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Discussion Starter #1
I'm a new homeowner. I'm planting some new plants in my front yard and it's not going well. Some lavender and blue fescue. It's the lavender I'm worried about.

I'm in Los Angeles.



Here are some photos of the lavender. They start out nice and full, then start to shrink. The branches closest to the dirt and root get dry and brittle.









At first I worried it needed more water, but I was watering them quite a bit. Maybe it's overwatering? And the irrigation system I installed is watering at the root, not sure if that's a problem. When planting I added some new soil to the hole before putting the plant in, as well as some fertilizer. Maybe I need more new dirt?

Some of the blue fescue was looking bad too, I think those were overwatered since the root seemed to be rotting.

What am I doing wrong?
 

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You may be overwatering or over fertilizing. Look up your Climate Zone & what plants grow best there. I like Sunset Magazine's zones the best for that area. "Los Angeles" has a few. The plants were probably fertilized in the nursery. Try to find out where they came from. They might be grown by the ocean & you have them inland where it's hotter or vice versa. You can look up the nursery on the pot or info that came with the pot -those little plastic arrows that come in the pot & say the plant's name.

A plant grown by the ocean won't do well inland. Late Summer isn't the best time to transplant plants. Way too hot.

Test your soil. There are inexpensive soil tests in garden ctrs & hardware stores.

Make sure your wood mulch isn't affecting your plants.

Are the plants on the porch getting enough sun? Read up on each plant. Lavender is more of a xeriscape plant. Drier.
 

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Also, check the soil for grubs &/snails under pots, or snail trails. Lots of hungry snails in LA.

There are some beautiful geraniums that grow well in LA.

It isn't your fault if the original nursery is in a different climate zone like Ventura & the plants are sold in a hotter area.
 

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Do your pots and those planters have drainage holes?

Even if the pots have holes, if they’re in a planter without holes and you don’t remove excess water after watering, then the roots are going to be sitting in water. = overwatering, plants will rot.
 

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Purchase a soil moisture meter so you have an idea if you are over watering or under. You may have planted the plants too deep once you added the mulch.
 

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I don’t fertilize new plants for fear of burning the roots. Most things I buy are from a local nursery where all plants are grown within 100 miles.

It took me some experimenting and lots of dead plants before learning what did best in my yard.

Good luck and enjoy gardening.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful relies. There's a lot to learn and think about regarding my issue(s).

I think I can rule out the location of the plants. I'm purchasing from a reputable nursery in the area. A lot of the landscapers use them. I'll look into it though.

Overwatering might be an issue. I'll get a meter, that's a great idea.

But I think the answer is over fertilizing. I didn't realize that could kill a plant. The plants are probably already fertilized and I added a handful of fertilizer to each plant, at the root. I shouldn't have done that. I'm going to get a tester and see what's going on.

The question is now, if it's too much fertilizer, what can I do? More water? But that can be a problem too. Maybe I can try to swap out the soil around the plants that are still in decent shape and see how it goes. And worst case, start over with new plants and soil and use the tools you've mentioned to get it right.
 

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When you overwater a plant it suffocates the roots. With drought tolerant or low water type plants it is important to water and then let the soil dry out completely before watering again. It is not like a lawn where over watering is not a big deal.



I plant everything on a drip circuit that needs roughly the same amount of water. Plants that require more water are grouped so they are on a common circuit that I can adjust the water cycle and duration.


Some plants are shallow rooted, like Spanish lavender, and so need more frequent watering, and I avoid such plants. Others like salvias have evolved for centuries in the desert climate of southern California and do very well with little or no water and are very hardy plants.



See what your neighbors have planted and take pictures of the ones you would like to have in your yard. I also look at what is growing well on public areas where they get little or no care as these are also hardy plants that will require less care.
 

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Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful relies. There's a lot to learn and think about regarding my issue(s).

I think I can rule out the location of the plants. I'm purchasing from a reputable nursery in the area. A lot of the landscapers use them. I'll look into it though.

Overwatering might be an issue. I'll get a meter, that's a great idea.

But I think the answer is over fertilizing. I didn't realize that could kill a plant. The plants are probably already fertilized and I added a handful of fertilizer to each plant, at the root. I shouldn't have done that. I'm going to get a tester and see what's going on.

The question is now, if it's too much fertilizer, what can I do? More water? But that can be a problem too. Maybe I can try to swap out the soil around the plants that are still in decent shape and see how it goes. And worst case, start over with new plants and soil and use the tools you've mentioned to get it right.
You can change the soil. You have to be very gentle with the roots. I still remember my father teaching us to put about a qtr of the pot's worth of soil in the pot, then add the plant, then dry soil & use a gentle stream of water to put the soil around the roots.

Earthworms are a sign of healthy soil. You can buy potting soil with earthworm castings. They even grow in pots. They aerate & fertilize the soil.

Many pots have root bound plants for lack of space. You can loosen the root ball & put in a larger pot with more soil. Careful to never break off a tap root.

Sunset Western Garden book is a great source of info & ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm sure about this particular lavender, but the plants I'm using are all good for this area. I have lavender and this grass in the back and they're doing well.

I'm going to try to try to change some of the soil and see if I can save what's there.

As for overwatering, I'll try to follow the process you've mentioned, water then let it dry before watering again. Though I thought plants need more water at first to establish? What is a good schedule to start? Generally it's once a week? So maybe do twice to start? Of course I'll check the soil to judge as well.

Thanks!
 

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I may not have been clear. It's not that the lavender isn't right for the zone, it's that it may have been grown in a cooler, more humid area. I've seen that more & more often in recent years.

LA is pretty dry compared to the East Coast. It takes real effort to overwater in the Summer.
 

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@RVC1, nice to meet you!

