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Name: Susie VanEmburgh
Southern New Jersey
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SusieVanEmburgh
May 1, 2016 1:01 PM CST
I don't have a very big garden so every inch counts. My problem is that I have a spot that is about 3 feet by 3 feet that absolutely won't even grow a weed. I added bags and bags of compost and Miracle Grow Garden Soil to it and yet still nothing grows. I just yanked out a hydrangea that I planted last summer in that spot. I was sure it would grown with all that new compost and enriched soil. I carefully guarded it over the winter and even covered it when we had a hard frost. Our winter was rather mild. Only one hard frost! I kept it watered too! What in the world is going on here? Somebody said that perhaps I had a mole or something living down there. I have seen a hole where something digs in that area. Deeper that what a squirrel usually would dig. I even planted 40 tulip bulbs and every one of those are missing! Anyone know what's going on??
Susie
Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
May 1, 2016 2:31 PM CST
How big is the hole you've seen? Moles are bigger, but voles are smaller, and dig tunnels about 2" diameter. Voles eat the roots of plants and they look like long black mice- they run just as fast when you actually see them.

Here is how I figured out when the voles were active- go out and smooth everything in the area, and cover up any holes, filling them in. Check back every few hours and see if a new hole appears. That way you can tell where they are, and when. Even if it's not voles, you could still try it to see what's happening.
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 1, 2016 7:39 PM CST
I always thought voles looked like hamsters without stripes. Smiling

Anyway.... things disappear? Or just simply fail to thrive? Did the hydrangea still have roots? Did you find any tulips that were chewed on? A vole would not stay in a 3 foot x 3 foot area - he would be all over your yard. I doubt a tulip would be a voles first choice as dinner but they do like grass roots.

I am wondering if you are dealing with something else. Nematodes come to mind. What did the roots of the hydrangea look like after it died?

Daisy
Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
May 1, 2016 10:12 PM CST
Daisy- meadow voles are what I've seen. Otherwise the vole that looks like a hamster may be in your neck of the woods. Voles will eat bulbs and roots. They ate my lily bulbs so all I had left were the boring ones. Lol.

Doesn't mean that's the problem though, just threw it out there as a possibility because of what she described. A photo of the area would help too.

Edit: spell check.
[Last edited by AlyssaBlue - May 1, 2016 10:13 PM (+)]
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 2, 2016 6:47 AM CST
Voles (in the east anyway) do look sort of like a hamster inasmuch as they don't have long tails, but otherwise they look more like a large mouse with a short tail. But hamsters with stripes??

Voles will eat tulip bulbs, so will squirrels. We have lately had an overpopulation of voles where I am and they've never touched the hydrangeas. They do love certain bulbs, hosta roots and many other plants. They'll even nip off annuals at their stem bases and abscond with them (I blamed chipmunks until I actually saw a vole in the act).

Susie, could you post a picture of the problem area so we can get an idea of any possible environmental influences?

You say you kept the hydrangea watered through the winter. I wonder if that could be the problem because presumably it had no leaves at that time so wouldn't have been needing much water at all.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
May 2, 2016 9:07 AM CST
Not nematodes, Daisy. They don't survive in places that freeze or get much cold at all.

I wonder if it could be a spot where someone dumped something toxic (before you came there) ? Some stuff like petroleum products and/or brush killers can have residual effects. Is there possibly something dripping off a roof or from a tree that is poisoning the plants? My daughter has a tree with a slime flux infection and it drips yellow stinky stuff on the lawn under the infected spot, which kills the grass.

There are also certain trees that secrete stuff from their roots that prevent other plants from growing - eg. got a black walnut tree anywhere near? They're called "allelopathic" and there are certain plants that do tolerate the juglone that they produce. I also found out recently that sunflower seeds are allelopathic, so some plants won't grow under my bird feeders. The weeds grow just fine, of course. Rolling my eyes.

You could plant and put a group of big decorative pots on top of that spot instead of fighting the soil problem, Susie.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 2, 2016 10:06 AM CST
I agree that chances are it is not nematodes in this case, Elaine, but (unfortunately!) there are plant-parasitic nematodes that can survive freezing and live through the winter even here in Canada. They are able to kind of "freeze dry" themselves to survive the cold. It depends on the species whether they can do that, though. One example that does survive and cause plant damage in Canada is the root lesion nematode {Pratylenchus penetrans).
[Last edited by sooby - May 2, 2016 10:07 AM (+)]
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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
May 2, 2016 10:17 AM CST
No kidding! Here I thought nematodes were just a Southern plague. Thanks, Sue.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
May 2, 2016 10:20 AM CST
dyzzypyxxy- the toxic idea was my second thought, behind voles, whether it be something poured there, or like you said a black walnut because of the juglone.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 2, 2016 10:35 AM CST
You must presumably have more nematode species there, Elaine, and they must surely have more time to do damage as compared to those in the cold areas where they have to spend part of the year just surviving winter (like the rest of us Hilarious! )

