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Re: CULT: non-performers

  • Subject: Re: [iris-photos] CULT: non-performers
  • From: "Neil A Mogensen" <neilm@charter.net>
  • Date: Fri, 5 Mar 2004 00:59:47 -0500

Margie, your speculation that a run-down rhizome growing in exhausted ground may never recover when delivered to you, no matter what you do, is right in line with my own thinking.
For one thing, just like with people or dairy cows or any other living organism, adequate nutrition, light, air and water are the stuff life shapes for further life and vitality.  Short-change an organism on these the plant or animal has a weakened constitution, especially where the immune systems are concerned. 
There are a lot of subtle invaders of a person or plant that can't get a foothold if the thing is healthy, but let it get short-changed and away they go.  They may not be really obvious, but they weaken an already weak thing further.  Finally it just curls up its toes and fades away.
Your experience with replacing a failing iris with a new rhizome from a different, probably healthier, source is one many of us share.
Anytime I've sent something out, I've tried to send out a well-fed (but not monsterous) rhizome from a first year reset.  Annual resets with minimal time out of the ground never act like they know they've been dug, and grow wonderfully well.  Those old "spent" rhizomes, too, if given a little encouragement, can put out a sprig that by the following summer is definitely saleable or tradeable--provided it is well fed, adequately watered and not shaded 3/4 the day.  Saleable-quality stock is at its best grown in this manner.
I love a silty loam soil.  Not only can one turn the hose on the rhizome and have it come really clean, but the roots can penetrate the soil easily and form strong, netted-type roots that help the transplant get established when planted in its new home.  There's not too many places that have soil like that.  I certainly don't here!
Making sure the micronutrients are adequately supplied is a bit trickier.  Some soils get tired because the Manganese, or Copper, or Selenium (I don't know what all a plant actually does use) let alone the more obvious Zinc, Magnesium and Iron either aren't available because of the soil chemistry, structure, or because they simply aren't there in adequate supply.  A healthy rhizome has a reservoir of micronutrients that will carry it through until those new roots have penetrated to parts of the soil horizon that contains all it needs.  Health makes health.
That's where compost comes in handy too.  There is no chemical fertilizer in the world that supplies the mysterious minors as well as toning up a soil better than compost does.  Compost is made from healthy plants (or animals!) and has it all.  I'm assuming the praise that alfalfa pellets receives is that it is a short-cut to compost, neither more nor less.
I cringe when I see people burning good organics--like autumn leaves.  Let me have 'em--I'll clean up your yard and put all that "junk" in my compost pit!  It's pure gold.
Neil Mogensen    z 7  western NC

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