Ferns Not Thriving As They Have In Past

Question From: Spokane, Washington, United States
Q: Our ferns have been in place for about 40 years and always done well. This spring,however, the older clumps did not sprout their usual sturdy fiddle heads but only a few thin-stemmed and small leafed fronds, which seem to be doing well. I have noticed for a number of years (maybe decades) that the "clumps" i mentioned were growing taller and are now softball sized (or larger) and extend several inches above ground level. We have never fertilized or winter covered (ex except their own dead fronds) the ferns. Any idea why they failed to repeat their usual growth cycle this year? Thanks, Larry.

A: Ferns thrive in soil rich in organic matter. You should be adding a layer of compost, shredded leaves for good quality organic mulch over the bed every fall. Composted pine bark is another option. Don't go crazy, about an inch or so. Best And Happy Yardening, Nancy