Herbs forum: Rosemary troubles

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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 20, 2016 10:39 AM CST
I have had a terrible time trying to get rosemary established in my herb garden. I've tried several different cultivars. I buy them as 4" pots, plant them out, and they do well during the first growing season. They also over-winter OK. Then, during spring clean-up, when I weed, prune and mulch everything, they all of a sudden just turn brown and die. Do they not like to be pruned? Allergic to mulch? What?? The last variety I chose specifically for the name - Hill Hardy. Previous fails have been Arp, Tuscan Blue, and Barbeque.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Apr 20, 2016 11:07 AM CST
Here, in zone 7, if we leave them outside we call them "dead" before spring. Usually I bring in the two potted ones I grow and always kept them in a cool window (northeast exposure) and they always died a sudden death on 3/19. This year I put them both in a very sunny window and they both survived and thrived.

A neighbor keeps her Tuscan outside and it's dead as can be. She also failed with Arp.

I tend not to prune any herbs outside until new growth commences.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 20, 2016 11:13 AM CST
I think I just need to get one past the 2 year mark - I've seen local rosemaries that are medium sized shrubs and healthy as can be. I'll try the leave-em-alone trick next spring and see what happens. I have somewhat the same luck with garden sage, although those do bounce back after most of the plan suddenly dying about mid March.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
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pirl
Apr 20, 2016 11:23 AM CST
Good luck. My sage resents pruning before May, as does Russian Sage.

A friend had a huge rosemary for many years, in a southwest position against her garage, and then it suddenly died.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Apr 20, 2016 12:08 PM CST
Deb,

Are the plants you see at the nurseries in containers ? From what I have read, rosemary does not like wet feet at all because it is a Mediterranean plant. If you have wet winters, that may be the problem.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 20, 2016 12:35 PM CST
I do have wet winters, so perhaps this year I'll dig down and add some additional drainage where I plan to plant it. I have the same problem with lavender, which I tend to treat as an annual. Maybe what is happening is as the rosemary wakes up in spring, it doesn't like our at times torrential rains.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Arlene
Southold, Long Island, NY (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tomato Heads Houseplants Garden Ideas: Level 1 Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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pirl
Apr 20, 2016 12:45 PM CST
I bet that's the answer!
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Apr 20, 2016 3:14 PM CST
Deb ...

I hope you don't mind my asking, but, in general, what is your native soil? By that, I mean is it more loam, clay or sandy ? Also, how do you add additional drainage down deeper before planting a plant that requires better drainage than is normal for your soil conditions ?
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Paul Anguiano
Richland, WA (Zone 7a)
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psa
Apr 20, 2016 3:42 PM CST
Neither rosemary nor sage like being pruned heavily. Sage is short-lived anyway, but pruning into the wood is asking for trouble. If you're going to mess with rosemary beyond light trimming, do it in the warm season when it is growing well. They both propagate easily from cuttings, though, so I keep a plant of each protected over winter and take cuttings in early spring. The new plants are more vigorous and give me better, more tender cuttings for cooking. My (protected) mother ARP rosemary is 15 years old, but I switch out the sage mother plant every year. BBQ rosemary is more tender than ARP, but I often find a few that survive the winter.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 20, 2016 5:51 PM CST
My soil is loam, and I mulch with a compost-blend that is mixed locally. My thought to create sharper drainage was to dig down to below normal root level and add a scoopful of gravel/rocks, plant on top of that, then fill in with my normal soil. I believe folks do this with lavenders, which is another problem plant for me. If these guys also like a leaner soil, I don't know what to do about that. I've been amending this particular garden for well over 30 years and it has been largely undisturbed (no tilling or foot traffic). I don't fertilize regularly, although I do now and again when I think about it. I'll try to remember not to give these plants extra juju. I used to have a common garden sage that performed well for several years with little attention. Sounds like I should just leave well enough alone, and forget about trying to 'tidy' them up in the spring. I'll replace the rosemary, and hope for the best with the sage (I have two of those, both are looking rather sad). I've lost 2 lavenders yet again, but one is doing well.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Apr 20, 2016 6:30 PM CST
Thanks, Deb.

I was just curious because I have heard of people saying that they were going to improve drainage in their soil under the planting level and wondered how that was done.

My soil, if anyone dares to call it that, has perfect drainage. It is dense, compacted small stones with clay and silt between them. The clay holds moisture longer than sand, but not as long as pure clay soils because of all of the rock. However, it also is not as fertile as loam.

I can build up the soil by adding organic material, but as soon as I stop, in time, I think it will revert back.

It's always something. Rolling my eyes.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Linda
Carmel, IN (Zone 5a)
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mom2goldens
Apr 21, 2016 4:41 PM CST
Good drainage is essential for Rosemary. I'm wondering if your compost-blend mulch is too heavy and holding in too much water. Think about where rosemary grows wild--rocky, sandy, sunny locations in the Mediterranean. Might also be getting too much fertilization from the compost. In general, it really does not need any additional fertilizer. Your idea of adding some rocky drainage may be a good solution.
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
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Bonehead
Apr 21, 2016 5:31 PM CST
And perhaps I'll also mulch it with pebbles and rocks. Same with the two replacement lavenders I bought today.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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RoseBlush1
Apr 21, 2016 7:46 PM CST
Deb, I was thinking along the same lines as Linda late last night.

I have two lavenders down in one of my street beds, which is actually my storm drain that have survived a very wet winter this year. They are planted in very poor soil that drains quite well.

We got forty inches of rain this winter. Our climate is accurately defined as a "wet Mediterranean" climate. We can have very wet winters and springs and no rain during the summer months.

That is the last bed I get to for spring clean up chores. Most of the time, that bed gets neglected and gets little care. *Blush*
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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