Hello, I am in Thornhill and have flower beds in full sun and part shade. What is the best way to amend/improve the soil in these beds when they are planted with numerous spring flowering bulbs, peonies and other perennials without disturbing or damaging them. Thank you. Debbie Speyer
Once your garden beds are unfrozen and dried out, it is a good time to add soil amendments. Currently, many garden bulbs are peeking up through the soil so now is a good time to locate them and determine where you need to feed without causing much damage.
The addition of a well rotted compost, sheep manure or worm castings would be ideal. A one to two inch layer sprinkled on the top of the soil around the emerging bulbs will do the trick. No need to dig this in as the worms and other soil microorganisms will distribute it for you. This is not only a good source of food for your bulbs and perennials but will also improve the overall texture of your soil.
If you cannot easily reach into your garden beds due to their width, some boards carefully placed in the bed will create a small pathway for you to walk on which will lessen the soil compaction from your feet at this time of year.
With regards to the Peonies, these plants grow from tubers that do not like to be planted any deeper than 1-2 inches from the soil surface so adding a layer of compost, may bury your tubers too deeply. If your plants are mature, then to dig them up, divide if the clump is big, add your soil amendment and then replant shallowly, is not an unreasonable thing to do. This is ideally done in the fall but can be equally as effective in the spring – there may be slightly less blooms this year due to the disturbance but in the long run, the plants will be healthier going forward. It is also a good time to inspect the tubers and discard any that may be damaged or spongy/soft/rotten. This is a great way of propagating new plants and spreading the beauty to your family, friends or neighbours.
Hope this helps.