Modernizing Flowerbeds - Knowledgebase Question

Hixson, TN
Question by tnkingskid
April 13, 2010
I have a large yard with several flowerbeds that are overgrown. I bought the house in December and am ready to bring my yard into the 21st century and out of the 1950's. I would like low to no maintenance plants, etc. Also have large volume of Irises that need to be thinned out because they are bunched together. When is the best time to do this. I have a flower bed that is approximately 6' X 2', 4'X2', 12'X4', and want a few raised flower beds that will be approximately 3X3 or slightly larger. Thanks. Oh, I do like color.

Answer from NGA
April 13, 2010


We'd all love to have a no maintenance landscape, but since plants are living things, you'll really need to provide some care. Exceptions might be plants native to your gardening region. They adapt to the climate and rely on natural rainfall so they are pretty much maintenance free. Most are not terribly colorful, though. I'd vote for planting things that you really love. You'll be more inclined to want to spend some time with plants you really love. Whichever direction you choose to go, you can ensure success by amending the planting beds with lots of organic matter prior to planting. Start this spring by removing all vegetation from the area and spreading 4-5 inches of organic matter over the bed. You can use compost, aged manure (fresh manure can be too hot and might contain weed seeds), shredded leaves or whatever organic matter is readily available in your local area. Dig or till this organic matter into the soil - 8-10 inches deep. Plant, then mulch over the bare soil between the plants with additional organic matter. A 2-3 inch layer will help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. At the end of the season dig the organic matter into the soil and add a fresh layer. Repeat this process annually and you'll end up with rich garden loam - and a spectacular garden.

Iris beds are usually renovated in mid-August but you can dig and divide yours as soon as they have finished blooming. I find it easiest to prune the foliage down to about 4-6" so the plants are easy to handle. Lift the entire clump with a spade and separate it into small clusters of rhizomes (this is what the roots are called). Choose only the largest and healthiest-looking ones for transplanting. Put them in a bucket while you work the soil for the new planting. You might also add some compost or rotted manure as they enjoy rich soil. Good drainage will help you avoid borers. Place one or several of the divisions into the prepared soil. If you plant them in a circle be sure to have the leaves facing outward. If you don't do that, they will soon be crowded again. Make the holes deep and wide enough to take the roots without crowding. Have the rhizomes set so they are just below the surface of the soil. This should do the trick.

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