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Taking Back the Yard One Plant at a Time

Do you have parts of your yard that seem to have outgrown their space?

Are your landscaped areas looking crowded and out of control?

Do your perennials and shrubs look like they could use a trip to the hairdresser to get a new “do”?

You see, nature is funny. First, our yards and plants need a little taste of fertilizer to give the growth process a boost during the spring. Then, when summer arrives, it seems like everything explodes, almost out of control, and you’ve got new growth overlapping and outgrowing its parameters everywhere! Once again, your yard is crying out, “Give me some attention!!!”

Fortunately, the answer to all of this beautiful growth is quite simple. Just like I need to see a hairdresser when my hair grows out of control, trees and shrubs need to see the end of a hedge trimmer to get them back into shape.

All you need to do this job is a pair of hedge clippers and a rake. They even make electric hedge trimmers which make the job very easy.

One thing about trimming hedges, you should either do it before the new growth starts or after the plant is done growing for the season. Do not do it while the plant is in the growing process.

To trim or prune your plants and shrubs, start cutting slowly and take off a little at a time.

Then, shape the shrubs to the size that you want them.

Finally, use a rake to clean up the trimmings.

One trick that my Mom taught me for trimming shrubs is to put large garbage bags around the shrubs before trimming. Most of the trimmings will fall on the bags. This will make clean up a lot easier. (Aren’t we all looking for ways to make our jobs easier?)

One last piece of advice---Remember, you’re just giving your plants a trim---taking a little off the edges. Don’t go in like a crazy lady cutting away all of your new growth. Just take a little at a time, trimming and shaping until everything looks nice and neat again.

You might be thinking, “That’s great for trees, shrubs, and bushes, but I’ve got some spreading plants that started off small, but every year they seem to take up more and more space.”

Well, I hear you sister, because I’ve got them, too!

Here’s how you reduce the size of hostas, daylilies, yuccas, or any other spreading perennial plant:

First, rake away the mulch or stones that are surrounding the plant.

Next, dig up as much of the root of the plant as possible.

Here’s a tip to make digging easier for you and the root system: 24 hours before you intend to dig up the plant, give it a good thorough soaking. It will soften the ground, and lessen the plant’s shock when it’s removed from the ground.

Once you’ve removed the plant and its roots from the ground, use a shovel to divide it in half, in quarters, or into as many parts as you desire. (Years ago we purchased one yucca plant at Lowes, brought it home, divided it into 8 parts and planted pieces about 3 inches round in the ground. Today, they are huge! They cover over 2 feet of space each! All this to say, don’t be afraid to divide them into small parts.)

Finally, replant the pieces of divided plant in the ground, filling empty holes with gardening soil. You may also want to add a root stimulator, but it really isn’t necessary.

One quick tip for replanting: When spacing out the new plants, remember to give them enough room to grow. Even though they look tiny now, they will grow quickly. The further you space them apart now, the further you’ll space apart the next time you have to go through this process.

Finally, rake any mulch or stones that may be surrounding the plant back into place, and remember to water frequently.

Optimally, the best time to divide your plants is in the Fall, but realistically, it’s okay to do it during the summer as long as you remember to water the new plants. Why? Because these babies are hearty! That’s why we have to divide them in the first place.

Like I said before, we’ve divided and replanted perennials many times with optimal success. In fact, we’ve had so much success it’s probably time that I thought about dividing some of my yucca plants again! (I’m just not sure where I’d put new plants.)

This brings us to our final tip: When you need to divide your plants, but you don’t need 2, 4, of even 8 times as many plants in your own yard, what do you do?

Pass them on to a neighbor or friend!

Simply place the divided plants in a bucket or wheelbarrow filled with gardening soil until your friends are able to come and get them and replant them at their house. (Remember to keep the roots well watered, of course) Then, pass them around providing your friends with free plants to start or expand the landscaping at their home.

Trading or sharing divided perennial plants is a great way to get new colors and varieties in your own yard, too. Rather than going to the store and buying what you need, why not grab a few friends, have a gardening day and divide, conquer and spread the love of perennials! It’s a quick tip to save a little money while having a beautiful yard at the same time. If I can do it, so can you. Happy Gardening!

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