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Thought I mastered pansies, but didn't

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Jan 28, 2004.

  1. OP
    DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,119


    I use a Mantis tiller too. Is it possible to till the soil deep enough with the Mantis? Seems like it would be impossible to till the soil right around the base of a tree.

    Also, the HDLS sells a 3 cu ft bag of organic soil ammendment. I think they call it Landscapers Mix. It's mostly a wood product, but it isn't decomposed. It's still got to go through decomposition. It's basically very finely shredded wood. I wonder if this will cause nitrogen depletion? And will that matter if you liquid feed every two weeks?

    BTW: I deadheaded those pansies in the pictures above that I have planted around my trees. They look a whole lot better. Been liquid feeding too. I think that's helping out as well.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 344

    Usually I'm using the Mantiss mainly to just mix things together, like after adding in some compost. In the example above with the clay soil, I probably should have tilled a lot deeper. Its hard to go too deep with the Mantiss, but it can go pretty deep if you work at it. I probaby should have been using a regular roto-tiller for that. But the Mantiss is cheap and easy to use. In most cases its probably fine to till down 6" to 12". Once you have the bed prepared, you may not need to till much at all in the future, just plant. Mulching with grass clippings, shredded leaves, or compost will make the soil just get better and better.

    Planting around trees can be a problem. Sometimes that just isn't going to work out. And probably better to dig more carefully with a shovel than to use a tiller. Probably kind of looking for pockets between large roots where the soil can be prepared for planting. May be good to break up smaller tree roots to reduce competition.
    Different kinds of tress are different. I don' think its good to pile soil up right against the base of a tree trunk, but sometimes its a good idea to add soil under a tree if theres going to be lots of planting.

    Not sure about that landscapers mix. Yes, the process of wood decay does tie up nitrogen in the soil. (Eventually it gives it back).
    Could be good for long-term soil-building. Might need some fert with it. I prefer to use more "finished" products. Any kind of compost - composted chicken manure, composted cattle manure,
    composted cotton burrs, etc.

    Around here, the panises don't always look really good through the winter. But they can really take off in the spring.
  3. OP
    DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,119


    It's just a suspicion at this point, but I'm thinking you could probably get away with doing things very wrong and still have pretty good looking pansies if you liquid feed on a regular schedule. I took the pictures posted above (the ones of the purple pansies around the bradford pear) on Jan 28th. I bought some miracle-gro-like liquid plant food and fed them on the 29th and then again, seven days later, on Feb 5th. I removed all the fallen bradford pear leaves and deadheaded them that day too. They are already looking a lot better. The deadheading made a huge difference. It was a lot more time consuming than I figured it would be. But it made them look so much better immediately. The pansies in the pots with the peat look really good already. The pansies in the clay soil look a lot better and I'm betting they'll look really good in another couple weeks. My guess is that if had I liquid fed all of them on a bi-weekly basis from the day they were planted, they'd still look really good today...even in schitty soil.

    Right now it's just a theory. But my theory is that even if the soil is too cold (isn't clay soil generally colder than very organic soil?) at the time of planting, and even if the pH is wrong, well, those things effect the roots. The roots don't like the surroundings and they're not able to soak up the nutrients like they should be able to. But if you liquid feed, those below ground factors don't matter. The leaves absorb the nutrients instead of the roots. So you can have terrible conditions below ground and yet the plant will be taking on the nutrients that it needs via the foliage. As the plant absorbs the nutrients through the foliage, it's going to get stronger and healthier roots too. The entire plant will be healthier.

    If I'm able to get those pansies looking good via weekly liquid feedings...in that schitty clay soil...I'll feel a lot more confident in my pansy capabilities. It may not be possible. Time will tell.

    BTW: Aren't petunias very similar to pansies? I've heard they're in the same family or something. I see very similar results around town with petunias. Some look really good, but those that don't look outstanding look absolutely horrible. There's not much in between with them...they either look really good or really bad...kinda like pansies.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  4. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Messages: 793

    The retail stores have bedding plants as a draw item,they in most part do not have trained employees to care for their plants.
    They often get too much water or not enough.

