hillside terrible year 2013

markmd(7)February 22, 2014

Dear fellow gardeners:

I am new to GardenWeb and this is my first post. I am an experienced gardener and have had success with both small space and large space gardens, sun, shade, etc. I have developed my hillside garden over ten years in.northern virginia. It's fairly steep at 2:1, 3:1, has mostly sun and some partial shade. I have multiple terraces with retaining walls. The last five years production has been excellent. Pix taken, amateur gardening website posts, etc.

This year was totally different: From mid May into July we had constant rain and gray skies, with 1 or 2 partly sunny days each week. My plants came up and looked pretty good until early July when I realized they just didn't have that 'lush green' look you see right before everything blooms. Within a couple more weeks, mature perennials looked splindly, few leaves and few flowers. everything from liatris to echinacea to agastache looked bad. Other plants got crown rot, New plants never developed roots beyond the limits of the pots they came in. A 3 year old patch of monarda never got to two feet tall until september with almost no blooms. The only "normal" area was at the very top of the hill on almost level terrain

All the "virginia clay" has been amended at 2 parts hummus/compost to 1 part clay or just replaced with garden soil over several years. I've also used groundcover against erosion. I started using Perma-till in late summer trying to add more aeration. In september, I planted four japanese anemones using Permatill for extra aeration.....they began to die within three weeks. Again, stems were soft, leaves wilted to nothing, unopened blooms dropped or didn't develop.

My theory on this disaster is that, in spite of soil amendment and constant attention to drainage and erosion, gravity has nonetheless, over the years, severely compacted the rain soaked and saturated soil and maybe created some garden-wide disease or fungus causing garden-wide stunted, splindly plants with poor roots in both new and established plants.

Anyone on a hill or otherwise had this happen? The only things I can do, if i'm correct, is garden wide aeration and some sort of disease/fungus prevention applied early spring into the soil. Please send any/all suggestions. Even magic, druid, or other rituals gratefully accepted. This has been a wonderful garden but i'm afraid i'm losing it. I have included photos from 2011-12 (good) and 2013 (bad) for comparison.

Thanks in advance,
Mark Davis

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
kimka(Zone 6B)

Unfortunately, your photos didn't come up. Since you are new to MAG, forgive me if I state advice you already know.

But in general, last summer was a pretty weird year for gardening around much of the Washington DC area. First we has a very warm winter with lots of insects and weeds surviving. Then we had alternating bouts of cool and hot, humid weather throughout the summer with some spots having droughts and some drowning in floods of rain depending on where you lived. Depending on your local microclimate, it could have added up to a not stellar growing season for 2013. It was so in my yard and not much new I planted late got watered enough to really take..

That being said, the first thing is to check the health of your soil to see if there is too much compaction or not enough organic matter or too much moisture (or not enough drainage). The easiest way to do this is this spring when the soil temperature (not the air temperature) reaches 50 degrees F and the soil is dry enough that it will not form crumble-resistant balls when you squeeze it, stick a shovel in the soil and look for earth worms. Few earth worms, and you know you have a soil problem and most likely one of the above three.

I would do this on each terrace where the growing was bad last summer first before I considered other problems..

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:02AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Honeysuckle bushes and vines, anyone grow them?
Hello.... =) Does anyone have Honeysuckle in their...
Nellie Stevens Hollies in Zone 6B?
I am looking for a relatively fast growing evergreen...
waiting for spring!
I am so looking forward to Spring! I took a peek at...
Port Wenn flowers (Doc. Martin show)
I see these pink flowers on the side of the road often...
I started a new 10' x 12' raised bed this year and...
Sponsored Products
Country Estate Winter Frolic Dinner Plate - RUBY
$52.00 | Horchow
Red Poppies Throw Pillow
$29.99 | zulily
Kraus Nei Glass Vessel Sink and Waterfall Faucet
The Chanti Wall Art
$239.00 | FRONTGATE
Artificial Grass: RealGrass by Real Grass Lawns Flooring Standard Artificial
$37.20 | Home Depot
Hillside Beige Area Rug (7'10x10'10)
Wilton Linear Suspension by Kichler
$517.00 | Lumens
Wilton 9-Light Chandelier by Kichler
$1,056.00 | Lumens
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™