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View Full Version : So, What Happened Here ????


White Gardens
10-29-2008, 01:13 AM
This is a good one for you guys.

I got a call from a customer last year. She didn't know why her perennial garden was dieing in the span of a week. Ultimately it killed close to $1500 worth of plants.

Just from the pics, can anyone identify what the problem was. Ask as many questions about the situation as you like.

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tjsquickcuts
10-29-2008, 01:21 AM
I am going to say either from round-up, or from the lawn treatments....

White Gardens
10-29-2008, 01:51 AM
I am going to say either from round-up, or from the lawn treatments....

That was my first guess initially, but no chemicals were applied.

1st Hint: It wasn't chemical damage

hole in one lco
10-29-2008, 03:28 AM
That was my first guess initially, but no chemicals were applied.

1st Hint: It wasn't chemical damage

ok ill bite is it fall and the hostas are going night night
or are they drown from 2 much water

STRINGALATION
10-29-2008, 08:25 AM
i thought chemicals at first too but now i say bugs or should i say grubs or urine

NC Greenscaper
10-29-2008, 08:50 AM
The home owner is pouring some household item in those areas.

PHS
10-29-2008, 09:16 AM
That was my first guess initially, but no chemicals were applied.


If I had a dollar for everytime I've heard that from a customer :dizzy:.

mattfromNY
10-29-2008, 09:24 AM
Looks like no water, maybe the roof line hangs over the beds, and the canopy of the tree/ root system is not letting enough h2o to the plants?

Jason Rose
10-29-2008, 10:02 AM
Not chemical? Then what killed the GRASS like that? Grass just dosn't die like that. SOmeone is not getting the whole truth, me thinks.

Looks like something like a soil sterilant was used as a weed killer in the beds, perhaps to kill the grass that was growing in them, add water = leaching, and presto, dead plants. There are some products on the market for the homeowner, like ortho ground clear, that is a sterilant.

Now, other than the grass obviously being burned and dead, it IS fall, and most perennials do die back this time of the year... Also the exposed soil I can see in a couple of the pics looks dry as a bone.

Isobel
10-29-2008, 10:53 AM
Was the owner using greywater, something like the stuff that comes out of your washing machine? We have some really green people around here who like doing stuff like that...

But my first guess would have been roundup of something like that.

TXNSLighting
10-29-2008, 01:04 PM
:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh: Thats funny right there...You sure it wasnt chemicals?? Cuz it sure looks like it...

White Gardens
10-29-2008, 01:36 PM
You guys are all over it, but not on it.

This happened last summer, about July I do think. So no natural dieback.

I'll get you guys a little closer to answer.

2nd guess-

What killed the plants, flowers, and grass was a massive disease infestation. I'm guessing it was root-rot because the roots smelled like rotting garbage. If you look at some of the pics you can see the stems of some of the Hostas laying on the ground and they pulled out with ease. Many shrubs on the property also had sooty mold/ fungus on them from this infestation, no plant on the property was unharmed in some way.

Now, question is, how did it get there in such a short period of time. There is one picture that I posted that is the red flag, and it took me a couple of days of staring at the pics to figure it out. (It took me a few days to figure it out myself)

Not trying to mess with you guys, and I'm not getting a rise out of stumping everyone. This thread will be a good FYI in the end.

karlgrooms
10-29-2008, 01:59 PM
Bad mulch?? Just a guess. Not all the pictures have mulch in the beds though. Hmmm..... I'll keep looking until a answer is found or you bail us out.

White Gardens
10-29-2008, 02:56 PM
Bad mulch?? Just a guess. Not all the pictures have mulch in the beds though. Hmmm..... I'll keep looking until a answer is found or you bail us out.

Bingo!!!

If you look in Pic 1 you see the exact square of a bag of mulch that laid there for 24 hours. I was able to trace how the homeowner stacked the mulch from the back of the truck, and how she spread it from bed to bed handfuls at a time.

The pallet had to of been massively infected with the disease inside and outside of the bags. Where did they come from?? Wal-Mart. I did a write-up sent picks, and the homeowner was able to re-coupe her loses, and I got a $500 dollar bonus out of it. If it hadn't of been for the dead square patch I might have not pin-pointed the issue.

All mulch was removed, burned, and I brought in good hardwood mulch.

Moral of the story, never used bagged mulch, ever.

Thanks for playing along everyone. I thought it was a good example of how bad the stuff really is.

Copy the pics if you need to, so you can show some of your customers in case they want you to use bagged mulch.

karlgrooms
10-29-2008, 05:00 PM
Ha!! I was spot on for once..Lucky stab. You made it tough by not including mulch in all pics.

