Divide and Conquer! April 2021 Dig & Divide.

Lisa Biggio, Chair of Civic Beautification Committee.

Promising to help DGC members “turn perennials into cash” for the May 22 Annual Plant Sale, Lisa Biggio attracted 24 members to her Zoom presentation, Divide & Conquer. A Master Gardener and chair of the club’s Civic Beautification Committee, Lisa gave her April 14 audience compelling reasons to go all in for an event that provides the bulk of the club’s funds every year.

This year the plant sale venue at Abbot Public Library is new, and the actual sale hours will begin in the afternoon, rather than morning. Lisa’s presentation provided a refresher for longtime members and guidelines for new ones participating in the event, instructing her audience on the basics on plant propagation. She also noted that in addition to giving DGC the needed inventory for a successful sale, digging and dividing can improve the health of the mother plant by aerating the soil around the root ball and thereby stimulating new growth.

Eight DGC members have generously donated their gardens. Lisa said that some plants could yield up to 20 plants, resulting in hundreds of plants for sale Diggers were reminded to bring their own bag of soil to fill in any holes left in donors’ gardens and to line the bottom of temporary holding plastic pots with newspaper to retain moisture and save on potting soil.

Lisa offered the following ten best practices for digging and dividing:

  • Divide when a plant looks good
  • Start digging at the drip line
  • Divide in cool weather
  • Keep roots cool and moist
  • Replenish soil with organic matter
  • Use vigorous sections first
  • Take extra care when the plant is in bloom
  • Keep only the healthiest pieces
  • Spread out your divisions
  • Let the roots be your guide

And here are the five basic root types DGC diggers should look for:

  1. Offsets – Small plants growing at the base of a larger one

Divide by cutting between any of the sections to obtain a piece with roots or at least 3 eyes or growing points.

i.e.  asters, echinacea, hosta, tickseeds

2. Surface roots – Roots that run on or just below the surface of the soil and forming new crowns

Divide by cutting between the stems and you should see a stem with its own roots.

i.e.  bee balm, black-eyed Susan, creeping sedums, creeping veronica

3. Tap roots – A large root that is usually growing deep down into the soil

Divide by slicing down the length of the root and diving into pieces with at least 1 eye or growth bud.

i.e.  balloon flower, asclepias, euphorbia, oriental poppies

4. Underground running roots – Runners that grow underground beyond the mother plant.

Divide by the remote pieces that can be cultivated from the mother plant. These can be separated into the pieces that have an eye or a sucker formed.

i.e.  anemones, hardy geranium, ostrich ferns, plume poppies

5. Woody roots – A woody root stem rests on the ground or becomes buried around the mother plant and sprouts roots.  Can be cut from the plant directly.

i.e.  candytuft, euonymus, sages, salvias, lavenders

Adapted from FineGardening.com   10 Tips on Dividing Perennial Plants

                                                                                                                        Harriett Magee

Happy Dig & Dividers Ellen Nichols, Andrea Gregory, our Captain Laurie Boggis, Susan Smith, and Joy Purdin
Ginny von Rueden and our garden host Bob Jackson.
Dig and Divide Captain Susan McMullen searches this wooded and hilly garden for plant sale volunteers.
Dig & Divide Team Linnea Payne, Brigitte Fortin, Dianne Barrett, and Susan McMullen are all smiles after a successful morning dig.

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