Too late to split up?


May has to be my favourite time of year in the garden. The Beast from the East and Beast 2 were only 6 and 8 weeks ago,yet now faded into memory. Consequently April was slow to get going, but by the end the spring had mostly caught up, with cherry blossom only a week behind and the fields turning yellow with rape kale about two weeks late. Lilac and asparagus, cherry and apple blossom are all in season.

Border preparation is far behind, as the ground has been so wet. The potatoes on the Dillington Estate have only just gone in and you are not the only one surveying healthy weeds and knee high perennials with dismay.

The gardening books will tell you that perennials will need dividing regularly. Oddly enough, nature does not bother. If you wish to extend the territory of early shooters like geraniums and geums, you may still do so even if they are well grown by now. The topmost growth is likely to wilt when the roots are severed when digging them up, so I shear them back to 4 inches before dismembering the clumps into smaller clumps and they soon grow again. I may not bother until October for there is much else to do.

It is worth knowing that there are certain perennials which are content to stay in one clump for years. I have never known peonies to gallop down the borders like the lysimachias, and the oriental poppy in the border of the house I lived in 40 years ago is still at the foot of the steps, showing no inclination to stray.

My thoughts turn to perennial vegetables. I do not dig the soil much now. Science has shown that it is not beneficial to the micro-organisms to be constantly turned and buried to an unaccustomed depth. For chapter and verse on No-Dig gardening, I suggest you seek out my garden heroes Charles Dowding and Steph Hafferty on social media or buy one of their books. It really does cut down on the labour of digging and your back will be grateful for that – however you will be now spending your time sourcing and barrowing compost, so No-Dig does not mean No-Work.

I am now contemplating a future of gardening mostly with perennial vegetables, for there may come a time in old age when I do not want to be barrowing and hoeing. Noticing that large clumps of rhubarb and mint are flourishing amongst the weeds near my new allotment (future article fodder), I might end up with a vegetable garden of nothing but rhubarb, thuggish herbs, Taunton Deane perennial kale (thanks to Charles for the cutting last year), raspberries and Jerusalem artichokes, all peering through the docks and nettles which I would scythe down twice a year.

If only asparagus and globe artichokes would survive such a rough regime, I should be one happy ancient gardener, sitting under an apple tree watching diggers work up a sweat.