Gwynne's team of Garden Gals take advantage of unseasonably warm temperatures to weed, transplant, and divide the garden.

Spring brings warmer temperatures and rain, making your garden soil delicious to work in. For these reasons and because spring is a time of new growth, now is the very best time to divide and transplant most perennials. Because the foliage on perennials is still short, the visible effects of drooping and dying foliage due to water loss caused by transplant shock are minimized. Plants are also in the ‘grow’ mode. They are wont to produce new foliage to replace any that becomes damaged during division and easily and quickly rebuild their root system. As a bonus, it is often easy to find a pleasant morning or afternoon and the frequent spring rains make even hard, clay soils easy to dig in.

Most established perennials need a little love from time to time. Some types have a tendency to spread beyond their bounds, others clump and clump until their center dies. Perhaps you just want to move a perennial from one spot to another. Now is the time.

What you need (or might find handy to have):

  • a spade
  • a kneeler
  • a trowel
  • a claw
  • a bucket
  • soil additives

Many perennials spread rhizomatically, growing and growing into a larger clump(s) and making division at some point necessary. Their fibrous roots are generally easy to divide and transplant. Have a care with perennials that produce large, deep tap roots. These can be tricky to divide and the following directions will not, necessarily work. Also, if your targeted perennial is in bud or bloom, delay your plans for them until they have finished their spring show.

Select the perennial you want to divide and visualize a nice, roughly circular clump that will become your renewed perennial, post-division.  With your spade, start tracing this imaginary line, putting your weight into it to cut into the heart of the clump. Once you have your boundaries outlined, place your blade deep into the earth, facing the part of the clump you want to remove and pull the handle toward you – perhaps even putting your weight on to it to lever the plant out of the earth. You should see the perennial move from below and hear an earthy ripping sound. Repeat this around the pre-defined boundary until you have popped the portion of the perennial out that you wished to divide off. You should have a nice, healthy root system along with plenty of dirt and hopefully a few worms trailing out. Sometimes these clumps can be a bit heavy and cumbersome to handle (especially with all that rich earth hanging to its roots), so, if necessary, take your blade to the clump to break it into more manageable portions before you transport it to another part of your garden or give it to your gardening friend. If you plan to place it in another part of your garden, don’t delay! Especially if the sun is shining. The faster you get it back into the cool earth, the less transplant shock it’ll have. Remember to water it in thoroughly. Returning your attention to your handsome, newly refreshed perennial – sitting beside a cavernous hole… Take those bags soil amendments you have sitting aside and work fresh dirt into the hole. Yay! You’re done!

Now to the weeds… At least the soft soil makes those easy to pull too…