The Q&A Archives: PH & fertilizers

Question: Between my front porch & sidewalk, I have a small garden with lantana, allamanda and hibiscus. The plants do not do well, one of the lantana's leaves look knubby and produce no flowers, the hibiscus constantly loses its leaves (yellows and falls off) and the allamada will get black leaves and eventually all the leaves die. I have replaced these flowers once already. I tested my soil with Ferry-Morse Soil Test Kit that indicated 6.0 acid, verly low on nitrogen, low on phosphorous, and very low in potash. I do fertilize using both Miracle Grow Water Soluable Plant food with the hose attachment every few weeks and use a Color Burst fertilizer (slow release) every few months. What type of treatment can I use to improve growth, blooms, and soil condition?

Answer: If your plants are performing poorly, even with adequate fertilizer, I suspect the problem is with the soil. Sadly, no amount of water or fertilizer is going to improve the area where the roots are planted. I think it would be worth the effort to dig the plants, amend the soil with organic matter, and then replant. After digging the plants (set them in a shaded area with the roots covered to prevent drying), spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the entire bed and then dig it in to a depth of about 8". Use compost, shredded leaves, aged manure, or whatever organic matter you can find locally. Amending the soil in this way will aerate it, improve drainage, add nutrients and make the area more hospitable to your plants. After replanting, water well to help settle the soil and then make it a habit of applying water deeply once or twice a week throughout the growing season. Your plants should respond with lots of healthy new growth and an abundance of flowers. Enjoy!

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