Nobody ever said gardening offers immediate results.
That is what Lee Reich warns in his latest report in a series for the Associated Press about gardening.
With this limitation in mind, he dug up one of his flower beds recently.
For plants, autumn is a good time for a flower-bed makeover. A makeover changes the appearance of something almost completely, so it looks a lot better.
During the autumn, cooler temperatures slow water loss from leaves. This means that plants can better deal with being taken out of the ground and roughed up before having their roots placed back into soil. Leaves help support new root growth, helping the plants re-establish themselves in their new homes.
However, if you gave most plants this kind of rough treatment in the summer, most would die.
Why a makeover might be needed
The major reason for Reich’s flower-bed makeover was some Siberian irises that had grown wildly. They threatened to take over the whole bed. It might be that you cannot have too many iris flowers, but after the flowers disappear, you surely can have too many iris leaves. His were taking up space where other, later flowering plants could be beautifying the garden.
The same could be said for the daffodils in that bed. Both Irises and daffodils grow from round bulbs. They found the bed much to their liking, and created many more bulbs year after year.
They presented a glorious and welcome sea of yellow each spring. But the yellowing leaves that followed were a sorry sight for too long. At least the iris leaves looked orderly the whole season.
Autumn is also a good time for a flower-bed makeover. That is because any planting mistakes -- lack of midsummer flowers, poor color combinations or too many irises and daffodils -- are still fresh in mind.
In addition, Reich’s bed suffered from becoming too much of a disordered mix of flowering plants. It had become a home, although it was supposed to be only a temporary one, for many flowers that he had been given or had bought without any thought.
Make a plan
Diving into this chance to redo the whole flower garden, Reich made a plan on paper. A good idea is to draw a bird’s-eye view of what the garden should look like from above. This shows where in the garden each of the flowers should be planted. But also draw a human’s-eye view — that is, the garden as you would see it from ground level.
In this human’s-eye view, Reich was able to imagine a pleasant mixture of irises, delphiniums and gayfeathers, asters, spireas and black-eyed Susans. Including a butterfly bush and baby’s-breath flowers would -- Reich hoped -- bring everything together.
Then the actual work began. To thin out plants like irises, he used a garden tool to dig beneath the thick group of plants and lift them out. Once out of the ground he cut the group down the center and pulled it apart. He replanted parts of the clump and gave away the rest to a fellow gardener for planting.
And the daffodils? He just dug them up, separated the bulbs by hand, and replanted the largest ones.
Readying the bed for winter and next year
Reich watered everything well to make certain that the roots started to grow as soon as possible.
After that, he put about five centimeters of small wood pieces, or chips, over everything -- except for the delphiniums. He added compost before putting the chips around those plants because they need fertile soil to grow.
Wood chips are a kind of mulch, or soil covering, that keep the soil from drying out. It also keeps soil temperatures from dropping as low in the winter or changing too fast. That means mulch gives roots more time to grow before temperatures start to freeze. And it prevents freezing conditions from pushing new plants out of the ground.
For gardeners, there is a downside to autumn flower-bed makeovers.
The bed looks a little forlorn from the autumn through the winter because you have dug it up and the plants are not ready to grow. But everything will look fresh in the spring.
Yes, it is true gardeners can wait until spring for a makeover. But there are many other things to attend to in the spring garden!
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Lee Reich reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
roughed up –v. (phrasal) to hit, strike or beat something; to treat harshly
bulb –n. a round, underground part of a plant that grows into a new plant in the next growing season; a round object
glorious –adj. something that should be famous; something that is beautiful or very enjoyable
bird’s-eye view –idiom seen from above or as a bird would see it
clump –n. a somewhat round mass of something
compost –n. a mixture of plants and organic material that is breaking down and that improves soil
forlorn –adj. sad, lonely or hopeless; empty or in poor condition
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.