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Autumn is time for the great divide

It's autumn and time for the great divide. Not of course, the "Great Divide," that split in the continent that separates rivers that flow into the Atlantic from those that flow into the Pacific.

No this "great divide" is the time to split up or divide overgrown clumps of perennials such as hostas, peonies, irises and daylilies. All of these tough perennials thrive on low maintenance and once established will bloom for years.

As perennials grow, their roots spread into large clumps. Often after a few years, the center dies out and the planting declines. Some plants such as iris will simply stop blooming when overcrowded. Too thick a planting will also cut down on air circulation and sunlight so that disease and mold will attack.

Not only does dividing perennials revive overcrowded plants, it's an inexpensive way to multiply your plants.

Like the waters falling on the Rockies, your garden needs division. Late summer and early autumn is the best time for dividing plants. The cooler temperatures and added precipitation encourage roots to develop before the next bloom season.

Choose a day that isn't too hot or sunny. It's always a good idea to keep the plants out of direct sun even if they're just out of the ground a little while.

Carefully dig around the plants, and use a garden fork to lift the clump from the ground. Plunge two garden forks, placed back to back, into the center of clump. Now gently push the garden fork handles apart, splitting the clump into two smaller clumps.

If you have really large clumps or just want more new plants, you can keep splitting the clumps into ever smaller pieces.

By hand carefully separate the new clumps or divisions. For peonies be sure that each clump has at least three buds or eyes coming out of the roots.

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