Dividing your plants is a great way to garden more frugally | Gardens

One of the more charming oddities of gardening is that the more you do it, the fewer plants you have to buy. Some of the most proficient, experienced and, well, elderly gardeners I know will proudly exclaim that they can’t remember the last time they bought a plant – yet their gardens look fantastic.

It’s a twisted logic that novice growers struggle to understand and less-new-ones aspire to. Buying new plants, especially snazzy, in-bloom, ready-to-roll numbers from the garden centre, is a habit many of us shrug off after a few years. Once things get established, there’s a kind of challenge to garden as frugally as possible.

Lifting and dividing plants is a big part of this. After a certain period – two or three years for some perennials, half that for others – plants get large enough to cut into chunks and grow each chunk (or division) on as a separate plant elsewhere in your plot.

Not only do you get new plants for nothing, you get new plants that you know thrive in your soil and are of the same variety that already exists there. Another sometimes hard-to-swallow horticultural truth is that gardens look better when they have a smaller plant palette on repetition than when they include one of everything. Dividing plants helps that along massively.

It’s important to do this when plants are not actively growing. For plants that have flowered in the summer, the following spring is a good time, especially if the previous autumn was wet, because the plants will be about ready to put on a growth spurt. Autumn also works, as many plants are

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Fall at your feet: five easy and affordable autumn gardening tasks | Gardens

A year into developing our new little garden as sustainably and cost-effectively as possible, things are gradually taking shape. The woody potentillas, viburnums and Parthenocissus I rooted as cuttings and layers last year have doubled – and in some cases quadrupled – in size, climbers are inching up the fences and, remarkably, the formerly shoulder-high almond tree now peeps over at the neighbour’s garden.

A vibrant accumulation of annual, biennial and herbaceous flowers filled out the beds this summer – all grown from seed, plugs or pilfered divisions. Among them are hardy perennials fattened by June’s heat and July’s relentless rain to the point of needing splitting again. There have been crops of salad leaves, rocket, dill and parsley, a few tomatoes, raspberries and growbag potatoes, though the shifting sunlight across the seasons has been something to get acquainted with: an area I’d assumed would be bathed in summer sunshine proved inadequately bright for the bronze fennels and blue salvia I’d planted; in other areas a topping of mulch was needed to combat overexposure.

So, autumn is the time for pause, to take stock of the spring and summer growth and note the gaps, failures, thrivers and space invaders for next year. That said, tasks loom for the months ahead. These are the five jobs I’ve prioritised for autumn that offer a break from the mundanity of weatherproofing fence panels and hoicking toy cars out of the catmint …

Sow hardy annuals

Autumn sowings placed in a cold-frame to over-winter; an unheated greenhouse, cool windowsill or upturned plastic storage container make good cold-frame alternatives
Autumn sowings placed in a cold-frame to over-winter; an unheated greenhouse, cool windowsill or upturned plastic storage container make good cold-frame alternatives

Strip away the annuals – the tumbling California poppies, lemony cosmos and tall, vivid orange Mexican sunflowers that have brought the garden to life this summer – and you’ll be left with a paltry lot: scattered

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