Florida Gardening forum: Why are my plants dying?

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Gadsden
Jun 4, 2015 2:01 PM CST
Hello,
My "garden", in northeast Florida, is a patch next to my townhouse, against a 30 foot stucco wall. It gets filtered sun from 9 -11 am and FULL sun from 11:00 am - 7 pm.
Nothing I plant there will grow. Plants do well if they're in pots, but once planted in the ground they languish and die. Even the many healthy amaryllis I brought from my former house are barely alive. Even plumbago is struggling.
There are a few unhealthy ligustrums nearby but not overhanging the plot. I've found that nothing will grow under ligustrums - I think they poison competing plants. Could their roots be killing the plants?
Has anyone had this experience?


Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 4, 2015 3:38 PM CST
Hi and welcome to ATP Welcome! Let's hope we can help you out here. A picture of the area would be really helpful if you can post one.

There really are a lot of factors that could be contributing to your problems. So here come some more questions for you:

Have you had your soil tested in several different spots along your garden patch? Your County Extension service will do soil testing for you, or you can buy a good soil test kit at Lowe's or Home Depot and do it yourself, which might cost less. If your plants in pots do fine, then fail when you put them in ground, that does indicate a soil problem. Amendments such as plenty of compost are the answer here. Our County landfill makes really great compost and it is free for the fetching.

How old is the 30ft. stucco wall next to the area? Newer stucco can leach alkaline stuff into the soil for a while after it is applied. Also, how old is the structure, and do you know if fill dirt was brought in as a base for the foundation? Sometimes fill dirt is vastly different than the 'native' soil and can be anything from infertile clay to inert sludgey stuff.

The blazing sun for most of the day will really limit what you can grow there, and if you are looking to plant new stuff, fall and winter would be my preferred times, to give new plants a chance to grow some new roots before the hot weather comes back. A plant that says "Full Sun" on the label may or may not be suitable for a really blazing hot area such as you're describing. eg. Roses all say "full sun" but frankly my roses do a lot better with shade through the middle of the day in the summertime. So the full sun designation might work in Michigan or New York state, but full sun in Florida is a whole different ball game. A lot of full sun perennials can't take the sun in Florida.

Once you've checked the soil, I'd be looking at some small to medium sized trees to plant along that wall, along with your other new plantings. Then in the cooler months when the sun angle is lower, the other plants will get more light but in the blazing hot summer months the trees will offer some relief. They'll also lower your cooling bill, once they're growing up a bit, if that 30ft. wall is the wall of your town house.

I'm not sure about the ligustrum question. Will have to go looking for the answer to that. But I do have two good size ligustrums and they do allow some things to grow under them, it seems.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Jean
Fleming Island, FL (Zone 9a)
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qwilter
Jun 4, 2015 4:47 PM CST
Elaine just said almost everything I was going to suggest. Un-filtered sun mid-day is very hard on plants.
Curious as to what plans you have tried. I have a sunny strip that gets no irrigation & some natives love it out there.
Blessed are the Quilters for they are the Piecemakers.

Gadsden
Jun 6, 2015 10:37 AM CST
Thank you Jean and Elaine.
I don't yet know how to post photos but will try.
Answers to your questions:
- The building is 25 years old
- I've planted gazania, butterfly bush, African daisy, salvia, Mexican heather, African iris, and a hardy type of small daisy
- The soil is being tested - am waiting for a reply.
The soil seems to me to be the problem because when the plants were thriving in containers they were still in the blazing sun.
What soil additives should I use? Black Cow? Fertilizer? Purchased compost ?
I'm going to put an umbrella for midday relief.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 6, 2015 11:51 AM CST
As far as soil amendments, nothing beats compost, compost, compost! Black Cow is good but does have the addition of manure which is fine except if you get a heavy rain storm right after you apply it, the manure can release a big dose of nitrogen all at once that can burn young plants. During the rainy season, straight compost is the answer, with the addition of a pelleted, time-release fertilizer (if you are allowed to fertilize during summer, check your County ordinance! We aren't allowed to here). Did you check with your County landfill, whether they have compost available?

