Blasted -- Sunflower and Pepper

GAH! I'm able to get 5 and 6 yo kindergarteners to grow the most beautiful peppers, tomatoes, and sunflowers from seeds in less-than-perfect conditions. Such as having to train 33 kinders that they should not be making their garden-areas into rice paddies -- "But Mr. Ranger... Plants like water." Temperatures that were often lower-than-seasonally expected, "Today's high will reach a stunning 50F! Wear a sweater." And my favorite, "It looked like a weed so I pulled it out." Over 60 plants were successfully grown and, given recently emails, producing buds this week.
So given the boost of confidence I attempted the same in my own patch of garden. Planted tomatoes (Early Bird, Granny Greens, Beefsteak, and Green Zebra), peppers (Jalapeo, Serrano, Tequila Sunrise, and Purple Wonder), and sunflowers (Sunbright, Valentine, and Florenza).
Everything started out GREAT. I used Miracle Grow garden as my base. The germination of the seeds were immediate and every one of the shoots showed strong potential. Daily sun is gradual, with the morning being shadowed until around 11 and then direct sun from 11 to 6. Temperatures have also been favorable with nothing too low (60s) and nothing too extreme (nothing over 100). Recently, the plants came under attack from insects but nothing a little night-time intervention couldn't control. I lost a few of the sunflowers' leaves but nothing too major from the remaining plants. Two days ago, I noticed several of the sunflowers starting to wilt. I checked the soil and noticed it was damp but not soaking or spongy. I checked pH and it was within the range I'd found. Yesterday, I noticed every flower wilting. Today the entire batch are crashed and browned with several showing predation. Worried, I looked over at the peppers, right next to the sunflowers, and see the same thing occurring: predation, wilt, crumpling in on themselves...
The soil isn't soaking. I haven't added _any_ fertalizers. They're starting to bud and I'd like to save what I have left.
HELP!
The Ranger
PS: For the member that mentioned I am not an experienced gardener, he was right. I'm not. I normally purchase already-grown plants and simply keep them growing. This season I wanted to try it from scratch and it's not looking promising.
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Two (well, two-ish) separate questions:
Did you mean to write that you used Miracle-Gro Garden *Soil* as a base and, if so, what is the soil under that like?
Are there any walnut or butternut trees near the garden?
I will say that morning shade followed by sun is much less desirable than morning sun followed by afternoon shade, but you've got to work with what you have. (I'm working on my neighbor to get him to agree to cut down the weed trees on the fence-line, with me footing the bill, so I'm speaking from experience here.)
--
Pat in Plymouth MI

"So, it was all a dream."
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[snip]
The drainage layer is limestone rock. The plants are in 8" X 48" red oak planter boxes.

There is a monsterous liquid amber (curse my municipality for planting this giant weed!) but that was taken into account when I originally put the plants in their current placement.

sun is only of very limited duration, though; four hours versus the seven they get out in the frontyard.
At this point, I'm willing to give anything a try!
The Ranger
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The Ranger said:

september.org...
OK, Miracle-Gro garden soil is not meant to be used in containers. By their own discription, it is for in ground plants and is meant to be mixed with soil.
It is far too heavy for use in containers and your plants may well be suffering from root-rot.

Container plants don't need a drainage layer of rocks. That's a planting myth that just doesn't seem to die!! (And limestone rocks would be a doubly bad choice as limestone is very alkaline.)
<http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural % 20Myths_files/Myths/Container%20drainage.pdf>
or, http://tinyurl.com/l2b9dm
Do your planter boxes have drainage holes at all?
--
Pat in Plymouth MI

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[snip good information]

Yes; six, 1" holes per box.
The Ranger
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In article

Can you explain why that is, Pat? The afternoon sun gives more heat. Not being testy, just curious.
--

- Billy

There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who
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wrote:>> I will say that morning shade followed by sun is much

This is convenient.
My neighbor, the gentleman I mentioned from a past post that provided me the tree netting, warned it looked like I was "scalding" the plants' roots by the extended exposure to the afternoon sun. He thought because I water at night the soil is retaining enough water that when it heats up from the afternoon blast, I'm essentially "cooking" the plants.
I moved the remaining plants to the backyard so hopefully this addresses the problem at hand.
The Ranger
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Sounds unlikely, unless you are in Phoenix, AZ. If you are concerned, mulch (verb [ intrans. ]). Most people expose their plants to the afternoon sun, accruing great benefit.
--

- Billy

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Billy said:

than
It is more stressfull for the plants to go into sun during the hottest part of the day than to go into shade.
I have several clumps of Japanese forest grass. The lushest one gets morning sun. The next best gets a bit of sun in mid-day. The clump that gets afternoon sun struggles.
In my vegetable garden (now that those weed trees have grown up on the fence line), part of it gets shaded until mid-day. What's planted there shows signs of stress when the sun blasts on them. The hotter the day, the more they wilt. I end up misting them on those days to help them recover.
(Plants that get full sun all day don't wilt every single afternoon.)
On the other hand, since the start of my veggie garden, I've had a section which gets some afternoon shade. Any edible that can tolerate a bit of shade does well there.
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Pat in Plymouth MI

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Likely fungal root rot.
Soil sulphur, let go a week, then add soil flora.
Good luck! This is how the local nursery helped save my Ivy with the same symptoms...
Your first mistake was "Miracle Grow". Switch to Medina products. Hasta gro is one good one.
--
Peace! Om

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