It was sunny, but cool and windy this past weekend. But the pruning bug had gotten me and I attacked a Sage, 2 Lavender, a Lemon Balm and a Hydrangea on Saturday.
I tried to use a manual hedge clipper for everything, but the Sage and Lavender were too woody. I have not given either of them a good clip in a long time. I had to use a hand clipper for those. But I was able to use the hedge clipper on the Lemon Balm. It all feels much brighter and more open. Ah, Spring is on the Way!
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The patch of green in the middle of the picture are my chives making their annual appearance. The first bit of green on a hillside of fuzzy brown.
It didn’t occur to me until afterward to check if this was actually a good time of year to prune these plants. I found this on the About.com site and breathed a little more freely:
When is the Best Time to Prune Woody Herbs
Pruning, other than the pinching down you do when you harvest your herbs, is best done in the early spring, once new growth starts at the base of the plant. A second pruning can be done after flowering. Don’t prune late in the season. You don’t want to encourage new growth when the plant is trying to go into winter dormancy. http://gardening.about.com/od/herbsspecificplants1/qt/Pruning_Herbs.htm
Being that I did pass the Master Gardener Course, I ought to know this.
But when I saw this little blurb in the online Farmer’s Almanac:
5th-6th Excellent Time To Kill Weeds, Briars, Poison Ivy, And Other Plant Pests.
and I didn’t have any Plant Pests to get rid of, I thought Pruning was the next best thing and jumped right to it!
I didn’t have too much of it last year, but found I have soooo much now, it’s everywhere. And with a propogation mechanism of spitting it’s pointy seeds high into the air and around itself, it’s no wonder!
Right now, the plants are young and the seeds are not yet spitting. I recommend pulling them up now, once they start spitting their seeds, they will spread everywhere.
I found a site about foraging these “weeds” which I found really intriguing.
To gather the hairy bittercress, we just lift up the cluster of leaf stalks and cut them with a knife near the ground. Then we wash the greens and pick through them, discarding the yellow leaves and pinching off some of the larger stems and flower stalks. They add a peppery bite to raw salads, and can be cooked with soups or in a recipe like other greens. We did eat a big salad with a yogurt and bittercress dressing for dinner one night, and may try some potatoes cooked with bittercress and field onions into a breakfast hash this week.
Last weekend while working in the garden I came across two of these snakes in my garden, snoozing away underneath the walkways.
I starting trying to find out what he (she?) was. I tried a Google Image Search, but got nowhere. I searched for New England Snake Identification, Brown Snake, tried a few more dead-ends, then landed on this result:
The last common small snake is the Rough Earthsnake (Virginia striatula). These can be very common, often several under a single rock. They are gray, brown, or reddish with no obvious markings and the belly is a light tan (never pink). These eat earthworms, slugs, and insect larvae.
Which lead to bunch of great Google Images that looked really close the snakes I found.
However, the Wikipedia entry for Virginia striatula says that their geographic range is Texas to Florida and as far north as Missouri and Virginia. Well, Connecticut is a good bit north of Virginia and it’s still early Spring here (so not very warm).
The first reference and Wikipedia say that this type of snake feeds on earthworms. Which might explain why they are hanging out in my garden. But then the question becomes… I like my earthworms, should I do anything to get rid of these snakes?
It’s also possible that I am totally off-base and the snakes I found are something entirely different that I haven’t discovered yet, or the range of the Virginia striatula extended quite a bit.
The other day I wrote a post about knowing when to split Siberian Iris. So today, here’s a little photo-journal of me dividing Siberian Iris.
Turns out that there are 3 bunches that should really be split, but 2 of them seemed to be more grown in than the other and I was worried that disturbing the ones that are grown in would impact their ability to bloom for the season. So I split one batch and will leave the other two for Fall.
I dug up the whole bunch and then used my handy-dandy soil knife to split the bunch into smaller bundles.
Based on the information from the UMN extension center site, I kept at least 6 growing points in each bunch with adequate roots. Because they also emphasize keeping them moist, I put them into a trug of water while I was preparing the soil at their new sites.
Then I dug some holes in a few empty spots in my garden bed, plopped in the newly split iris clumps, filled in the soil and watered thoroughly.
Yes, I know the garden bed is a mess… it had not yet been raked out and prepared for fresh mulch. It’s looking a bit better now. It’s been raked, but new mulch has not been put down yet. Surrounding the iris are the day-lilies that are starting to come up.
There are two opportunities for dividing Siberian Iris. To insure flowering it is best to divide in early spring as new growth just appears. Waiting until the new growth has started may stress out the plants and prevent them from flowering that season. Dig up the clump and cut through the thick root system, keeping at least six growing points with adequate roots in each clump. Keep these sections moist, plant immediately, and then water in thoroughly. In late summer or early fall it is possible to cut back the foliage to about six inches, then dig and divide the plant as before. Replant, water in, and mulch well for winter survival. Siberian iris don’t require division as often as bearded iris to perform at their best; their tough crown often requires a strong arm to cut them apart.
So, based on this (I have great faith in extension center websites), my own understanding of when plants need dividing and this little blurb on the ask.com site:
If your irises have grown into a circle with a dead zone in the middle, it’s time to thin.
I think I will tackle splitting these asap before they get too big. There are about three clumps of irises coming up in that circle pattern. I may do one or two now and save the last for the Fall. Just to see if it makes a difference in the health of the transplants, or the ease of dividing to do them in the early Spring or Fall. I have a feeling my sister is going to want to take all my excess rhizomes, but I have a few ideas of where I’d like to fill in with new patches of iris. These have been very healthy over the years and I’m thrilled that I have three bunches ready to be split.