Where’s the Rain? How to Deal with Drought Conditions in Your Gardens

By Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

(top photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Gardens website; Dogwood (Cornus) wilting from water stress)

Just two years ago, the Peterborough area experienced Level 2 drought conditions. Local residents and businesses were encouraged to reduce their water use by 20 per cent daily and there were 11 days in August when daytime temperatures were higher than 30 degrees Celsius.ONDrought_zpsal2mmbjn

Drought conditions usually relate to sunny, dry conditions, combined with an extended period of very hot weather, and it looks like the summer of 2018 is shaping up to be very similar to 2016. “The watershed region received below normal precipitation amounts in June, and during the first two weeks of July precipitation has been 25% of normal.” said Dan Marinigh, Chief Administrative Officer for Otonabee Conservation.

So what can a gardener do to help their gardens survive (and even thrive) during dry or drought conditions?

In the Short Term

Just before or during drought conditions

Recognize the Signs of Stress

Plant dehydration symptoms include:
• Curling or rolling of leaves
• Slowed/no growth, undersized leaves
• Leaves, blossoms, or fruits drop prematurely
• Wilting, limp and droopy leaves
• Leaf scorch, yellowing and/or browning, death of leaf edges
• Dead or brown/dying extremities starting from the outer leaves inward

Water Wisely

Avoid watering during the heat of the day when evaporation rates are highest. Water either very early in the morning or late in the evening, and adhere to any watering restrictions that may be in place. Try and keep water off flowers, as sunlight is magnified through water droplets and can damage delicate flowers. Depending on your garden, consider hand watering rather than using a hose or sprinkler. Hand watering using a watering can targets the water to the areas that really need it, keeping waste to a minimum.20180716_133136

Harvest Water

Water harvesting is a great way to use water from your home’s roof and direct it onto the landscape, where the soil becomes your “holding tank.” The best example is using a water barrel – we have four of them in our garden and they are a great investment. You can also practice ‘passive’ water harvesting by creating depressions that fill with water from the roof runoff or formal rain gardens, both of which help with stormwater runoff issues. You can find out more about rain gardens here. Peterborough Greenup Rain Program 20180716_132548

Reduce Stressors

Skip the fertilizer or pruning live branches during drought conditions. No need to add to the plant stress! When soil moisture is low or temperatures are high, plants don’t benefit from fertilizer and without adequate water, fertilizer can burn your plants. Excessive pruning will stimulate new growth that will not be drought tolerant. However, it is good practice to deadhead flowers, as removing spent blooms before they have a chance to set seed saves energy for your plants.

Make Priority

Give priority to watering newly planted trees and shrubs during periods of drought. Young plants have not had sufficient time to establish deep root systems, and depend on surface water for survival. Do not let the root balls of newly planted trees and shrubs dry out completely or become too saturated.

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Over the Long Term

Planning for Future Drought Conditions

Think About Plant Selection

Use appropriate plants, which are often marked as drought tolerant or resistant. Consider native plants, which generally adapt better, have lower water demands, and fewer pest problems. Group plants according to how much water they need. Ask your local garden centre or nursery staff which plants they recommend. Check out members of the local Peterborough Area Garden Route. Peterborough and Area Garden Route

Maintain Healthy Soils

Good soil is the foundation for good plant growth. Anything you can add to your native soil like compost or other organic matter will make it easier for roots to penetrate deeper, creating more expansive root systems that can seek out water and nutrients. The result? Healthier, more drought-resistant plants. Good soils are better able to absorb surface water runoff, minimize erosion, and access nutrients and sediments.fresh-2386786_640

Use Mulch

Mulch reduces evaporation, moderates soil temperature, and inhibits weed growth. It is estimated that three quarters of the rain falling on bare soil is lost to plants through evaporation and runoff. Both of these are reduced up to 90 percent by adequate mulch. Use compost, wood chips, bark nuggets, shredded bark mulch, shredded leaves, or any other organic material to cover the surface of the soil at least 5 cm deep.

Water Well

Deep watering encourages roots to go deep down in the soil to where it is moist and a lot cooler. Water less frequently but for longer periods, so water reaches deep into soil. Good thorough watering promotes healthier plants. Also, water only when necessary, based on condition of the plant. Most plants will normally wilt in hot sun, and then recover when watered. Also, a dry surface is not always a sign of water need. The surface generally dries out first and is not a true indicator of what is going on down deep near the plant root. Make use of a hand trowel to check for moisture.

