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CAROL'S CORNER - Current Observations for the month......March 2005
 
Rain, wind and snow continue, so it must be April.   We are seeing a few crocus blooming and my wonderful early white Arabis bloom, daffodils are in bud and May will bring the tulips in full glory.  We did get outside on a few warm days in mid-March to begin the chore of cleaning up and trimming brown stuff, but the cold weather drove us back indoors for several days now.

Although there is not much color in the yard yet, we enjoyed a blaze of geranium color on Easter Day,  because we brought out many, many pots of bloom from the greenhouse.  Now that is a joy to see, color of reds, pinks, fushia, mauve and salmon all over our deck and throughout the yard as our grandchildren hunt the traditional hidden eggs and candy.

Iris cleanup and weeding will be the major chores as the month progresses.  I don't trim mine in the fall as some diligent gardeners do, so there's plenty of trimming and clean-up in the spring.  It's really a chore of love...love to be outside again and seeing things grow.  Working in some compost or other amendments will be part of the plan in April.  I'm pretty careful when working around the iris plants with a hoe to avoid damaging the rhizomes.

Not much soil activity takes place until the soil warms up to about 40 degrees, so as the iris plants begin to grow they rely heavily on nutrients stored in the rhizome the previous year.  Most growth occurs above ground as the plant produces leaves and flowers.  New iris roots develop as the bloom stalks begin to swell in the fans.  These new roots will help supply nutrients for new growth during and after bloom.  The old roots will die and wither away.  During approximately six to eight weeks after bloom the rhizome stores much of the food it will need for the next spring's growth .  While iris do need to be fed from time to time, it is essential that fertilizing be done early in the spring so the fertilizer can be broken down into forms the plants can use.  The finest quality of bloom is developed in richer soil, but be careful as the soft growth that too much food produces is more susceptible to the dreaded root rot.  So I lean toward a little, not a lot of feeding.  For most of us a 5-10-10 or 6-10-6 commercial fertilizer will work quite well.  Organic based fertilizers are also available in various formulations or you can mix your own.  Iris does need calcium, too.

Next month I'll try to share the tips Billie Gray has to share.  She'll be giving us her best advise on growing iris at the April meeting.  Try to attend if you can, but if you miss it, I'll try to share her advice in the May column.  Happy growing!