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30/10/2013 at 11:00

Last night I was given a car full of perennials by an elderly relative who has decided he's 'retiring' from gardening and has celebrated the fact by digging up everything, roots and all. Mainly Asters but a good variety of others too. In truth there's only a couple of dozen but they are mature bush-sized plants, still most in bloom, and currently are sitting in big sacks on the patio.

The question is, do I plant them out now - which I'd prefer not to do because I'd have to  clear out all the late annuals that are still flowering well to get to the back of the borders - and let them settle in before the soil gets too cold or would I get away with planting them into big pots until next year? Indeed, give that my soil is heavy clay and they've had a shock, would a few months in some nice fresh compost to grow new roots be a good thing?  I'm only used to dealing with small, young plants that are pretty forgiving not more mature plants and would hate to kill them off with a bad decision.

30/10/2013 at 11:09

If you have big enough pots to spread the roots out I think that would work very well. Then you can clear ground and in spring do any splitting required

30/10/2013 at 11:57

Thanks, Nutcutlet.  I was hoping that would be the answer but wasn't sure whether my impulse not to plant out yet was driven by procrastination.  Although I would hate to lose the plants, the thought of clearing the beds and then digging two dozen deep holes this side of spring was not particularly welvome. 

30/10/2013 at 12:58

Lucky you.   I can't see annuals lasting more than a week or two now as some cold weather is bound to hit soon.   If you have the pots and plenty of compost and can protect them from heavy frosts over winter then by all means pot them up.

That'll give you the winter to clear your annuals and pile lots of compost and maybe some fine grit on your soil for the worms to play with over winter and break up your clay a bit.

30/10/2013 at 13:30

You're right, Obelixx, and I admit that it's more that I don't want to plant out these new plants yet than truly that I don't want to clear the annuals yet.  I cleared out all the tomatoes last weekend so have a lot of deep, empty pots at the moment and space in the cold greenhouse so it would be easier to just pot up for now.

That's a really good idea you've given me about handling the bed. I found some nice compost a couple of months ago and because compost has been so bad on the whole this year I went mad and literally bought a ton of it. I'll pile everything I haven't used onto the bed after clearing it and dig it in, here and there, as I have the time and energy. Eventually I'll get some decent soil there.  Clay is really hard work but it's fertile and my roses love it so overall I'm not complaining. My back frequently does, though,

30/10/2013 at 14:01

It's always sad removing annuals Macavity - I was the same with the sweet peas recently but they are probably worth more to you as next year's compost just now. I'm on clay too and it's always worth putting a bit of effort into getting the soil more friable. Plants get off to a good start and don't need lots of fussing about with. The fertile clay does the work for you. I sympathise re your back - mine's the same  

30/10/2013 at 14:28

I'm loving the gardening overall, Fairygirl, and not much defeats me but the stoney, solidly clay soil of our garden is proving a back-breaker.  I'm physically limited  because I'm so darn small that I can't get any weight behind tools to dig in deep. I said as much to my husband, who is a big bear of a man, hoping that despite his loathing of anything garden-related he would at least offer to do a bit of digging over for me or even suggest getting someone in to help. His response, instead, was to buy me a fork-hoe which he presented to me with such a proud flourish that I didn't have the heart to complain.  Oh well. I will eventually get it all done.

30/10/2013 at 14:32

Don't try an dig too much as it doesn't really help soil structure and can reduce the levels of beneficial organisms present to help provide nutrients to your plants.  Just spread the compost over as soon as you clear the annuals and leave it for the winter then fork it next spring.  Covering it with cardboard will help too and it can also just be forked in next spring if it disintegrates or removed, torn up and put on the compost heap if it stays in one piece.

30/10/2013 at 14:36

I sympathise Mac. Get some permanent planting in as soon as you can and mulch round it. Digging is a killer for your back and a lot of it can be avoided.

Check out 'no-dig gardening' 

30/10/2013 at 16:27

If we knew the plant varieties we could suggest whether to divide or not and pot up.  In any case, this time of the year and into next  few weeks I divide many herbaceous perennials to plant out in spring.  Some large perennials....like big cannas,big grasses etc........I simply dig up and use a bin liner with mpc.  Just wrap around the rootball and tie top.  Works well and large plants are then available to plant out later

30/10/2013 at 16:40

Thanks, Verdun.  Unfortunately I haven't the foggiest idea what most of them are as I was given them in the dark.I had a quick peek this morning before I left for work as it was getting light and definitely could tell there are blue, purple and white asters and a large gyp but I won't really be able to take a good look before Saturday. Then I might be posting pictures and begging for help with identification. All I know for sure at the moment is that at least half of them are taller than me and although my husband responded to that observation with 'so not very tall then' they obviously are quite substantial plants so it would be a shame to accidentally kill them off.

30/10/2013 at 16:53

I used some of the dried manure (think you can get it quite easily) in the garden of the house I moved into 20 years ago. Not much had been done in the garden - it had just been maintained and was mainly grass. As I made borders I used that and when I was ready to plant them I just added some compost and grit every time I put a new plant in. Eventually the ground was really quite good. I'm doing the same here but I've also just made some raised timber beds which I'm putting all the plants in that I brought with me in pots. Removing the turf to make the beds is the tough bit! A little at a time  and you get there though 

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