Category Archives: Garden Maintenance

October Perennial Care

IMG_0292Many people bemoan their perennial gardens in the Fall.  For me, it is one of my favorite times of the year.  There are so many wonderful colors and textures at play in the garden that can be overlooked.  Ornamental grasses really come into play right now and the wonderful merlot colors of plants like the ‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum pictured above are at their peak.  This is a great time of the year to install new perennial plantings but you want to make sure that it is getting done now so that new plantings have enough time to take root and be ready to over winter the upcoming cold weather and freezes.  Here is a quick list of what you need to be thinking about in your perennial garden right now:

  • Make sure that you are getting you Fall plantings in the ground so they have the time to establish themselves before winter.
  • All of your divisions and transplanting need to take place now as well
  • Fall can be a dry time in many areas so don’t forget to water new plantings and check your existing plantings to make sure they are receiving enough moisture as well.
  • Start to remove excess leaf build up from around the base of your plants
  • Mulch in tender perennials to make sure they have the insulation they need to go into winter.
  • After the first frost look your perennials over to see what is looking bad and go ahead and cut those back for the year.

As always I have to pay credit to The Well Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.  You will find all of the monthly care tips I post and much more information there.  To order your own copy of her book click on the title above

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September Perennial Care

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  • It’s hard to believe that September is already here.  At he wise age of 31 it is amazing how each year seems to pass more quickly.  This is a great time of the year to be getting things done in the garden.  Temperatures are cooling down making it so much more comfortable to work outside.  There is a lot to do this time of year in your perennial garden.  My favorite thing to do this time of year is to walk through my garden and think about changes that need to be made for next year.  Winter is approaching so make notes to help tide you over through the colder months.    Here is a quick list of some of what you need to be considering this month.
  • Planting and Division:  with temperatures cooling off now is a great time to look around and see what is overgrown.  The cooler temperatures make division less stressful and in turn less care you have to put into the plants.  Make sure to use a good root stimulant to help your plants get started.  By transplanting and installing new plants now you are also allowing them enough time to establish their root system so that they don’t heave out of the ground with the first freeze.
  • Now is the time to install your bulbs.  The first thing that comes to mind are spring flowering bulbs such as Tulips and Daffodils; but don’t forget to think about your Peonies, Poppies and Iris as well.
  • Continue to weed!!!  The more consistent you are with this the less of it you are going to have to keep up with overall.  It is also a good time to get your final round of pre-emergent down.
  • Pruning and deadheading for your late summer blooming plants and any others that look past their prime which you haven’t gotten to yet.
  • If you have any beds that need a little bit of touch up mulch now is the time to get it down.  Make sure to look at past post which you can get to by clicking here to make sure you aren’t using too much mulch.

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Perennial Care for July

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Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’

It’s hard to believe that it’s already mid July.  It seems like each year goes faster than the last.  Your chores in your perennial beds change this time of year.  A lot of areas start to dry out more than they do in the Spring and you have more insects to consider.  Planting should only be done this time of year if you have the time to water your new plants consistently.  The same applies to any transplanting or dividing that you are thinking about.  Make sure that these waterings are less frequent but deeper.  By watering more deeply you are encouraging the plants roots to go deeper.  Here are a few more things you need to make sure to look after:

  1. Perennials that have been cut back will also need to be looked after for water.
  2. Heavy-feeding perennials or those that have been cut back to encourage a second bloom could stand to be fertilized with a water soluble fertilizer.
  3. Aerating may be needed in compacted areas.
  4. Staking may be needed in compacted areas.
  5. Watch for mites, beetles and other insects and slugs this time of year.  If you have a specific question you can always email me an image and I’ll post it here to help others out as well.
  6. Older plants that have gotten leggy can be cut back.  Tradescantia is a good example of what might need to be trimmed back.
  7. Deadleaf plants that have already bloomed and are starting to look bad; at the same time make sure you are keeping up with your deadheading.

As always I have to give credit where it is due.  If you would like the same reading material I am looking at for these hints look for The Well Tended Perennial Garden by Tracey DiSabato-Aust.

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May Perennial Hit List

DSC_0161 Things are finally starting to look like something.  I have Roses, Peonies and Clematis in bloom in my front yard right now and it’s fun to really see things starting to fill in for the season.  I have some new roses that I hadn’t seen bloom yet and am really excited about the Peonies shown here.  May is an extremely busy month in the garden and there are lots of considerations to take into account.  This is an ideal time to get plants in the ground; especially in Central Kentucky with all of the rain that we’ve had in the last two weeks. Here is a list of the main maintenance needs to consider for this month.  Once again I have to give credit to Tracy DiSabato Aust for all of the experience that she has put into her wonderful book The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.

1.  Not only is it the time to plant its the time to transplant as well.  If you have anything that you need to move or divide go ahead and do it now.  If the perennial you want to divide is in bloom right now then wait till it has finished and then transplant.  Make sure to mix some compost into the hole and dig you’re hole twice the size of what you are planting.  The loose soil will make it easier for the roots to establish.  If you need to cut the plants back to make them easier to move around don’t worry about that being a problem.

