Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Falling into spring

Master Gardener Intern


October 11, 2018

Judy Walker

Glass half full, summer may be a distant memory, but peonies can now be safely transplanted this time of year, and you'll find promises of next year's flowers in the root system.

I recently (reluctantly) started the process of winding down the yard and garden for the season. One of the happiest days of the year is filling the hummingbird feeders for the first time in the spring; one of the most melancholy is taking them down in the fall. There are big, empty spaces in the raised beds where vegetables swayed in the breeze not more than a few weeks ago-- the peas and beans are in the compost heap, the lemongrass has been harvested and all the potatoes dug. And the frost has ended the season for pumpkins and all but robbed the garden of the gorgeous color that for a few months- short, in retrospect- graced the yard and brightened the days as annual flowers.

Sigh ... I could go on and on, and this could really get bleak.

But something changed, thanks to local master gardener Kathy Wieditz. She shared the following valuable instruction about peonies:

"It is that time of year when you can safely transplant peonies.  The massive roots spread deep and wide, so give some space when you dig so as to keep roots and crown together. Rinse them off, trim off any rotten spots, (there might be a hollow root that you want to scrape out) and make sure that there are healthy eyes at the top of the crown.  These are next years' branches. They are about 1/4  - 1/2 inch long, pink or white. Try not to damage these. It does not matter if you get the entire root system, as it is inevitable that some of the roots will break. Trim off the old stems and leaves."

I have several peonies that are being crowded by other perennials, so Kathy's advice was especially timely. Following her email step-by-step, I rinsed off the roots after digging up the plants and sure enough, there they were: pink and white eyes. "These are next years' branches."

Is the glass half empty or half full? Is fall the end or the beginning? I guess it's all a matter of perspective, and perhaps more importantly, attitude. Kathy's observation and the actual visual experience of it moved me solidly into the 'fall gardening glass half-full camp'. It feels good.

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald


More from Kathy: "This would also be the time to divide your [peony] plant: make sure there are three to five healthy eyes (buds) for each division. You may cut the root apart to give each division enough roots. Dig your new hole about 18 inches deep and wide.  Do not put manure in the hole, but a handful of bone meal mixed with the soil is OK. (It is also good to add bone meal around your plant after it comes up in the spring.) Any good garden soil will do for planting. Place the plant so that when the dirt is all packed and watered in to the hole and around the roots, the eyes (or buds) are no more than two inches under the surface of the soil, any deeper, and they will not bloom. Make sure you put them in a sunny spot, not under trees or crowded by other plants. Do not over water or over fertilize. Do not plant a peony in the same spot where you removed one, as the old dirt can carry soil born diseases."

Follow this link for a list of flowering bushes and when it is best to trim:

If you are wondering when and how to prune your grapes, here is a helpful site:

Check out this article on preparing perennial beds for winter:


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