Early birds get job done best

Sedum
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You can tell the really keen gardeners; as soon as the calendar ticks over to March, they are out with forks and spades to divide overgrown clumps of perennials such as sedums. Good for them (the gardeners), and if the weather’s OK, it’s something worth doing before the gardening season begins to accelerate and there are many far more important things that need doing.

So, it’s a cased of divide and conquer – give those summer-flowering perennials a good going-over before they start to grow again and they should, with luck, produce flowers this year.

The ones to choose are those whose centres appear devoid of growth while their edges are showing signs of fresh greenery. Get the fork, lift the targeted clump and then split it with the spade. As long as there’s a section of root still attached, it should be fine and you have doubled the number of plants without spending a penny. Occasionally, it’s possible to get three, four or even more young, rooted plants from one parent. The drawback is they will be smaller but given the right growing conditions, they’ll soon bulk up to become parents themselves.

Give them a reasonable planting hole, enriched with organic matter, and water them in. If the weather stays dry, keep watering.

This is also the perfect time to support tall-growing specimens which are likely to be flattened by high winds and heavy rain.

What you use to do the job is entirely up to you. You can pay a fortune for fancy supports or you can pay nothing – old buddleia stems can make perfect crutches for the more susceptible cases. They may stick out like sore thumbs, but once the plants have grown up around them, only you will know they are there.

If you leave staking until the plants have started to grow, it becomes a bit of a battle, and there’s many a fresh, green shoot that’s been broken in the process of trying to help it. It’s the early bird who gets the job done best.