With an acre of land that is heavily planted with landscape areas, edibles, vineyard and orchard, I have to limit my attentions to plants that basically grow themselves or to those that just need a bit of work to keep them thriving. In spring I can do all the maintenance chores required with 3 simple tools, my red flyer wagon, mulch, and of course, water. This last resource has been provided to me by Mother Nature, with the rainbarrels full most of this spring. Watering cans stand ready to divy out the precious stuff to the daffodils waking up, the evergreen, hardy succulents that are sending out new green growth and for any new plantings going on in the beds.
The iris are sending out new foliage with the dead straplike leaves lying on the ground around them. I use the heavy-tined landscape rake and using some force, rake through the bed, scraping the dead foliage out in piles. If any rhizomes pop out of the ground in the passing, I grab up a handful of moist soil and push the errant bulb back into the hole, covering it up with the toe of my boot. It may seem like rough treatment to other plant enthusiasts, but this has been my practice since planting the drift eight years ago from a shoebox full of the rhisomes gift to me from my gardening buddy, Cindy. As you can see, they do not mind the rough treatment!
To divide the iris (which is supposed to happen every three years, but is more likely every five years in my garden), my tool of choice is the digging fork. It works well to dig the bulbs, causing little damage in the process. The digging fork is used extensively in the kitchen garden, where I try to limit the use of the rototiller, turning the garden by hand instead to protect the soil tilth and micro-organisms. It goes into the wagon or the wheel barrow so it is at the ready for turning the compost and to spread mulch.
Once the clumps are dug, I use my hand pruners to cut through rhizomes. The hand pruners are always in my rear jean pocket, the first tool in my garden trug, and the most ‘broken in’ of all the hand tools. The pruners cut back the perennials either by the handful in the case of the oregano and thyme or selectively as with the agastache. I toss the old, center rhizome into the compost, split the rest up with my hands and they are ready to plant.
After filling a bed with the new divisions and watering the area thoroughly, I toss out mulch with the digging fork, covering the entire bed with about 5 inches of leaves and pine needles. Mulch is not only beneficial to the plants, reducing evaporation, cooling the soil and roots and sealing in moisture, but it gives the bed a finished look.I got about ten huge trashbags of the mulch used in this iris bed from a neighbor who had set the bags out for the trash collection. His trash, my treasure.
The tools of my trade make the tough jobs easier, leaving energy and time to devote to the rest of the garden when it needs me.