Weed Management

Weeds will compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients. Keep your gardens and areas beneath trees and shrubs weed free. Once the weeds are eradicated, apply mulch.

Consider Alternate Watering Methods

Investigate use of soaker hoses or other irrigation techniques using a timer, which keeps water on the soil and reduce losses by evaporation. Adjust watering frequency and amounts based on season, temperature, and amount of rainfall. Overhead watering uses more water and encourages fungal diseases.

Practice Water Conservation

Not just in your gardens. Water is our most valuable resource. Learn how to reduce water use throughout your house and gardens at this link.
Water Conservation Fact Sheet – Otonabee Conservation 20150822_185728

Summer Deadheading

by Christine Freeburn, Master Gardener

After spring cleaning in your garden, when you have been weeding and digging and transplanting and prepping flower beds, July gives you time to really enjoy your gardens. But don’t spend all your time sitting in your muskoka chair admiring all your work. Deadheading perennials and annuals keeps them neat and tidy and in many instances, brings back more blooms.

The definition of deadheading from Barron’s Complete Gardener’s Dictionary states “Removing spent blooms before they form seeds. This tends to lengthen bloom season because it encourages many plants to produce more flower buds.”

Deadheading Annualsdeadheading

When taking spent blooms off most annuals, don’t just snap off the blossom. Follow the stem right down to where it meets another branch and break it there. Otherwise you will leave on a stem that will just turn brown and be ugly. Annuals like geraniums, large petunias, marigolds, daisies, and cosmos to name a few, will continue to produce more flowers if they are regularly deadheaded. When plants like alyssum, diascia, bacopa and other trailers have lots of dead blooms, use scissors to trim back, removing the dead parts like giving a hair trim. Coleus grow seed heads which should be broken off to encourage more leaf growth. Most annuals will love it when you cut them back and will bloom again looking bushier and healthier.

In the Perennial Gardensharleenpratt

Perennials also benefit from deadheading. Again, do not just cut off the spent flower head, but go down the stem. If the flowers are en masse, like creeping thyme, take a pair of grass shears and give the plant a hair cut to make it neater. Deadheading also stops unwanted seeds from dropping to the earth and reseeding where you don’t want them.

In the Vegetable Garden

In your vegetable garden, you may want to leave on those peas and beans that got away on you and have become over ripe. You can let these seed pods dry out and ‘harvest’ those seeds to plant next season. Peas plants are a great source of nitrogen, so you can leave them in your garden to die back naturally before you compost, allowing the nutrient to go back into the soil.

When you keep up with the removal of spent blooms, you keep your garden looking tidier, don’t invite disease from rotting blossoms and spread out the fall clean up.

So, grab your wine glass in one hand and get close and personal in your garden to deadhead.

Dealing with Drought in the Garden

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Plants are composed of anywhere from 50-90 percent water. When they suffer from the heat, it’s because of an insufficient amount of water being available to them. Drooping, seemingly lifeless leaves are a sign that a plant does not have enough water and is unable to take in carbon dioxide from the air through tiny, open pores on the underside of the leaves and make food.

When plants wilt from lack of sufficient water, they stop growing, stop producing and will die if their cells are not replenished with water.

Plant Selection

The best way to deal with drought is through plant selection. Grow plants that don’t ask for much!

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Choose plants that are drought resistant and can handle the heat in the first place, rather than struggling with the more sensitive types. Some suggestions are: ornamental grasses, salvia, sedums, cacti. Also native plants such as black-eyed susan, liatris, purple coneflower, coreopsis, lavender. Some non-native plants such as daylilies, hellebore, barrenwort/epimedium also all tolerate the heat well.

Watering

The best way to get moisture to the plants is to apply water at ground level with drip irrigation or via soaker hose, and the best time to do this is in the morning. The idea is to give the plants an infrequent but deep soaking. Water that seeps deep into the soil will help plants develop a deep root structure, which helps them survive prolonged periods without rain. The morning is the coolest time of the day, and there is less evaporation while temperatures are relatively cool than later in the day when the temperature is at or near its peak. The second best time is right at dark or just before dark.irrigation-2402568_640 (1)

Using sprinklers is not as optimal because a significant amount of water is lost due to evaporation from the leaves into the air before the leaves can absorb the water.  However, for extensive garden beds, it may be the only available choice!

