Now is the ideal time to rejuvenate your overgrown or neglected perennial flower bed—after the plants have sprouted but before they become too big to deal with or move. What to do…
Clear out the weeds. They don’t just crowd flower beds, they also monopolize moisture and nutrition. Cut them down with a hoe, or dig out individual ones by the roots—both jobs are easier when the ground is damp.
Evaluate. Removing the weeds will expose the clumps of perennial plants. Those that are bedraggled or show signs of heavy pest damage (nibbled leaves) should be disposed of along with the weeds. Keep only the healthiest-looking plants.
Divide. Over time, many perennials develop a dead center and prioritize outer-edge growth. The solution? Chop out the oldest growth, then break the newer growth into sections. If you can’t break apart a perennial clump with your bare hands, use a sharp trowel or shovel. Each small new section should have both roots and leaves. Replant these.
Care and feed. Spread an inch or two of organic matter such as compost throughout the flower bed. Work some of it into the soil with your fingers or a hand rake, but also leave some on the surface. Watering and spring rains will help it enter the soil over time, improving the soil’s texture and offering some nutrition to the plants’ root systems.
To nudge growth along, sprinkle a thin layer of an all-purpose powdered or granulated garden fertilizer and work it into the soil. Repeat every two weeks or so as recommended on the package throughout the growing season.
Finally, lay down an inch or so of mulch to discourage new weeds and also help conserve soil moisture.
Water consistently. If spring rains don’t relieve you of this chore, hand-water the flower bed once or twice a week. Alternative: Snake a soaker or “leaky” hose through the bed, and let it deliver the water slowly and evenly. Deep, periodic soakings are best to encourage resilient root growth.