2018, October 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to transplant?

IMG_1133

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.

 

DSCN4134
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.
IMG_1134
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.
DSCN5418
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!
anemone
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

DSCN1849

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!

IMG_0212DSCN5418Microbiota 2

2018, June 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to weed

As I wrote the title of this week’s blog entry, I wondered if I should change it to something more “marketable”, like “It’s Game Time”, or “Why Gardeners Drink” – some sort of click-bait. No one really wants to be told to weed when the summer is almost in full swing and there are so many other fun things to do outside.

As for me, I rather like weeding, actually. It’s pretty mindless and the garden always looks better afterwards. I know I’m not alone in these thoughts, but I also know I’m not in the majority. So my advice is this: weed NOW before things get out of control. Grass growing out of mat-forming plants like Phlox can be eradicated now, whereas in a few weeks it will have taken over and set seed. Weeds like crab grass are controllable now, but in a month or so it will have grown so much that it will form a mat that will smother the plants that you want to keep. Check out this picture. There are perennials in there, but the grass has overtaken them to the point where they will likely die.

DSCN5509

Sometimes the reason that we put off weeding is that we don’t really know which plants are weeds and which are not. That’s a valid excuse, if you ask me. But there is help out there. One of my favorite books is a book called Good Weed, Bad Weed by Nancy Gift. (available at Amazon) It has lots of pictures of weeds in their various stages of development and goes into how damaging they can be in the garden. It’s an excellent tool.

Other times the reason we don’t weed is because we are overwhelmed. This is understandable, but it’s only going to get worse, so I suggest this strategy: two or three times a week, do a power hour in the garden. Set yourself an hour – and ONLY an hour, this is important- and focus on weeding and weeding only. Don’t deadhead the daisies, or transplant that Daylily that you have been meaning to move, just weed. you will be amazed by how much you can do.

There is hope! Good luck, and happy weeding. It’s Game Time!

2018, May 2018, What to do in the garden

Planting Perennials

Path 2

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.

planting perennials 1

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.

planting perennials 2

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.

planting perennials 3

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!