Saturday, April 9, 2011

Garden Work Checklist - Spring Care for Hardy Herbs

Last weekend I was out working in the garden, removing the winter from the garden. 

The following is a checklist of things I was doing that are perfect Spring care for hardy herbs --

·         Clean winter debris such as wind blown branches, over winter mulch, etc. from the beds.
·         Cut back the stems of those plants that grow from vigorous underground roots (like Silver King Artemisia, bergamot, mints, rue, tansy, tarragon and yarrow) the dead stems can be broken or cut off, if done gently enough so as to protect the underground growth.  To do best, hold the bottom of the stem securely at the soil while breaking or cutting off the top.
·         Trim lavender, southernwoods, and upright thyme for good grooming.  Don’t pull them out, no matter how dead they look.  New growth will soon pop out of most of the branches.  You can cut out the deadwood later when it becomes obvious.
·         Divide your perennials to give you filler for new spaces or starts for new gardens.  Plants like mint, sage, hyssop, thyme, oregano, chives, lemon balm and tarragon can all be root divided and moved to new locations.  This is especially good if they are older than 4 years.  Fresh soil and environment with give them a new vigor and enrich their flavor.
·         Pull roots of any wandering herbs that may have strayed out of bounds (this will happen with runner herbs like mint).
·         If you have new beds you plan to use or spaces you are expanding into, now is a good time to turn over that soil and perhaps work in some compost.  Do not overwork the soil or do this if the soil is very wet from recent rains.  You do not want to compact the soil

Dividing Herbs

One of the simplest and best propagation methods is dividing an existing plant. You know what you have, don’t have to worry you got the right variety and you know it’s growing habit and flavor.  Dividing exisitng plants requires some elbow grease, but is not that difficult.  Just follow these steps:

  1. First you want to use a shovel or garden fork to dig up a section of the roots of an established plant.  Don’t dig it entirely out.  If it is growing too far to the left and crowding another plant, start there.
    courtesy of J Crowlie
  3. Cut and remove the plant and the root and shake off the excess soil and separate the plant into clumps of about a fist size.
  4. Choose where you want the new plants to reside and dig holes about twice the size of the root clumps you will be planting.
  5. Replant the new divisions into the holes into which you have placed 2 to 4 inches of compost in the bottom.  Press soil around the plant firmly so that it will not fall over, but not so tightly that you press out the air or the water from the soil. 
  6. Water well and let thrive.
For more details and a chart for when to divide certain plants, check out this link to the Clemson Cooperative Extension

~Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh (2011)

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