CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I hate long division. In math and in the garden.
Dividing plants has never been a favorite chore for me, and this week I'll be dividing my peonies because I got a gentle reminder from my Extension Service calendar. Soon, I'll divide my other perennials too.
Tips from Fine Gardening magazine include:
Divide when the plant looks good. Don't wait until it's too big or too pitiful to divide it. I have a few Sedum 'Autumn Joy' plants that I've let go too long -- the centers of the plants have smaller leaves, fewer flowers and weaker blooming stalks.
Start at the drip line. The roots generally extend that far. Dig a trench around the clump, sever roots cleanly, and then cut at an angle down and under the clump all the way around. If the plant is large or heavy, you might have to slice through the center, into halves or quarters.
Divide in cool weather, when the soil is warmer than the air for at lease part of every 24-hour period.
Replenish soil with organic matter. If you take out a plant, fill the hole with compost.
Use vigorous sections first. After dividing, replant pieces that are, at most, 20 to 25 percent of the original clump. And keep only the healthiest pieces of the plant, typically the outside sections.
Place a division into a hole that is at least as wide as its roots when spread out.
Don't forget to water this fall. Trees and shrubs are already stressed due to our harsh summer and will need a bit of TLC during the autumn months.
Using a soaker hose on a timer is an efficient way to water new plants. There are kits available at many garden centers that include soaker hoses and regular hoses. Put the soaker section around the base of the plant, and then use the regular garden-type hose between plants so you don't waste water.