The Q&A Archives: Dying Foundation Planting

Question: Thefront of our home faces directly east and gets dappled sunlight. We have 6 azaleas under the windows that had to be replaced in the first season as half of them died. They are growing ok now but are sparse. On each side of the stairs we tried alberta spruce, which died in the first season and arborvitae which also died in the first season. We are not sure what to plant next. We fill in with annuals during the summer and they do not do very well either. We use soaker hoses so there is ample watering. The grass in the area does not do well either and we are wondering if there could be a soil contamination problem. Any ideas of what to try next?

Answer: There are any number of possible reasons why an area would fail to grow a variety of plants. Soil contamination is possible, but probably unlikely. More likely causes would include competing tree roots (maples are especially difficult and black walnuts are allelopathic), compacted soil or poor drainage, unsuitable pH or lack of nutrients, over or under watering, using water that has been treated by a water softener, earlier treatment with long term herbicides, salt runoff from deicing treatments, poor quality plants, and improper planting and/or establishment techniques. You might want to consult with your county extension (265-5051)to try to trouble shoot the cause and then figure out how to rectify the situation. I hope this helps get you thinking about the types of things that could be going wrong.

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