Preparing your beds for fall planting is a very important job at this time of year. You can be adding a new bed, cleaning a bed that already has existing plants, or preparing to add more plants to this bed.
When planting a new bed, the first thing you will want to do, is make a plan of the bed. Map out, or on a sheet of graph paper, draw your garden. Once you know the size and shape, you will be able to go to the next step.
You will begin by getting your soil ready. It is easier to work your soil when it is moist, but not wet. This will help break up the soil to make it easier to work with. You can then add your compost, and any additional composition you want to add. Some of the mixtures you may want to try are humus, peat moss, or dehydrated manure.
Work this into the soil with a hoe, or shovel/spade to turn the soil over in the bed. The soil should be breaking apart. Do this weekly, for 2-4 weeks, and then leave it alone. You will then want to add a top layer of compost. If you are working with a bed that already has perennials in it, you will still want to add a compost composition.
Be very careful here, you will add mulch around the existing plants, as it is very important not to let the new compost come into contact with the existing plants. This can cause disease as the compost is a raw material.
You then add the new compost and work it into the soil like you would do to a new bed. Just remember to be careful and it is easier to work with moist soil.
Spread organic matter on top of your soil, it is a good way to keep the bed in good shape once your perennials are in place. Mulches, when broken down, also provide a good layer of organic compost. You can try shredded bark and even chopped leaves. You should reapply the mulch as needed throughout the growing season. Remember to always pull out any weeds that may come up.
You are now ready to map out where you will be planting your new bulbs and plants as they arrive in the fall. Remember to plant items that work well together. Perennials with perennials, annuals with annuals. If you plant a mixture, the watering and fertilizing needs are going to be different and can wreak havoc on the flower bed that you have worked so hard to put together.
Remember, summer waterings are very important during this time of year also. If summer rainfall is scarce, they will look their best if they get about an inch every week with your help. Water deeply, not often. Make sure the water is being absorbed. It is a slower process, but the benefits are rewarding.
Dividing Irises
August is the perfect month for dividing your iris rhizomes. If you have never done this before, do not fret! Dividing irises is much easier than it sounds—we will show you!
A couple of signs that it's time to divide your irises are that they are not blooming as well as they once did and that they are a few years old. Prior to dividing your irises, it is a good idea to stop watering for a week or two. This tells the plants to go into a dormant state and prepare to be divided. When the time comes to divide the rhizomes, begin by digging them up with a garden fork. Be careful not to injure the plants during this process. Once the clump is above the ground, shake off as much soil as you can, then wash off the remaining soil with a water hose.
Now that the clump has been dug and is fully exposed, it is important to identify its components. The rhizomes that have already bloomed are known as "mother" rhizomes, while the new rhizomes growing alongside of them are the "daughter" rhizomes. Once it has bloomed, the mother rhizome will not bloom again. The mother rhizome can be identified by either a remaining bloom stalk or a callus on the leaf end where the bloom stalk once was. Once you have located the mother and daughter rhizomes, simply twist the daughter rhizomes off by hand. Select the largest, healthiest daughter rhizomes to replant. It is also worth noting that while the mother rhizome will not bloom again, it will continue to produce daughter rhizomes if replanted. Once the clump has been dug and divided, it is important to trim the leaves and roots. The leaves should be trimmed to 8-10 inches and any dead or damaged roots should be removed.
Before replanting the newly divided irises, there is one more thing to do. For this step of the process, you will need a solution of one part household bleach to 10 parts of cool water. Submerge the rhizomes in this solution for approximately 20 minutes, rinse them thoroughly and allow them to dry in the sun. This prevents fungal disease and tells the irises that it is time to break dormancy and resume their growth.
Finally, it is time to replant the irises. Place them in a prepared bed or containers if you desire, making sure they will receive at least 5 hours of sun per day in the location you choose. Leave at least 24 inches between each rhizome and cover them with soil, keeping in mind that the upper surface of the rhizomes should be even with the soil level. Water the plants well and let nature do the rest! You will soon be rewarded for your efforts with happier plants and more prolific bloom.

Prepare Your Beds For Fall Planting