As the temperatures and weather continue on this wacky roller coaster, it is still not safe to plant any frost sensitive plants outdoors. Really, don’t you dare plant any tomatoes just yet! But underground, your perennial plants are growing and getting ready to show themselves. A perennial is a plant that dies back in winter and regrows in spring, and it lives for more than two years. Plants that live for only two years are called biennials.
As perennials start to grow in spring, it’s the perfect time to divide them and transfer them around your garden whether to a pot or the ground, or give some to a friend.
I like to divide perennials to rejuvenate the “mother” plant. Sometimes after a few years of growing, the original parent plant can start to lose some vigor due to crowding and competition for water, nutrients, and light. The flowers may be smaller or fewer in number, or it’s growth may become spindly in nature. These are signs that the plant needs division. Dividing will reinvigorate new root and shoot growth. Another reason to divide a perennial is to control the size or spread of a plant. And of course, we divide to make more plants to fill in bare spots in our gardens for free!
The process is quite simple and you don’t have to be too gentle about it. A day or two before dividing, water the plant well to ensure the ground is softened. Do the dividing on a day that is not blazing hot to help prevent stress on the plants. Simply stab the blade of a spade or large garden fork down through the crown of the plant and dig up a piece with roots and some soil. This chunk should then be transferred to a new hole in the garden or into a pot to grow on.
Another method of division is to completely dig up the mother plant (size permitting) and tease apart the mass of roots and new shoots with your hands or a hand-held garden fork. Then split the clump up by pulling it apart, cutting with scissors or a knife or a garden spade. Repot or replant the divisions into the ground immediately or store them a few days in a cool place in something to keep the roots moist. Water the freshly planted divisions well and keep them moist until you see their new growth. Mulch and feed the new plants and the original with your favorite balanced fertilizer.
Note: Some perennial plants do not like to be divided at all. A quick internet search will help you find out if you have one of these. Lavender is one that comes to mind.
What to plant in March: From seed, plant things like lettuce, chard, beets, cilantro, carrots, radish, peas, kale and spinach. From starter plants, things like any of the above, in addition to hardy plants like oregano, mint, thyme, sage, parsley (a biennial!), chives, onion slips, broccoli (spring type) and cauliflower (spring type).
Note: ‘Spring type’ refers to the plant’s ability to create a crop very quickly, where as a fall type takes longer. ‘Hardy’ refers to the plant’s ability to withstand frost.