Fall Planting and Dividing the Irises

I spent a few hours since the fall gardening blog getting my garden in shape with manure.  Then I planted the broccoli and bok choi seedlings I took from the garden talk (see Local Food, August 17) in line with the eggplants and tomatoes.

Broccoli seedling, bottom center

After that I planted a second crop of beans for which I already have a tipi.  I also planted peas along a small trellis.  Those were the easy decisions.  Then I had to figure out where to put the garlic.  This year I only planted 12 cloves.  If you haven’t tried planting garlic and eating it fresh, you should.  Once the garlic was in, I looked at my space and decided where the carrots, three varieties of lettuce, spinach, and arugula would go.  Then I mulched.

I still need to put bird netting around the bottoms of the pea and bean structures to try to keep out the voles, and hope to get to that this week.  But the other thing on my mind has been a large and spreading clump of iris.  They are lovely, bloom prolifically in May, and have always seemed healthy.

The irises, looking a little "end of summer."

Everything I have read, though recommends they be divided periodically.  I have been in the garden 11 years, and they have never been separated.  So I thought I would see what could be done.

The literature recommends they be divided after blooming but by the end of August.  I’m not sure this applies in Virginia or in Arlington where we have a warm microclimate.  But better safe than sorry.

I had read that they could be forked out fairly easily and this was true.  However, separating them from the irises I wanted to stay in place took some finesse and a little muscle.

The first of three separated clumps

Then I rinsed the clump off so I could see the rhizomes and roots and divide them into healthy clumps.  Once I had them separated, I trimmed them to about six inches and figured out where in my garden I could spread them around.

The separated, trimmed rhizomes

I dug several trenches and put them around the border of the garden, being careful to cover the roots well with soil.  Then I watered them.

Three of the transplants

We’ll have to wait until spring to see if my separation was successful.  Meanwhile, I’ve asked a couple friends if  they’d like some pale lavender irises…And I’m still enjoying zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers.

They can hide, but fortunately they can't run.

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