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Re: losing rhizomes

Hi, Rosalin,  

<< The other location was on the north  side of my house and I am losing some
of those rhizomes to rot in the  fans but not in the rhizome itself.  I had
read where some iris growers  had successfully grown irises in partial sun.
 I was wondering if the  north side of the house is way too shady for the
rhizomes.  I noticed  that the soil stays slightly moist.  >>

Now, I'm in Zone 7, which makes a big difference, but my whole garden is on
the north side of the house and I grow some bearded irises there in a raised
area that gets stong sun from the east until early afternoon. So your
position may not be impossible from that standpoint, but the moisture is a
sure problem.

You will probably not loose all of them this winter, although with moisture
in the soil you may see heaving and you could loose some to freezing. You
understandably want to do something now. Here's what I would do. First figure
out if there is anything draining into the bed causing it to be moist and if
that is the case redirect this water in some way. 

Next, take steps to improve ventilation and surface drainage without really
digging. Cut your foliage back to about seven inches. Then, clean the bed up
really well, get rid of any plants that are unwholesome looking and any soft
spongy rhizomes, and get the dirt bare. Now, with a dinner spoon gently pull
any mounded  soil away from the backs of the fans. Watch out for the roots
and do not create depressions behind the fans which may cause water to
collect there. With the spoon or your trowel gently remove such dirt as you
can between the plants so that each plant is a little bit raised. Be careful
and do not tear up the roots, which will be pretty shallow. If the bed has
any slope to it you may be able to create little ditches to direct the runoff
away from the plants. I've done this and it is effective. In any case, create
a narrow but deep trench around the edge of the bed which will catch some
runoff. After you have recontoured your bed to drain surface water away from
the vulnerable areas and removed all loose soil, take your watering can and
fill it with a solution of one part Clorox and nine parts water. Sprinkle the
 surface and the plants.You do not need to saturate the soil. When this has
soaked in, take a can of Comet dry scouring powder, the kind with pumice and
bleach, and give each fan a good hearty shake or two at the back where you
removed the dirt. The bleach will help with the rot. Keep the bed free from
all drifting debris this fall and winter.

Having said that, let me add that if you see the rot getting the upper hand
in the next week and it looks like the bed is in serious danger, you may want
to take heroic measures. Too late or not I would lift all the plants, leave
the roots on them, cut the foliage back, soak them fifteen minutes in the
above bleach solution, dig the bed deep and amend it with enough sand,
compost, coarse leafmold and peagravel, to raise it eight inches, mound it
up, level it off, and replant them within the same day, setting the rhizomes
a ittle deeper than normal.  Water to settle and cover with pine needles
after the ground freezes. Whether or not it is worth the attempt depends on
how replaceable the irises in it are. Sometimes one just starts over.

Anner Whitehead, Richmond, Va
Henry Hall, henryanner@aol.com

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