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Irises: Has anyone used alfalfa...advice needed.

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Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 4, 2006
7:01 PM

Post #2086367

Please can anyone advise on the use of alfalfa pellets as an iris fertiliser? I apologise if this has already been covered, but I have only just heard about this and am keen to give my new irises the best possible start. Do any of you use alfalfa and can you tell me the best way to use it (as a tea or to sprinkle around plants). Also, can it be used for my new Daylilies?
Thank you all for any help or advice, I appreciate every word.

Terri
flowerfrenzy
Vancouver, WA
(Zone 7a)

March 4, 2006
7:31 PM

Post #2086428

I used alfalfa pellets this last fall with great results. I have noticed much faster growth and larger root systems on everything. I use it with my siberians, japanese and species iris. I also use it with my hostas, roses, daylilies and pretty much all of the rest of my flowering perennials. I haven't used it with my bearded irises because I was assuming that it was too high in nitrogen, which is a no no when it comes to bearded irises (it can cause rot). I'm not sure that this is true, but that's what logic tells me. (Can anyone clarify if alfalfa pellets are okay to use with bearded irises?)

I use the pellets and dig them into the dirt around my existing plants, or, if I'm planting something new, I add the pellets to the dirt first. With the high rainfall in my area, the pellets break down in no time. If you live an area with low rainfall, it may be wise to use the meal instead of the pellets. That way it's already broken down and the ground take it in quicker. After I added the pellets, I added 2-3 inches of mulch and, when it rained, the pellets turned into a tea beneath the mulch.

Using alfalfa tea is also good, but VERY stinky! Basically you put alfalfa meal and epsom salts in water and let it all ferment in a large bucket or garbage can. Then you spread it around your garden. This is probably absorbed much faster than the other two methods, but I'll warn you now, it smells just like rotting horse manure...and the smell doesn't just go away after a couple of hours. It hangs around for weeks sometimes. Personally, I don't enjoy smelling something stinky every time I go into the garden. However, my garden is close to the house and enclosed by a fence, so I think that might keep the smell in longer and make it more noticeable. If your garden is further away from the house and in a more open area, maybe using the tea wouldn't be as objectionable.

Here's a recipe for alfalfa tea that I found here at DG:

http://davesgarden.com/terms/go/2294

Well, I hope I've helped. I'm sure other DGer's will also have some helpful hints that you can use.

Laura
laurief
Deer River, MN
(Zone 3b)

March 4, 2006
7:50 PM

Post #2086459

I use alfalfa meal whenever I redo an iris bed (yes, Laura, even the beardeds). I prefer meal because it tills more thoroughly and evenly into the soil than pellets. It's also a bit cheaper here. If you live in a windy area, however, the pellets would be MUCH easier to apply. It's important to work alfalfa into the soil as I have read reports of horrible leaf spot apparently resulting from top dressing alfalfa in iris beds.

As Laura mentioned, alfalfa tea is incredibly stinky stuff. As a horsewoman, I'd rather roll around in my manure pile than have to work in a garden treated with alfalfa tea. The stench is overwhelming (and far more objectionable than rotting horse manure, believe me)! ;-)

Alfalfa is great in the garden when mixed into the soil, not applied over the surface in either solid or liquid form. Oh, and make sure you're using pure alfalfa, not rabbit pellets that contain other ingredients in addition to alfalfa.

Laurie
flowerfrenzy
Vancouver, WA
(Zone 7a)

March 4, 2006
8:30 PM

Post #2086535

Great info, Laurie. I'll have to try it in my bearded beds now!

Laura

TBGDN

TBGDN
Macy, IN

March 4, 2006
8:34 PM

Post #2086541

A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY Laurie!! I love reading the useful information in your posts. My neighbor is a cattle man with over 200 head. When the wind is in my direction it reminds me of growing up on the family farm! Once a farm boy, ALWAYS a farm boy!
Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 4, 2006
8:59 PM

Post #2086596

Thank you Laurie and Laura for all your helpful advice and information. I think I might steer clear of the alfalfa 'tea' though. ;)
Laura, we have quite a high rainfall here so your idea of using the pellets sounds ideal. I'll try to remember to let you both know how things progress once the flowering season is over.
I really value your comments, thank you so much.

Terri
laurief
Deer River, MN
(Zone 3b)

March 4, 2006
9:15 PM

Post #2086621

Thanks, Leon, and don't think I've forgotten what tomorrow is, either, for both you AND Laura! ;-)

Funny thing is, I'm a suburban girl. I didn't move to my farm until 1979, though I did spend much of my youth in riding stables around the Chicago area. I can't say as I'd relish the thought of spending my days mucking cow manure. It's a whole lot stinkier than horse, to my nose, but nowhere near as bad as pig.

