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help me handle this PITA

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by the scaper, Jun 30, 2003.

  1. the scaper

    the scaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 690

    planted some Silvas & used pine mulch in beds . customer wants job redone because plants are dying. customer claims decaying wood in mulch is leaching nitrogen from soil. what do you think?
  2. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    i always thought that it was the other way around...decaying wood leaves nitrogen in the soil
  3. fblandscape

    fblandscape Banned
    Messages: 776

    How long ago did you do the planting? How long was the mulch composted for?
  4. Why not just add nitrogen?

  5. polecat63

    polecat63 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,655

    I doubt if it's nitrogen. Pine can be too acidic for some plants. Could also be an iron deficiency, or you may need lime or..... I would suggest a soil sample be tested to find out what the problem is. If other plant or the lawn are yellow though, it might be the iron.
  6. greenman

    greenman LawnSite Addict
    Messages: 1,405

    Did she water them? Or was it too much water from all this rain?
  7. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,020

    Get a soil sample and send it to your local extension & eliminate all guess work. Everyone is satisfied this way.
  8. the scaper

    the scaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 690

    actually i posted that question for totalcaresolutions. my sugestion to him was to add nitrogen by way of a fertilizer and just replace the plants , however a little reserch has taght me that some mulch's contain nitrogen additives. apparently the mulch he used did not. anyway, we thought it would be a good question. thanks :cool:
  9. the scaper

    the scaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 690

  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Well, this should have been posted in the landscaping forum. Anyway.....

    Silvas??? Do you mean Salvias?

    Regardless, yes, wood-based mulch definitely DOES leach nitrogen from the soil. But I don't think that's what killed them. Lack of Nitrogen (fertilizer) could also contribute to killing them as well. But more than likely (I'd say 80% chance) she didn't water correctly. If you're referring to Salvias - an annual in most parts - they need to have daily water in hot areas. And on REALLY hot days, they need to be watered more than once. Most good annuals are like that. If you even let one or two days go by without watering them (e.g. leaving for the weekend) then they can die just that quickly.

    Is there an irrigation system installed to water these? Does it come on daily? If the answer to either of these is NO, then I'd DEFINITELY say that they died due to lack of water. You'd have a strong case saying so.

    Your approach to this first needs to be one of authority. You are the authority on plants (or should be) - not her. If you aren't then you should definitely begin studying, going to nurseries and asking questions, etc. But regardless, you should be the one who determines what happened to them. And if you think there's a liklihood that they died due to lack of water you can approach it one of several ways;

    First tell her, "These plants died because of lack of water at some point. I know you've been watering. But annuals (or new plants) like this need to be watered once per day for quite a while - maybe even twice per day on hot days. And even just leaving them alone for a hot afternoon or one weekend could do it."

    From there you can say,

    1) "I'll replace them for you this one time out of courtesy. But you need to understand that they really do need a lot of watering. And if you have to leave for whatever reason, make sure someone else waters them while you're away. Just one hot day can do it."

    2) "I do warranty all of the plants we install as long as they don't die because of lack of watering. and in this case, I can tell that is why they died so I can't warranty them for you."

    Now if you go with #2, you'll obviously get a more hostile response. She may disagree with you - in which case she is welcome to take them to a nursery and see if they'll agree with her as to why they died. Or she may just get pissed in general and just not use your company again.

    Typically, I go with option #1 and just replace the plants the first time out of courtesy. But then again, I buy all of my plants at 1/2 of retail cost and double the price I paid (so then the client is paying exactly retail cost and I am making 100% profit on every plant) just in case of stuff like this. So I can afford to replace stuff for free and still not lose money.

    Just as a general tip - when planting annuals you'll have a lot better success if you plant them in some nice black soil with a lot of vermiculite or perlite (those little white balls) in it. And you should also use a good slow-release fertilizer inside the soil as well. Osmacote is good stuff. And always water your plants in after planting. It's okay to cover up annual beds with bark or pine mulch as long as they have soil like I described around the roots. But if possible - it's better just to have soil around annuals - without any mulch on top. They seem to do better then.

    For regular planting of bushes, shrubs, trees, etc. you'll want to amend the soild with a good general purpose planting compost AND use fertilizer tabs or fertilizer bags (little tea bags with slow-release fert. inside) AND water them in.

    These last two tips will result in you losing very very few plants you install - unless the client doesn't water.

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