Neil Moran gardens in northern Michigan and is anxious to see gardeners succeed in the cold climate. To this end he has published two books on gardening in the north country and an ebook on how to save money when buying garden tools and other products. He also taught horticulture for over 12 years and conducts garden workshops.


Renovate a Neglected Perennial Garden
by Neil Moran - posted 08/06/13

Revamping a large perennial bed that has been neglected kind of reminds me of cleaning out my garage after stuff has been accumulating for several weeks. I just don’t know where to begin. Over time, however, I’ve come up with a method to get it cleaned up and organized again which actually works.

I recently applied this garage cleaning method to get a handle on an overgrown perennial bed. I’d like to share what I do to make this task a little less arduous.

The best time to revamp a perennial bed, especially if you may be moving plants around it is in the spring or late summer (like right now) if it isn’t too hot and dry, which as of this writing it isn’t either.

To draw upon the garage analogy again, the first thing I do when cleaning out my garage is remove everything that doesn’t belong there. This will  get some things out of the way so I can start to move around. So with this in mind, let’s get started on the perennial bed.

1.       Remove the most obvious weeds, that is, the ones that are getting taller than the perennials.

2.       Remove the plants you no longer want in your bed. If you plan on discarding the plants simply dig up the whole plant and toss it into the pile with the weeds and other brush that can be composted later. If you intend on moving the plants to another location, cut them down to within about six inches from the crown and keep the roots moist until you can move them to their new location.

3.       Cut down all of the plants that are no longer flowering (if performing this task in the late summer or fall.

4.       Do a more thorough weeding now that the plants you don’t want have been removed.

5.        Rearrange the furniture. Now is the time to arrange the plants how you want them, taking into consideration size, color, texture, etc. Be sure to “water in” the plants you move by sticking the hose right in the hole you’ve dug and filling it with water.

6.       After you’ve rearranged your plants use a spray bottle to carefully spray an herbicide or horticultural vinegar between the plants to further eliminate weeds.

7.       Lay down newspaper or cardboard between the plants. When I do this in the  fall I obtain free mulch from the city compost facility. I lay it down nice and thick and then in the spring I’ll top it off with a decorative mulch in the spring. This will provide EXCELLENT weed protection for the coming season. Mulch each year to maintain good weed control.

8.       Put the finishing touches on your “garage cleaning” by doing a little deadlheading or shaping of the perennials or shrubs. Allow adequate room between the plants so that they don’t crowd out each other.

9.       Do some edging around the flower bed to keep grass from creeping into the garden. You can do this with a landscape shovel, small tiller with an edging attachment or install a grass guard. It’s your preference.

10.   Feed your plants with an organic fertilizer, such as Hollytone or a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote to keep them healthy and looking good.



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cache2019 - 07/09/2019

We recently started a small landscaping business and came across this article which was very informative and helpful (we didn't know much about perennials). Never would have thought about rearranging the furniture like mentioned in step 5. thanks a ton! if you have some time check out our website at
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