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Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

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Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby MTR88 » Jul 14, 2013 1:02 pm

Hello everyone :)

New to the forum here and am seeking some help for my mother.

So I'll give everyone a run down on what exactly is happening and hopefully someone might have some insight. We built a rather large flower box from old railway ties about 3 years ago. The property is on sand, but we dug it out about 2.5 feet and put top notch soil in there. Now my mom bought ornamental grasses last year and they took off beautifully. Then just this year they started taking off and then nothing, they just died. When she pulled the grasses out, they were basically rotten. So again this year she bought new ornamental grasses, Blue Oats. I can't remember the name of the other grasses from the year before, there were different though. Now she has had Blue Oats in the past and had amazing luck with them. The previous house my parents had, they grew huge, she used to get compliments all the time. Someone else down the street had the same grasses and they might have been only half the size, she is really meticulous with her gardening. Those grasses she had back at my parents previous place were about 7 years old.

Back to the current grasses. The ones she just bought, she planted 3 weeks ago. They were taking off and within the last week they are dying again. They are also dying in the exact same manner too. There is a total of 7 grasses in the box in a row, just like before the middle one is dying first. When she did plant them, she cleaned out the dirt from the pots, made sure the roots weren't tangled, started out with Miracle Grow. Nothing different than what she has done before. A majority of the day they sit in the sun, the rest is shade. There isn't any insects around the plants, besides the odd ant. She has dug a couple up and they roots are breaking like nothing again. The tips start to turn brown first and then it continues up the blade. She always makes sure they're watered too when they need to be.

Any ideas what could have happened??? Could someone have dumped something on them??? We have a neighbor that is a real moron (to say the least) and he'll do anything to cause someone problems.
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby Jersm » Jul 14, 2013 4:45 pm

i am not 100% its really hard to tell from the internet and no pictures and stuff.


anyways here is my assumption:

1. if the sand around the patch of soil you guys created is really bad and compact then all the water would end up pooling inside your patch of soil. if the soil gets water logged it could starve plant roots of oxygen and make them rot.

2. they might acutally be root bound from the past and current years. since i assume you guys never tilled the old roots or added any new nutrients, there might be tons of old roots eating up space too.

3. the nutrients the plants need might be very scarce since they already got eaten up in past years. (crop rotations)
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby Jersm » Jul 14, 2013 4:57 pm

I would try testing the soil also for PH and acidity.

once thats good for the plants maybe get one of them pitch forks and till the earth up flip it all and add some new bags of potting soil and or other nutrients.
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby MTR88 » Jul 15, 2013 11:56 pm

Image
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I've attached some photos I took earlier today.

Thank you for the responses too :) I've talked it over with my mom. There actually isn't any issues with water drainage in the sand here, even during hard down pours water rarely ever sits and almost drains away immediately. She did rework the ground so there wasn't any old roots and also made sure the soil wasn't compacted either. She did also add a new bag of top soil too and mixed up the ground also.

How does the testing process work??? Is there an at home kit available or does it have to be sent in to a lab to be tested???
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby conniepr » Jul 17, 2013 8:18 am

Another thought is... the railway ties. Apparently, there is a lot of creosote as a preservative in the railway ties and the creosote can seep into the soil, killing the new plants you are putting in that flower bed. I wonder if testing the soil could confirm whether or not this is happening in your case?
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby Jersm » Jul 17, 2013 9:41 am

conniepr wrote:Another thought is... the railway ties. Apparently, there is a lot of creosote as a preservative in the railway ties and the creosote can seep into the soil, killing the new plants you are putting in that flower bed. I wonder if testing the soil could confirm whether or not this is happening in your case?



I was looking at the pictures too and really everything seems fine till i saw this post.

yes the black on those ties is creosote. chemicals from the creosote might have slowly leeched into the soil over time.

there is a way to check for it in soil its a OilScreenCreosote.
http://www.cheiron-resources.com/oss-creosote.php


next part is pasted from a water quality website.
"Creosote! What’s that?


Creosote is the black goo that railroad ties are treated with. You may have noticed the same stuff on the bottom of utility poles, and in fact it is one of the most common wood preservatives used in the United States.

Creosote is made from a wide range of chemicals and is divided into two types. The first type is wood creosote which is created through the heating of beechwood or creosote bush. However, this form is not widely used in the United States and will be excluded from this discussion. The more common type of creosote is created when coal is heated to produce coke (a cleaner burning form of coal) or natural gas. This process produces coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch, which are all mixtures of similar compounds and are referred to here simply as creosote."

"Gardens:

Plants have shown only limited potential to take up creosote but some compounds have been shown to attach to roots, which could lead to elevated creosote levels on tuber vegetables. For this reason, it is advisable not to landscape with railroad ties directly in contact with vegetable gardens.

Water Table:

Some components of creosote are very sticky and not water soluble and will stay on the ties; however, other chemicals are water soluble and will dissolve and move with water. In areas where moisture levels are moderate, these chemicals may wash into surrounding soil with rain, but will likely decompose with time. However, in areas where the water table is very shallow or where a lot of surface water is present, there is more potential for transport of the chemicals into groundwater. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid using railroad ties for landscaping in very wet or shallow ground water areas."
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby MTR88 » Jul 18, 2013 1:54 pm

Thank you for the replies :)

We thought it might of been the creosote too... But the only think that kind of constricts that idea is that the grass in front of the box is still growing just fine. I know it might look a little patchy in the photos, but we've also been having a weed problem too which we've been struggling against. No chemicals used though, just pulling by hand are spot burning with a torch. Also the corner grasses don't look as bad at that center grass, yet they have a railway tie on 2 sides rather than one, so wouldn't it be worse there???

I guess the only real way to determine the issue is with soil testing too, so that is something we'll be doing. Thank you everyone for the replies, really appreciate it! :)
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby Countryboy » Jul 18, 2013 3:11 pm

Dying from 'rot' is more symptomatic of a fungal infection. Maybe try sprinkling with Garden Sulphur.
Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.
.....Ralph Waldo Emmerson....

Frank . . ON5a
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Re: Ornamental Grasses Keep Dying... HELP

Postby Ian66 » Jul 18, 2013 3:56 pm

Looks like you have planted Elijah Blue fescue grass, which hates wet feet....good drainage is essential with this grass otherwise they will brown off like you have.....let the soil dry off before watering it again......
Also I would strongly advise to lay off the liquid fertilizer......they do not need it and you could be causing the browning via fertilizer burn or damage to the roots if too much is applied................

Ian
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