Third year challenges or, What do you mean, overcrowded?

PalladiumJune 4, 2014

I muddled through the first couple of years, but I have hit some snags that I'd really appreciate any advice on.

Setting: Classic long skinny garden behind a mid-terrace house, west-facing. Decent, if not spectacular soil.

Goal: vaguely cottagey-style garden.

Rookie mistakes: tried to fill in quickly and now some parts are definitely overcrowded; cranesbill, croscosmia, columbine and forget-me-nots are threatening to take over; buying one(!) of every plant that I like, mostly perennials.

1. How do I move plants out of crowded spaces without harming it and those close to it?
2. If there's one thing to be said about overcrowding, it's that it keeps the weeds down. Any bit of dirt that does not have a huge cranesbill flopping over it has weeds- I'm pulling out Herb Bennet like crazy. I know weeding is never "done", but any tips in keeping it under control?
3. I'd like to be able to feed the plants by putting down a layer of compost a few times a year. However, if I'm to avoid putting it directly on the crowns of plants, this seems to be nearly impossible if I take into account succession planting, etc.- i.e., nearly every bit of soil is the crown of some plant or other, even if it's not growing yet.

It's our first house, so it's the first garden I can do anything I want with and it's coming along well, plus I love spending time in the garden. So I'd like to make sure I'm going in the right direction.

Thanks for any help.

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1. Use a good shovel or even knife to cut down into the ground near the plant. You will be cutting some roots but it shouldn't be enough roots to give negative impact on the remaining plants. Take the other plant that you are trying to move to another spot.

In the future, you'll probably have to do something like this for some of your perennials, so you can get used to cutting through the ground or mound of a plant and know that you're helping the plant more than hurting it if you divide it or make it less crowded.

2. For other parts that are not being covered by some desired plant growth, you can use mulch. You also should consider mulching under plant stems that are bending over, even if they are blocking out weeds for now.

3. Lay out your compost in a thin layer several times a year. It shouldn't be eventually building up and increasing your ground level. If you add mulch, you will probably want to move the mulch aside when you add compost.

If the plant is not growing yet, you may not need to side dress that particular area. I mention this since I assume you are focusing the compost on the current plants, not trying to add compost to the entire garden area every time you add compost.

Alternatively, you can use your compost by making compost tea and feeding the plants that way.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 10:37AM
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Thanks, gp.

I will adopt your "little and often" approach for the compost- hopefully a very thin layer means it doesn't matter if some of it gets on a peony crown or whatever. My aims are to slowly improve the soil and feed the plants, so I want organic matter added whenever I can, but I don't want to dig it in and disturb anything already there.

As for the overcrowding, certain parts are looking a bit better since I ripped out all the post-flowering forget-me-nots. I'm leaving the cranesbill until the autumn because the bees LOVE it, but I'll definitely split those. Will also need to move some irises and a rose. Oooh...poor rose has already been moved once!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 7:22AM
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