I've often heard mulch horror stories.... but usually has to do with mulch being too green not diseased though.
You have to be on your toes when it comes to mulch. I have used bag mulch( by customers request) but very selective about what i pick out.

Also have put out mulch that a customer had delivered. The pile had been there quite some time and looked really rough and tired. I expressed concern about it and was given the OK. Is there is a way to tell if mulch is bad?...IE, smell, looks,mold spores etc.

They say that mulch should be turned ever so often, and that would be hard to do if it is bagged up ready for sale.

PHS
10-29-2008, 07:55 PM
If it was a pathogen in the mulch what was it? The pattern of damage looks more like a chemical caused it. The mulch was probably contaminated with something

Tyler7692
10-29-2008, 08:29 PM
...with gasoline.

Kickin Your Grass
10-29-2008, 10:22 PM
We use bagged mulch all the time and never have had any problems. This is the first time I have ever heard using bagged mulch is bad.

PerfectEarth
10-29-2008, 11:11 PM
Great thread. Thanks for the pics/story.

White Gardens
10-29-2008, 11:19 PM
If it was a pathogen in the mulch what was it? The pattern of damage looks more like a chemical caused it. The mulch was probably contaminated with something

The one reason that I feel that it wasn't chemical damage was only because it didn't exhibit the signs of chemical damage. Sure, it was a large area, such as spray damage, but the foliage didn't look like chemical damage, such as the browning out was a lighter color, and the whole plant didn't wilt. Not saying that it couldn't of been chemicals, but I feel strongly that it wasn't.

I wish you guys could have been there in person, the smell of rotting roots was worse than my full garbage cans sitting in the sun with a pile of diapers in them.

White Gardens
10-29-2008, 11:21 PM
We use bagged mulch all the time and never have had any problems. This is the first time I have ever heard using bagged mulch is bad.

Next time you use bagged material, look closely at the bag. There has been a few times that customers have a couple of bags to throw down, and you can see spots of mold, ect. Saying that, they didn't have any problems, but it was suspect non-the-less.

PHS
10-31-2008, 08:45 AM
If it's a pathogen aren't you concerned about finding out what it is? No samples to the lab? If a pathogen is that virulent your whole landscape is toast. Replacing the mulch isn't going to help because the soil and everything else would be infested.

TLS
10-31-2008, 09:18 AM
I don't know....that A/C shot sure looks like some type of chemical burn to me. No mulch anywhere around it. Looks like either the homeowner or lawn guy got lazy and didn't want to trim around things. My guess is that it was windy that day and you got drift.

The square spot of dead grass is no doubt from a stack of bagged mulch.

White Gardens
10-31-2008, 12:48 PM
I don't know....that A/C shot sure looks like some type of chemical burn to me. No mulch anywhere around it. Looks like either the homeowner or lawn guy got lazy and didn't want to trim around things. My guess is that it was windy that day and you got drift.

The square spot of dead grass is no doubt from a stack of bagged mulch.


Around the air-conditioner, that area was close to the driveway where she stacked the mulch to begin with.

Without my books in front of me, I deducted it was root-rot. (not sure the technical name right this second. All symptoms were exact to the situation. As soon as I sprayed a fungacide, the bleeding stopped and within a week everything stopped dieing, and growing again. She got through the rest of the season without any more problems and everything grew nicely this year.

Normally, I would have pointed to chemical burn, but I'm 100% positive that it wasn't. It's hard to beleive that a pathogen could do soo much damage, but it did. Like I said before, nothing looked to have chemical burn by any means, such as curling leaves, a "fried" look to the green foliage, just sudden death.

White Gardens
10-31-2008, 12:50 PM
If it's a pathogen aren't you concerned about finding out what it is? No samples to the lab? If a pathogen is that virulent your whole landscape is toast. Replacing the mulch isn't going to help because the soil and everything else would be infested.

I took all measures to get the health of the landscape back in order.

RigglePLC
10-31-2008, 08:47 PM
TLS has a good point. No mulch around the AC unit--yet hosta and grass looks badly injured--except directly behind the AC unit--perhaps where they forgot to spray--or couldn't reach. The square pattern in the first photo is interesting. Square pattern is usually man-made. Rectangular, except with a weed and a little grass in the center. How come? Could be "Toxic mulch syndrome": http://bygl.osu.edu/bygl0011.html
About the odor--did the mulch smell like pickles? Vinegar? Formic acid? Classic signs of new, but not properly aerated or turned (anerobic) mulch. Did the bags have air holes? What was the mulch like--obviously new? Chipped brush? Chipped pallets? Shredded bark?

