What did I do wrong

kao2February 20, 2011

Newbie here. I've been working like crazy for 2 years on my gardens (8 flower beds [4 (25X4), 2(25x2.5),1(25x8,1(15x18=rose which did great last year) and don't understand what I'm doing wrong. Did the mulching, soil, fertilizing, appropriate watering, researched the sun/shade ratio for each area and matched with the best perennial, but results are sporatic. I have alliums that never grow in one flower bed, however just 5 feet away the alliums bloomed beautifully (same side of house). My hardy glads,holly hocks, delphanians, phlox, liatris, coneflower,shasta and painted daizies did nothing? These were all bare roots and have since been replanted. Am I just being impatiant?

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The way you describe your gardens I'd say there was something done or something happened in the one areas, that didn't happen in the other areas.

Now what usually happens in one garden that doesn't happen in another garden.
Pests....maybe, too much water...maybe...

or how about drainage....poor in one, good in the other.
Drainage can indeed have an effect where some plants might not like so much water around their roots.

That's one thought!

Too much fertilizing. Plants can only use as much as they need for development....a little bit extra might be just the nudge that prevents their good health.

Sun and shade aside, too much mulching at the wrong time can cause too much water be retained. Spring soiol should be allowed to dry out some--mulch should be pulled back if it is places where the sun doesn't shine until later in the spring. Ice crystals form deep down and might not thaw out until days/weeks later than other areas and therefore, the area doesn't dry out as quickly.
This can be true if the garden is shaded by heavy canopy of trees.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Bulbs require very good drainage - soils that remain overly wet in winter generally spell very poor results.

The alliums and glads are really the only bulbs in the bunch (and glads are really corms but act like bulbs) - the rest are fleshy rooted perennials. Bare root perennials can present all kinds of problems associated with their storage until sale and planting -- too long between harvesting and planting, being stored at improper temperatures, being allowed to dry out, rotting, etc. The risk of failure tends to be quite a lot higher than that of success so I'm not sure you need to beat yourself up if you stick with bare root stock.

If drainage is good - virtually ALL plants would prefer good drainage and some insist on it - then you might have better success if you use started, potted plants rather than bare root. A decent selection will be available at most retail garden centers in spring or you can do mail order from any of a hundred sources.

In zone 6 it is still too early to do much planting. Wait until late March/early April for cold hardy perennials and after last frost for annuals.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 7:12PM
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kao2- instead of buying plants, I'd hop on over the the winter sowing forum & check us out! Not too late to start ws'ing some seeds even in zone 6. Much cheaper to sow your own but they'll take longer to be fully grown than nursery bought plants. We even have kind, wonderful people that will send you seeds for postage! Look for newbie SASE posts....

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:46AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Starting with bare root two years is not long enough to declare a failure. I have not ordered bare root garden plants in many years just for the reason it takes too long for them to take hold, in most cases. I can get better results, just as fast, starting from seed. If I have access to plants I can take cuttings from, this is even faster. Al

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 7:52AM
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ladychroe(z6 NJ)

What Al said: bare roots take awhile to get started, and in my gardens, have kind of a high failure rate. I had a bare root peony that I didn't even see for 2 years, and then last year it up and bloomed - only three flowers, but still, I could have sworn it was dead!

Try some potted plants next year. Winter sown plants also tend to be tougher though they also take a little while to get established, in many cases.

Also remember: the first year sleeps, the second year creeps, and the third year leaps! Maybe this year will be better.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:40PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Let's start with the easier bits :-)))

If you are starting with garden beds that were grass two years ago, or are very old beds that have been neglected, there might not be a population of soil microbes big enough to deal with the feast you've given them.

I know that the first year I put on something like ZooDoo (composted elephant manure and straw) there is not going to be any 'instant' response - apart from any annual seeds I might have disturbed by turning over the soil. But the following year...or even over the winter, I'll see results such as sturdier plants.

If you are dealing with a soil that has been seriously 'dug up' - you might be working with a subsoil that just won't have that good population of microbes ready to deal with a plenty of new humus. You'll need patience for two to three years - and maybe add in juicy stuff such as grass clippings for mulch over the warmer weather (not too thickly applied because it can form a waterproof layer unless you stir it up once a month or so).

Bare root material. Oh. Tricky stuff. Have those roots been protected from drying out? For example, covered with damp sawdust, or damp shredded paper. Kept out of sun and drying winds and hot car trunks. Not soaked in water first, or left in water to put out newer roots.

If you are getting bare root material and can't plant on the day you get it make sure you have a patch of ground that is sheltered from winds and full sun where you can 'heel them in'. That's not proper planting. It's a little trench where you can get the roots into the ground, settle it with about a quart of water, maybe even add some shade and leave the plants there until you have the time to dig a proper hole and go through the planting routine.

If your plant material hasn't come from a 'good home' then get some old but sound pots/containers, mix up a good mix of potting soil (not straight garden soil) plus sharp grit (not sand), and make sure the drainage in those pots is about three biggish holes about as fat as your thumb, or many smaller holes.

Trim off any mangled roots and leaves, spread the roots over a little mound of mix, cover the roots with more, and tap the pot firmly on the ground so the dirt settles without you pushing on it. Make sure the leaf buds aren't buried. (That's not always 'true' but is for most things.)

This also applies when you are planting into the ground. Use your fingers to move soil around the roots so they have good contact with the dirt. No air pockets.

If the hole isn't big enough to easily take the plant - pull it out again and start over. Don't 'tread' them in because it compacts the soil and stops both air and water getting through. Water them in and leave them to settle. If they need support - like a stick - put it in before you add the plant and the dirt.

Water the plant until water comes out the bottom of the pot, and leave the pot to drain. Keep it in a place where you won't lose sight of it. Water when the soil feels dry about an inch down. Don't feed. When you see signs of new leaves/shoots you can transplant into your garden plots.

Calistoga is very right - and the quote about the years. It can take a long time for some plants to settle in before they start thriving. If you're aching for colour and display before then - go for annuals such as petunias and marigolds, or Impatiens for the shadier spots. Their root systems will help your dirt to settle and their leaves will give protection/coolth over the hot summer.

Some of the plants you've listed might do better with less pampering, too. They're used to foraging for food and water - and a decent root system is very important for long term display. Also, don't plant too closely together (though I don't think that would be a problem for a careful newbie like yourself).

And ensure that mulch isn't too close to your young plants. Busy birds can scritch it all over growing buds in just a few moments (or even take plants out of the ground. Grrr.) If you plant into a shallow 'saucer' in the ground, so your watering goes to the roots, the saucer area will hopefully stay damp enough to not need mulching while the plants get settled. When they're settled you can mulch up to about two inches away.

Hope there's something there that can help.

PS If you don't mind digging them up for winter - Zantedeschia/calla, and Dahlias might give you a bigger palette to play with over summer. Dahlias enjoy being pampered.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 12:45AM
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