Harriet Zbikowski Photograph: Courtesy of Harriet Zbikowski
When the weather is cool enough to don long pants and sleeves, ankle length boots and a good pair of Gauntlet gloves from Foxgloves, I have plenty of work cut out for me.
The forsythia hedge is ready for its yearly rough weeding. A forest threatens to shoot up between the seemingly dense shrubs. Lurking in the undergrowth is a plethora of vines and trees doing their best to sprout and get their leaves out to the sun light. The tendrils of grapes, bittersweet, Boston, and poison ivy twist and turn onto any support.
Maples, oaks, sumacs, and Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus) squeeze past forsythia stems. I need to rip out these woody seedlings by the roots to avoid having to prune them back to ground level several times during next year's growing season.
This is also the best time of year to move peonies with no worries. If I try to move them in the spring when they are growing I risk losing them or, at the very least, missing a season’s worth of pleasure as they struggle to recover.
I cut back the peony foliage to 6-8” above ground and dig the thick roots out of the ground with my shovel or spade. I cut around the whole plant before lifting so as to avoid breaking the deep roots. If you do the same chore, you may be surprised at how deep they grow. Don’t worry if some roots break.
Dig the new peony planting hole twelve to eighteen inches in diameter but no deeper than the longest root. In fact, you may trim the roots to 12 inches in length if need be. By not loosening the soil at the base of the planting hole you can avoid the roots settling deeper than they should. Peonies are notorious for becoming “Goldilocks” at this point; their brilliant pink growth buds don’t want to be too deep nor too shallow, 1½ inches deep is “just right.”
This is the time to mix plenty of well-rotted compost, along with a big handful of bone meal, into the backfill soil. Backfill the hole with half the planting mix, water gently, check, and adjust the height at this time.
Bearded iris also benefit greatly from being dug and divided in the fall. You could do this chore in the summer, but who wants to work in the heat?
Using shovel or garden fork, I dig up the whole clump of iris, cut the foliage back to a 6-inch fan, and trim the roots to 4 inches, saving the plump rhizomes that have at least two sets of fans on them. I love to share the smaller leftover pieces with friends.
This is a great time to sift through the planting area with your garden fork to eliminate any perennial weed roots lingering in the soil. The key to happy irises are well-drained soils with not too much organic matter mixed in. Add a handful of bone meal to each planting hole, let the roots hang down and bring the soil in, leaving the shoulders of the rhizome half exposed above ground. Don’t forget to water.
My Foxglove Grip gloves give me barehanded dexterity while keeping my hands clean. They are the perfect companion for these dirty tasks.
About the author:
Harriet is the designer and founder of Foxgloves. She has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. She has gardened since she was a child and has vivid memories of her grandmother’s flower and vegetable gardens. Harriet’s work as a professional horticulturist gave rise to the idea for Foxgloves.
In her own words: As a designer, landscape architect and professional horticulturist, I longed for a glove that would protect my hands without impeding my sense of touch. In 1999, I launched Foxgloves and created garden gloves that are comfortable, functional, form fitting, durable, washable, and attractive!
Today, people everywhere enjoy Foxgloves. They have earned the reputation as the world’s most versatile gloves. Not only gardeners but also birders, hikers, photographers, equestrians and many more have found Foxgloves to be perfect for their outdoor passions.
Posted September 16, 2014
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