Friday, April 3, 2009

Perennial Basics: Weekly and Seasonal Tasks

The following article (reprinted from Spring 2008) wraps up our Perennial Basics series. We have presented this series weekly for the last few weeks. The previous articles are easy to find by looking to the right tab! Let us know if you have any questions!

We sell a wide variety of perennials at Skillin’s. We define perennials as usually green or herbaceous plants that are best planted in beds with other perennials or as a complement to your shrub and tree (woody) or annual plantings or other aspects of your landscape world.

Perennial plants are intended to give us the ever hopeful gardener years of enjoyment as we nurture and feed them, pinch and prune them, and divide and worry about them. Yes, perennials become an extension of our family. Many perennials do not flower for long periods of time which only makes our appreciation of their colorful offerings that much sweeter when that time of year comes. Perennials are a blessing!

Last year I came across a great article in a garden center trade magazine called “Green Profits” titled “Perennial Gardening Basics”. I think the article is fantastic for all perennial gardeners. For the next few weeks, I intend to give you small excerpts from the article (to whet your perennial gardening whistle). If at any time you would like the entire article emailed to you just let me know at and I will send you a “Word” attachment.

Here are some weekly and serasonal perennial garden duties to add to your “workout.”


First of all, if rainfall is intermittent, you will need to water your perennial garden. Check below the top two or three inches of soil and water if dry. Try to avoid wetting plant leaves during the day to prevent the spread of some plant diseases.

Spend some time walking through your perennial gardens removing spent flowers and damaged leaves by hand or with a hand pruner. Also, inspect for insects, diseases and signs of animal damage. Watch for leaves with holes or ragged edges; discolored or spotted leaves; chewed flowers or buds; or damaged stems. Once you have spotted a problem, your best move is to take the damaged part of the plant to your favorite garden center for a positive identification. They will also be able to recommend solutions for just about anything you confront them with. If you have no luck at the garden center, contact your local cooperative extension service.

Finally, everyone’s favorite task: weeding. Use a hoe with a small, sharp blade; a weeder; or pull them by hand. The trick is to get them by the root. Remember, you can burn as many as 300 calories an hour doing light weeding. There’s your incentive.


Keeping your garden tidy by edging the beds will add to its beauty. For the best results, use a half-moon edger or spade. Facing your garden, push the blade straight down about three or four inches. Then simply pull the handle toward you to remove a wedge of soil. Once you edge your garden once, it’s easy to keep it looking good with minimal effort.

Fertilizing and mulching should also be done periodically throughout the year - maybe not monthly, but certainly first thing in the spring and again heading into winter. Use a slow release, granular fertilizer or natural alternative in the spring. This should feed your garden well into the summer. Fertilizer formulations specifically for perennial gardens should not be difficult to find.

Mulch should be no deeper than two inches and organic materials like shredded bark should be replaced as they break down. (I like to mulch with compost, instead of conventional bark mulch)

Cut back most perennials to within eight to 10 inches from the ground after the tops die back or leave them intact for protection against the cold. In spring, cut back all dead stems to the ground and rake out debris. If you have questions about pruning back specific varieties, ask your favorite garden center expert.

Good Luck & Have Fun

I hope you are excited to get started planning a perennial garden. It is sure to provide years of enjoyment and receive plenty of compliments from friends and neighbors, all for very little effort.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 2009

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