Monday 20 August 2012

Reasons not to dig 4: to avoid damage to roots

Digging amongst established plants severs their roots and frequently kills them

Blood grass and the euphorbia would not
be able to scramble together like this.
Years ago the horticulture course that I organized took on the management of the college herbaceous borders. ‘Chalky’ White, the head gardener, told me that each year, because of drainage problems, certain plants never made it through the winter. He also told me it was dug every autumn. No wonder the plants died. All roots in the better aerated surface soil were chopped away, the deeper ones ‘drowned’. Gardeners often claim misfortune when their plants die. In truth it is usually they alone who have killed them.

Gardeners misguidedly ‘stir’ their soil to aerate it. The cultivation they do ensures the roots are not there to enjoy it! Roots naturally come to the surface where the soil is most fertile. Let them do so, don’t cut them away.

In the ornamental garden it is highly desirable to have seasonal bulbs all the year round. In late summer my own beloved dicentras such as the Bleeding Heart (the wallpaper on this blog), go into early summer dormancy. Countless numbers of such dormant plants are destroyed by the careless digger.

These days, most good gardeners recognize these problems and do not deeply cultivate amongst established plants; not amongst fruit, vegetables, herbaceous plants, shrubs or trees.

Not much chance of getting a spade in here, and imagine the damage if you did.
Hardy cyclamen don’t pop up everywhere in the diggers garden. But hey, there is some damage here - we seem to have had a visit from the RDU (rabbit diggers union). They have left their calling card.

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