2. If you top dress with compost and haven’t done this yet go ahead now.  Make sure you don’t put down more than 1/2 inch of compost.  Too much mulch or compost up against the plant will do more harm than good.

3.  Weed, weed, weed.  Especially with all of the rain that we’ve had I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing the last two weeks.

4.  Look for insects that are starting to feast on your plants.  Aphids and slugs have started to appear and need to be taken care of before they get out of control.

5. Deadheading can be done on plants that have finished their flowering.

If you have a particular plant that you don’t know what to do with let me know and I will be happy to offer up specific advice.

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Disasters in Mulching

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What should be one of the most simple tasks in gardening is often one of the most egregiously performed.  There are many benefits to mulching; namely it helps retain moisture in the soil, prevents the number of weeds that come up and it helps give a clean, crisp and finished look to your planting beds.  It takes very little skill yet it is one of the most often improperly performed tasks by both home gardeners and professionals alike.  With all of the aforementioned benefits of mulch when it is not applied correctly it is extremely detrimental to all plant material but mainly woody shrubs and trees.

When too much mulch is applied you are creating what is referred to as a mulch volcano.  This creates a wonderful warm and moist environment for insects and fungal problems but the biggest issue it causes is growth of new roots above the root flair.  When these new roots start to grow inside of the mulch volcano they hit the perimeter of the mulch and begin to circle the tree.  This continues to wrap itself around the tree until it literally chokes the tree to death!  There must be companies that are making a living off of selling mulch because some of the examples are extreme (see the pictures).  The irony of all of this is that it takes more time to complete the task because you are applying more mulch and it takes longer.  Take notice as you drive around town how many people and companies are not doing this correctly.  Great intentions in planting are being killed off by over zealous and improperly trained mulchers.  You are now forewarned; don’t kill your trees slowly!

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April Perennial Hit List

Time flies and it is a little bit more difficult to get things posted here with Spring in full swing.  I wanted to make sure I got my thoughts on Perennial care for April actually up during the right month.  April is the month when things are really starting to get crazy in your perennial beds.  Most plants have peeked out of the ground and many are in bloom now!  Following the steps below will help things from getting to far out of control.

1.  If you haven’t finished all of your Spring maint. needs such as pruning back dead foliage from the past year you want to make sure and get that finished up.  In the process go ahead and remove any leaf residue and mulch that was built up or left in place to protect your plants.

2.  Now is a great time to look at thinning out perennials that are overgrown and dividing plants to expand your beds.  If the plant already has a decent amount of growth you can cut it back to a few inches with no harm to the plant.  This will make it a little bit easier to move around.

3.  Make sure you have your fertilization taken care of or get it done soon.  Existing plants can be treated with a good general fertilizer such as Espoma’s Plant Tone, or top dress your beds with a very thin layer of compost.  This can be worked into the ground with a gardening fork in between you plants to help get the benefits a little more quickly; this will give you the dual benefit of aerating your soil.  When installing new plants or transplanting existing ones I like to use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote as well as a soluble fertilizer such as Ferti-Lome’s Blooming and Rooting.

4.  Pre-emergent for weeds in your beds needs to go down now as well.  Nothing is 100% effective but proper application three times a year will cut back on the amount of hand weeding that you have to do a great deal.  If you already have any offenders (like I do) you can carefully use a general herbicide such as Roundup to kill them before they go to seed and cause even more of an issue for you next year.

I hope these help out and if you have questions about how to take care of a specific plant let me know.  Have a great Spring; all of your hardwork will pay off.

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Perennial hit list for March

It’s time for Spring Maintenance to begin.  We have already gone over cutting your perennials back for spring but there are a few other important tasks to consider.  Here is a quick list of what you need to be thinking about concerning your perennials for this month:

  1. Be patient.  It is still a little too early to think about getting many perennials in the ground that have been grown in containers.  Most of these plants will not have had the time to properly take root well yet.  If you are planning on installing any bareroot perennials and it’s not to wet to work you beds you can go ahead and install these.
  2. Remove any leaf mulch of evergreen boughs from your perennials.  It is wise to keep these close at hand though in case it looks like we are going to get a typical late frost.  I would recommend this is done on a cloudy day so that any shoots starting to emerge are not too shocked by the change in light exposure.
  3. Press any perennials that are showing signs of heaving from the frost back into the ground.  Make sure you do this very carefully.
  4. Fertilize your perennial gardens towards the end of the month or into the beginning of April.  Top dressing your beds with compost can also be done at this time.  Make sure that you don’t apply this to thickly; you don’t want to smother any new growth.
  5. Touch-up the mulch in your beds at the end of the month.
  6. Cut back perennials that were left for winter interest (refer to prior post on cutting back perennials).
  7. Cut back your liriope.  If you have a lot of it you can mow it just like turf grass.

I hope this helps answer some questions for all of you.  If you need further advise I would recommed The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.  I refer to it constantly when I need to check what all needs to be done when.  This is a must have for your horticulture library.  As always let me know if you have any questions and good luck.

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