Soil experts needed here

Discussion in 'Fertilizer Application' started by BrendonTW, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. BrendonTW

    BrendonTW LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Oklahoma City
    Messages: 799

    I have a property that I maintain that has had a constant problem with nearly all of the landscape plants not coloring up well.

    The landscape is 2 years old as of this December. There is a mix of fescue turfgrass, lacebark elms, wintergreen boxwoods, nelly stevens hollies, ornamental grasses, crapemyrtles, redbuds, and seasonal color.

    The elms were transplanted via tree spade and are 6" diameter maturing trees. The redbuds, crapemyertles, and nellies were all brought in in 25 gallon pots. The fescue was sodded.

    The first spring that everything came out, spring 2012, everything came out very vibrant and colored well. By about half way through the season the nellies had thinned up a bit and lost their dark green color. About 1/3 of the red-buds had started to lose their leaves and half of that third had died. The elms had started to loose their green color and turned a very light green/yellow color. They also lost about 50 percent of their leaves. We lost about 10 perrcent of the crape myrtles. All of the boxwoods had turned to a very light green and started to turn orange.

    The fescue has done very well however and the seasonal color usually does pretty well.

    My theory on the turf and seasonal color is that the turf came with an inch of topsoil which was good and organic, and we have it on a fertilization program. The seasonal color is composted every season to bring organic matter into the planting bed.

    I just took three soil samples and had them analyzed through John Deere Landscapes. All samples were taken 6 inches below the surface, one under the grass, one in the drip-line of an elm, and one in the area where the boxwoods are now completely orange.

    The only thing that seems fairly abnormal is the cation exchange capacity. I am not a soil science expert and so I'm looking for some advice on anything else that could be a problem and/or how to fix these problems. I have attached a PDF of the soil analysis.

    Attached Files:

  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,813

    Major leaf fall is an indication of poor irrigation--transplant shock--or perhaps plants not suited to your climate.

    I am not a soil expert. However I think the soil is fine--perhaps the CEC is a bit low.
    However, I think that the pH is a bit too high. Perhaps this is resulting in poor solubility of the iron in the soil solution. Manganese and other metal nutrients, also. If soil moisture, drainage and temperature are might try to apply a chelated iron and micronutrients spray to some of the shrubbery. Follow the directions carefully. The new growth and some of the old growth should look better.

    Alternatively, go to a major soil test lab and arrange a "tissue test". You send them the green part of the plant and they bake it to ash and analyze the mineral content in a spectrophotometer like in Abbey's lab on NCIS. Costs 5 times as much.

    And finally--there is a potential for some kind of chemical herbicide in the soil itself. Plant some tomatoes in it--inside of course--and compare with a known good soil.
  3. BrendonTW

    BrendonTW LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Oklahoma City
    Messages: 799

    Thanks so much for the reply.

    I didn't know much about soils and didn't know what the CEC was until I did a bit of research. It seemed to me like it was way too low, but this is the only soil analysis I've ever seen so I don't know. How can I bring the pH down, lime?

    Temperature and irrigation is standard for the plant material.

    Another odd thing is that there has been virtually no new growth on the boxwoods.
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  4. jc1

    jc1 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,162

    My thought is excessive irrigation. There are too many different plants/shrubs that are struggling. Pull a few shrubs out and see if the soil is not draining. I have seen areas that have a lot of clay hold water like the shrub was planted in a bowl. Most plants hate wet feet. We have had to remove shrubs and auger a drain hole below them then fill with stone to let them drain.
  5. Falcon50EX

    Falcon50EX LawnSite Senior Member
    from GA
    Messages: 994

    Second this, I have seen the same thing.
  6. BrendonTW

    BrendonTW LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Oklahoma City
    Messages: 799

    Turns out the problem was that the pH was too high. We did some core and surface sulfur AND fertilization applications early this spring and it has helped tremendously. All of the plants are doing much better. We will add peat moss next year for continued help with the pH. Going to try to get the level down to 6.5 from the near 8 that it was before.
  7. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,138

    pH has been the key problem every time I encounter shrubs growing poorly. Sadly, most shrubs want a pH below 6.5. Not easy when most of the land being developed is on coral or has coral used as the base course. Applying 1 lb of citric acid monthly is a fast acting treatment while I am waiting for sulfur to work.

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