For patio container plants, consider adding water gels to the potting mix. The gels absorb water and release it slowly to the plant roots, reducing the number of times the plants will need to be watered. Another option for patio containers is a self-watering pot. These types of containers have a water reservoir from which water is absorbed up into the pot and to the root zone. Like the gels, these specialized containers will reduce the need for frequency of watering.

Mulching

Another way gardeners can help their plants survive excessive heat and drought is to mulch their garden beds. The mulch will help reduce evaporation, insulate plant roots from the high temperatures and reduce or eliminate weeds, which compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients. When choosing mulch, use only biodegradable materials that decay over time. Two to three inches of mulch should be plenty for the growing season. Don’t put mulch up against trees because it can cause the trunk to rot. Also, mice and other vermin may create nests in the mulch and chew on the tree’s bark.

IMG_2320Shredded leaves are also an excellent choice, but they break down faster than wood mulch and may harbor seeds like maple keys. However, earthworms love shredded leaves and will make the soil more friable and fertile with their castings. If leaves are hard and fibrous, leave them in place to decay. Oak and other tough leaves should be shredded and allowed to decay a bit before placing on the garden. Soils topped with shredded leaves will soon be crumbly and easy to plant.

Weed-free straw is good mulch and is often used in vegetable gardens. It packs down and hold weeds at bay. Make sure to use straw (grain stalks) instead of hay (dried grass) to prevent seeds from germinating.

There are many other tips / tricks about gardening during drought but the key message is that “you don’t have to stop gardening due to drought. Simply change the way that you garden to adapt to the conditions.”

Roses are Easy!

By Cauleen Viscoff, Master Gardener

EASIEST ROSES:

  • The new Landscape roses: “Drift”, “OSOEasy” etc.
  • Disease resistant, hardy and ever-blooming.
  • However, there are others just as lovely that require a bit more care.
  • Do your research: know your space and sunlight.

ROSES NEED 6 – 8 hours each day … otherwise they’ll struggle for nutrients and have weaker blooms and roots.

ZONE: Push your zone with roses and they don’t do their best.roses2
READ THE TAGS: Printed in US? Our zone 6 is their zone 5.

ROSES COME:
Bare Root (own root or grafted) – no leaves, no soil
Bagged: bare root in sawdust
Potted: blooming in pot

PLANTING:

  • Soak each rose for an hour or two before planting.
  • Dig hole deeper and wider than needed.
  • Don’t amend the soil – (recent construction?  remove stones, etc; add compost to existing soil otherwise roots will stay encircled in the composted hole without spreading out.)
  • Fill hole with water; let drain away.

POTTED:  Tangled, encircling roots? Slash down each side, teasing roots out. If rose comes out of pot easily, shake off the soil, and rinse well to rid of nursery chemical fertilizer.roses1

GRAFTED: plant bud union 4 inches below surface – protects against frost and the (graft point) should form its own roots over time.

BARE ROOT: mound soil; place roots over mound. Fill in and tamp down gently.

PRUNE and GROOM:

 

When Forsythia blooms in Spring — 4D’s: dead, diseased, dying, design.
Groom all summer: deadhead; broken canes or out of shape.
Never prune climber to ground or else it has to start all over. Prune side branches horizontally for blooms.

BOTTOM LINE: Know your space, light and rose.
Then, buy the one you love.

Growing Clematis

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener

clematis-350358_640Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. They are a very popular perennial climber and produce many beautiful flowers in the summer months.

When purchasing a clematis, remove the plant from the pot and check for a tiny white bud on the very bottom roots. This will ensure a healthy plant. For best results, purchase a clematis that is at least two years old as they are tender when very young and take several years to mature.

Clematis absolutely demand good drainage. Either add sand to the soil, or line the bottom of the hole with a layer of gravel. When planting, it’s important to bury the crown of the plant at least two inches (6 cm) below the surface of the ground to encourage more stems to grow from the base. Water deeply at least once a week until the plant is well established.

To encourage good flowering, sprinkle superphosphate fertilizer onto the surface of the soil at planting time to promote good root growth and winter hardiness. For mature plants, add fertilizer once in the spring and again in June.flower-3394263_640

Clematis need at least six hours of sun per day, but their roots like to be kept cool. One suggestion would be to plant a large hosta at the base of the Clematis. Their roots are shallow so they won’t compete for nutrients. You could also use large rocks or flagstones.
If the stems of very young plants seem thin, pinch them back to just above a set of buds. This will help the stem to thicken, making them tougher and more resistant to damage.
You need to understand the kind of clematis you have before attempting to prune. Some clematis grow on last year’s vines, so you want to avoid cutting them to the ground in spring. Others flower on current-year vines, so they don’t mind being cut to the ground each year.

