Workshop tips for dividing plants in early spring and fall
On the first Saturday in April, a plant-dividing workshop sponsored by the Woodstock Neighborhood Association took place inside the Woodstock Community Center. While plant dividing may sound simple, Brentwood-Darlington resident Melba Jade shared tips from decades of experience. Small things like improper soil moisture and root/leaf balance can make plant dividing tricky.
She offered these tips for dividing plants in early spring or early fall for a plant sale – or for expanding one's own garden:
· Prepare well, using a tarp to prevent mess. Have all tools and containers on hand.
· Don't dig plants when soil is very wet. Wait for soil to be just "damp", in order to prevent compaction.
· A plant cannot support more top than it has roots. Since some roots are destroyed in digging and dividing, carefully remove some top growth to balance the plant.
· Leave the biggest and best roots, and don't disturb the interior of the root ball. Fork under the entire root zone if possible.
· Put plants on the tarp and use knives, sharp shovels, and pruners to make divisions. Use old discarded black construction tarps, or reuse old tarps for Earth's sake.
· Get divisions into pots or new holes as quickly as possible.
· If plants are put into pots, place on bricks to slow down the invasion of slugs.
· Make sure roots are spread out. Some plants (larger, woody types) may require that you make a firm cone of dirt in the center on which to spread the roots. Gently backfill soil into all areas, firming with your hands.
· Water slowly right away. Make sure the plants don't sink after the first rain.
· If transplanting into containers, keep containers or pots out of direct sun until plants show signs of life. Sun-requiring plants can then be moved into some sun, but plastic pots should be shaded.
· To see if pots with newly placed plants need watering, pick up and judge by weight. Do not fertilize at this time. Use compost as a top dressing in lieu of fertilizer.
Whether or not dividing is necessary depends on the kind of plant, and the gardener's preference. Peonies do not necessarily need to be divided, nor do hostas or ferns if they continue to thrive in clumps. Instructions for dividing particular plants are available online.
Avoid invasive plants. The city has compiled online lists of invasive and noxious plants. You may wish to "tolerate" them, but neighbors and other parts of your garden might instead be forced to contend with them. Less experienced gardeners may not notice signs of problems early on.
As the workshop ended, a few people showed Melba some plants from their gardens that they wanted her to identify.
This year, any plant dividing will undoubtedly be done in daily drizzle. Gardeners may pot plants later than usual, but following the above tips can make them grow better after they are divided.
For the Woodstock Neighborhood Association's Saturday, May 11th pre-Mother's Day plant sale at the Woodstock Community Center, check the website WNA for more information: www.woodstockpdx.org