Master Gardener Sue Morris: Make a spring 'to do' list as you complete fall chores
Divide perennials in the spring or fall, but water well if doing so now as it has been a dry year.
As you are emptying your flower pots this fall and putting them away for winter storage, you might be surprised to find a sweet potato tuber hiding in your potting mix in a pot where a decorative sweet potato had been planted last spring.
If you happen to find a tuber, you can save it for next year just like a dahlia.
You can also take stem cuttings to save a sweet potato vine.
Are these tubers edible? They are but they probably don’t taste as good as the ones grown specifically for eating. Also, you need to consider if you used any chemicals on the decorative vine during the summer.
Are you wondering if you should divide some of your perennials? Some signs to look for include fewer flowers, a plant that is shrinking or having a dead center.
Spring is the ideal time to get this job done as plants are small and there isn’t much foliage to deal with.
Fall is the next best time. Since we are in a dry year, there needs to be extra care taken when moving or dividing your perennials. It is probably best to use the same advice as if you are transplanting in the middle of summer. Cut the foliage back by at least half. You will have a smaller root system and it won’t have to send so much energy to the foliage.
The day before you do your dividing and/or transplanting, water the plants well and also water the area where you are going to transplant them.
In fact, if you can, dig the new hole ahead of time and fill it with water. When transplanting/dividing, get your plant in the new hole quickly so the roots don’t dry out.
After the plant is in place, fill the hole halfway with soil and water well. By doing this, you are ensured that the water isn’t rolling off the soil’s surface.
Fill the hole completely, water it once more and put down a layer of mulch. You aren’t done yet. You need to check your transplants daily to check for wilting or if they need more water.
Another suggestion is to make a spring “to do” list and write down all the chores that need to be attended to and didn’t get done this fall. It’s easy to forget what needs to be done when everything is emerging in the spring.
While talking about watering during a dry fall, here is some information taken from a Bachman’s information sheet:
“The lack of rain during the late part of the growing season should be a major concern for anyone who values their landscape plants. How much watering should you do? There is no simple, easy answer that would fit all landscapes. Many factors including soil type, drainage, variety of plants and methods of applying the water will influence how much you should water and how often.
“To make the most of watering, apply it slowly and target the feeder root system. With perennials or grass, the feeder roots are in the immediate area of the crowns of the plants.
"With established trees and shrubs, the vast majority of the feeder roots are out BEYOND the drip-line or canopy. The area within the canopy of the tree is called the rain shadow. Fifty % of your tree’s surface area is below ground. The majority of the feeder roots are outside the canopy and within 12 inches of the surface. Feeder roots are fine, fibrous roots capable of absorbing water. Most of the roots within the canopy have bark. They are conduits for carrying moisture absorbed by the feeder roots. They are also the anchors, providing stability to the tree.”
Good advice to keep in mind.