Saturday, June 17, 2017


One of my favourite ways to propagate, is dividing an existing plant. You don't have to worry about roots striking, or death by transpiration. It's just breaking down, one big plant, into a number of smaller ones.

I did this, back in April, when I needed to stablise the earth around our new water tank.



Three, Purple, Pygmy Grasses, became six! Very easy to do. But not all divisions are that straight forward! Take Lemon Grass, for example...

I wrestled to dig up, 2 established clumps, which had grown in red clay. It took me three hours!! Not just to dig up, but to divide into numerous other plants. Boy, those suckers are tough!

First hugel-bed (foreground) second bed (background)

You can sure bet, when you're taking that long to dig up and divide a plant, you're going to make it extend as much as possible. From two plants, I now have nine, large clumps. Plus, a few more smaller ones, which fell off the main clump. They were put into pots. In total, I expect to get 13 clumps, out of just two plants.

The purpose of dividing the Lemon Grass, was to provide more mulching material, in our troubled, north facing slope. It's clay, it gets sun all year and it needs MORE chop and drop material, than the former two clumps provided.

Third hugel-bed (background)

Knowing how bad the clay was, we decided to suck up, more of our fallen and felled trees, into hugelkultur mounds. David and I are getting real good at building these now. We've constructed 3 separate beds on our north facing slope, to hold the clumps of lemon grass.

You can see in the above image, we also used the tree bark, from the large eucalyptus trees, we had felled, last year. This was to prevent brush turkey's from digging up our new mounds. It will also make temporary lizard habitat, before the grasses grow in again.

We've had so much material from those two trees, and we still haven't used it all up.

Lemon grass re-shooting

When on acreage, everything has to be done to scale. Two clumps may be perfect for a block in town, but for a 40 metre stretch of land, you need a lot more plants, to cover that ground. Even at 13 plants, it still won't be enough. So I'm looking at dividing up another clump, at the end of the vegetable patch.

I'm propagating some more shrubs by cuttings, which I also use for chop and drop material. But I love the simplicity of just being able to divide a clump of something, instead. You can plant them straight away, and have your garden growing quicker.

Do you have a favourite clumping plant, you like to divide, for more? They don't have to be grasses, they can be berry canes, or plants which multiply by runners (ie: strawberry).


  1. I use a lot of sweet potato (Kumera. I like to use this as a ground cover for the summer months. I do the same with pumpkins. Due to fruit fly we don't get much fruit off the pumpkins but the ground is protected. We then chop and drop the plant before our autumn crop goes in. Brazillian spinach is a good plant to divide and provides lovely greens for hungry chooks. We have a neighbours bamboo clump growing through the fence. This is chopped and put through the mulcher. These may not fit in with your ideas but I have bromeliads in my front street garden. They clump, are easy to divide if you wear welding gloves to stop being scratched to bits, provide lots of colour and require very little attention. It only takes a couple of seasons and they can fill out a bed. The dried leaves become mulch.

    1. We have a tenacious spreading bromeliad too. Great for filling up garden space, that would otherwise require mulch in some other way.

  2. Chris, we have lots of lemongrass growing here as I originally bought three East Indian lemongrass plants and didn't realise that the best variety for cooking is the West Indian one so I bought three of them from Green Harvest. I still need to learn how to use it in cooking though. When my hubby moved one of the East Indian plants from my herb garden it took him a long time but eventually he got it out. You would have enjoyed the permaculture workshop today as I was thinking of your place and the goals you have for it. It was so very interesting.

    1. We do a lot of planning with permaculture in mind, but there's always something new to learn. I'm glad you enjoyed the workshop. :) That Lemon grass is really tough stuff. If you bake whole fish, my mum use to put Lemon Grass inside, with some slices of lemon, and butter. It was always popular. Mum always left the Lemon Grass whole, when cooking with it.

  3. I have always grown lemon grass in pots, we also have clay soil, interesting might pop some into the ground and see what happens. I have a Peony, which is huge, it's over 50 years old from my mum's garden, it has come with me in our last two properties. I am thinking of separating into 3 plants, I can then have two in our garden and if they all survive I can pass one to my daughter. I chopped up Alliums earlier in the month and now the plant has loads of flowers.

    1. I was really surprised the roots of the Lemon Grass, was able to infiltrate the thick clay. So you should be okay. Peonies can be really beautiful. Keep that old classic moving around, because a lot of the modern ones are stocked at nurseries - and you can never get ahold of the old ones again. Except through someone who grows it!

  4. Chris I've recently divided my big pot of lemon grass. I need to have it in a pot so I can move it to where the dogs can't feast on it, and also to move it out of the frost prone part of the garden at this time of year. Woh, we've had some doozies lately. Seems we all have our gardening challenges, don't quite know how I'd deal with those scrub turkeys. I love dividing plants, getting more plants for no cost! That's always good.

    1. Wow, interesting that your dogs eat them. I imagine they chomp on the stalks like carrots. It must be the edible variety you have. Our former dog, would eat avocados and tomatoes from the garden.

  5. Hi Chris,

    I love your hugel-beds! I have practiced making one of these in an old empty bed. I am doing a little experimenting with spare beds out in the veggie patch. My enthusiasm for gardening has returned now I am learning more about permaculture.

    I was looking at my lemongrass tonight and wondering if it could be separated and planted elsewhere. It has become quite large since I planted it out in the veggie patch. Thank you for answering my question. Is there any special time of year to do this?

    I bought some comfrey to plant out under the fruit trees. I believe this spreads and multiplies, I hope so. I have also acquired some yarrow, not sure if that will multiply, guess I will find out. I have divided my strawberry plants into more beds, I had heaps of runners this year.


    1. I SOOO know what you mean, having your enthusiasm for gardening turn around, thanks to what permaculture design makes possible. There's knowing things die a lot, which you plant out - but then there's learning how to turn it around on your individual landscape. Which IS very exciting.

      If saltbush does well in your area, I bet if you planted it around your shade area, it would increase the humidity and reduce evaporation. Things like comfrey and yarrow didn't work here, because even though they're pretty tough, evaporation can eventually put them into decline. I found they worked best in my shaded areas, where I watered. Evaporation during summer, is the killer of plants for us.

      You can divide lemon grass any time of year, but I find it's best to time it with warmth in the soil, and moisture. So the middle of winter is probably not the best time, unless you have an exposed site (like our North facing slope) which gets sun all winter. Middle of summer is not the best time either, because (once again) evaporation will kill them if they don't get enough water, while they're putting their roots down again.

      I tend to stick to autumn and spring, as these are milder conditions on both ends of the spectrum. You can divide during winter and summer though, if you've got the right warmth and moisture requirements available.


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