A very tough clematis is the Clematis x jackmanii, which is an old reliable climber, easily growing to three metres with large, deep purple flowers. It is the oldest large flowered cultivar, bred in 1858. Another easy to grow clematis is Clematis ‘Abundance’, which has a deep red flower with greenish-yellow stamens, which flowers in mid June.

You might consider checking The International Clematis Society website. It is full of valuable information for people new to growing clematis, with several links to catalogues, nurseries and education publications.

Herbs: Humble & Useful

By Vince Picchiello, Master Gardener in Trainingherbs-2523119_640

Perhaps one of the least celebrated plant family in our gardens is the herb.  Many gardeners show their prize possessions of roses and hydrangeas, yet others will speak endlessly of their succulent tomatoes and robust peppers and of course others will offer baskets of pears and pints of raspberries. Few however, honour the forgotten herb.

Herbs are among the oldest cultivated plants. Their early domestication was due to their aromatic, culinary and medicinal qualities.  Herbs are attractive plants and some even bear lovely flowers — such as lavender and chives to name but a few.  For the home cook, the ease from garden or container to the kitchen provides the tastiest and freshest example of ‘local shopping’ and sustainability.

Maintenance and Care

  • While most herbs will survive in virtually any soil, a well prepared soil amended with mature compost and organic material virtually guarantee success.
  • Most are easily started from seed indoors and can be planted as  seedlings in spring (or you can purchase from the nursery).
  • Mulches help to retain moisture and prevent weeds when planted in the garden.
  • There is no need for fertilizers as this may encourage ‘legginess’.
  • Most enjoy full sun with moderate moisture requirements. Others though, may require more moist conditions such as dill, mint, and parsley to name a few.
  • Many are also hardy, which make them tolerant of successive frosts.  Some, however, are tender and don’t do well in frosty conditions.  Examples of these are basil, marjoram and parsley.

Uses for Herbs

chives-3418953_640CULINARY : herbs are used in pesto’s, soups, salads, and flavours for vegetable preserves. Mint can be used as garnish in a drink or tea , parsley or cilantro on fish dishes

HEALING : Valerium and Chamomile are used as calming sedatives and for anti-anxiety, there are herbs for digestive issues, liver cleanses, anti-inflammatories, breath fresheners (mint or basil), first aid (plantain is great for scrapes and insect bites) and if you get industrious one can learn to make slaves, tinctures, and infusions all with many backyard/ container plants.

AESTHETICS: Lavender, lemon balm, roses, and lemon grass make great aromatics – Lets not forget their sheer beauty as some become lush with green foliage others provide lovely flowers

PRACTICAL: Many plants can be grown indoors or outdoors and in containers or in the yard.

In the coming days and weeks as you find yourself plotting and planning your garden/containers for an upcoming season, don’t forget the humble herb.

Growing Perennials in Containers

By Amy Woodward, Master Gardener

Throughout the years annuals have been a staple to grow in containers.  However, they can be high maintenance and expensive as they are discarded after a season of planting.  Growing perennials in containers has started to become popular.  Perennials require less maintenance and are expensive initially but are a great investment as they continue to grow year after year.  Advantages of growing Perennials in Containers:flower-3397964_640

  • Great way to have perennials if you don’t have a lot of space
  • Fast spreading perennials can be contained
  • Mobility- you can move your plants to suit your needs
  • Weeding is eliminated and less deadheading
  • You can adjust your soil PH easily depending upon the perennial you are planting
  • Perennials can be planted before annuals as they can handle the cooler temperatures

Choosing Plants and Containers:

  • Use plants that have similar requirements for sun, feeding and moisture.  Plants in containers will need more watering than those in the garden, as the plants can’t draw nutrients and moisture from the soil.
  • Use “thrillers, fillers and spillers”.  The tallest plants are the thrillers and they go in the middle of the pot.  Fillers are medium sized and go around the thriller plant. Spillers trail over the sides of the pot.
  • If you do not plan to overwinter the perennials then make sure you choose plants that are 2 zones hardier
  • Use larger pots as plants become root bound and are quick to dry out
  • Make sure your pot has been cleaned before use and has good drainage
  • Choose a container that does not dry out quickly or freeze

