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Hydrophobic flower bed

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Jallal, Nov 22, 2013.

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  1. Jallal

    Jallal LawnSite Member
    from SoCal
    Posts: 162

    Hello all, it's been raining for the past two days here, so when I dug into a flower bed to loosen up the soil today to replace some flowers that had dried up, I was shocked to see that the soil below 2" was dry, which would certainly explain why the flowers have been dying in this spot. This has been a trouble spot at this account & I've been attributing it to improper irrigation coverage but this has me thinking otherwise.

    The bed is beside a concrete sidewalk, has a boxwood hedge right beside it which has likely been in place for at least 10 years, the roots are pretty thick, has Indian hawthorns behind that, a couple robellinis, & crape myrtles.

    Your thoughts as to the potential causes of the hydrophobia? My gut instinct is that the boxwood roots are the culprit.
     
  2. Jallal

    Jallal LawnSite Member
    from SoCal
    Posts: 162

    Nobody has any insight?
     
  3. 44DCNF

    44DCNF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,459

    Near a fence, wood or cement board siding, or were the concrete or stone/brick walks around the area sealed recently? Maybe some sealer ran off into the soil or was oversprayed onto it? That's all I could think of right off.
     
  4. Jallal

    Jallal LawnSite Member
    from SoCal
    Posts: 162

    No sealing that I'm aware of, DCNF.
    FG, that's a nice quoting job you did.
     
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    There are a number of things that are hydrophobic/repellant... The best thing to do is stir up the soil and soak it up today, then again tomorrow...
    Often times what happens is that the soil is allowed to dry than acts like Spagnum Moss does, until it gets soaked up again... keep and eye on the soil is a good rule of thumb... :)
     
  6. Jallal

    Jallal LawnSite Member
    from SoCal
    Posts: 162

    There's a sprinkler that runs daily at this location, which is another reason I'm a little puzzled.
     
  7. 44DCNF

    44DCNF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,459

    Surface water could still run off if a there's a high peat content, added with other factors like compaction, maybe density of roots as you say, etc. Coir and peat can take a while to absorb and do repel water at the onset. I use both heavily in house plants and I can easily overfill a pot to overflow if time is not allowed for absorption, and when I have not turned the surface soil occassionally. Do you turn the surface soil in these beds annually or more? I imagine the condition would be worsened if the customers soil below the surface were high in silt, clay, or compacted. Some things I've done that seems to help is add D/E or something similar to the soil (absoprtive/adsorptive). You might try that, or activated carbon, zeolite, perlite, vermiculite.
     
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Daily watering is actually one of the issues that cause repellent surfaces... Soil structure that enables infiltration is hindered by all water, no air, right at the surface...
    Flowerbeds need to be worked up, soaked, allowed to dry, then soaked again, throughout the growing season... Obviously using good sense as to the meaning of the word "dry" is something to keep in mind...

    I call the process, 'conditioning the soil'... :)
     
  9. Jallal

    Jallal LawnSite Member
    from SoCal
    Posts: 162

    Yeah, this bed is turned twice annually, at a minimum. It's fairly high in clay but the constant rotation of the bedding plants adds decent soil to the mix. The previous guys didn't really make an effort, as it was far down their list of priorities. I did add some of the gimmicky water retaining crystals (baby diaper stuffing) to the soil in hopes that it will help alleviate the problem.
     
  10. windflower

    windflower LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,080

    I've seen a white fungus in the soil that repels water.
     

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