The fall is a wonderful time of year to work in the garden. With a little effort we can prepare our flowerbeds for a vibrant spring bloom. Now is also an excellent time to dig, relocate, or divide perennials. Dividing perennials gives them more room to grow, allows you to re-prepare the beds and permits rearrangement. Here is how to renew your perennial beds.
Iris, hosta, phlox, day lily, liriope, and others can be divided about every three years. Carefully dig perennials. Tough perennials like red hot poker and day lily can be divided with a shovel, but carefully separate tender perennials by hand. Use pruning shears if needed to clip apart plants.
Dig the soil twelve inches deep and mix in compost. Add little if any fertilizer since excess nitrogen can cause plants to grow rapidly and to be easily damaged by frost. The soil should be mounded up slightly. Most perennials do better with the improved drainage that raised beds supply. This is especially important with perennials that go dormant in the winter. Raised beds at least four inches from the surrounding soil.
Arrange plants on the soil surface before you plant them, and consider the amount of light the site will receive compared to your plant’s needs. Plant in clumps or small groups of similar plants. Put taller perennials in the back of beds. Consider height, color, leaf type, and time of bloom when you plant. Plan for a succession of blooms. Water them in well after planting. Mulch with two or three inches of pine straw, bark or other mulch. Water as needed if soil dries. Fertilize in spring as temperatures warm up and again in early summer.
Late fall is also a popular time of year to plant bulbs. Tulips, peonies, daffidils, crocus, and others can all be planted for spring and summer blooming. They require some cool weather to develop adequate roots so now is the best time to put them in the ground before the spring. Often they will not bloom without the required 14-15 weeks of 40-50 degree weather. This is especially true of tulips. Make sure to select large, firm, mold free and undamaged bulbs to ensure success.