Examples of perennials to choose:flowerpot-1345371_640

Achillea, Echinacea, Aster, Heuchera, Astilbe, Hosta, Bergenia, Lamium, Bleeding Heart, Phlox, Coreopsis, Sedum

Options for Overwintering Perennials

In colder climates, perennials cannot be left outside in containers over the winter. Remember plants that are hardy in the ground may not last in a container.  When you chose perennials you must consider the zone.  If you choose to leave in a container over the winter the rule of thumb is to choose plants that are 2 zones hardier.  Here are some other options to overwinter perennials:

  1. Move plants in containers to an unheated garage. Do not fertilize when the plants are dormant.  Once plants stop growing in the fall, stop fertilizing.  Plants will need to be watered until the soil is frozen.  When temperatures increase in late winter or early spring gradually move containers back outdoors.
  2. Transplant into the garden.  Then dig them up in the spring and return to the containers.
  3. Bury the pots in the ground.  The roots will then be better insulated.  In the fall, dig a hole in the ground that is large enough for the container.  Place the container in the hole then cover with leaves or mulch.  In the spring, bring the pot out of the ground.

Trench or “Hole” Composting

By Suzanne Seryck,  Peterborough Master Gardener

After squirrels chewed through my black plastic compost bins 2 years in a row, I decided it was time to try something new. Trench or hole composting is a relatively simple, easy and cheap way to compost kitchen and yard waste. The plants are fed at the roots, where they need it the most, producing healthier plants with strong root systems.

The rules of what materials you can compost using this method are similar to that of a compost bin or pile:

  • Dead leaves
  • Kitchen Scraps
  • Newsprint
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Paper
  • Fresh Garden Waste
  • Wood chips
  • Vegetable waste
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Fresh grass clippings
  • Sawdust
  • Manure
  • Corn Stalks
  • Hay
  • Dry Straw

For more information on what to use look at this Planet Natural article

In just 2 years of composting using this method I have already noticed a difference in the health of my soil, my plants and especially in the number of earth worms.

Trench composting works well in larger vegetable gardens and involves digging a trench approximately 12 to 18 inches deep, filling it with roughly 4 to 6 inches of yard waste and/or kitchen scraps and then back filling with the soil you removed. Trenches can be used either in a rotation cycle, where you would divide the garden into zones, an actively growing zone, a path and a trench composting zone. Each year you would rotate the zones, allowing you to compost the whole vegetable garden in 3 years. The second method is to dig trenches in between the vegetable rows, this method works well if you grow your vegetables in evenly spaced rows. Over time as everything breaks down the compost will then nourish the plants nearby.

compost-trench

However for my small city garden, I found the trench composting system did not work well. I don’t plant in rows and whilst I do practice crop rotation (which is a method of rotating your crops each year to manage soil fertility and help control pests and diseases) I like to use almost every available space in my vegetable garden. Instead I practice “Hole composting”, which works in all types of garden, vegetable, perennial and shrub, just about anywhere where you can dig a 12 to 18 inch hole.

It is especially good if you do not have room for a composter or do not have a sunny location to place a compost bin or pile. Basically you dig a hole, put in the kitchen and/or yard waste, again about 4 to 6 inches and fill the hole in. It really does not get any easier than that. Over time the waste is turned into decomposed organic matter or humus along with millions of microorganisms and there is nothing better for your plants. This type of composting is invisible, does not produce odours, takes very little effort (you don’t have to turn and layer as you would using a compost pile), it costs nothing, and you don’t have to buy other soil amendments or plant fertilizers.

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During the active growing season, I dig holes in my perennial garden and bury my kitchen and yard waste. However, in the fall after I harvest the vegetables I also practice this in my vegetable garden, in particular the areas where I have grown heavy feeders, like corn or squash. The following spring most of the material has decomposed and you are ready to plant. In just 2 years of composting using this method I have already noticed a difference in the health of my soil, my plants and especially in the number of earth worms.

Additional information on trench or hole composting here

 

Is it Dead?

By Emma Murphy, Peterborough Master Gardener

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter in the Peterborough Ontario area, and a long, cold, wet spring. After our recent ice storm in mid-April, one was left wondering if spring would ever arrive. One thing is for sure – spring has been delayed in our area by several weeks.

Late Arrivals

Some trees, shrubs, and plants are always late arrivals – think of the Northern Catalpa tree (which can leaf out almost a month after other trees), Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), and Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower).

