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Leonard Moorehead, the Urban Gardener: Hunker Down

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Leonard Moorehead, the Urban Gardener: Hunker Down

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Leonard Moorehead, GoLocalProv Gardening Expert

 

Leonard Moorehead, the Urban Gardener: Hunker Down

PHOTO: Leonard Moorehead

Gardeners are optimistic people. A garden is alive, our green spaces nourish. Quiet, peaceful gardens are refuges from turmoil. We become better people as we plie our humble tasks, each of us a guardian. Life is our palette, nothing is lost in translation. Gratitude is easy to find in the herbaceous border, raspberry patches and golden asparagus beds. Steady cultivation offers every gardener a vast reservoir of good will. Good gloves, sharp pruners, a keen eye and deep breath are sure fire keys to happiness. 

Fresh produce, sweet fruits, or colorful flowers motivate many gardeners. We’re as complex as any, the garden offers opportunity. Nowhere is the gardeners’ signature more apparent than within the garden. Each potted plant, community garden plot, postage stamp corner is a metaphor. Gardeners can’t resist, our playground is green. There is always a natural chance to express our best natures. 

Bundle up and get outside. Walk the garden. Bring a rake and remove leaves from turf. Pile leaves on canvas painters drop clothes. Drag the kaleidoscope leaves to the compost heap, shred them if you can, save them absolutely. Garden soil has an endless appetite for organic material. Each leaf is a random act of kindness. Heap up the leaves. Lift up the heart. No alter is more certain than soil. Raking leaves is righteous. 

Most garden plants are dormant for winter. Raking leaves is mindful. Observe past season successes. Rake, breath and note: have shade lovers like Hosta become thickset? Did New England asters become dense stands? Have fruit trees grown over sunny places? Perhaps Chrysanthemums are sprawled over turf? Are goji berries on the march? The gardener’s work is never done. 

Cool weather encourages energetic labor. Wear layers, shed or don jackets, sweaters, and shirts. Hosta is a reliable mainstay of shady plantings. Shade changes from year to year, a tree comes down and presto, more sunlight, others grow taller and once bright places are cooler, dimmer. Gardeners are resilient, cool weather is great time to relocate perennial plants. 

Lift and divide is the time tested approach for propagating perennial hostas. Rake away last season’s foliage. Bring compost and place nearby, lay down burlap bags to protect adjacent plants and soil. Each hosta cluster is bountiful. Dig a spades depth around the thick clusters. A tined spade fork is ideal, an oval spade long handled shovel works fine. Hostas root system is 6-8 inches in depth. Once dug around, work the spade under the clump. Take your time. Free? Lift up the hosta clump and lay upon the burlap bags or tarpaulin. Don’t fuss. Break apart the root ball. 

Virtually all stems and roots will grow into fine stands. Break apart the clumps into 5-7 main stems. Cover with the ground cloth for protection from dry wind and sunlight. Seek another location within the garden, offer or swoop clusters to friends and neighbors. Find new homes for the divisions. 

Enrich the original plant site. Incorporate compost and mix into the original bed shredded leaves, peat, or other organic materials. Replace divisions into the site. The surplus harvest is for others. Firm up the additional soil around the roots and duplicate the original soil level. Water, tuck mulch around the stems. The hostas will settle in over the winter and emerge energetic and vibrant next spring. 

Lift and divide technique applies to many perennial plants. Asters, iris, and daylilies are common examples. Siberian iris form dense clumps. After a few seasons, a doughnut forms, the central area dies off as nutrients are drawn into foliage. Blooms diminish. Lift and divide these white or purple beauties. Reset into their former location, nourished with fresh compost and enriched soil. Fresh growth next spring will return, renewed. 

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