Long chill spring times like this one afford gardeners plenty of time to split and divide perennials. Some folks take advantage of the extra cool weather, using this time to re-vamp tired soils in existing garden beds. I’ve already consulted this season with quite a few folks who just wish to make their current garden beds look a little more healthy, vibrant, diverse, and full. I’ve been telling these folks it must be their lucky year.
In years like this we have plenty of time to lift out the newly emerging perennial plants, re-work the garden soils where they came from with a healthy amount of compost, and replant the original plants together with some exciting new selections. In past extended cool seasons I’ve had impressive results from this very practice.
A friend went through this process a few years back and he referred to the farm-compost that we worked into his soil as “super-poo” by the end of the growing season. I always tell folks the same thing, once the bed is empty of plants or grass, just turn in 6 inches of compost with a shovel or garden fork, leaving large chunks of existing soil where it’s possible. Once the soil and compost is turned together use a couple more inches of compost as a mulch layer. Plant, water, and Stand Back!
Transplanting existing iris, coneflower, sedum, and a host of other perennials in this manner leads to such abundance that you may just have to back up after you water in your new gardens so you’re not shoved aside by the rapid growth! If your replacing sod and you haven’t got any transplants to fill the space then starting with baby plants in a temperate season like this is also an excellent idea, as the cool weather helps reduce the shock of transplanting seedlings or starter plants. In the St. Paul yard show to the left you can see how we’ve reworked the soil, and replaced the struggling sod with a garden of baby plants that are already showing signs they’re enjoying their new home.
As this garden fills in the roots will penetrate the earth sending water deeper then grass could ever thereby feeding the trees in the yard and the water tables below. The diversity of plant life in this garden will be a home to birds, bees, butterflies, and a menagerie of other native wildlife, yet another task that a sod lawn could never perform. It may just be this gardener’s opinion, but the new garden should surely be more delightful for the passing neighbors then even a perfectly healthy grass lawn could ever be.
We’ll be sure to check back in with this young garden later in the season to see what our fresh start has produced. Sometimes in life we wish we could just start over. If your compost bin is half empty then maybe you’ll be thinking how much work all this sounds like, but if your compost bin is half full then maybe you’ll see how lucky we are to be given the rare opportunity to begin again.