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CULT: Bearded pH

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Message text written by Vince Lewonski:

>   Now I have always heard that bearded irises preferred a
slightly acidic soil - around 6.5. Yet I know that George
Sutton has had good luck growing them in a very alkaline
soil. Apparently there is a fairly wide range that they can
tolerate. Has anyone tried growing them at two different
pHs in the same garden and compared the difference?

It wasn't an intentional experiment, but many years ago I tested the soil
in various beds in my mother's garden, to determine the appropriate
type/amount of fertilizer for each area.  To my surprise, the pH ranged
from 5.5 to just over 7 although there had been no appreciable difference
in performance [TBs, arilbreds, & rebloomers].  The two extremes were about
30 feet apart, which would have caused great consternation to anyone who
didn't know the history of the place.

The bed that tested just over 7 had been in a previously uncultivated area
-- a spare lot used for the chicken's run or to contain a bottle-fed calf
or two from time to time.  

The bed that tested 5.5 had been in a long-established garden --
specifically, the former asparagus bed that had been top dressed with about
6" of manure every fall for some 50 years.  

In my own garden, of course, it takes a heavy dose of sulfur to bring the
pH under 7.0 -- so I've concluded that iris thrive under a wide pH range.

Sharon McAllister

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