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I don't know what I don't know. (Blighted plants question)

 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I guess the short version of this post is, "what is wrong with my plants?" I have some strawberries and roses that always grow and bloom, and always look blighted. I also have a couple of trees that I put in last spring that look like they are being starved of water, no matter how much or little water I give them. I suspect it is related to my soil, the food I have in raised beds with new soil is doing famously by comparison. If you recognize the disease from the pics (disease, bugs, thirst, soil ph, whatever), please give me a heads up. I am just starting to work toward building up some usable soil again, but if there is a faster track to success with these I'd love to hear it.

I had been ruining my yard in a variety of ways for about 10 years before taking a renewed interest over the last three or four. This summer I've really gone off the deep end and would like to solve these issues.

Here's the strawberries. They are located in a parking strip next to a Black Hawthorne tree. The Hawthorne also struggled when it was first planted but after about five years has begun to get stronger.


And the roses. They are planted about 3 feet from my foundation around rhododendrons, ferns and the like.


And a Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. It is in the parking strip surrounded by grass, clover and dandelions (quality soil).


Thank you for any advice.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
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Given that you say that nearby plants in raised beds of improved soil are doing well I would strongly suspect something about the soil these plants are in. Is it a tight, poorly draining clay? (dig a hole and fill it with water and see how long it takes the water to soak in....if it's still there the next morning you've got issues!) If so you will have to plant on mounds or raised beds for most things (though not grass or dandelions!)
What about gophers or something else working on the roots?
Perhaps the soil has cracked or chronically dried out so that applied water is running off and away from the root zone? Watering by means of a very slow drip may be one answer to this.....
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I recently cleared my backyard of its grass and it was about 1.5 inches of roots and below that it is PACKED TIGHT . I plan on dropping a boatload of mulch over most of that and letting it work in over a season or two before even thinking about planting there. It's the area for the kids to run around in anyway, so I'm in no rush to get that area growing. I am thinking I need to condition my soil in a similar fashion anywhere I am looking to plant.

My major goals for the next year are to get some mulch worked in everywhere to encourage worms and the like to free up my soil and to get my hugelbed finished and growing. After that I have about 142,000 smaller projects to get to, but baby steps .

Thank you.
 
Jason Pednault
Posts: 8
Location: Iquitos, Peru
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Chad Tarnard wrote:I recently cleared my backyard of its grass and it was about 1.5 inches of roots and below that it is PACKED TIGHT . I plan on dropping a boatload of mulch over most of that and letting it work in over a season or two before even thinking about planting there. It's the area for the kids to run around in anyway, so I'm in no rush to get that area growing. I am thinking I need to condition my soil in a similar fashion anywhere I am looking to plant.

My major goals for the next year are to get some mulch worked in everywhere to encourage worms and the like to free up my soil and to get my hugelbed finished and growing. After that I have about 142,000 smaller projects to get to, but baby steps .

Thank you.


Hey Chad,

If you had a packed tight area of roots, that is generally caused by light, frequent watering. Shallow watering will encourage the roots to follow the shallow water. Watering deeply and less frequently will encourage the roots to seek out the deeper water giving you an overall deeper root system. Consistant watering also allows more even distribution of nutrients to be picked up. As a general rule you can poke your finger into the soil and if the top 2 inches are dry, it is time to water.

Another trick is to water right after a light rain. Water molecules attract other water molecules(if this makes sense) which also aids in the overall water retention. It is like the sponge effect. Water will bounce off a dry sponge, but will easily absorb into an already wet sponge. Same concept. This is especially important if you use sprinklers/other forms of aerial irrigation. Mulching is also critically important and as you stated it protects the soil food web, microbes, worms etc.

Another amazing component to gardening should be using worm/compost tea or raw milk as a foliar/soil spray. Add a half spoon of molasses to 6 parts water, one part milk or tea and spray thoughourly. This has to be done early morning or late evening(better in the morning). The microbial life will almost completely prevent powdery mildew and blight, basically fungal diseases. I can't stress the amazing benefits of raw milk. It is a good idea to have your own milking cow or goats just for spraying if anything else. Hope this helps.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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Thanks for the reply. I think the issue with the grass was previous owners just threw sod onto hard rocky clay without prepping the soil at all. That grass had been there for over 15 years and I can tell you that frequent watering wasn't part of my regiment . Apparently our subdivision was formerly a landing strip. I assumed the compaction was a product of construction, but apparently it was much more than that.

