Can someone diagnose this problem?

I'm having a problem with plants wilting and shriveling in my garden and I can't figure out why. Here's the situation: The soil on my property is heavy clay, so two weeks ago, I had a contractor dig up two large planting beds and till in equal parts of compost and gypsum to make the soil more workable. They also put down a nice layer of hardwood mulch which is dark brown in color. One of the beds gets full sun most of the day and the other gets a mix of full sun in the morning with filtered sun in the afternoon due to overhanging branches from a willow oak. I planted accordingly, putting sun-loving plants, including a butterfly bush, several varieties of day lilies, tall phlox, gaura, black-eyed susans, echinacea and zinnias in the full-sun bed, and a combination of liriope, nandinas, azalea and day lilies in the bed that gets filtered sun. Both beds get watered in the morning because they get hit by the lawn sprinklers; I think I've got the sprinklers set up to run for 15 minutes a day (it could be every other day, I need to check on that). The problem is that after several days in the ground, a number of the plants are wilting and dropping leaves, with the phlox, black-eyed susans and zinnias having the worst time.
So - what might be a factor in the wilting and leaf-dropping? Could it be:
- Too much water? We had a lot of rain last week, over three inches, I think, and the sprinklers are still running every day or every other day. I put in these plants over two weekends, and when I went to plant the first round the soil was almost goopy, but when I planted the rest over this past weekend the soil had dried out somewhat but was still damp.
- The beds are too warm? The mulch gets noticeably warm to the touch during the heat of the day -- could the roots be getting cooked?
- Transplant shock? I'm not a morning person and the earliest I ever get out into the garden is noon. It's been in the 90s here, so could it have been too warm when I planted them? If so, will they recover?
- The compost or gypsum? I can't imagine the compost would be affecting the plants; it's just organic matter which is supposed to be good for them. I don't know much about gypsum, only that it's kind of alkaline and helps to break down the soil. Could the soil be too alkaline now? To my knowledge, the azalea is the only acid-loving plant I put in those beds and I fed that with Holly Tone when I planted it. Should I maybe sprinkle some Holly Tone around the other plants to balance the pH?
Any input from the group would be most appreciated.
Cheers, Rhonda Richmond, VA USDA Zone 7
***** Basic human psychology is one of my subroutines.
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It sounds like you transplanted or planted these plants while in bloom. That's not the best time to plant them. Is the ground around them saturated? Even potted plants in bloom sometimes react badly to being disturbed.

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The ground isn't saturated, but it is damp. Some of the plants had blooms on them when I planted them and some didn't. The black-eyed susans, for example, were covered with green buds but no open blooms; the phlox were in full bloom then and have continued to bloom but are losing leaves. The thing is, though, that I've planted and potted flowering plants many times and have never had this problem. Of all of the stuff that's wilting, the only thing I'm actually pissed about is the zinnia, because I grew those from seed. They were started in a patio pot where I'm growing a miniature rose, and were about 9 inches tall when I transplanted them. Zinnias are usually hard to kill, so I'm going to hope for the best! Thanks for your ideas.
Rhonda

