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
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
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
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