Last week I ended my column with a comment about the impending winter. I recommended buying a large container of fuel for the snowblower and got called out by a friend for it. However, given last weekend, maybe you should buy two big containers just in case. Back to gardening.
Early fall is a great time to pick up nursery bargains and transplant perennials and trees to give them a head start on spring.
To divide spring-blooming perennials, loosen the soil around the plant and gently work the roots out of the ground. If you are dividing it, use a sharp shovel or garden knife to cut through the root ball. Replant the pieces into their new homes and water in well. Even if the plant is deer resistant, spray them with deer repellant to keep the curious deer from pulling them up just because they can.
Fall is the only time you can reliably transplant peonies. Let the foliage turn yellow and then dig them up. Start a foot out from the clump and gently work the plant out of the ground. Look for the pink growing eyes at the base of the plant and divide the root so there are growing eyes on each clump. Replant so the top of the root ball is just at the soil surface. If it is planted too deep, it won’t bloom in the future. Water well to settle the soil and lightly mulch with shredded pine needles.
Moving hellebores is similar. Dig the entire clump, wash the dirt off the roots and look for the growing buds. Divide the plant so each piece has at least three growing buds on it. Replant it at the same level it was at and water it in.
Buying trees in the fall is a great way to know exactly what their fall colors will be. Nurseries will have lots of containerized trees at bargain prices. To plant a tree, dig a dish-shaped hole that is as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Remove the tree from its pot and locate the point where the trunk flares out into the roots. You may have to dig into the root ball to find this area. Remove any roots you encounter that are circling around the root ball as they will strangle the tree in a few short years. Rough up the surface of the root ball and set it in the hole so the root flare is at the soil surface. Backfill the hole with the original soil with no added amendments. Water the tree in well to settle the soil.
How important is proper tree planting? Recently, Francie Skeen of Spokane noticed the canopy of a Blaze maple was dying back. After consulting with the WSU Master Gardener Plant Clinic, she found that the tree had been planted too deep and had several large roots encircling the trunk. The canopy was dying back because the roots had not spread out and couldn’t collect water for the tree.
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