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Old 05-26-2009, 06:21 AM   #1
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


I've had these 4-foot-tall decorative juniper bushes (spirea, "poodle," etc.) in the ground for over a year now and they've done well. However, they're just now turning brown. They're planted in soil/clay, with the black fabric to keep weeds at bay over top of that, and then we have the red lava rocks over that. They've done fine, but it now looks like we're going to lose them. We're in Ohio where for the first 3 weeks in May, we had lots of rain either every day or every other day. Could too much rain in that 3-week period make them turn brown? It's got us stumped since they've been in the ground for over a year without a problem.
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Old 05-26-2009, 01:52 PM   #2
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


SInce it happened so quickly, I'll hazard a guess, and say the roots are drowning.
The rest of the lawn is probably hard-pack, and the plants are sitting in little clay bowls of water.

You might try digging a trench around them, or a lower on one side to help the water leave. Backfill with very sandy dirt.

If it happened over a period of time, then I'd suspect a nitrogen/other deficiency.
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Old 05-27-2009, 06:01 AM   #3
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


Most of the Junipers I've seen that do well are slightly above grade. Either planted on a small mound or next to a foundation or driveway, someplace the amount of water is reduced and/or there is a good runoff.
I've had good luck growing plants that prefer slopes by planting them above grade in decorative stone (colored cement, typically around 2 feet across and 18 inches high, stacked two high with the bottom ring slightly buried for stability) rings. The roots eventually grow through the bottom of the rings, but after they are well established.
Once Junipers are established, they are in my experience almost bullet proof. Though there is a (recently imported) blight that attacks some bushes (actually many varieties of evergreen/Juniper relatives), they are doomed and need to be pulled and destroyed.
I'd try planting in a humus rich soil above grade. Maybe trim the root ends and chop the top foot off of the plants. There may be enough life left in the roots for them to come back again. Junipers are slow growing, so the results are long term.
They seem to do best in a near nuetral PH, dog urine, excessive nitrates or calcifiers can cause them grief.
I recently lost two beutiful 50 year old Juniper trees to blight. Many of the nieghbors have lost Juniper hedges.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:43 PM   #4
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


I built a small mound of soil around each of the affected junipers. Not all were affected---I'd say only about half of them (and they're not side by side either). I'll check into the nitrogen-deficient thing. Would individual fertilizer sticks beside each one do the trick?
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Old 05-30-2009, 12:14 AM   #5
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


Most evergreens (Conifers) like nitrates, though I've had better results with a top layer of good compost with a little nitrate (mix) fertilizer thrown in. I throw my fireplace ash into my compost, it tends to be a little PH base.
Over doing the nitrate fertilizer can mess with the soil PH, Junipers tend to prefer the mid range, not too nitrate acidic or calcium base.
Junipers are slow growers, when fertilizing the results can be long term. They seem to do well in poor soil, but occasional top layers (shallow raking if at all) of compost seems to perk them up some. I rarely fertilize anything anymore, I use compost and supplement it with a nitrate/iron lawn mix fertilizer in minor quantities ( quarter/half a handful for a wheel borrow full of compost).
I've had pretty good luck moving Junipers, even rather large ones. Early in the year is the best time, around Easter. Though it may still work out for you.
If it is blight, be prepared, they are likely to die. I noticed another dead Juniper hedge this morning on my way to work. The blight seems to hopscotch, some hedges totally destroyed, some just in spots, some not affected at all.
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Old 05-30-2009, 04:23 AM   #6
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1-year-old juniper bushes turning brown


Yesterday I stuck a fertilizer stick by each of the ones turning brown. I think the box said that these sticks are 15% nitrate. I'll wait and see if that turns things around. I appreciate your advice.
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