Many of us have areas of garden which look like this – tired and dull. Although this patch has been kept weed free, mulched and deadheaded, it is many years since it has been actively gardened. There is no alternative to a bit of hard digging.
 Dig out all the plants. You can see how heavily compacted the soil has become over many years. It was originally rotary hoed which made it light and fluffy but that was a long time ago.
Placing the plants on a mat beside where you are working will reduce the mess.
 Dig to at least the depth of the spade and dig again, breaking up any clods of dirt. This incorporates air into the soil and encourages worm activity. Rake the area to an even surface for replanting.
 Different plants divide in different ways so look closely at the plants. The pulmonaria at the top of the photo will pull apart easily to three separate pieces, all with roots and growing crowns. The phlomis at the bottom of the photo could be cut into many plants but I will take this to just two strong plants, reducing each to only one or two growing points.
 If you have dug well, you can replant using just a trowel. Try and avoid planting in rows – staggered drifts look better. I want a quick result so am planting at about 15cm spacings. Take the oldest leaves off the little plant, leaving fresh new growth tips. Remember that the soil is fluffed up and the next rains will compact it a little, so don’t plant at too shallow a depth. Only plant the strongest and the best divisions.
 We give a light feed of an all purpose fertiliser – in this case our locally produced Bioboost – and then mulch. This patch was dug, divided and replanted about three weeks ago and has a mulch of wood chip from our shredder. It should be well established and look lush and vigorous in spring time.
A step by step guide by Abbie and Mark Jury first published in the Taranaki Daily News and reproduced here with permission.