garden detritus-What to remove what to leave for regrowth?

Question by poof10958: garden detritus-What to remove what to leave for regrowth?
I inherited a well landscaped garden and I don’t know what to do with it. As we encroach on fall I am trying to figure out what to pull as weeds or dead and what can be left. I know to pull Hosta and lilly of the vally and Lilly greens but what about Iris spikes. I don’t remember ever pulling them but I can’t imagine them left all winter either.

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Answer by Richard M
Don’t “pull” anything. Trim but don’t pull. That way any perennials will recover in the new year and any annuals will simply mulch down and provide nutrients for the new season.

Get your self a gardening book specific to your area to ensure accurate plant and climate information. Ask at the local greenhouses and garden supply stores too. They want you to feel good about your garden so will offer lots of advice in the hope that you come back and buy stuff in the spring.

Good luck and don’t be intimidated.

What do you think?

2 Responses to “garden detritus-What to remove what to leave for regrowth?”

  1. SieglindeDieNibelunge says:

    We, too inherited an existing, mature garden (some plants dating back to the early 1900’s!) and found that the main thing was keeping weeds out and invasive plants, controlling pests and fertilizing and mulching (both during winter and during hot summer weather).

    With iris spikes, the solutions are various. Some people believe in cutting them back right after the blooming stops, but others advise cutting them down about half-way (make diagonal cut) to add more nutrients to the roots. This is what I do and it seems to work well. (I’m in hardiness Zone 5).

    Also, if you plan to use the iris pods to gather seeds (I’m trying it this year), then leave them on until they’re brown and dry. Then cut off, dry out inside and break open to reveal the tiny seeds. Plant them inside in rooting soil, or peat moss, then transfer outside in spring.

    Once it gets cool, you can cut back the iris spikes (leaves) and even dig up the roots, cut and separate to plant elsewhere. Just make sure that each root section has “eyes” on it, and that they’re not diseased. I’ve gained several new clumps of irises by this method.

    Also, irises (esp. “bearded” ones) should be separated every 2-3 years to avoid crowding and encourage more blooms. Siberian iris is my favorite, as it’s hardier (very cold tolerant) and more delicate-looking.

    You can do this severing of bulbs and roots with many plants (daylilies, Hostas, for example) to spread them throughout your garden. Either plant after heat of summer but at least 6 weeks before frost, to establish roots. Mulch them after watering and water well for a month.

    Most irises will weather all winter quite well, except for Louisiana irises, which are used to warmer weather (unless you’re in Louisiana!). Just remove old stalks, dead vegetation and add mulch.

    Some people treat bulbs like newborn babies, but for the most part, you don’t need to. Flowers like tulips and Asiatic lilies can be left for the winter, again w/mulch. Only if a bulb isn’t hardy for your zone do you need to dig it up and store inside.

    For some good professional info, try this site:

    There are hints on caring for and propagating many other types of plants, which you might find helpful. Enjoy your garden!

  2. LaDoG says:

    Read archive articles on Horticulture, Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News websites. Read Rodale Publications’ books, and Bob Thompson’s old The New Victory Garden–this last tells all you need to know! Also archive Country Living Gardener articles. Have fun!

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