Swenson Gardens

Peony field jottings…Part 4


What does round bailing cornstalk bales have to do with peonies? (Oh by the way, Danny does get to drive the tractor too! He is a master at round bailing alfalfa, grass and cornstalks!) We use cornstalk bales to mulch our peonies after the ground freezes. Mulching should only be done on newly planted peonies in USDA Zones 2-5 and does not need to be done in USDA Zones 6-8. This is mainly done to prevent heaving of the roots during freeze and thaw periods. Two years ago we would load the bales on to our trailer and then use pitchforks to spread over the rows. This was a 3 to 4 day adventure in snow storms, sleet, high wind and maybe a sunny day or two. Needless to say it was not fun for a crew of 4 to 5 people. There had to be a better way to mulch peonies…


After some research, along came an attachment called a Bale Buster! These are normally used along side roads to spread straw over newly planted grass, chopping up bedding for cattle and also to feed cattle in the fields. Well will it work on peonies? Simply marvelous! Now our mulching is down to hours instead of days! There is some manual labor involved but its only to tidy up the rows. This is the second year using this equipment and cannot be thankful enough! There is still the labor of climbing up the ladder into the tractor, getting cold once I step out of the heated cab and oh yes, still no Blizzard to speak of other than mulching during a blizzard a few years ago. That episode went into the night as we had to get it done before the 14″ of snow would have prevented any mulching! Growing peonies in snow in the north…got to love it…I guess! In the background you will see the change that took place in our east field. Yes for Peony Field Days 2016 that field is no more other than a few leftovers. Our goal over the last three years was to get out of that field and move the peonies to better soil knowing what is available in other areas on our farm. Sad to see that field go but with growth comes change. Peony Field Days will be held in our west field with parking adjacent to that field.


The final step in putting the peonies to sleep for the winter! Thank you to all our gardening friends who allowed us to grow, nurture and protect your peonies in 2015! 2016 will be an exciting year of growth and varieties available for sale online, mail order and Peony Field Days!

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