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Properly Distancing Your Perennial Bulbs

A trowel with flower plant bulbs in dirt.
A lot is uncertain right now, but perennial gardens are blooming, as they do every spring.

Each week, Charlie Nardozzi joins VPR’s Weekend Edition host Mary Engisch for a conversation about gardening, and to answer your questions about what you're seeing in the natural world.

On my daily walks, I have occasionally been allowing that fear of the unknown to creep into my thinking. And when it does, the one thing that consistently allays some of my worry is seeing that nature isn’t worried.

In fact, it continues to march on, unhindered: birds return, rabbits appear, crocuses pop up, buds grow heavy on new branches, seasonal allergies flare up! And right now, perennial gardens are, indeed, blooming faster due to warmer weather.

What are your questions, concerns and experiences with the coronavirus? Share them with VPR, here.

So this week, Charlie shares which perennials to divide and how to do it, plus other springtime chores to tackle in your perennial flower garden, like fertilizing, weeding and moving plants. 

Spring bloomers

The rule of thumb is that, if it is a spring bloomer like peonies, irises or bleeding hearts, divide them in the summer or fall.

Summer and fall bloomers

If it is a summer or fall bloomer, like asters and sedems and ornamental grasses, those you divide now.

The tough ones

If they are tough plants like day lilies and hostas and bee balm, you can divide those any time.

The how

Dig down, take the whole clump and cut it into sections with a sharp knife or garden saw, then replant them in separate places in your garden with similar conditions.

For bee balm, just trim off the edges and move those while leaving the center of the plant as is. Keep them well-watered and add an inch or two layer of mulch or green-cover crop, like creeping flox or vinca to fill in the spaces between plants. That looks nice in your perennial garden and keeps the weeds out.

Q: When time comes for us to buy those plants, seeds, top soil, compost, etc. for our gardens this year, I don't think visiting the shops will be feasible to pick out what we want. So are the shops planning on online choices and sales? — Lysa, via email

Check in with your favorite local garden center. Right now, some shops have quickly transitioned to curbside pick-up and online sales. They can help you over the phone or direct you to an online site, and you can order, swing by and pick up what you'll need!

Q: For the writer whose blueberry plants hadn't grown in four years, another possibility is that they were planted too deeply, a technique sometimes used to hold a plant at a given size. — Sally, in Randolph

If you plant blueberries too deep, the shallow roots will indeed get smothered and not grow as well. So keep blueberry bushes healthy by not planting them too deeply, and covering them with mulch.

a grey line

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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