Be Fruitful and Multiply

Every year cooler temperatures and shorter days of fall signal to our garden herbs that the end of the growing year is near. Visible activity slows as the oregano, thyme, and lemon balm generally  become dormant above ground. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening below the soil line. The cool months of fall and winter are when roots, tubers, and bulbs make preparations for the coming of spring. This is one of the reasons why fall is considered the ideal time to plant or transplant.

Even this late in the year it’s not too late to take advantage of this. You can easily multiply your perennials by carefully digging around the base with a sharp shovel and loosening the root ball. Pull up the root ball and gently shake off excess soil. Using a knife or garden saw separate the root area into two or more sections. Be sure to get a healthy section of the roots as you separate it. Transplant immediately into a well-dug hole (about twice the size of the new root ball) with organic fertilizer added to the disturbed soil.

If you would like to increase your perennial herbs even more, you can take steps now to ensure that spring will find you with new sections that have rooted. Find stems on your herb that are growing horizontally, close to the ground. About two-thirds of the way out from the base, push the stem under the soil and cover with soil and mulch. If the stem springs away from contact with the soil, take U-shaped pieces clipped from old wire clothes hangars, place them curved-side up over the branch, and press down firmly to hold the branch in contact with the soil. Over the winter, the branch will develop roots. When spring comes, clip the stem near the parent plant to complete the process. The new plant can be left where it is or moved to fill in another area of the garden.

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