Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Iris is hungry. How to remember N-P-K effects

I need to go feed the Iris patch today. I couldn't tell you what cultivar they are, they were here when we bought this place in 2002. Ditto for the rose shrub in the background.

See, I was nice when me moved. I had done a lot of planting and left the new owners maps of the plantings. What was planted when, what cultivar and from what source, where the bulbs are... all spelled out... no mystery.

Anyways, with the aspen down I intend on turning that whole stretch along the fence into a flower and herb garden. At least then the neighbors across the street and on the hill will have something nice to look at from their perch.

I don't have a budget to do this. We live on a shoestring budget since we moved here, and nowhere in that is an allotment for my gardening.

That is the price you pay sometimes when you opt to stay home to raise a challenging child vs just medicating them. ( She can focus with laser precision when she wants to, or I should say, is interested. She is frighteningly just like my brother-in-law in that this poor child has z-e-r-o common sense. Total day dreamer, creative, very intelligent, oblivious, non-motivated, unless it is something she really wants and then not even mountains will stop her from trying to get it.) I won't medicate her just because it is easier for adults to deal with a zombie. When she is grown up, she can make that decision for herself. Right now there is no telling how many of these characteristics can be outgrown or adjusted with self discipline. My brother in law outgrew much of it, so I have faith she will too. Until then, I won't take the easy way out because who knows what the consequences of the meds may be. Rant over.

Back to the irises... I offer them sprinkles of compost and coffee grounds. The rhizomes sit on top of the ground mostly, and they do not like to be buried. There are 2 patches of iris, and a huge difference between them in micro climate and earthworm activity. The patch with the plethora of worms is naturalizing like mad. It blooms very well and is very content. I don't use chemical fertilizers as earthworms do not like them. Compost and vermicompost is made from kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, leaves, etc. The worms love the compost, and aside from the compost fertilizing the irises, the worm casts enhance the area as well.

I have to thin them again this year. I have to thin them out every other year as they tend to get crowded to the point where they don't bloom well. Usually I give the extra rhizomes away, but not this year... this year they have a job to do.

N-P-K.. the numbers on fertilizer stand for this (1st number is the N.. nitrogen. 2nd number is the P for Phosphorus. 3rd number is for K which stands for Potassium. If You forget what P and K stand for, just remember they are in alphabetical order.) If you don't remember what does what, I made up a little thing that helps me remember:

  1. Need more green. Nitrogen helps plant growth as it is part of cholorphyll. So in short it promotes foliage. Too much on plants you want to flower or fruit and all you get is a lot of leaves.
  2. Pretty flowers and good roots. Phosphorus is needed in photosynthesis as well as helping the plants to form oils, sugars, starches (aka their energy. It help the plant convert the energy from the sun into chemical energy they use to grow). Phosphorus helps plants handle stress and promotes rapid growth.
  3. Keep them strong. Potassium is like prenatal vitamins or chicken soup. It helps the plant fend off disease and helps fruit quality. It plays a part in photosynthesis and helps the plant build proteins.
There is more to soil composition than just that, but those are the heavy hitters most focused on. If you are tossing a variety of things into your compost heap, many of the other trace mineral and nutrient needs should be ok. If earthworms join the mix, then they also bring an assortment of natural plant hormones, beneficial microbes, etc. to the party.

Well, enough talking about the irises... I now need to go take care of them.

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