51 and still tossing bales and shoveling whatever needs shoveling ...

Laurie
flowerfrenzy
Vancouver, WA
(Zone 7a)

March 4, 2006
9:52 PM

Post #2086686

Happy Birthday, Laurie! Hope your day is great!

Laura
NeilTR
Nashville, TN
(Zone 7a)

March 4, 2006
10:08 PM

Post #2086715

I used the pellets last year for the first time when redoing several beds. The first one I tried working in the pellets whole and it was a pain (and I was afraid they would resurface and the deer would be pawing through the iris...). After that I wet the pellets before working them into the soil. They expanded and crumbled and made the job much easier.

Neil
Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 4, 2006
10:29 PM

Post #2086767

Thank you Neil, I might try that. We have goats that sometimes get into the gardens (not often but sometimes gates do get left open unfortunately). They're not usually too much trouble but if there's anything different around they like to investigate it. If they got to alfalfa pellets lying around they'd likely eat the lot :(

Terri
Charlotteda
Pickens, SC
(Zone 7a)

March 5, 2006
3:21 PM

Post #2088296

you bet those goats would smell that alfalfa...mine drool over the bag I keep for the garden...I have to keep in away from the barn area :)
doss
Stanford, CA
(Zone 9b)

March 5, 2006
11:50 PM

Post #2089325

I use alfalfa pellets when making any renewed or new beds. The nitrogen is supposed to be released into the soil slowly so it's a good thing.

Then I use it as actual mulch on my dahlias and hydrangeas, clematis and roses. I use about a cup on each daylily. What's the science behind this? All I know is that dahlias get even more colorful with the mulch. Definitely can't mulch iris with it though - or mulch iris with anything.

Be careful of what you add to it though if you have dogs. My dogs like to eat it so I have to make sure even sluggo (which is supposed to be safe but really isn't)doesn't come near it. The birds like to dance in it too so sometimes you have to gather it back up if you want it on the actual plant.

Funny little thoughts about alfalfa pellets. And it's so much easier to use the pellets or meal than the tea.
Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 6, 2006
7:48 AM

Post #2090190

Thanks Charlotteda and Doss!
LOL, seems like what with one 'crittur' or another I'm going to have to watch those pellets to make sure the goodness goes to the plants and not the goats, dog or birds.
We have blackbirds here that are real vandals and have to investigate anything new so curiosity will definitely get the better of them.
Thanks Doss for mentioning the amount too, I was wondering how much to use per plant and you've answered that in your post.

Terri
doss
Stanford, CA
(Zone 9b)

March 6, 2006
3:20 PM

Post #2090738

Terri,

I just made up the amount - I have no idea whether or not it's correct. This year I've used a cup on each of my daylilies - but some people use just a little.

I'm running on imagination here and trial and error.
Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 6, 2006
3:40 PM

Post #2090772

Not a problem Doss!! I know exactly what you mean and will start off gently. Don't want to overwhelm either the plants or the 'critturs'. LOL

Thanks!!

terri
weegy12
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

March 7, 2006
3:59 PM

Post #2093220

I just used alfalfa meal on my irises...the wind carries it quite well!
I don't see results yet but it has only been a couple of weeks. I'll let you know Terri, how mine do. This is only the second time I've fertilized mine in 3 years. The soil in my garden in so good that they seem to do just fine. I'm trying to get a greener leaf, any hints?
doss
Stanford, CA
(Zone 9b)

March 7, 2006
5:29 PM

Post #2093413

Weegy, Nitrogen gets you green, but it's not good for the plants. I feed 5-10-10 right about now and then again about one month later. If they are rebloomers I feed them after their second bloom too.

Anxious (TB) and Megglethorpe (IB) are blooming today.
weegy12
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

March 7, 2006
5:59 PM

Post #2093471

Thanks Doss, I'll probably be feeding them again when the rain stops, will you stop sending your rain this way??!!?!!?
Are you going to show us your 2 that are blooming?!?!?!?!?
Terri1948
Yorkshire

March 7, 2006
6:05 PM

Post #2093480

Oh, yes please Doss, I would love to see the ones that are blooming too.
Weegy, how much rain have you had to suffer?? LOL
It's been raining here today...but what's new?? At least it isn't snowing and the ice has almost gone...yippee!!

Terri

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