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Kent, United Kingdom Gb

Ground seems toxic, anything planted dies!

I have been planting out my cottage garden for 3 yrs now, its curvaceous and brimming with gorgeous plants. All except a patch my now exhusband insisted was his. I decided to give it a vavavoom last year with lavender, penstemmon, pinks and iris. I put the death of the lavender and pinks down to the wet winter but the iris which were amazing and I have clumps of around the garden are struggling to hold on to the one or two leaves left, the penstemmon was looking great but the new growth was looking brown and shriveled about a week after sprouting, then nearly over night the whole plant went brown and crispy. I replaced it and this one has been great for about 3 months but is starting to go the same way as is the plant next to it (mind has gone blank as to the name, begins with a c and has delicate light blue flowers). The newest leaves are the first to show signs, the edges suddenly going brown but the middles remain healthy (almost like sun or wind burn), then leaves nearest the main stem then suddenly the entire plant dies.

I have the same plants doing well around the garden but there is this patch of maybe 1.5m where nothing seems to survive. I could understand more if they failed to thrive but they really take off and then just die. First signs til death is about 1-3 weeks. Bulbs either never sprout or come up just the once except for gladiolli which have manage to survive and spread a little. I have foxgloves on the edge of this area and the flower spikes have grown in spirals! The look like box topiary they are so twisted.

Anyone have any ideas what this could be and how to fix it? Currently thinking of stripping out plants and soil a replacing with fresh soil but would love their to be another way!

I have a south facing garden with well drained soil.

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How awful. Just joining in so I can see other replies. Is it possible some chemical has been tipped out onto the land?
It seems the trouble comes when the roots go down deeper? Have you dug deeply to see if there's anything untoward buried there? I don't suppose you gave the ground a heavy dressing of anything eg bonemeal that can damage if its too concentrated?

16 May, 2014


It is possible but not to my knowledge. Ive only been here 3 years and the garden was all lawn when I moved in. My ex husband claimed dibs on that bit but never bothered to do anything with it for 2 of those years so its new to me.

Soil here is odd, I live at the top of a hill where it is slighty chalky, down the road is solid chalk with a scrape of topsoil then it suddenly turns into heavy clay at my allotment on one side and sand on the other! I think in the past we must have been on the edge of the sea with either a river or inlet to cram all that into a village!

The soil in that spot seems like the rest, bits of chalk and the odd chunks of flint. I have found large deposits of charcoal around the garden when planting (neighbours said previous family were bbq nuts) they seem to have burried the bbq spoils up to a meter deep but this hasnt bothered the plants and isnt in this spot.

I can only guess it must be chemical, but to still be so toxic it must be pretty awful! Not sure im to happy I let the kids plant things there now (before I knew everything died)

If it is chemical replacing the soil surely will only be successful if I get it all out or it will just leach back into the new soil....

16 May, 2014


Wonder if you look on the internet there is anywhere you can send a soil sample?

17 May, 2014


I shall give it a google! :)

17 May, 2014


Be interested to know how you get on

17 May, 2014


Just added some pics. Just lifted the little guy with the 'burnt' leaves, it's the latest victim. Hopefully I can save it! Also the foxgloves growing on the edge of the patch of death doing weird things! I have over 50 foxgloves and only the ones on the edge of the mystery patch have done this.

17 May, 2014


Did they spill the lighter fuel from a BBQ on this patch? That would poison the soil for a while.

17 May, 2014


I wonder if whether sometime in the past a previous owner put total weedkiller on that patch and some traces are still in the soil? No idea if this is possible. As the plants survive for a while maybe the roots are then penetrating to a layer that still has traces? Try planting something shallow rooted and lime tolerant and see if the same thing happens.

17 May, 2014


Sodium chlorate would I think Stera, I think its banned now.

18 May, 2014


I have had iris on the edge of this patch for maybe 2yrs but they are also suffering now (i wonder if the excessive rain has brought whatever it is up with the water as this bit was nearly underwater) . I have a lovely chap next door who has said to go to our local coolings nursery as they have a plant dr good at diagnosing plant problems so im taking advantage of the glorious weather to have a tea and a potter and hopefully crack the case.

Have also found a forestry ranger who might be able to analyse the soil.

18 May, 2014


May be worth accepting that nothing will grow successfully and use the area for another purpose eg a pond or shed or patio (for the better burying of ex-husbands under :o).)

18 May, 2014


Hehe - I like your thinking urbanite! Though I wouldn't want him that close, even if 6ft down!

My garden is quite small. IÀts by the neighbours boundary and the end of my tiny patio. I have thought about just putting some slabs or gravel down and displaying pot plants there. My main worry is how safe it is with 2 small kids and a dog and whether it will spread.

18 May, 2014

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