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.
USDA Zone 7 *****
Basic human psychology is one of my subroutines.
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.
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
so adding gypsum only makes the soil more alkaline -- not a good thing.
may also cause the wound to heal with a bit more of a scar".
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.)
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.
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!
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. :-)