Ask Eden

    Questions from Aerate’s curious readers; answers from our curiously profound expert

    Dear Eden,

    Everything I find online tells me that a hole needs to be twice as big as the plant. Is there a hack that can get me around that extra work?

    A: Here are 100 life hacks that can save you the time. Not included is your question. Squeezing your plant into a hole that’s too tight — Spanx-like — is a recipe for rapid mortality. Your plant needs room to spread its roots, and for the root hairs to reach into the soil where they absorb water and nutrients. It’s those tiny root hairs that keep your plant alive, and you don’t want them to wrap around each other like a tourniquet. So dig a big roomy hole — think of it like buying clothes two sizes up for a kid to grow into — and save the life hacks for turning a hanger into a cookbook holder.

    Dear Eden,

    I am finally breaking up with my live-in. In this digital age we have no books or music to divide, and our IKEA furniture has fallen apart anyway. But we do have some plants we want to split up. What plants can we divide without killing them? I want to save that energy for dispatching him.

    A: There are a lot of plants that you can safely divide — think of it as a healthy break-up. Each section gets to start a fresh new life in a new place where they can put down roots. They’ll be better off on their own — just like you. Perennials are easy to separate — that includes hosta and daylilies, which grow in clumps. You can’t really separate annuals, though — they can be transplanted, but their roots can’t be teased apart. They are one unit, like a happy couple at the end of a rom-com. This helpful article will explain when and how to turn one plant into many.

    Dear Eden,

    My wife wants to put a raised bed in our side yard, where everyone can see it. I don’t think that’s a neighborly thing to do, and that it should be tucked away out of sight, in our backyard. Am I looking at this in the wrong way — am I holding onto a dated conception of landscaping — in the same way that I am often accused of clinging to many dated conceptions?

    A: Well, I don’t know about how modern your thinking is in general, but if this is an example, it’s time for general psychic refresh. Your wife is clearly right. A raised bed is an object of beauty and pride (yes, I am biased). I’m not arguing that you should be a sustainability show off, and engage in what the behavioral psychologists call virtue signaling — but that raised beds are a wonderful and integral part of modern living and landscaping.

    Here’s an example that might help you deal with this. Remember when no one would think of proudly incorporating vents and ducts and shafts in architecture? Then the high-tech movement arrived and now the coolest, hippest places have that industrial look.

    This all goes back to the Bauhaus. What doesn’t? Form is function. Le Corbusier called a house “a machine for living,” and a raised bed is part of that machinery. If I’m living on your block — and if you maintain your raised bed, as I suspect you will — I’m looking forward to walking by it, watching it grow and change from spring to fall.

    We are past the days when landscaping had to be frozen and flawless. A raised bed, bursting with chaotic energy, often luxuriantly, messily explosive, is as good a neighbor as anyone could hope for. It certainly fights suburban conformity. An id-fueled side-yard is more inspiring than an anally-retentive one, so let it rip.

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