However, this spring has some gardeners in a panic. While many woody plants are sprouting buds, maybe one of your plants isn’t doing anything to show the slightest sign of life. Is it dead? Before panicking and assuming they are dead, look for some reasons for the delay.

  1. If you planted something late in the season last year, it may still be settling in and putting its energy into root growth before growing leaves. I have a new garden bed I planted last fall and everything in it is late emerging.
  2. I know part of our garden was submerged for an extended period this spring. A spring flood can delay leafing out for trees (but cause no other long term damage).
  3. Did you plant something near the edge of the normal hardiness zone? It is possible that the dormant buds may be dead but the tree may still be ok. You need to give it time to see if it recovers.
  4. For trees and woody shrubs check the branches – try the “bend but don’t break” test – try and bend them a bit – if they are dry and snap rather than bend that is not a good sign.

deadparrot

Doing the Scratch Test

My favourite trick is the scratch test. It’s very simple – you scrape the bark off a small section of your woody shrub or tree and take a look. With your fingernail or penknife, scratch a section so you can see the cambium (layer just under the outside bark). If the tree/shrub is alive, the cambium will be green. If it’s brown or white and dry, unfortunately, it may be dead. However, don’t give up all hope! If it’s brown you can try another scratch further down the trunk to confirm death (or life!)

If the cambium is dead, the only hope left is that the plant will be able to regenerate from its base. That’s often the case for shrubs, but not all trees. And if a tree does resprout from the base, if it was a grafted tree (the case with most fruit trees, for example), what grows may not be the cultivar you wanted but the stock plant (the tree the desirable variety was grafted on to).

Pruning Options

If you find only part of the stem on a plant is dead you may want to cut the stems back to the first visible green growth. If no new growth is visible, a rule of thumb is to cut the stems back a third of their length at a time until you find green tissue. Prune too early though and you risk further damaging the plants (for example, from a late frost). Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac list of frost dates (for Peterborough that’s about May 12). It is generally safe to prune about two to three weeks before the last frost date, since you are less likely to experience a damaging frost at that point.

Patience

The ultimate word is patience. Warmer weather has arrived now and hopefully you will be able to ascertain any damage to your garden from this tough Canadian winter and wet, cold spring. Happy Gardening!!126-2649_IMG

(Featured image from www.thetreecenter.com)

Perennials: When should they be divided?

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Happily, perennial plants increase in size over the years, and at some point they will benefit from being divided. In general, the best time for this task is in the spring when they have just emerged from their winter hibernation.

Perennials should be divided when:RHS_PUB0003004_484282

  1. They have started to die out in the middle
  2. They don’t flower as well as they used to due to congestion or the roots grew to be old and woody
  3. They have used up all of the nutrients in the soil near them, resulting in stunted growth, yellowish leaves or lack of bloom
  4. They are infested with weeds

Rule of Thumb

One rule of thumb for division is this: perennials that flower between early spring and mid June are best divided in early fall. Perennials that flower after mid-June are best divided in the spring.

Summer and fall-flowering perennials have the whole spring and early summer to recover from being divided, and most will give you an excellent flower display the same year.

Three plants that prefer to be divided at other times are Peonies (fall only) and true Lilies (mid to late fall). Daylilies (Hemerocallis) can be divided at nearly any time.

The first time or two that you divide perennials will be a bit nerve-wracking and anxious. This is normal!

Basic Steps

The basic steps of dividing are simple. Once your plant shows signs of growth in the spring (an inch or two of new shoots is fine), dig up the entire clump with a deep shovel. Try to be generous and get as many thick roots as possible. Dig all the way around the clump, then pry it out of the ground. Put down a tarp somewhere handy, and transport your clump there.

Try and knock off any loose soil. Find a knife — a Hori-Hori knife, root knife or even an old bread kniofe. Look closely at your clump in an attempt to find a natural point where it can be easily separated. Cut directly down the center with your knife, from top to bottom. Once it’s split in two, then look at each half to see if there is a sensible spot to cut yet again, then split these each into two. Try and keep the sections generally of a good size, say the diameter of your fist or larger.

Discard old and woody roots from the middle (add them to the compost pile).

Then, replant!

Once your dividing task is complete it’s time to replant the pieces. Try to plant them at approximately the same depth they were growing. Water them in well at planting time, then maybe once a week for the first month unless spring rains are generous.