Prune, pluck and divide your plants

On GardeningNovember 13, 2013 

The second week of November is still a good time for gardening. This is the best time of the year to dig and divide peonies or to add new peonies to the garden. Tree peonies are often sold as bare roots at garden centers and nurseries in the fall and if you take the time to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches and work in several buckets of compost you’ll enjoy huge blooms this summer.

Keep your eye on the weather and as soon as you can grab a day when the temp is above freezing and it is dry enough to work outdoors gear up and get these pre-winter chores crossed off your list:

Prune shrubs and trees. First remove anything dead, diseased and damaged, then stand back and really look at the patient. Now go back and prune to shape. Cut branches all the way to where they meet a main branch – do not leave little stumps poking out unless you really need a place to hang your hat.

Apply lime to lawns and vegetable beds and around your roses now. If you didn’t yet fertilize with a fall and winter lawn food, this is the week to feed the lawn so it can crowd out new weeds in the spring. (Do not use a weed and feed product.)

Got lilies that are blooming less or with smaller flowers? Lilies are easy to grow in Western Washington but they will die out if not divided every four or five years. Lift the clump with a spading fork. Tease apart the biggest bulbs so that the bulblets are no longer clinging alongside and sucking away the nutrients. Immediately replant the biggest lily bulbs leaving at least six inches between bulbs. You can plant the baby bulblets as well and they may be large enough to make a flower in two or three years – if this seems like too long of a wait – just toss them into the compost pile.

Got hosta? Got slugs? You’ll cut back on your slug population if you remove all faded, yellowing and dying foliage from your hosta plants now. Any other perennials with soft, yellow or dying foliage can be cut to ground level. Floppy, rotting foliage becomes a winter haven for slugs.

Cut the stems and leaves of peonies to ground level now to avoid black mold and leaf spot disease. Peonies are homebodies and do not like to be moved to a new location. Fall is the time to force a move if you must transplant a peony that needs more sun or just must go. You should cut the stems and leaves all the way to the ground then dig deep and remove the root system of the peony with as much soil as possible around the roots. Be sure you do not plant your peonies too deep. Even a few inches of soil or mulch on top of the eye or growth sprout of a peony will cause it to send up foliage but no flowers.

Feeling ambitious? You can mow and edge the lawn as long as it is not freezing and the ground is not soggy. Add lime and compost to the vegetable garden after you clean out the beds. Spray the walkways with a moss killer and preventer to keep away the slippery, green slime.

Now you can say you’ve tucked in the garden for a long winter’s nap.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at

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