Irises forum: What is the best way to reduce weeds in iris patches?

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Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Jun 8, 2018 8:55 PM CST
I'm beginning to have a "love - hate" relationship with my iris. They are so beautiful but so much work. I weed VERY well in the early spring. Every time thinking I'm getting a really good head start to seeing fantastic looking iris'. Then I get going on taking care of multiple, multiple other tasks in the gardens which keep me busy and before I know the iris are getting ready to bloom. Good thing, yes, however by now the weeds are back in the iris and makes them look terrible. That along with getting things around to prop up the flower stalks, then the rain and winds come and ruin them, so it's time to dead head so they look good for as long as they have to bloom yet. Angry Okay, enough of that...

My main question is how do "you" keep weeds out. If I can control that better (a lot better) I can live with the rest of challenges. I cannot put mulch on them; they would probably rot. Can something like pea-gravel be used? Has anyone tried it. I've seen it with dwarf iris but could it be used on tall bearded ones also.

For weed control I even use Preen on them and it doesn't seem to do too much. Maybe I don't put enough down???

Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
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Polymerous
Jun 9, 2018 1:35 AM CST
Sorry that you are having problems, Sue.

I'd like a (non-chemical) answer to this, too. I have to wonder about the pea gravel, though, considering all the weeds that I get in my gravel fines. (But maybe the "fines" is the problem there...?)

But even if it worked, I think it wouldn't work so well for me, because I am not doing iris beds but am rather placing irises (those favored ones that graduate from pots) here and there in mixed perennial beds, which get redwood bark mulch.

I could see the pea gravel making for an interesting iris bed though, if it did work. (Being me, I'd naturally try to add other plants which could stand living in gravel... Whistling ) You might have to get one of those leaf blower things, though, to keep it tidy.

I hope someone chimes in here with an answer.
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
Irises Beekeeper Region: Illinois Celebrating Gardening: 2015
crowrita1
Jun 9, 2018 7:20 AM CST
Some of my beds use a "sand mulch" as a top cover...the rhizome sits in the sand, the roots extend beneath it, into "real dirt".....the sand does slow down some weed germination Shrug! , one bed (for AB's ) has a "pea grave" top coat....again, I think it helps ...a bit Shrug! . If you are really "anti-chemical", you can use "corn gluten meal" as a pre emergent …..that's about as "organic" as it gets....and, it's what *Preen (for veggie gardens (organic *Prreen)) really is, anyway Shrug! . The "regular" *preen (for flowers, etc.) has a "chemical" added to the corn gluten meal, for better control. If you use either....follow the directions ! Apply to the rates given, water it in, and ….STAY OUT OF THE BED ! Wlking in, for pulling weeds from, the bed, breaks the "chemical barrier , and compacts the soil...and then the weeds will begin to germinate Shrug! . Even if you don't use anything but a hoe to weed (you are really making a "dust mulch" so the seeds won't germinate as easily) walking in the bed....or a rain....compacts the soil surface, and makes germination easier.
You are correct about the Mulch / Rotting thing....IF the mulch covers , or touches the rhizome (which tends to impede airflow, and hold moisture), but the pathways, or even areas BETWEEN the individual plants could be "mulched"... that might cut down some of the problem, as you would have "less ground to weed" Shrug!
Name: Timothy
eastern oregon (Zone 7b)
Irises Bulbs Region: United States of America Region: Pacific Northwest Plant and/or Seed Trader Dahlias
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TBMan
Jun 9, 2018 8:22 AM CST
try this
Dr Kirchners Natural Weed Killer
https://www.naturalweedkiller....
ive used it some, but keep it away from the iris leaves, can cause some damage but not enough to kill the plant, but will make it unsightly for awhile
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
Garden Procrastinator Irises Bee Lover Butterflies Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: California
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evelyninthegarden
Jun 9, 2018 10:05 AM CST
Yes, there is vinegar. But I don't use that near my irises, just in places with weeds but not preferred plants.
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson
(Zone 9b)
Region: California
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UndertheSun
Jun 9, 2018 12:14 PM CST
I'll continue to do it by hand for as long as my knees and back still allow me too. Do try to remove your weeds before they set seed and try to remove all of their roots.

As for mulching, I mulch all the areas in my garden where there are no plants. I have open fields of nothing but weeds on 2 sides of my property. That mulch (wood chips) helps fight the never ending battle of sprouting weed seeds. Some still sprout up, but I pull them as soon as I see them.
Thumb of 2018-06-09/UndertheSun/69794f My side vs open field.
Photo was taken on 1/30/2018.




Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Jun 9, 2018 3:21 PM CST
I don't envy you your battle, Rob.

We've recently started laying down landscape fabric in a few areas where we are constantly battling weeds - covered with mulch, of course.

Some years ago I tried the corn gluten, but it does attract and feed wildlife. I saw some visiting ducks eating it, and I was warned by somebody that the rats would eat it too, so I just gave up on it. So here I try to pull weeds out by the roots. (Garden helpers merely hoe, if that... which is not of much help.)
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
Garden Procrastinator Irises Bee Lover Butterflies Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: California
Cat Lover Deer Bulbs Foliage Fan Annuals Seed Starter
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evelyninthegarden
Jun 9, 2018 3:51 PM CST
Marilyn ~ My "garden helper" weed whacks! All the weed seeds are then spread around even more.

