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Sweat Equity for Free Plants

You can combine a service project with a fund-raiser by offering to dig and divide perennials for a neighbor, for free. If you notice a yard in early to mid-April that has a lot of clumps of green plants coming up, that property owner might be a candidate for your services.

Most of the time, the neighbor will be delighted to give you extra plants that will no longer fit in their own garden, in exchange for your "sweat equity" of doing the work to divide them. It's a great opportunity for some cross-generational learning, as neighbors LOVE to teach what they know about gardening to kids.

Perennials tend to reproduce themselves and spread to the point where they get out of control. It's better for the plants to be dug up and divided, and then only a few replanted with more space. Then the rest can be sold or given away.

A bachelor paid a kids' garden club in Omaha with 100 extra day lilies

for cleaning weeds and trash out of this retaining wall

garden, and transplanting iris, mums, spiderwort, ajuga and day lilies.

The club plans to turn around and sell those day lilies for $1 each -

a 100% profit enterprise, netting their club $100!!!

So your kids' garden club can help save a neighbor's back by doing that annual spring task FOR them. Offer to do it free, and ask what the neighbor wants done with the extras. More than likely, the neighbor will give them to you!

You have to be both strong and gentle when you dig and divide perennials. If they haven't been divided for many years, they might be jammed tight together. Examples: iris and day lilies might have 30 plants in one clump.

Sometimes, you can't pull the clumps apart, so you have to waste a couple of plants in the middle by cutting through the clump with a sharp spade, and then pulling the rest apart.

It helps to water the day lilies an hour or so in advance, to soften the soil around them.

The great part is, then you can turn around and sell each "baby" for, say, $1 apiece. You can set up a plant stand, like the old-fashioned lemonade stands, near the entry to your neighborhood. Or have a parent list them on www.craigslist.com.

To keep perennial "babies" for a couple of weeks, put a little potting soil into leftover plastic pots from previous years. Plunk the "babies" in, taking care that the roots are well-covered by the soil. Water in, and keep in the shade for a few days to lessen the "transplant shock." Write the name and color of the plant on a craft stick with permanent marker, and stick in the soil at the end of the pot.

Common perennials:

  Day lilies


  Autumn Joy Sedum




. . . and many more. Be sure to ask the neighbor what color the lilies and iris will bloom, so that you can plan your own garden if you use the "babies" yourself, or to help you sell the plants to someone else.

By Susan Darst Williams www.KidsGardenClub.org Planning 19 2011

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