Northern Michigan Garden Maintenance, Renovation & Design
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13 Jan 2014

The New Year’s Resolutions for the Gardener

Happy-New-YearEven though the snow is still blowing and the temperatures are keeping us huddled around the fireplace, now is the time to start planning your gardens.  Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions I would recommend for the Gardener.

The Gardeners New Year’s Resolutions

1) Reduce Footprint

  • Limit chemicals in your garden and using eco-friendly supplies.
  • Instead of reaching for an herbicide, weed!
  • Don’t shower your plants with Miracle Grow,  plant in Jacob’s Premier Planting Mix to help establish and maintain healthy plants.
  • If your plants need a little boost, we love SuperThrive.
  • Compost

2) Save Water

  • 40 percent of average household water usage is in the garden.
  • Grow drought-tolerant plants such as these favorites:
  • Every time it rains,  save water in a rain barrel.

 

3) Attract Pollinators

  • Welcome birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators into your garden.
  • Avoid chemicals in the garden, and plant herbs and flowers to attract these important garden visitors.
  • Consider poppies, sunflowers, lavenders, herbs and other flowering plants, which are beloved by many pollinators.
  • Native plants are great at attracting helpful pollinators too.

Nasturtiums4) Grow Edibles … And Share the Harvest

Nothing tastes better than homegrown food, and you can’t beat the health benefits of freshly picked vegetables and fruits.

  • Growing your own edibles lets you know exactly where your food originated.
  •  Involving your children in kitchen gardens, help ensure they enjoy eating these foods later in the dining room. Kids who grow their own foods love snacking from the garden.
  • Have a large surplus? A wonderful way to share your harvest with those in need.


5) Save Work

  • Work smarter, not harder. Instead of running back and forth for tools, bring them with you. I like the Garden Bucket Caddy, because it attaches easily to a plastic tub for weeds. I use it to carry my gardening essentials, and sometimes a note pad, cell phone or sunscreen.
  • You can reduce those weeds from popping up later in the garden by mulching well early in the season.
  • Instead of watering everything by hand, set up drip lines and soaker hoses that save money, time and water.

6) Select Easy-Care Plants

  • Pick drought tolerant plants that require less work.
  • Ask local gardening center or master gardeners for easy-care plant recommendations for your area.
  • Avoid invasive plants that will cause future problems.
  • Native plants that flourish in your region and support your local ecosystem.

7) Resolve to sit in your garden once a week

  • Plan a date with your favorite person or your favorite libation and make it happen weekly. It’s the best way to enjoy the garden and the best way to keep an eye on things.
 8) Compost
  • The first step to having a healthy garden is building healthy soil.
  • Composting your yard and kitchen waste will save trash from landfills, while creating one of the best soil amendment products you can find.
  • Don’t throw away all that potential garden gold and make some magic that will keep your garden happy and healthy.

9) Out with the tired …

  • Tackle the trouble spot rather than putting up with it for another year.
  • Rip out that under-performing shrub. Replace that tired old crab apple.
  • Cruise the winter catalogs and magazines for some new ideas.

10) Pass Along Plants

  •  Gardening is all about sharing — plants, ideas, tried-and-true tricks and more.
  • Divide that treasured perennial and pass it along to a friend or neighbor.
  • Save seeds, they make a wonderful spring gift!

Happy gardening new year!

14 Oct 2013

10 Tips on Dividing Perennial Plants

Divide to make healthier plants–and more of themdivide daylily by Janet Macunovich

When dividing perennials, timing and technique are important. Perennial plants are healthiest and most productive when they are young and have room to spread. How wonderful that we can rejuvenate even the oldest residents of a garden by occasionally dividing them. Read on to learn how to divide plants.

1. Divide when a plant looks good

Don’t wait until a plant has become decrepit or monstrous to divide it. My rule of thumb is when it looks its best, divide it at the end of that year. Watch for the early signs of trouble: when the center of the plant has smaller leaves, fewer flowers, and weaker blooming stalks than the outer edges like this Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, or when the plant runs out of growing room on its edges and has nowhere to go but into neighboring plants.

2. Start at the drip line

dig drip lineTo lift a perennial with minimal root damage, begin digging at its drip line. The roots will generally extend that far, so digging there lets you lift the plant with most of its roots intact. Dig a trench around the clump, cleanly severing any roots, then cut at an angle down and under the clump from various points around the outer edge until you can lever the plant out of the hole. For large, heavy plants, you may have to first dig the trench, then slice straight down through the center of the plant as if it was a pie, halving or quartering the clump before under­cutting and lifting it.

In early spring, I divide while the new growth is still low to the ground, so the handling of stems is not usually an issue. In sum­mer, I might tie stems together before lifting the plant to avoid damaging them during the digging. In fall, I usually cut plants back before digging them for division.

3. Divide in cool weather

Perennials can be divided at any time of the year if you give the plant appro­priate care afterward, and I do just that. But for the best return on my time and the quickest reestablishment of the perennials, I divide when the soil is warmer than the air for at least part of every 24-hour period. That’s just before peak daffodil season in spring and in early fall right after the nights become cool. These con­ditions will allow the roots of the division to grow while the tops stay low, out of the sun and wind.

I prefer to divide in the fall rather than in the spring because the plants have more time to set new roots before growing up into the heat. I will divide fall bloomers in Sep­tember if it’s expedient, but I usually leave them to bloom undisturbed and divide them in the spring.

