Falling Into Place

It seems like fall is just as busy as spring in the garden, at least.  Now is a great time to plan and prepare for this flurry of activities.

Spring flowering bulbs, i.e. daffodils and tulips, can be planted any time from September through November.  It’s best to plant bulbs as soon as you receive them, but if you can’t plant them right away, store them in a cool dry location until you can plant, checking them periodically for sprouting, drying, or mildew.

These irises and perennials are prime candidates for division this fall.

These irises and perennials are prime candidates for division this fall.

Fall is a great time to plant new peonies and irises or to divide the ones you already have in the garden.  It’s also a great time to divide perennials.  In our region, fall division offers freshly divided plants the best opportunity to develop sufficient roots to support growth and blooms next spring and summer.

When cutting the rhizomes of bearded irises apart, keep only the largest ones that have never bloomed.  Fortunately, Siberian iris doesn’t require division as often as bearded iris, and their crowns are fairly tough, so be careful while cutting those.

Dig up peonies the night before dividing, to allow their moisture gorged roots to soften a bit.  Wash off all the soil, and cut the stems close to the crown.  Be sure each of your divisions has sufficient eyes and roots to support blooming plants next spring.  Remove and discard any diseased portions of the roots or crown.  Prune the remaining roots to about four inches in length.

When digging up perennials, dig in at the drip line, and divide the clump if necessary before attempting to lift it up.  Replace soil removed with the plant with the same amount of fresh compost.  Vigorous perennials can quadruple their size in one year’s time, so plan accordingly to avoid re-dividing again next fall.  Don’t bother to plant cuttings that don’t look healthy – they should be free of disease and have plenty of roots.  Plant divisions into holes that are at least as wide as the spread out roots.  How to divide a plant depends on

Virginia Bluebells are divided by diddling out newly sprouted plantlings in the spring.

Virginia Bluebells are divided by diddling out newly sprouted plantlings in the spring.

its root type.  Learn the appropriate division techniques for plants with tap, running, offset, woody, and surface roots before starting to dig.  Some perennials shouldn’t be divided, so check whether your division candidates are on the list provided in the Fine Gardening perennial division tutorial listed below.

You’ll be raking leaves in the fall, so we’ll just drop in a few reminders regarding trees and shrubs.  The best time to prune either severely is in the spring.  Newly planted trees and shrubs should be lightly fed two or three times during the growing season, between March and July.  The UGA extension service bulletin listed below recommends when and how best to feed all trees and shrubs.

It’s also time to start planning your cool weather crops such as pumpkins, greens, broccoli and cabbage.   You can still plant another crop of potatoes, green beans, and squash in August.  Check the link for the UGA gardening calendar for last planting dates and more details.

Here are some excellent resources to get you through your late summer into fall gardening chores:

http://www.finegardening.com/10-tips-dividing-perennial-plants http://www.pallensmith.com/articles/ten-spring-bulb-questions