Morning Glory Quandary

I'm having problems with my morning glories this year and I don't know why or what I can do next year to keep this from happening. All my MGs are grown in containers and although in past years they start to lose their lower leaves, this year they look like total crap and on some trellises they haven't even covered the top like in past years. The new foliage looks small and frail whereas in past years they were still climbing and growing at this time of the year. They all seemed to have flowered nicely and on only one trellis they have done OK this year. In the following pics I'll step you through the situation and hopefully someone will have some insight as to what went wrong. I live in Zone 5 Chicago where we suffered a horrendous drought this year and it has been hot but I have been very diligent about keeping these things watered. Watering this garden has literally been an albatross around my neck requiring my attention every single day making me look forward to fall and winter but I digress. As much as I like to attribute the problem to the drought, and that's been my standard excuse this year for every garden problem :-), I'd like to know what could be the real cause of this since MGs have become a staple of my garden's foliage in August - October.
Note: All the following pics have been reduced to 100K or less in size and they were taken today which is kind of gloomy here.
Here is a pic of one trellis that has healthy flowering MGs:
http://www.brandylion.com/images/healthy-mgs.jpg
Some of these vines originate 8 feet down a wall. The lower parts of these plants are now barren but I'm going to concentrate on a different but similar looking trellis.
Here is an example of a trellis with barren lower vines, vines that are far more barren this year than any year I've done this. Note in the lower part of the pic there are the three containers where the MGs are grown. One is a 5 gallon bucket and the two stainless steel ones are 14"x14"x14".
http://www.brandylion.com/images/vines1.jpg
On July 23 of this year this picture was taken (at a different angle):
http://www.brandylion.com/images/723-mgs.jpg
Notice how crappy the vines have gotten in less than two months.
This is a full view of that entire trellis today:
http://www.brandylion.com/images/vines2.jpg
There are flowers on top that look nice even though the vine doesn't but since today is so gloomy they're difficult to photograph.
If you read this far here is my quandary: In the past I've grown MGs in these big square boxes or 5 gallon buckets. I wanted to see how small of a container I could use so I set up an experiment using a quasi- hydroponics technique. In the following pic you'll see a small 5" pot stuffed into a plastic cover of a 50 pack CD-R spindle.
http://www.brandylion.com/images/small-mg-pot.jpg
The water drains from the pot and collects into the spindle cover. The MG plant's roots have grown out of the bottom of the pot and has completely filled the plastic spindle cover and now soak in water that has turned green.
Ironically, this MG vine has not succumbed to leaf loss and has maintained its health throughout the entire summer even though it is growing in such a small container. Here is a pic of the full vine:
http://www.brandylion.com/images/small-mg-full.jpg
Next year I need to rebuild the containers that hold the morning glories and I was thinking of employing this hydroponics-lite technique by build water reservoirs for the MG's roots to congregate as they start getting big. I'm a little unclear as to what's going on with these MGs this year and why roots soaking in water would do better. According to what I read about hydroponics, I thought that roots also need oxygen too which is why those systems pump water in and out of the root system. On other trellises they're growing in very large pots where being root bound shouldn't be a problem but they're going barren as well so I'm not even sure if being root bound is the problem. Any insight would be appreciated.
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Mark Anderson wrote:

I have a similar situation with MGs on one side of the house where the bed has about 8-10" of topsoil on top of a sandy gravel layer. This bed does not retain water very well. The leaves on the MGs have turned yellowish with brown spots, and are falling off at the lower levels. They bloomed well though, even when the leaves began to be affected. I watered this bed frequently, because I was afraid that the MGs would dry out otherwise.
The other side of the house has a deeper layer of soil on sand, which retains water much better, and those MGs have gone nuts - they climbed over (and probably killed) the clematis, are about 12Ft high, and are blooming very nicely. I did not water this bed as often, only when the MG's leaves began to wilt slightly.
We're having very dry weather, going into the third week with no rain, prior to that we had a few good rainfalls in mid-august, but mostly it's been hot, with some days in the high 20s to low 30s celsius (70s-90s F), sometimes humid, sometimes not.
So I my guess is that it's overwatering that's the culprit.
HTH
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Roots don't need Oxygen. I live in the High Mojave Desert and all of my morning glorys have to be watered at lest every 4 days or they would fade in the heat here. Also I have leaves right down to the base.
Did you renew your soil in the pots? Did you feed them at all? I've feed mine once this summer with a layer of steer manure and I've got lots of vines and flowers.
--

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Uh, Dennis, yes they do. They just don't need freeflowing oxygen! That's why they grow in soil......
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Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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wrote:

YIKES!!!
Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel. -- Aldo Leopold
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Aeration is a good thing. Cultivation not only weeds but aerates the soil. Perhaps someone knows more info on this. I'm still trying to give my Orchids the proper mix.;))
Quite an art (Gardening) that sometimes forgives mistakes.
Bill
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Garden Shade Zone 5 S Jersey USA in a Japanese Jungle Manner.39.6376 -75.0208
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William Wagner wrote:

What kind of Orchids? Some Orchids grow without any soil at all.
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Travis in Shoreline (just North of Seattle) Washington
USDA Zone 8
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Two Clivia's are new here and yet to bloom. Rest are various and are common to our local stores. Seems air is good damp is not so good.
Bill
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My morning glories are in their waning days - and the lower part of the vines are like Mark Anderson's. However, they are flowering like crazy - so I really don't care. They only have 3-4 weeks left at best in my climate., and possibly less than 2, if mother nature decides that she wants an early frost this year. So at this point, I'm thrilled to have 30 or 40 open flowers every morning. Mine are also in a large 18"square pot. They have never been fed, but watered religiously - at least once a day during the hottest weather and now about every other day. (our nights are already in the low 40's). My pots are a mixture of potting soil, potting compost, and I spread a large bag of composted steer manure over the 7 large pots I have on my patio every spring. There might be some leftover osmocote in the potting soil, which is why I didn't add any fertilizer this year. The morning glory shares a pot with prize winning nasturtiums of every color, petunias and the odd marigold, lobelia and chinese forget-me-not. The location gets less than 1/2 day of sun, but the top of the morning glory vines have trailed themselves up over an arborvitae hedge, so that portion of the vines gets full sun. Overall, I've been delighted with their performance. I bought the heavenly blue already started in early June, and it never got set back. I've had bad luck with growing forget me nots from seed. Even the Early Call variety hardly started to bloom until mid august. This early-started store-bought variety started to bloom in early July and has never quit since. If I do this again next year, I will experiment with adding more fertilizer - but I love the nasturtiums and they prefer leaner soil.
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Mark Anderson wrote:

Maybe watering them so frequently is leaching all the nutrients out of the potting soil? Or perhaps the soil in the small pot had more nutrients to begin with, if it's fresher than the stuff in the large pots that have been used for a few years? Are you using any sort of fertilizer?
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In article snipped-for-privacy@nospamhotmail.com says...

These containers get recycled "new" soil every year. The only thing different I did this year was add more sand to the soil to increase drainage because I had a lot of extra sand to get rid of. My soils are about 1/3 mushroom compost, 2/3 potting soil and then I mix in sand and perlite for drainage. Perhaps I should have used more compost and decreased the drainage of the morning glory containers. Once they got big they were voracious water users and it's likely I could have washed the nutrients from the soil over time. I fertilized a lot early in the season but once they started flowering I held off but perhaps I should have also kept with the fertilizer regimen throughout the summer.
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