"Cursed" spot in garden?

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Hi, folks!
Gardening in San Jose, California -- USDA zone 9, Sunset zone 16.
I have a prominent space at the edge of a (grumble) lawn, located next to an apple tree, but just out from under the tree's drip line (when it's in leaf). The spot is about a square meter. It's at the bottom of a short, shallow slope which terminates at the lawn. The soil is mostly clay, but has been amended with some organic matter. The site receives partial shade to full sun.
Grass used to grow in this location, but I have been making efforts to reduce the size of our lawn, particularly on the sloped parts of the yard. Over the past two years I have tried two different plants in this location, without lasting success. Initially, the plants thrive and grow. About a year later, they croak. My first attempt was with jagged lavender (Lavandula pinnata); my second, with ornamental quince (Chaenomeles japonica).
I don't think that I'm committing any blunders with water. Turgor pressure was good in the leaves of the lavender, right until the point when it decided to die. I'm actually not sure that the quince is dead yet -- but it lost about 95% of its leaves in late summer, which was far too early, even as turgor in the remaining leaves was still good. It isn't setting buds right now, which it should be doing.
All around the drip line of this apple tree, and even under it to some extent, plants are thriving. It's just this one spot that refuses to grow anything. I'm not the kind of gardener who normally likes to force a piece of ground to do something that it doesn't wish to do. But I have trouble believing that nothing will grow on this spot besides the grass that I removed. Help me, before I kill again! Suggestions are appreciated!
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Put some sort of sculpture there instead.
A garden gnome perhaps?

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Cereus-validus-........... wrote:

That would have to be one big, fat gnome!
I am considering a bird bath, though. I'd like to try something inexpensive and green first.
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Inexpensive and green?
How about an inflatable kiddy pool?

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Just an opinion but it sounds as though the underlying soil is, for lack of a better term "poisoned". I don't mean there is a poison in the soil, just that there is something in it that was bad enough to keep your plants from growing. Could be a fungus or salts or nematodes or something of that nature.
I would take a soil sample from the area all around the area that doesn't seem to want to grow anything to the extention service and have an anylisys done to see if there is a reason other than a curse on the spot.
Good luck.
Mr. Bill
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Mr. Bill wrote:
[snip]

I've thought about this possibility. If it is true, I'm surprised that the effect is so local. I'm also surprised that it didn't affect the grass that was growing there two years ago.
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I'm also surprised that it didn't affect

Perhaps the grass does not go deep enough Tomes
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I had a friend who pulled up about a square meter of his lawn so he could plant 4 tomato plants. They kept dying, despite his best efforts, even though the grass around that area was fine.
He also had 3 cats, and I asked him where they did their business... he groaned, and gave up trying to get those tomatoes to grow anymore, it was a losing battle.
Any cats in your yard?
8-)

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Keith wrote:

Interesting idea, but no. Our dog chases away any cats that come in to the yard. And before you ask whether the dog might be cursing the garden with contributions of her own, she isn't. Much to my dismay, her favorite places to poop are those places where humans are most likely to walk -- the deck, and the pathways.
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wrote:

Err...you might want to take her to a qualified dog psychiatrist who can analyze her "issues"...is there some latent hostility manifesting itself in her poop-choices?
(Just kidding <g>)
Persephone
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my small dogs dont like grass tickling their butt. they use the walk too. Ingrid
Persephone wrote:

Much to my dismay,

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On Sun, 25 Jun 2006 13:15:13 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@wi.rr.xx.com wrote:

Hey, you left out my last line "Just kidding <g>".
Someone might think I actually MEANT the dog-shrink!
Persephone
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Hey, you were able to revive this thread! Google wouldn't let me do it, since it had been quiet for over 30 days.
I actually posted a follow-up a month ago that no one noticed:
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.gardens/msg/3505fa90c3207fed
My quince was alive. It just went dormant for MONTHS, starting in the early fall. I find that behavior surprising, given my moderate climate (Central California, USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 16).
Following up again: now that the quince has flourished for four months, I'm seeing signs of stress again -- some leaf-burn. I can't say that I understand why! My _Sunset_Western_Garden_Book_ lists Chaenomeles japonica as a full-sun plant, with moderate to regular water needs, and I'm supplying that. If anything, the plant gets an hour or two more of shade than I would usually allot for a plant that is described as requiring full-sun conditions.
I'm hoping that this plant doesn't go dormant in September again. It's clearly alive and coping with the conditions, but if it will look bare and unattractive for over half the year, I may need to talk my wife into putting something else in that location.
OK, even though animals are officially a non-issue in my garden problems, here are a few comments about my crazy dog...
Persephone wrote:

[snip]
Actually, we know exactly what our dog's "issue" is. She had inadequate time with her Mom as a puppy, only four weeks. Apparently, Mom teaches her pups their toileting habits, and she wasn't through teaching. We didn't take the puppy away from the breeder too early -- Mom died shortly after the litter was born. Our dog is the only dog I know that regularly pees in her own bed. :^P
Our dog is a help in the garden, though -- well, she is helpful now that she has outgrown digging holes. She's a miniature Dachshund, and her rodent-hunting instincts are keen. We don't have any burrowing animals around here, but our garden-hating neighbor has a "rat motel" -- a large stand of Algerian ivy. Occasionally a rat tries to leave the neighbor's yard and enter ours. It doesn't get far.
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wrote:

<snip>
Hi
You say grass USED to grow here, and that you're making efforts to reduce the size of the lawn. Does this mean you removed the grass from this site? If so, how did you kill the grass?
Robin Alexandria, VA
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RobinM wrote:

Yes, I removed the grass. I did it the old-fashioned way, with a pickaxe and shovel. I avoid chemical methods whenever I can. A large swath of the adjacent hillside was treated the same way, at the same time. Plenty of new plants are growing there.
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wrote:

Actually, since these plants were at the bottom of a slope where run-off might collect, and both of them prefer less water rather than more water, are you sure they haven't been getting TOO much water, rather than too little?
Robin Alexandria, VA
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RobinM wrote:

I thought about that -- but I am a California gardener, and I actually like to be stingy with water. I watered this spot by hand when needed, deeply and infrequently. If anything, I would have expected the plants to wilt as they succumbed to the summer drought conditions. This isn't how they died, as I described in my original post.
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Again, I say a soil test is your best bet. The grass may have been in good soil as only the top few inches are needed to grow grass. In tilling the soil you may have uncovered earth that has too much of something or not enough of something in it. If the offending substance were localized way back when (before you even bought the property) then there would be no way of you knowing. In Ohio some years ago I ran into something like this and it turned out to be a large pocket of gravel under the clay soil, just below the two spit depth of my double dug bed. There was a railroad tie sized chunk of wood down there with it. I have no idea how it got there but after removing it everything worked out well.
Mr. Bill
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A pond with water lilies.
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Would it be a good spot for a picnic table?
Dwayne

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