It’s been quite rainy here in Portland, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to capitalize on frugality in the garden. This is one of the best times of the year to get something for nothing – or, in other words, dividing perennials. And we all know how I love free!

The upper layers of my urban food forest have been thoroughly planted with fruiting tree, shrubs, vines and small bushes. But the ground cover and small herbaceous plants are still needed to fill in the holes. Including ground covers will reduce the opportunity for weeds to sprout, encourage beneficial insects into the landscape, provide habitat to bird and other insects, etc. It’s also just a sign of a mature landscape not to have gaping holes here and there. This past year I filled the area in with annuals, like fava beans, but I can make a little headway getting perennials in right now by dividing the existing ones.

My lamb’s ear gets bigger and bigger every year, so I dug up several roots from small plants. This tamed the plant back quite a ways, but also gave me about ten new lamb’s ear starts to plant around. The plant is very low maintenance in general, adds an interesting grey-silvery foliage to the canvas, keeps it’s foliage all winter, and the bees seem to love the pink flowers that bloom in the summer. Gently digging up an area of the plant allows you to see the mini starts and gently pull them away from the plant. The rest of the plant just gets reburied as if you were never there.

My second conquest was some native violet that was in our garden when we moved in – perhaps the only thing other than grass here. They stay green as well through the winter and are very compact, growing low to the ground. The purple flowers bloom Spring-Fall, or at least mine bloom into the Fall.

Others followed, like artichokes, chamomile, some herbs. Doing this work now will give me a head start on next year’s garden. When those first warm sunny days come out next Spring, these guys will all be ready and waiting. There might come a day when I want to spend money on adding new perennials, but these prolific buggers will help cover the open spots while I wait for that endless gardening budget.

Hurray for getting about 50 new plants without spending a penny!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson