Irises forum: Tall Bearded Irises

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Name: Sherri Page
Granite Falls, WA (Zone 7b)
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SherriRaye
Jul 19, 2017 7:57 PM CST
I'm preparing my flower bed for my newly ordered irises. My results with iris blossoms in the past have been mediocre so I'm soliciting help to tell me what the best additives would be for my soil. I live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State at an elevation of 500 feet. My soil is acidic due to the fir and spruce trees that surround our property. At one time a river covered our property leaving clay and sand as the base of our soil. I recently did a soil test and found that while our soil has potassium and potash at reasonable levels, we seem to have no nitrogen present. Is that possible or should I buy an new tester?

So should I add manure to our soil or not? I've read recommendations for both ways. Should I add lime to my soil? Or any other additives? I love irises and would like to have them flourish here instead of shrinking and drying out without any new growth?
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Name: Tom
Southern Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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tveguy3
Jul 20, 2017 3:58 AM CST
If you have your soil tested at most places they will recommend the levels of nutrients to add to the soil. Looks like there is some moss growing on the soil, a sure sign of acid. Bearded Irises like a more neutral soil, so lime would help. Also some compost would be good. Maybe you should grow a few Siberian irises, they like the acid soil. You could try raised beds with some good soil in them. I'm sure others will have some good suggestions. Good Luck! Crossing Fingers!
I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. - Alexander the Great
Name: Lilli
Copenhagen, Denmark, EU
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IrisLilli
Jul 20, 2017 5:06 AM CST
Some good compost is always a good idea. Remember that irises are prone to rot if they get too much nitrogen, but they do need some to grow and thrive. If you had problems with bearded irises shriveling up before, I suggest that you give them more water. They do not like to be wet, but they do need water, especially for the first couple of months and during dry periods in spring and summer.

Good luck! Crossing Fingers!
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
South central PA (Zone 6a)
Irises Region: Pennsylvania
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DaveinPA
Jul 20, 2017 2:48 PM CST
Hello Sherri
Acid soil is loved by wild onions and garlic but not by bearded irises. I use ground limestone to help with that issue; it takes a while to work the soil toward a neutral pH but is the best way generally. Soil here is a minute part of sand/shredded shale rock with a mostly clay base so it normally a light brown and hardens after a rain when it dries. Kitchen vegetable waste will be a cheap way to amend the soil. I just bury mine directly between the spaced iris clumps, 4-8" down. A compost bin here never got hot enough to really do a good job and this less laborious method seems to work. A repeat of the dug-in waste can be done about 2-3 months later and very little of the original waste will be found, maybe some egg shell pieces [help with acidity], labels from fruit peels and corn cob parts. Soil will darken as the organic material is absorbed. Of course use nothing that animals like to dig up, although opossums will dig in the veggie matter at times if accessible to them.
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
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crowrita1
Jul 20, 2017 3:21 PM CST
All in all, there has been some good advice already given......one thing I would add....if your test showed low nitrogen.....and you "doubt" your test, get another test kit (or have it "professionally done"...it's cheap!) , and then add Nitrogen....if it's still called for ! The "rule of thumb" that's always given is, "irises don't like EXCESSIVE nitrogen....and folks tend to forget the "excessive" part....and all plants ....iris included....need nitrogen. Doing the "row composting", as Dave suggested, does improve the tilth of the soil, but, it also "ties up" some of the available nitrogen to decompose (or "compost" the added vegetable matter, and, if you are "too low" already Shrug! . If I were you, I'd contact your local County Extension Agent, and they should be able to fix you up with some soil sample bags, and an address to send them to.....and about $20 later, you'll know exactly how much lime, fertilizer, and organic matter you need to add.

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