At least one long iris bed was dug. 3' wide, 2' deep, and 20' long. I am now filling it back up with layers, so there will be good drainage. I am not going to dig the rest of them so deep.

This has been way too much work.

I have at least 2 more beds that size to do. July is around the corner!
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson
(Zone 9b)
Region: California
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UndertheSun
Jun 9, 2018 3:58 PM CST
Evelyn, if you're worried about drainage, I would just raise the new beds up . Digging down can help drainage, but in a Winter with a high amount of rain, that dug up bed might become a swimming pool.

Thank you for the warning about critters and corn gluten. All I need is for them to be more attracted to my garden. As it stands, all my fruit trees on the hill are already stripped clean of all their unripened fruit. Glare
Name: Mary
Tennessee (Zone 7a)
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urania1
Jun 9, 2018 6:00 PM CST
I am solarizing two new beds that are empty at the moment.
Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Jun 9, 2018 8:00 PM CST
Thank you all for the ideas and suggestions. I was expecting that "hand weeding" would be the best way to handle the problem. Thumbs down That is what I've been doing for many years.

I do use bark mulch in my gardens but not in the iris patches.

I've cut back on the size of my iris patches over the last two years and I think I will be doing it again. I won't cut back on the cultivars (I think I have 89 plus a couple NOID's) but I'm considering cutting each patch back to maybe 3 rhizomes each. At least that would be easier to handle.

I do plan to use pea gravel in the bed that has all the dwarf iris. A friend of mine has done that for a long time and it looks real nice and her dwarfs multiple quite a bit.

The idea of using sand sounds interesting too. Maybe I'll try that on just one at first.

I don't think I will try the corn gluten. We have a lot of deer around that that may draw then in more.

Thanks again to everyone and happy weeding Rolling my eyes. .
Name: Sherry Austin
Santa Cruz, CA (Zone 9a)
Region: California Irises Keeper of Poultry Roses Dragonflies Birds
Bulbs Foliage Fan Photo Contest Winner: 2015
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Henhouse
Jun 9, 2018 10:31 PM CST
[quote="UndertheSun"Thank you for the warning about critters and corn gluten. All I need is for them to be more attracted to my garden. As it stands, all my fruit trees on the hill are already stripped clean of all their unripened fruit. Glare [/quote]

They've stripped your trees already? I'm so sorry Rob.. The critters got all my stone fruit last year, and made a good dent in the apples and pears too. I've got Nectarines and peaches that I've never tasted. I was successful caging a pear tree last year that I've kept small, and will get a couple more nets on Monday for the smaller trees. I think the wildlife has multiplied in relation to how much fruit I grow.

I haven't had a problem with corn gluten and critters, to my knowledge. I've put it out just prior to the first decent rain in late November or early December. Like Rob, I've got a wild hillside that's teeming with weeds. Worse this year because the tractor mower broke. All those pretty yellow flowers are like 3-4' tall dandelions.. All that seed will be blowing soon. Thumbs down
Thumb of 2018-06-10/Henhouse/445e51

A hula hoe or scuffle hoe work well when weeds are small. I use a weed burner to get close to the rhizomes to melt small seedlings. If you keep after it, it doesn't take much time to go through a bed.
The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Jun 10, 2018 12:58 AM CST
Evelyn, you continue to amaze me with your capacity for hard work. Digging beds 2 feet deep?! Not me, not for a very, very long time!

Sherry, what's a "weed burner"? Is that anything like a small blowtorch? (DH uses a small blowtorch thingie to sear meat after he has sous vide cooked it.) I am constantly battling very small, low growing oxalis here. Burning it out sounds very tempting (and a lot faster than trying to get it out by the roots) but I think I'd have to move the mulch first...
Evaluating a reblooming diploid daylily seedling
Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Jun 10, 2018 7:39 AM CST
Sherry - I've heard about those burners. I'll have to look for that. Sounds like it could really help out. Maybe not right at this time because the weeds are too big I'm sure, but definitely something to look into. Thumbs up
Name: Evelyn
Sierra foothills, Northern CA (Zone 8a)
Garden Procrastinator Irises Bee Lover Butterflies Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: California
Cat Lover Deer Bulbs Foliage Fan Annuals Seed Starter
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evelyninthegarden
Jun 10, 2018 9:07 AM CST
Polymerous said:Evelyn, you continue to amaze me with your capacity for hard work. Digging beds 2 feet deep?! Not me, not for a very, very long time!...


This last iris bed was only partly dug by me this time. Funny thing, my DH likes to sous vide as well. Just not weed. I rarely cook dinner any more, but I prepare breakfast or brunch.

As I said before, I will not be digging that deep any more. There are too many other garden chores, mainly weeding!
"Luck favors the prepared mind." - Thomas Jefferson

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