Something toxic is a possibility that also crossed my mine but it sounds like a lot of amendments were added to try and alleviate the problem in a small area so it would have to have been very strong to kill plants even when the soil was diluted (or was it replaced completely??). I still wonder about waterlogging when a deciduous plant was kept watered through winter - does depend on how often it would have been watered though. As always, lots of questions needed to get to the bottom of a plant problem.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
May 2, 2016 11:46 AM CST
Is it possible that there was once a septic tank in that spot? Have you dug down to see what's under the soil? I once had a spot where nothing would thrive so I dug down and found a 3 foot by 3 foot concrete slab.

Whatever the problem is, can you remove the soil from the area and replace it with new soil and compost? That might help.
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Name: Susie VanEmburgh
Southern New Jersey
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SusieVanEmburgh
May 3, 2016 6:53 AM CST
Thank you all for trying so hard to solve my hydrangea problem. No, nothing drops off the roof or a tree. There is a good chance that workers dumped something toxic when the place was built 25 years ago, but I have dumped in so much new compost and super soil that I think that problem should have been solved. Although I occasionally watered the plant over the winter, I only gave it what it really, really needed. The hydrangea is now in a great big pot with good drainage, so I'm really hoping to see some leaves and hoping it will survive. There is a tiny bit of green under the bark. So that's a good thing. THANKS again friends! :-)
Susie
Name: Anna Z.
Monroe, WI
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AnnaZ
May 3, 2016 7:03 AM CST
Hamsters with stripes, eh???? Sweetie, you gots gophers! Farmers HATE them, but the plants/seeds they ingest in a 100 acre field wouldn't be "quite" as noticeable. Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 3, 2016 11:41 AM CST
I know we have gophers, and voles. None have stripes. Those (with stripes) would be hamsters. Gophers are HUGE, voles are small and eat the roots off the grass. Gophers just eat. Have you ever been sitting in your yard, enjoying your gardening efforts, when a plant started to jiggle and then 'whoosh' it's gone? Straight down, into a hole (that you had not previously noticed). Smiling

My point was that whatever it is, if it's a critter, it would not limit its efforts to a 3 ft. x 3 ft. patch.

Daisy
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 3, 2016 2:27 PM CST
I've never seen a hamster with stripes, is that a new thing? Confused
Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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AlyssaBlue
May 3, 2016 4:34 PM CST
Chipmunk or golden manteled ground squirrel? I have to laugh because the first time I saw a striped squirrel in Arizona,
I went Blinking Confused
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 3, 2016 8:45 PM CST
Hamster.... With stripes

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/animalcrossing/images/4/...

Vole.... No stripes

http://garden.org/pics/2014-04-07/farmerdill/e0d5db.jpg

Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
May 4, 2016 5:59 AM CST
OK, got it, you mean the white band across the chest on the typical hamster coat. Stripes to me suggested something running the length of the body, like in a chipmunk (or skunk!), If you look at it sideways, body of the typical hamster colour is solid with the markings on the chest only, my first one as a kid looked like that. The hamster my daughter had was a solid creamy colour, no other markings at all. Thanks for solving the mystery of the striped hamsters!
Name: Susie VanEmburgh
Southern New Jersey
Meet you in the garden!
SusieVanEmburgh
May 4, 2016 9:20 AM CST
This post is really getting funny. I originally asked why nothing grew in my 3 x 3 foot garden. I mentioned noticing a hole near the base of the hydrangea that I planted last year and is now dying, and now everyone is talking about all the varieties of varmints. Who knew there were so many different kinds? I'm amazed! Even though I replaced so much soil with new compost and Miracle grow potting soil, I still think something is living underground. So what do you do to get rid of root chomping varmints? I don't really care what they look like or if they have stripes, I just want them gone.HELP!! Smiling :smily:
Susie
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
May 4, 2016 9:37 AM CST
Susie, you mentioned the hydrangea is now in a pot, which sounds like you have removed it from the problem area? Did you notice any damage to the roots when you removed it? Also if you dug it out of the space, I would have thought you'd have seen a critter there, with or without stripes Hilarious!

Voles are difficult to get rid of if that's what it is. You mentioned also that the pot was well-drained, does that mean you think the problem area is not? I'm wondering why it was necessary to water the plant when it had no leaves, just wondering how were you determining a need?

A picture of the problem area might help, to show what is around it that could be an issue. If you're certain it's an animal then you could try a humane trap, I've occasionally caught voles with peanut butter on a cracker. There are other deterrents but it would really be better to identify the problem first.

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