- Author: Patty Smith
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Patty Smith UCCE Master Gardener
After documenting the pro trips for separating iris rhizomes, I trundled into the garden with my fancy new three-pronged digging fork and set in to divide.
First lesson learned: my summer-dried clay soil laughed at the digging fork. So, out came the spade-head shovel.
Second lesson learned: While iris will live in the worst of soils (and when I “planted” these three years ago I took full advantage of that and pretty much just placed them atop the soil…) that makes them mighty hard to dig back out. While they have multiplied beautifully, they were exceedingly hard to dig out. Before replanting them I will be amending the soil with a heavy dose of compost to make iris dividing easier next time this needs to be done.
Next lesson learned” “shake the soil” from the roots is not a phrase people with clay soil can act upon. My mass of iris roots and rhizomes was encased in rock-hard clay. A few inches of water in the wheelbarrow, though, and a short soak, yielded rhizomes free enough of clay that they could be divided.
Last lesson: trim the strappy leaves BEFORE digging the rhizomes out. Yes, this is a bit harder, and may mean having to trim twice. BUT, the first clump I dug up suffered a good many leaves broken and smashed, which then had to be trimmed off shorter than ideal.