The other amendment that has some good, slow release nutrient value is alfalfa pellets. (horse food) It's available in a 50lb. bag at your local feed store for somewhere between $12 and $16. I put a handful or two in the planting hole of every single thing I plant, and then broadcast the pellets throughout my established borders as well.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Jean
Fleming Island, FL (Zone 9a)
Native Plants and Wildflowers Composter
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qwilter
Jun 6, 2015 11:53 AM CST
Soil amendments................manure, compost for sure..
Those are all plants that should love sun.

I do almost all my non-native plantings in raised beds. My front bed has been amended for years & looks like real soil.

Interested in hearing results of soil test.
Blessed are the Quilters for they are the Piecemakers.
Name: Alice
Saint Helena Island, SC (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Garden Photography Container Gardener Butterflies Bromeliad
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ardesia
Jun 7, 2015 5:33 AM CST
I agree those are all plants that should love the sun and since they did well in containers it must be the soil. Your soil test results will give you some direction as to any needed nutrients.

Watering practices could also impact the plants; until you build up the tilth with compost and the other suggestions indicated in the above posts, it will need steady watering. A soaker hose on a timer would help keep the soil evenly moist and cooler while the plants become established.

Another thought is a lasagna bed; just google "lasagna gardening" if you are unfamiliar with the term. Layers of damp newspapers and compost do wonders for poor soil.

Minds are like parachutes; they work better when they are open.
Name: Kate
Holmes Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Not all those who wander are lost.
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karmatree
Jun 7, 2015 6:03 AM CST
Elaine is spot-on. Alkalinity is not good for most plants. Some love it, but few and far between. Alkalinity makes nutrients into a chemical form that is unavailable to most plants. Florida sun from 11-7pm is brutal.

Maybe you could fix the soil pH, and continue to add organic stuff like mentioned above, and plant your full-sun, xeriscape plants in the WINTER and allow them to slowly adjust to the sun, and then by summer they will have acclimated naturally?

I have two HUGE expensive Uncarina trees that I planted in that fashion....they were always grown in a greenhouse though they naturally originate from a hot, HOT place. I had them sent over in the winter, while they were dormant and had no leaves. Left them in pots while they were sleeping, planted them in the spring when they woke up. Then, by summer, they were ready to rock and roll and weren't at risk of being cooked after 14 years of living in a shade house/green house.
"A garden isn't meant to be useful. It's for joy." - Rumer Godden
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
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drdawg
Jun 7, 2015 6:49 AM CST
Elaine, Black Kow is only 0.5-0.5-0.5. It is well composted. I use it with all my garden soil amendments and as a 1/3 part of all my potting mixes. I go though 10-15 bags every single year. I have never, ever had a plant "burned", regardless of the rain amount. Needless to say, we get the same torrential rains as you do when thunderstorms move through.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 7, 2015 8:56 AM CST
I did have an incident of fert burn using Black Kow, but it was probably my fault for not tilling it in evenly, so I must have plunked the baby plant into some straight manure. Every time I heft a bag of that stuff, I also feel like I've paid for a whole lot of sand with a little bit of composted manure in it . . . fine for you with your clay soil, Ken. But here we have nothing but sand to begin with! What i want for amendment is pure compost.

Anyway, the other point I wanted to make was about the labeling of plants as "drought tolerant". Even though it says that on a plant label, it doesn't mean you can plant it out and walk away. That plant will still need steady moisture to get established, and then in a full sun situation it will need supplemental water at least once a week if there is no rain - or even little rain. Kate's point about keeping the area evenly moist, and planting in winter or early spring to let the plants established can't be stressed enough.