4. Keep roots cool and moist

Fifty percent humidity and 50°F are the ideal conditions for holding divisions until you can get them back into the ground. Put them into a bucket or box in a cool shaded place, such as a garage, and cover them with newspaper to retard moisture loss. Sprinkle water to dampen the newspaper if the roots seem to be drying during their “hold” time. If, despite your best efforts, the divisions dry out while on hold, don’t despair. Soak them in a bucket of water for about an hour before replanting.

5. Replenish soil with organic matter

wheelbarrow compostIf you remove a wheelbarrow full of perennials, then you should put a wheel­barrow full of compost back into that site before replanting to renew the soil, stay ahead of pest problems, and maintain fertility. Without additions, the plants will not have the advantage of renewed, fertile soil and the bed will settle after planting, putting the plants at a disadvantage in terms of drainage and air circulation.

6. Use vigorous sections first

divide irisAfter dividing, replant pieces that are, at most, 20 to 25 percent of the original clump. Smaller sections grow more vigorously and tend to produce stronger, longer-lasting blooms. Dividing a hosta, for example, into pieces with about seven growing points will yield the best results. Perennials multiply exponentially—one stem is likely to triple or quadruple itself each year. So if all you do is halve an overgrown clump this year, it will more than double in a season and need dividing again the next year.

7. Take extra care when a plant’s in bloom

DSC_0951Although I have often read that I shouldn’t, I sometimes divide plants when they’re blooming. I understand, how­ever, that plants in bloom may not be capable of growing as many new roots as quickly as nonblooming plants. I’ve done this in September when Japanese anemones (Anemone × hybrida cvs.) and asters (Aster spp. and cvs.) are in bloom and in April when the pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) and lungworts (Pul­monaria spp. and cvs.) are at their peak. I haven’t lost any divisions yet. I have also divided late-spring and summer bloomers while they were flowering. Given the extra care that common sense dictates (such as more attentive watering or shade at midday), these plants will fare well, too.

8. Keep only the healthiest pieces

If you wait until a perennial is declining, has a dead center, or has succumbed to pest problems because it has become crowded and weak, be sure to replant only the healthiest pieces. Usually these are the outside sections. Watch for discolored stems and eroded crowns and roots.

Look for signs of poor health. A cut peony stem shows a symptom of disease, and replanting as is will ensure that all new shoots and buds will be exposed to that same infection.

9. Spread out your divisions

spread rootsPlace a division into a hole that is at least as wide as its roots when spread out. Don’t turn a root tip up rather than down or curl it back around on itself to fit it into an undersize hole because you’ll defeat the plant’s natural regrowth mechanisms.

Root tip growth is regulated in part by chemicals flowing down from the tips of leafy stems to the roots. As in all flows, gravity is involved, so if you plant a root tip up when it was down, the normal flow is interrupted. At least temporarily, that root tip will not grow as vigorously as it could.

Replant divisions in a wide hole and over a wide area. Spread out the roots wide and down over a mound of soil.

In the next growing season, the top of the plant will be as wide as the roots are at the time of plant­ing. Ensure that when you spread out the roots they don’t overlap and compete with the other divisions.

10. Let the roots be your guide

When you dig up a perennial, you will see that it fits into one of five basic root types: roots that form clumps or offsets, surface roots, underground running roots, taproots, or woody roots. How you proceed depends on what root type your plant has.

Offsets
To divide a plant whose roots form offsets (small plants growing at the base of a larger one), snap the connection between any of the sections to obtain a piece with ample roots and three or more growing points (or “eyes”). Some denser clumps may have to be cut apart.

Plants that form offsets include asters (Aster spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–8), coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea and cvs., Z 3–9), hostas (Hosta spp. and cvs., Z 3–8), tickseeds (Coreopsis spp. and cvs., Z 4–9).

Surface roots
Some perennials have roots that run on or just below the surface of the soil. They form new crowns and roots when they reach open spaces or make contact with the soil. If you cut between any of the stems as you would cut a piece of sod from a lawn, you will have a division with its own stems and roots.

Plants with surface roots include bee balms (Monarda spp. and cvs., Z 4–9), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp. and cvs., Z 3–9), creeping sedums (Sedum spp. and cvs., Z 3–9), creeping speedwells (Veronica spp. and cvs., Z 3–8).

Taproots
Plants that have taproots can be divided by using a sharp knife to slice down the length of the root. Every piece that has at least one eye, some of the taproot, and a few side roots is a viable division.

Plants that have taproots include balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus and cvs., Z 4–9), butterfly weeds (Asclepias tuberosa and cvs., Z 4–9), cushion spurges (Euphorbia polychroma and cvs., Z 4–9), Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale and cvs., Z 4–9).

Underground running roots
Underground running roots can develop suckers as they grow beyond the shade of the mother clump. These suckers can be cut away from the main plant, or you can dig up the main plant and cut away any piece with an eye or sucker already forming.

Plants with underground running roots include hardy geraniums (Geranium spp. and cvs., Z 4–9), Japanese anemones (Anemone × hybrida cvs., Z 4–8), ostrich fern (Matteuccia pennsylvanica, Z 3–8), plume poppies (Macleaya spp. and cvs., Z 4–9).

Woody roots
Woody perennials often form roots when stems rest on the ground or are buried by gradually accumulating mulch. Make a new plant by simply cutting between the rooted stem and the mother plant.

Plants that have woody roots include candytufts (Iberis spp. and cvs., Z 5–9), euonymus (Euonymus spp. and cvs., Z 4–9), lavenders (Lavandula spp. and cvs., Z 5–10), sages (Salvia spp. and cvs., Z 5–10).