I think I figured out the deal with the strawberries. Not enough water. There is a black hawthorne tree right next to them that provides afternoon shade, and I noticed the other day there is a sharp contrast to the look of the plants that get direct sun versus the ones that get more shade in the afternoon. That may be the issue with my trees as well, but I'm hesitant to water them a ton in hopes they'll root better for it.

I am just getting my composting started, so when the stuff I've started breaks down a little bit more I'll try the compost tea. I'm on 1/10 acre so mammals are out of the question. I may look into flightless birds once other stuff is in order, but that won't help me with the raw milk .

Again, thanks a bunch.
 
Jason Pednault
Posts: 8
Location: Iquitos, Peru
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When i say compost/worm tea I mean aeriated with an aquarium pump. If it isn't aeriated, it will become anaerbic/stagnant and will usually do more harm than good. Add some organic molasses and if you can get it, some kelp or spirilina as a food source. The molasses also helps the tea to stick to the foliage of the plants. You can absolutely not harm a plant using correctly brewed worm/compost tea. In addition to the compost or worm castings, grabbing a handful or two of your local soil is another great way to increase the correct type of microbes to your soil. Obviously you want that soil to be organic with no pesticides. If you have any more questions concerning aeriated tea, feel free to ask.

You should mulch fairly heavy around your trees as well(4 to 6 inches deep). Helps greatly with water retention and will half your necessary watering(or even better). To help keep your mulch in place, create a ring of rocks around the base of the tree. This actually looks nice as an extra bonus.

Sod over heavy clay most likely is your culprit. Just remember though, deep, less frequent watering is critical when it comes to correct watering. Only exception is if you have poor drainage, like dense clay. Making the roots seek out the deeper water represents a much larger, healthier root system, which enhances the plants overall health.

I highly recommend worm composting if you haven't started it. They are much lower maintaince than turning over compost piles and the quality of the material is quite a bit better. Worms are absolutely amazing and important critters. I had an operation of millions of works in Oregon and actually sold the castings. It could potentially bring in a little extra income as well. You can start as small as you want, with a small plastic container and a handful of worms. Make sure you have the correct type of worm though, being actual compost worms. Oftentimes you can find worms in a pile of ages horse or cow manure if the area is organic.

You may know a lot of this. If you do, sorry about that.

Cheers!
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I have an area set aside in my yard to start a proper compost op, but it will have to wait until the mulch is spread and the hops are more or less done hiding that section of yard from my neighbors.I need to look up that tea making process to make sure I have a handle on it when I get to that point.

I have agreements with arborists and utilities in the works for getting boatloads of wood chips to my yard. I'll be feeling pretty good after that.

Don't worry about insulting my intelligence. Everything I know about gardening I learned in the last year and most of that is intellectual knowledge (not experience). Load me up with things to try so I can gain that experience.

One thing I've been thinking of trying is getting a 1 inch by 1 foot (or so) auger bit and drilling out a little drainage array around my young trees. I thought that might help as long as I don't destroy the roots. Any experience with that?

Thanks once more.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Chad Tarnard wrote:

One thing I've been thinking of trying is getting a 1 inch by 1 foot (or so) auger bit and drilling out a little drainage array around my young trees. I thought that might help as long as I don't destroy the roots. Any experience with that?

Thanks once more.


Do you have a garden hose? Get a nozzle that your can adjust to a tight stream and use it as a hydraulic drill. Once you figure out how not to splash all the mud back in your face, you can drill some holes 2, even 3 feet deep without any sort of pipe extension. With a solid pipe for an extension, you can go down further than that.

I do this with all my fruit trees a couple times a year. I backfill the holes with a mix of biochar and wood chips and pour some compost tea over the whole mess. Until I started doing this, the trees were just hanging in there, not thriving, because of the Georgia clay they had to sit on top of. By boring into the clay (you can see by what comes up out of the hole), I can break some of the compaction and open up new real estate for the roots to use.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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Mind. Blown. So simple.

I will be doing this before the weekend is out. Thank you.
 
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Tiny lumberjack ad:

World Domination Gardening 3-DVD set. Gardening with an excavator.
richsoil.com/wdg


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