Where, exactly, in Los Angeles are you? Just the major cross-streets or neighborhood name. The reason I ask is that, Mar Vista or Brentwood, on the one hand, and Woodland Hills or Pacoima, on the other, or El Sereno, on still another are similar but very different, especially at this time of year.

First, don't kick yourself for having trouble with Lavender. Lavendula species can get really tempermental. I know this because I managed a garden shop 30+ years ago, and lavender was almost as much of a thorn in the side as people driving trucks through the sales yard after crashing the nursery fence . . . I'm exaggerating a bit, but the point is that Lavender are tempermental

I note that you have it doing well in another part of your yard? If so, please take and post a picture.

I suspect, offhand, that your problem lavender might be getting more shade than it likes. They're sun lovers, for sure.

Also what species do you have? Some Lavendula will grow in Ohio (where I'm originally from) while others are strictly Mediterranean plants.

And, show us the rest of your garden!

Love the Society Garlic! Easy to grow, no shame in enjoying it.

Hope this helps . . .
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for your replies. Here's an update:

DoomsDave (great name!), I'm in North Hollywood. The believe it is english lavender? The nursery had three different types. They said this one would do well here in LA. Lavender is a difficult plant (I'm finding), and maybe this species is more delicate. I will go with rosemary or something else when replacing. And Nik333, I don't know for sure where it originates from, however this nursery is selling to the community here and I suspect it's me not them.

Yes the lavender was doing better in other spots, however all of it seems to now be taking a turn for the worse. About a week ago, I pulled some soil from around the roots and put new fresh potting soil, hoping to take out the fertilizer. Some of the plants are looking worse. So I can't be sure if it was too late or changing some soil made them worse. And watering less has not helped.

The thing is, the blue fescue isn't doing well either. Some are ok but some are dying. I changed the soil on some fo those as well, we'll see if they survive. Does this give any indication of what's going on?



Yes! I love that garlic too. I'm trying to find hardy things and layer and get the front looking nice, but the problem sections are holding me up. I want to just start over but I fear it will happen again. I want to figure it out before digging it all up. When I do, I imagine I should take out a bunch of soil and put as much new soil in as I can? I had a landscaper do my back yard and things are looking good there (I'll post some pics next time). So the soil is generally good here. There's a different lavender back there that's thriving. My only issue back there is gophers!!!!!! Maybe I need to start another post for that one, I can't get rid of them and they're eating roots. Ugh, homeownership is tough!

Oh, I plan to get a soil testing kit like someone suggested, I'll see if that provides some answers.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I purchased a meter. The pH level seems to be fine. Mostly at about a 6 or 7. Does that mean it's not the fertilizer? I guess it's possible that I've flushed it out at this point?

As for the moisture, I did notice that the two sections where I'm having the problem are still very wet even after over a week of not watering. The other areas, like the hedges, are dry. I guess they're not draining properly? But they're not planters, it's soil in the ground, that should drain no? Also surprising given the heat and climate here. It was about 100 yesterday, just fyi.

I guess my next move is to plant new plants and water very lightly and see how it goes.
 

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I purchased a meter. The pH level seems to be fine. Mostly at about a 6 or 7. Does that mean it's not the fertilizer? I guess it's possible that I've flushed it out at this point?

As for the moisture, I did notice that the two sections where I'm having the problem are still very wet even after over a week of not watering. The other areas, like the hedges, are dry. I guess they're not draining properly? But they're not planters, it's soil in the ground, that should drain no? Also surprising given the heat and climate here. It was about 100 yesterday, just fyi.

I guess my next move is to plant new plants and water very lightly and see how it goes.
Did you test the soil for Nitrogen, Potash, etc?
You'd have to check the soil under & around the plants to see why they're still moist.
I guess I'm cynical, but because he's a landscaper doesn't mean it's good soil.

Are these the plants in the shade?
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
No I just used a meter that checks for pH. I'll have to get a kit to see more then, huh?

Can these other things cause the soil to retain more moisture?

Also, I did put new potting soil in each hole around the new plants. And about the sun, yes most are in the shade from a large tree. There are a few on the end that get more sun and they didn't do any better.
 

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Yes, Nitrogen, Potash & Potassium levels make a big
difference. It's an inexpensive soil kit at a hardware store. Or you can send away for a fancier result.

I'd really like to recommend the Sunset Western Garden book, again.

I had poor luck with the moisture control potting soils. Too much moisture.

Start from the beginning with gardening, checking off all the variables possible. If you find you don't enjoy it, hire someone. I like nothing better than shaking up dirt & water, adding a chemical & measuring the resultant color with dirty hands.:smile:

Sunset also has photos of beautiful gardens in the area. Count how many hours the front has shade. You may need a plant for shade.

When plants wilt past a certain point, they can't come back.
 

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Sorry, I was distracted.
You find the result of the soil test then add the appropriate "amendment" that you ordered or bought from the nursery and enjoy a healthier plant.

It does take work & there may be several variables rather than one magic bullet. That's why you should enjoy it. It's a combination of yard work, science, art & nuturing.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
True, it may be more than one variable. But it shouldn't be super difficult either. I'm going to get a more comprehensive tester. Then when I start over, I'm going to water very little and do very little. I'll also swap as much of the soil as possible. Maybe the soil is retaining too much water. I'll look into a soil without the moisture control, maybe?

I think I do enjoy it. I enjoy the planning, execution, then the troubleshooting (to a degree) and of course, seeing the success. I've been rewarded in this area with woodworking and upgrades, repairs, etc. The landscaping has been challenging. I have no experience. I'll get there. But I paid for the back to be done. I wanted to be able to do the rest myself. I can post some pics of the back if interested. I did some things as well.
 
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