White Gardens
10-31-2008, 11:12 PM
TLS has a good point. No mulch around the AC unit--yet hosta and grass looks badly injured--except directly behind the AC unit--perhaps where they forgot to spray--or couldn't reach. The square pattern in the first photo is interesting. Square pattern is usually man-made. Rectangular, except with a weed and a little grass in the center. How come? Could be "Toxic mulch syndrome": http://bygl.osu.edu/bygl0011.html
About the odor--did the mulch smell like pickles? Vinegar? Formic acid? Classic signs of new, but not properly aerated or turned (anerobic) mulch. Did the bags have air holes? What was the mulch like--obviously new? Chipped brush? Chipped pallets? Shredded bark?

The Mulch isn't what smelled, it was the smell of rot from the roots. It smelled liked a garbage can sitting in the sun, it made me want to throw up, and I have a strong stomach. In one of the pics, you can see the stems of hostas that pulled right out of the ground with no effort, and the slime on the base the base of the stem was gross.

You can see the mulch in one pic, just chipped generic mulch, bags had no air holes, and rarely do I see that.

I don't know what else to tell you guys to convince everyone that it was a pathogen in the mulch. I'll admit, I was as skeptical as you guys about the whether it was the use of chemicals or not. This lady is very particular and informed about gardening, so I took her word.

You could literally see exactly where she stacked the mulch by the AC unit, and how she spread from area to area.

I too was surprised how it spread even without having mulch down in some areas, the conditions had to of been exactly perfect for it to spread from bed to bed, and even kill off the grass.

Like I said, it took no more than 48 hours after spraying the fungicide to help stop the progression of the pathogen, and the smell of rotting material started to go away.

I will say, this situation had to be one in a million, literally. The conditions had to be exactly perfect for all that to happen.

ARGOS
11-03-2008, 12:15 PM
I never use bagged mulch, but it makes sense that it would encourage fungus growth. I would be curious what the manufacture dates on the bags was?

The mulch looks like crap mulch anyway.

White Gardens
11-03-2008, 01:49 PM
I never use bagged mulch, but it makes sense that it would encourage fungus growth. I would be curious what the manufacture dates on the bags was?

The mulch looks like crap mulch anyway.


It's funny you mentioned that. I had her see if she had anymore bags laying around and unfortunatly she didn't.

The only thing I could think of, if it came from Wal-Mart, then it could have been an early spring shipment that sat around until July, (Breeding Fungus the whole time).

One thing I didn't note about some of the spreading too, was that she watered her beds heavily 4 days after dealing with the mulch, right before she went on vacation. So conditions were ripe. (It might have rained that week also)

Water droplets could of easily transferred spores around the beds. (sooty mold was also noted at the site)

ARGOS
11-03-2008, 02:06 PM
The only thing I could think of, if it came from Wal-Mart, then it could have been an early spring shipment that sat around until July, (Breeding Fungus the whole time).

One thing I didn't note about some of the spreading too, was that she watered her beds heavily 4 days after dealing with the mulch, right before she went on vacation. So conditions were ripe.

Ever have bagged lettuce in the fridge go bad? Could you imagine with mulch. I know that lettuce was able to be bagged AFTER special packaging was developed. I doubt that special packaging is used on mulch.

Watering and the heat of July would create quite a humid environment for fungus to develop.

Whitey4
11-05-2008, 12:47 AM
I use bagged mulch all the time. It isn't that bagged mulch is bad, it's how the supplier/manufacturer processed and bagged it. LI Compost here on LI, also known as Hampton Estates mulch, does it right. The only other option here for safe bagged mulch is Scotts, and it's too expensive.

I've seen plenty of questionable bulk mulch here too.... it isn't because it's bagged, it's how it's processed. My properties only need 25 cubic foot of mulch at most.... and gates are an issue for bulk mulch. Bags are easier.

White Gardens
11-05-2008, 12:11 PM
I've seen plenty of questionable bulk mulch here too.... it isn't because it's bagged, it's how it's processed. My properties only need 25 cubic foot of mulch at most.... and gates are an issue for bulk mulch. Bags are easier.


I agree, a couple of times I've gotten some bulk mulch that you could tell that hadn't been turned and may have started to mold. The only difference is that it seems to start going back into an aerobic (correct me if I'm wrong) break down when Oxygen is reintroduced.

If I knew for sure, such in your case Whitey, I would not hesitate to use bagged mulch. Around her though, I can't find it bagged locally, and handled correctly.

Man, I wish I could have tons of little jobs doing 25 cubic feet. Most of mine are around 12-20 yards.

ARGOS
11-05-2008, 02:02 PM
Your right Whitey, knowing the supplier and how they handle the mulch is the most important. I rarely use bags, but being aware of the problem and inspecting bags (and educating customers and employees) is important.