    With too much water the fungus nats lay eggs in the soil.

    The nursery for the most part has trained employees who grow
    and care for the plants. The plants may cost more but they are worth it.

    On contracts use nursery stock,don't put any plant on a job you would not plant at your house. Your quality or lack of speaks volumes about you.
  5. z_clark

    z_clark LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 369

    Hey DFW,

    Do you pinch back your pansies? By pinching, I mean removing dead or dying blooms as well as seed heads from the plant. Pinching should be done at the base of the plant, so that the stalk is removed as well. This should be done every other week to encourage new blooms.

    Your pansies around the tree looked to have too much water, or perhaps a soil that is holding more water than they want. You can tell by the purple colored foliage.

    Your customers pansies that have lost foliage look like slugs might have gotten to them. You may be able to see slime trails on other leaves. We use a product "sluggo" for them.

    With pansies, the more sun the better! If you have a shade situation, it is best to get the "viola" variety. The violas are much smaller blooms, but there are more off them (more pinching!).

    I use Home Depot Landscape supply and have been VERY happy with their quality. I always get the 4" pots, the 2" look cheesy in a customers lawn in my opinion.

    I feel that I know a good bit about annual color, I have large annual beds at my accounts. I have the Hyatt Regency down town, and there are 100 flats in the front circle bed alone! Check it out if you are down town!

    Best of luck for 2004 for all!
  6. OP
    DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,119

    Well, I've deadheaded the pansies and they look a lot better. I've also been liquid feeding a 20-20-20 fertilizer once a week for 3.5 weeks now. They still look a little pale...they certainly don't look healthy.

    I ordered the soil pH tester from Gemplers. The soil around the trees measures 6.6. That's where the pansies look worst. The soil in the pots measures 6.6 too. Those pansies look awesome. The U of G recommends pH levels between 5.4 & 5.8.
    Of course, the pansies in the pots are in pure peat moss with zero clay. The pansies around the trees are in mostly clay soil.

    How do you lower the pH of soil?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  7. P&C Lawn Care

    P&C Lawn Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 373

    I bought a bunch of flats of pansies from Lowes (WHY cause I got them dirt cheap) and mine look the same, they just aren't performing as well as they should. I should have learned my lesson when I bought a bunch of periwinkles from Walmart and they didn't do well at all. It pays to get them from a good nursery.

    I like your OSU sign DFW Area Landscaper, GO pokes!!! Currently attending the OSU/OKC campus for my hort degree.
  8. OP
    DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,119

    As for buying low grade or high grade plants, I would think that if conditions are right, a poor quality plant will grow to be a high quality plant over time.

    I'm not saying intend to buy any more low grade plants. If I'm going to charge what I need to charge, I have no choice but to buy the best plants available. But if you plant high quality plants in an area with poor conditions, they will look bad eventually. Likewise, if poor quality plants are put in an area where everything is perfect, I would expect them to start looking good over time.

    Back to my pH issue: What's the best way to lower the soil pH?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  9. heritage

    heritage Inactive
    Messages: 1,358

    The easiest way for you to lower the soil P.H. is with MIRACID liquid fert. Same company as miracle gro. The fertilizers are in sulfate form (sulfur lowers p.h.) and also has IRON which by the way will also lower soil P.H. Do Not Apply Elemental Sulfur as it would be far too easy with someone with your knowledge to burn up the pansies. I will say that I am 38 years old and was 4 when I began working in our 2 acres of greenhouses in which we grew 20,000 flats of annuals a year some of which were pansies. I was involved with the growing of plants in the greenhouse until I was 18. Then it was all about the trees and turf for me.
    Your pansies need IRON. Most 20-20-20 does NOT have iron in it.

    I wish you sucess,
    Pete D.
  10. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,696

    Aluminum sulfate will lower ph. Miracid will work, but if you are lowering your ph more than 1.0 point, you'll be over fertilizing your plants to achieve your desired ph. Miracid is good to use as a maintenance fert. once you have your ph corrected.

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