Perennials will send signals to let you know that they would
like to be divided. Signals to watch out for are when flowering
is reduced, 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
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
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 a 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 root system.
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 the gardener than it is to the
The spring mowing season has begun for some and will shortly
for the rest of the people. We are running a couple of weeks
behind normal as for the starting time, but soil temperatures
retreated about 10 degrees in the last 10 days. There is
certainly enough moisture, so add a little bit of heat and we'll
be hard-pressed to keep up this spring.
There are a few very simple rules for mowing grass. The first
is to use equipment that is ready for the job. Make sure the
mower has sharp blades. Dull blades will show up as injury on
the grass blades, like brown tips and jagged edges. Blades can
be sharpened in several ways. Using a file or grinder are the
most common methods.
Next is the rule of one-third. Never remove more than
one-third of the leaf blade at any one time. This rule must be
followed if you don't want to catch or rake the grass. A good
general mowing height for combination bluegrass and fine fescue
is about 2 inches. This would mean that you would need to mow
every time the grass reached 3 inches in height.
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Bagging grass clippings may actually add to the buildup of thatch
(that dead, matted layer on the soil surface). Thatch is broken down
by microbes at the soil surface. Without a food source, the microbe
numbers crash, and any clippings remain without breaking down. The
variety of grass also has a lot to do with the thatching tendency.
Mulching is OK. It isn't a cure-all, and it does take quite a bit
of extra power to accomplish. The final word is that grass mowed on
the one-third rule doesn't need to be caught or mulched. Bagging
takes time and the clippings must then be disposed of. Mulching
takes extra power and fuel.
Mowing intervals depend upon grass growth rather than a calendar
schedule. The spring and fall periods will require more frequent
mowing than during the summer. That is in a "normal" year. Mowing
frequently really reduces the labor needed for overall operations.
Master Gardener plant sale
Many people have been asking about the Master Gardener plant sale
for this year. It is scheduled for May 2, from 9 a.m. until noon (or
sellout), in the Logan County Fair Special Events Building on the
south end of the fairgrounds. The Master Gardener group is looking
like it has a crystal ball, since the sale is a week later than
normal! They will have annuals, perennials, houseplants, heirloom
tomatoes, peppers and a few other assorted items.
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]