Heaven knows, we have heavy rain showers here in Florida, but sometimes they only last a few minutes, and that's not deep enough water for new transplants to survive. I'm looking out the window at one right now - big fat raindrops but . . it's easing up after about 5 minutes! That much rain will barely penetrate the top inch of the soil.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Kate
Holmes Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
Not all those who wander are lost.
Bromeliad Cactus and Succulents Orchids Foliage Fan Organic Gardener Plant and/or Seed Trader
Region: Florida Tropicals Xeriscape
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karmatree
Jun 7, 2015 11:32 AM CST
Elaine also made an excellent point about the alfalfa pellets....they are fantastic. I had a garden go absolutely insane when I used it as a thin "mulch." It also attracted some of the biggest, fattest earthworms I've ever seen.
"A garden isn't meant to be useful. It's for joy." - Rumer Godden
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jun 7, 2015 12:09 PM CST
I still haven't tried these pellets and haven't asked my Co-op whether they carry this item or not. I really need to experiment with the alfalfa. I just seem to have so much to do that I don't get around to doing a lot of things like this. Sighing!
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 7, 2015 12:25 PM CST
If anybody near you has either horses or rabbits, they will know where to get them, Ken. We have two feed stores nearby that carry them.

Once you try them, you'll wonder why you waited so long, they're really a magic bullet.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Alice
Saint Helena Island, SC (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Garden Photography Container Gardener Butterflies Bromeliad
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ardesia
Jun 7, 2015 12:49 PM CST
Elaine, I use the alfalfa pellets also but I work them well into the soil; they can heat up in the right circumstances. I had a bucket full that got wet and soon it was steaming. I also put some in my compost pile, they are great at keeping the heat in there.

Minds are like parachutes; they work better when they are open.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Jun 7, 2015 2:11 PM CST
We are a small college town and lots of farms all around. We would be considered "rural". Since we have plenty of horses on many of those farms (rabbits I don't know about), I feel sure our Co-op will have those pellets.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Elfrieda
Indian Harbour Beach, Florida (Zone 10a)
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orchidgal
Jun 7, 2015 10:55 PM CST
What kind of Alfalfa pellets ? Wouldn't there be seeds in some of them ?
Thanks/ Thank You!
“I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen”
Eeyore
Name: Alice
Saint Helena Island, SC (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Garden Photography Container Gardener Butterflies Bromeliad
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ardesia
Jun 8, 2015 4:32 AM CST
I've never had a problem with alfalfa seeds here. They are just plain old horse/rabbit food, available in most feed and seeds. The only problem I have ever come across is that they come in 50 lb. bags around here and it is a pain to deal with that much. Storing it requires a sturdy, secure container to prevent insects and even pesky raccoons from getting it. Sharing a bag with a fellow gardener works well for me.
Minds are like parachutes; they work better when they are open.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 8, 2015 7:31 AM CST
No problems with seeds here either. I think they harvest the alfalfa for horse food before it goes to seed.

Yes, the 50lb. bag is a pain, but it's usually a very sturdy bag. I just fold it over carefully after I've opened it, and clip it shut again with bulldog clips from the office supply store. Have not had any critters go after it. I leave a scoop of some kind in the bag, and carry it around in gallon sized ziploc bags for distribution.

We do think that the bunny at the school garden may have been attracted by the smell of the fresh pellets when we first amended the beds last year. We didn't bury the pellets well enough and there was a nice 'horsey' smell for a week or so before we started planting. Since then, we've had the kids dig the pellets into the soil, and it's a contest to make sure every pellet is buried. I left a sealed up bag of pellets at the school garden for weeks, and neither the bunny nor the raccoons got into the bag.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Alice
Saint Helena Island, SC (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Hummingbirder Garden Photography Container Gardener Butterflies Bromeliad
Birds Ponds Region: South Carolina Tropicals
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ardesia
Jun 14, 2015 5:19 PM CST
You obviously have wimpy critters in Sarasota. Hilarious!
It is all galvanized trash cans here with the lids locked down.

Minds are like parachutes; they work better when they are open.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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dyzzypyxxy
Jun 14, 2015 6:59 PM CST
I think the 'coons at the school are just really well fed already. They don't need no horse food.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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