As our herbaceous peonies enter their grand finale for 2013, we have already begun to plan our fall peony planting at Cricket Hill Garden. Peonies are very long-lived and relatively carefree provided that they are given a good start. Planting healthy stock is of course vital, but equally important is to amend the peony planting area so that the peony will thrive there. Basically, this entails adjusting the soil’s pH to the proper level and adding adequate organic material to deficient soils so that the peony will be provided with long-term nourishment. A little work now will pay you back with years of beautiful flowers. See our youtube video on this preparing a new peony planting area.
The following is a deluxe method for amending unimproved, poor native soil
if you are creating a new planting area.
We add 2 lbs each of the following soil-building amendments to our planting site sized 3′ x3′:
- Azomite– (long term minerals and trace minerals)
- Hi-Cal (Calcitic) Lime- For calcium, this also raises the pH of the soil, 6.5-7.0 is ideal for peony growing.
- Colloidal Phosphate- For short-term calcium boost and slow-release phosphorus, very important for bloom production.
- Greensand- For improving soil texture and adding potassium.
We add 1 lb. each of the amendments listed below for building high levels of humus:
- Alfalfa meal
- Blood meal
- Bone char
- These amendments can be found through suppliers like Espoma and Dr. Earth which package for the home gardener, sold online or locally at well stocked garden centers.
Rather than rotor-till a new planting area, we like to smother the grass and unwanted plants. By not disturbing the soil, we leave the complex web of beneficial bacteria and fungi intact.
Allow the soil amendments, compost and mulch to sit over the next few months. In the fall, when you are ready to plant, pull back the mulch and compost from the center of the pile and plant your peony there. All of the good compost and mulch will nourish the peony and get it off to a great start.
If your garden area has better soil and has been worked before, a simpler method which will yield good results would be to add 1- 2 lbs Azomite and one wheelbarrow load of compost to the future planting area sized 3′ x 3′. If you know your soil is acidic, add 1-2 lbs. of ground limestone. Allow this to sit and ‘stew’ over the summer and in early fall your soil will be ready for planting.