Help with how to rejuvenate old neglected azaleas
We planted these azaleas at the edge of our woods about 20 years ago. They are a Girard type red color. When we bought them, they were an un named variety. These azaleas bloomed pretty nicely for the first few years. Gradually, they have been going down. We have not pruned them, fed them, or cared for them. They have been been partially eaten by deer. One is is pretty bad shape- only a foot or so of the original plant is present- the branches have either been eaten, or have been knocked off. The other ones (3) are about 4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. I don't know where to start with trimming them. Should I drastically trim them, or just take out what doesn't look to be alive? I should also mention that we have a deer problem here (we made the mistake of starting to feed then about 5 years ago), so I know we will have to spray these with deer repellant after we do all of our work on them.
I have made a decision to try and save them. My husband wants to dig them out and discard them. I plan to clear away vegetation around them, and then to keep it clear. How should I go about improving the ground around them? Would it help to top dress the area with composted manure? (We are going to pick up a large load of it tomorrow, to add to our vegetable beds. Would this be alright to work into the soil around the azaleas? I also have azalea food that you mix with water in my garage, and a pretty good supply of osmocote. These plants did not deserve to be neglected, and I want to do what is right for them. I can take photos and post them, if it is necessary to see them before you answer. Just let me know! Thanks in advance.