Housekeeping and vacuuming is important stuff in keeping a house healthy. It is the same for perennial garden maintenance and while I might be better at the garden side of things, it is certainly something you have to look at.
Mother Nature sends fungus to start the breakdown of tender, yet fading or damaged plant tissue. Botrytis is the single most common fungus in the world (spores are everywhere) because it is the front line fighter in breaking down organic matter for Mom. As soon as a flower starts to fade or a leaf to die, fungus attacks.
Now the deal for gardeners is that while we want fungus and bacteria to do their work, we’d prefer they work in the soil or on dead plants rather than on our living and flowering ones.
Deadheading means we cut off the flowers and flower stalks as the flowers fade. Remove the dead flower heads. Remove spent flowers as often as you can on plants that put more than one flower on a stalk. Remove the entire stalk after the flowers have finished. Cut this stalk as far back as you can.
This is generally a few minutes a day of wandering out into the garden with a pair of shears to snip here and there. Toss the cuttings into the compost pile and you’re done.
And yes, unless the plant is seriously diseased with something other than the common gray fungus Botrytis, or a leaf spot or two, then the cuttings do fine in the compost.
No matter what the books tell you, it is necessary to weed a perennial flower garden.
Perennials do not smother weeds.
If you plant them close together and they mature, perennials will retard the establishment of weeds but weeds do not stop. Ever.
Grass will be the biggest problem you face and I can’t say it enough – you have to remove the grass as soon as you see it. If you let grass become established in a perennial bed, it will require a renovation job in very short time.
So, like any gardening you have to weed perennial beds in order to keep the plants growing properly.
We cover the how of dividing in propagating but generally when your plant gets too large or stops producing blooms, it is time to divide it.
Consider this a necessary part of perennial gardening and a gardening task that must be done every spring or fall after the first two or three years of the garden’s life. There are very few perennials that do not require dividing at some point in their life. Luckily, different perennials have different timetables for when they require dividing. A Shasta daisy may need help every spring while a daylily or peony can go for 20 years without division.
Those are the three basic things you really need to do in a garden to keep it healthy. Yes, it’s work and no, there’s no way to avoid it (well, there is – we call them annuals) 🙂