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face=Arial size=2>...</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>&gt; I'm having a problem with plants wilting and shriveling in my garden and I <BR>&gt; can't figure out why.&nbsp; Here's the situation:&nbsp; The soil on my property is <BR>&gt; heavy clay,</FONT><FONT face=Arial size=2>&nbsp;so two weeks ago, I had a contractor dig up two large planting <BR>&gt; beds and till in equal parts of compost and gypsum to make the soil more <BR>&gt; workable.&nbsp; </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2>Here is my area where we have heavy clay, the soil tends to be very alkaline, so adding gypsum only makes the soil more alkaline -- not a good thing.&nbsp; </FONT></DIV></FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>They also put down a nice layer of hardwood mulch&nbsp; which is dark <BR>&gt; brown in color.&nbsp; One of the beds gets full sun most of the day and the other <BR>&gt; gets a mix of full sun in the morning with filtered sun in the afternoon due <BR>&gt; to overhanging branches from a willow oak.&nbsp; I planted accordingly, putting <BR>&gt; sun-loving plants, including a butterfly bush, several varieties of day <BR>&gt; lilies, tall phlox, gaura, black-eyed susans, echinacea and zinnias in the <BR>&gt; full-sun bed, and a combination of liriope, nandinas, azalea and day lilies <BR>&gt; in the bed that gets filtered sun.&nbsp; Both beds get watered in the morning <BR>&gt; because they get hit by the lawn sprinklers; I think I've got the sprinklers <BR>&gt; set up to run for 15 minutes a day (it could be every other day, I need to <BR>&gt; check on that).&nbsp; </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2>Even if you're not getting any or much rain, they're getting watered too often.&nbsp; A slow,&nbsp;deep soak once a week -- rain or&nbsp;soaker hose/hand watering&nbsp;-- is the standard.&nbsp; If plants get too much water, the roots will start to rot, and then no matter how much water they get, there aren't enough fine, feeder roots to soak it up.&nbsp; OR, if the soil is really dry, that 15 minutes a day from the sprinklers just hits the surface and doesn't get down to the plants' roots.</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2>Hope this helps.</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2>Suzy O, SE Wisconsin, Zone 5</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>The problem is that after several days in the ground, a <BR>&gt; number of the plants are wilting and dropping leaves, with the phlox, <BR>&gt; black-eyed susans and zinnias having the worst time.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; So - what might be a factor in the wilting and = leaf-dropping?&nbsp; Could it be:<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; - Too much water?&nbsp; We had a lot of rain last week, over three inches, I <BR>&gt; think, and the sprinklers are still running every day or every other day.&nbsp; I <BR>&gt; put in these plants over two weekends, and when I went to plant the first <BR>&gt; round the soil was almost goopy, but when I planted the rest over this past <BR>&gt; weekend the soil had dried out somewhat but was still damp.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; - The beds are too warm?&nbsp; The mulch gets noticeably warm to the touch during <BR>&gt; the heat of the day -- could the roots be getting cooked?<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; - Transplant shock?&nbsp; I'm not a morning person and the earliest I ever get <BR>&gt; out into the garden is noon.&nbsp; It's been in the 90s here, so could it have <BR>&gt; been too warm when I planted them?&nbsp;&nbsp; If so, will they recover?<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; - The compost or gypsum?&nbsp; I can't imagine = the compost would be affecting the <BR>&gt; plants; it's just organic matter which is supposed to be good for them.&nbsp; I <BR>&gt; don't know much about gypsum, only that it's kind of alkaline and helps to <BR>&gt; break down the soil.&nbsp; Could the soil be too alkaline now?&nbsp; To my knowledge, <BR>&gt; the azalea is the only acid-loving plant I put in those beds and I fed that <BR>&gt; with Holly Tone when I planted it.&nbsp; Should I maybe sprinkle some Holly Tone <BR>&gt; around the other plants to balance the pH?<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; Any input from the group would be most appreciated.<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; Cheers,<BR>&gt; Rhonda<BR>&gt; Richmond, VA<BR>&gt; USDA Zone 7<BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; <BR>&gt; *****<BR>&gt; Basic human psychology is one of my subroutines. <BR>&gt; <BR>&gt;</FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>
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<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>&gt;&gt; </FONT><FONT = face=Arial><FONT size=2><FONT face=Arial color=#ff00ff size=2>Here is my area where we have heavy clay, the soil tends to be very alkaline, so adding gypsum only makes the soil more alkaline -- not a good thing.&nbsp; </FONT> <DIV><FONT color=#ff00ff></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT color=#ff00ff>That's like saying "This stuff will stop you from bleeding to death, but it may also cause the wound to heal with a bit more of a scar". </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT color=#ff00ff></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT color=#ff00ff>Some people have clay soil that is so totally out of hand that altering its pH for a season or two is something worth dealing with, if the gypsum otherwise does its job.</FONT></DIV></DIV></BODY></HTML></FONT></FONT>
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JoeSpareBedroom wrote:

for a season or two is something worth dealing with, if the gypsum otherwise does its job.
I have much less experience than most folks here, but this seems like good advice. I see no reason why the 'percolation'/whatever aspect can't be addressed at the same time some pine needle mulch/compost or other soil pH amelioration is done. (Ironite, sulfur, epsom salts,etc.)
Carl
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A few weeks back, someone explained that gypsum works via a chemical process, not a mechanical one, so it might NOT be a good idea to address the pH situation while it's working. I don't know - I'm just saying it's worth looking into, which might be as simple as calling the company whose name is on the bag of gypsum.
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JoeSpareBedroom wrote:

Hmmm..I can see where you could be working at cross purposes if that's the case. I read recommendations to work organic matter into the clay about as often as I read the gypsum suggestion. I dunno, I have(in one large area under a cypress) a coupla inches of soil over a clay/sand type mixture that does not drain very well - I just chose plants that don't mind having their feet wet and figure after 2-3 years of working compost/'stuff' into the soil I might be able to broaden what I plant there. sigh I'm just a newbie gardening hack! lol!
Carl
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This link is helpful. If you don't mind a few seasons of nasty, hard labor, you can drastically improve your soil to the point where it's extremely easy to garden in. Then, when you move to a new place, you be miserable again for 3-4 years when you have to start all over. Or, you can do what I did - make realtors look at you funny when, as part of your house hunting process, you go poking around yards with a pitch fork. :-)
http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/covercrop.html
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