem.

-Think about planting them next to your fall blooming plants. That way, the spring bulbs will have come and gone before the fall plants start to get going, and they won’t compete for space.

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In a month or so I’ll write about how to plant your bulbs, but in the mean time, check out your local garden center and see what they have to offer, or try some of the mail order sources below. One word of advice – when it comes to bulbs, bigger is better, and it’s worth spending a little extra money for a bigger bulb of the type that you are looking at. Those have greater food reserves and will produce a more robust plant.

Have fun!

White Flower Farm

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Last time to fertilize roses

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As I wrote about in April (See blog post from April 12), roses really appreciate a monthly dose of fertilizer from April through September. Well, here we are, in September, and it’s time to give them their final feeding before allowing them to start getting ready for the winter. This means letting any new growth that was encouraged by this latest meal to grow and harden off before the cold weather comes. if you fertilize too late, then the new foliage will get killed by frost and you will have wasted all that effort.

I will re-attach the drawing of where to fertilize, so that you don’t have to look back for it. Hopefully it will have become old hat if you have been feeding your roses monthly, but if not, it’s not too late and they will appreciate their last supper for awhile. I hope that you have had an excellent rose season!

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2018, Plant-of-the-month, September 2018

Plant of the month: Japanese Anemones

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Japanese Anemones, or Windflowers, are invaluable plants in the late summer garden. Not only do they suddenly appear when other things are looking tired, but they seem to fill a void without seeming to take up a whole lot of space. They can be described as “see-through” plants, meaning that the bulk of their leaves are near the bottom of the plant, while the flowers rise on tall stalks, creating a light and airy look.

Japanese Anemones grow to be 36-48 inches tall although they don’t seem as big, and have really interesting round buds which compliment the flowers. They prefer part shade but will be ok in full sun, and come in shades of rich pink like ‘Bressingham Glow” to white like ‘Honorine Jobert’ or ‘Whirlwind’, and every shade in between. Divide them in the spring, then forget about them and be pleasantly surprised when they show up in the fall to freshen things up!

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2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

When do I water?

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The dog days of summer are upon us and it’s time to check in with our chlorophylled friends to see how they are doing. If there hasn’t been any rain of significance, our plants would probably love some help, since in the heat, the moisture in their leaves evaporates and  the roots can’t take in water to replace it if the soil is dry.

Sometimes it seems like there has been a lot of rain, but when you actually check, only the very surface of the soil has any moisture to it. This won’t do the plants any good. Even if the top inch of soil is wet they will need additional water, because if their roots can only get water at the surface, that’s where they will develop, and the result will be a plant that is unstable and can’t fend for itself when the surface is dry but there is adequate ground water. Ideally, plants need about an inch of water a week, which equates to a deep watering.

“How on earth do I know if there has been an inch of water?” you ask. That’s a good question, especially since knowing how much watering to do is part learned, and part instinct. I usually recommend that people get a rain gauge, a container that collects the rain and is marked in inches so you can see how much has fallen. (For an example, click here) They are inexpensive, and take most of the guesswork out of rainfall amounts. You can also dig down between  the plants and see how the soil feels 6 or more inches below the surface, but a rain gauge is much easier!

Plants will often survive a drought, but they won’t thrive. So making sure that they have adequate moisture is an important way to protect your investment and to make sure that you garden continues to look its best. And if the plants are new, water is absolutely critical to their continued existence because they haven’t developed a deep root system yet.

Leonardo da Vinci got it right when he said, “Water is the driving force in Nature.” Happy watering!

 

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Have fun with it!
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It’s preferable to water the soil rather than the plant, but you can’t fault this young gardener’s earnest attitude!

 

2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Planting Perennials

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Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to plant perennials since, for most of us in the Northeast, the threat of a frost is over. It’s time to go to the garden center and spend a little money. Or a lot of money! Regardless of the amount spent, we all want to protect that investment, and one of the ways to do that is to make sure the plants are planted correctly. The small amount of extra time that it takes to plant a perennial correctly pays off generously in the long-term health of the plant. And it’s very simple, once you know how.

 

Basically, what you are doing is creating an ideal environment for a new plant to grow in. This means making it easy for it to put out root growth, and giving it enough water deep down so that the roots to grow down, not up. Because if you have a good root system, the plant is much more likely to thrive. Here’s how:

 

1)     Dig a hole about twice as wide as the plant, and maybe 1.5 times its depth. The reason for this is that the soil that you put back in will be looser and it will be easier for the plant to grow roots into. Save the soil that you took out. Once upon a time, it was thought that putting back fresh, enriched soil was the thing to do, but studies have found that it makes such a pleasant place for the plants’ roots to be that they don’t venture into the adjacent soil, causing the it to be less stable. So the soil that you took out should go back in again, except for exceptional circumstances.

 

2)     Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the root system. If the roots look like they are densely packed, or are circling the bottom or sides of the pot, then they need to be loosened up. Scratch all the way around the root area, allowing the roots to spring free from the shape of the pot. If they are really stubborn, use your garden clippers or even a knife to slice them.

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3)     Backfill some of the removed soil into the hole, and check to make sure that the soil level around the plant is the right height. Place the plant in the hole, and backfill around it until it is about halfway up the sides of the root ball. Water deeply. This ensures that there is plenty of water available at the bottom of the plant, and gets rid of any air pockets that may be lurking in the soil.

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4)     Backfill the rest of the way. If you can, make a shallow ring around the plant with a little bit of soil so that water gets trapped there and can sink in. Water deeply again.

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And there you have it! Your plants’ roots will have an ideal place in which to grow and be well watered. Mulching will help retain water loss, so that’s a good idea as well. Just keep the mulch away from the place where the plant meets the soil, or moisture could settle in and the plants could rot.

 

So now, you know. Happy planting!