Brrrr, it's cold again!
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[April 03, 2007]
Coming off some record-setting temperatures,
we now have the thermometer heading the other way. Causes for
concern are several, but there may only be a few we can actually do
much about. The main thing the warm weather has done is speed along
development of just about everything. Many trees are in bloom,
tulips are now in bloom, and perennials are out and going in most
Of course we can expect some fruit reduction in cases where
severe frost or freezing catches trees in the stages of tender
bloom and early fruit set. Book figures are about a 10 percent
reduction in apples for a full bloom temperature of 28 degrees.
Peaches in early fruit set at similar temperatures will see
about a 25 percent fruit reduction. Of course this isn't always
bad. Many have been complaining the past couple of years about
too much fruit and broken branches.
Of bigger concern is
rhubarb. A hard freeze can actually damage leaf cells enough to
release a toxin back into the leaf stalks. The leaves are always
toxic on rhubarb, and if they are damaged enough to wilt or have
black or brown along the edges, the toxin is almost certainly
released. The solution is rather simple, at least this early in
the game. Pull or cut stalks, and you get to start over with the
regrowth. It may happen again as the plants have more growth,
but at least now we are early enough that we don't feel quite so
bad about starting at ground level again.
For those who got some potatoes out, if foliage is damaged
enough to wilt, it is probably best to cut tops back to ground
level and allow regrowth. If tops on potatoes rot back into the
tubers, they're basically goners.
A common maintenance chore in a perennial garden is that of
dividing. There is no set rule as to when to divide perennials.
Some may need division every three to five years, some in eight
to 10 years, and some would rather you not bother them at all.
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Perennials will send signals to let you know that they would like to
be divided. The signals to watch out for include reduced flowering,
with the flowers getting smaller; the growth in the center of the
plant dies out, leaving a hole with all the growth around the edges;
plant loses vigor; plant starts to flop or open up, needing staking;
or it just may have outgrown its bounds. These are the signs to look
for and not a date on the calendar.
If division is indicated,
spring is the preferred time to divide. Some fleshy, rooted
perennials such as poppy, peony and iris are best divided in the
late summer to very early fall.
Division is usually started when growth resumes in the spring.
The process starts by digging around the plant and then lifting the
entire clump out of the ground. Then, using a spade or sharp knife,
start to cut the clump up so that each clump is the size of a quart-
or gallon-sized perennial.
Discard the old, dead center and trim off any damaged roots. The
divisions should be kept moist and shaded while you prepare the new
planting site. After replanting, water well and protect the
divisions from drying out.
Division is no more complicated than this. Some perennials may be
more difficult to divide than others because of their very tenacious
Division has as its primary goal the rejuvenation of the
perennial planting so it can continue to perform the way it was
intended. Many home gardeners have found that the process of
division is more traumatic to them, the gardener, than it is to the
[Text from file received from
Fulton, University of Illinois Extension,
Logan County Unit]