Answering Your Questions, Part 2
About two months ago I used this blog to answer the questions you folks asked on Facebook. I’m here again to answer a few.
- Could you please tell me when the best time is to divide perennial lilies? I have some that are getting big and when I check everyone gives me a different answer.
Great question! As with most perennials, dividing is best left until early fall. This allows the bulb to do a little bit of work over the winter and still bloom in the spring. If you wait until spring, which you certainly can, there’s a greater chance that your bulb will have spent its time and energy putting down some roots and won’t have much left for a flower.
- Mark, this past weekend in the Toronto Star you described the benefits of putting leaves in the garden not the garbage. My question is: my garden is covered in mulch, so will putting leaves on top of mulch provide any benefits? In the spring should I remove the leaves or turn them into the soil and reapply the mulch?
Thanks for reading! Leaves over the mulch will definitely provide benefits. The nutrients in the leaves are different than in the mulch (assuming it’s some sort of chipped bark mulch). Because your garden has a layer of mulch, I would recommend not mulching your leaves. This way, you still get nutritional benefits, but in the spring, they can be raked off and composted. No need to dig up the soil and disturb the microfauna making your soil super healthy.
- I have several bags of compost that I was unable to spread on my beds in the spring. Is it a bad thing to spread it now in the fall? Can I use the manure to hill up the roses and anemone?
You have referenced both compost and manure. These are two very different substances. If using manure in the food garden, apply only in the fall (due to the risk of E.Coli if using it fresh). Bagged manure is much less of a risk but the nutrient payout is significantly less than you’re going to get with compost.
Simply put, compost is the way to go and can be applied at any time. If you compost now, you won’t have to do it in the spring. One application a year is plenty. By the spring, the nutrients will have worked their way down to the root zone and you’ll have happy plants.
As to your second question, compost or manure can be used to hill up your roses and anemone. Just be sure to pull it back in the spring.
- We have two white birches in our yard: one is quite mature and the bark is split down one side of the tree about 30 inches and the split is quite deep. I tried some wax from a local garden center, will something else work to save it over the winter? The second (less mature), its leaves turned brown in August and they all fell off. Any help would be appreciated.
My advice for any tree problem of this magnitude is always to consult a professional. There are far too many factors at play for me to give you a proper answer. There’s a reason arborists go to school and, believe me, their services are worth every penny. It could mean the difference between saving a tree and having it topple onto the house.
- Can I still plant bulbs?
Based on the weather we’ve been having and what is predicted, I would say yes. However, it will depend on your local situation. The ground here is still far from freezing and it will be another month (my prediction) before the snow flies). If you’re going to plant bulbs, do it now!
- 6. This year our potatoes had a lot of spots chewed out, then we saw earth worms in them. Why? How do we stop this next year?
There’s a good chance you actually saw tuberworms. These white to brown worms are the cause of many potato crop losses. One of the most common reasons for their presence is shallowly planted potatoes. Next year, try these tips:
- Plant all potatoes at least two inches deep
- Water evenly and don’t allow the soil to crack or become too dry
- Remove potatoes from the ground promptly – don’t allow them to sit in the ground too long after the vines have been cut down / died
- Plant dill, fennel, or yarrow. By allowing these plants to flower, you will attract braconid wasps which will prey on the culprits.
- Is it too late to split a peony in Northern Ontario? When is the best time to do it?
Northern gardening is a little different due to the challenging growing season you can have. I suggest you check out Boreal Farms’ website, specifically their peony dividing page. They will have a better understanding of the growing conditions you are facing right now.