It is time to divide and conquer in the garden. We often think that springtime is the only time to divide plants. In reality, there are some plants that will do better for you if they are divided now. A good rule of thumb is if the plant is flowering in the spring or summer, now is the time to dig it up and divide it. If the plant flowers in the fall time, then spring time is the best time to dig it up and divide it.
Plants that particularly do better being divided now are peony plants, iris plants, poppy plants, and many other flowering plants. You just need to take a pencil and paper around the garden (make a list) and decide which plants seem to be overgrown and decide which ones you would like to dig up and split. This is the time when you can share those extra plants with family and friends or start a new garden.
So what is the best way to divide perennials? Dig up the parent plant using a spade or fork. Gently lift the plant out of the ground and remove any loose dirt around the roots. Separate the plant into smaller divisions by any of these methods: Gently pull or tease the roots apart with your hands; cut them with a sharp knife or spade; or put two forks in the center of the clump, back to back, and pull the forks apart. Each division should have three to five vigorous shoots and a healthy supply of roots. Keep these divisions shaded and moist until they are replanted. Divide hosta in spring before they get too large. When to divide: Divide when the plant is not flowering so it can focus all of its energy on regenerating root and leaf tissue.
On the flip side, there are bulbs that need to be dug up at this time of the year too. Gladiolus bulbs, elephant ear bulbs, canna lilies and the like. These need to be dug up and have the dirt gently wiped off of the bulbs and have the tops cut back. These, after they have dried sufficiently, should be placed into a brown paper sack along with some peat moss to dry. These will keep nicely if left in the bag for the winter in a cool, dark place. A couple of times throughout the winter, remember to check them and remove any that are no longer any good. Bulbs that are just dug up can be laid somewhere protected and in a place that they will not freeze, until the remaining soil comes off of them. If you are like me and raise several different kinds of summer blooming bulbs, you can keep them in separate bags for ease of planting for the next year.
If you have not tried your hand at raising scilla, allium, daffodil, fritillaria, and crocus, here is another reason to do so. These spring blooming plants often times serve as a food resource for pollinating insects such as bees. These are often the first blooming plants that pollinators will find in our Minnesota gardens and woods. This is something that we all can do for little money to help out those pollinators. And remember, as fall turns into winter, allow some of the hollow stem plants that will remain in your garden to stay (phlox is one of them) for the bees to use as an overwinter spot. We can help bees by planting flowers, but nesting habitat is important too. Roughly 60-70 percent of bees nest in the ground. You can help them by leaving patches of ground undisturbed and leaving some bare spots. The other 30 percent (of bees) are cavity-nesting, using hollow plant stems or holes in wood, according to Aaron Irber, research scientist UMN Dept of Entomology and Elaine Evans, UMN Extension educator.
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