Plants dying - expert advice needed - PLEASE HELP!!!


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Hi there,

I have what seems to be an unsolvable mystery of plants dying. I have various species of plants that seem to be getting attacked by something, and it slowly kills them. The leaves die starting from the tips and working to the base. They then fall off. Growth is basically zero. Whatever is killing them, it's beyond the plant basic needs (water, food, sunlight). This has been a continuing issue for 2 years. Below are all the pictures. Soil test results are attached.

Key details:
  • Location - Bakersfield, CA
  • Soil type - Sandy Loam (well draining, highly permeable)
  • pH - 6.0-7.0 from test probe (treated with sulfur in January after soil test showed pH 7.7-8.2)
  • Water - 3 days/week, 15 min/day
  • Feeding - Fertigation system, 15 lbs of 20-20-20 fertilizer is spread over 15,000 sq. ft. monthly through sprinkler system.
Important Notes:
  • Subject Plants: (Bushes) Winter Gem Boxwood, Photinia, Camellia Yuletide, Gardenia, Carpet Rose
    (Trees) Quercus Rubra - Red Oak, Ginkgo Biloba
  • Every bush that is dying is right next too a bush that is doing well, with the same sunlight, water, and food. Something is targeting specific plants.
  • Whatever is killing them, it seems to be in the same location - because when a bush dies, it gets replaced by another bush of a different species, which also shows the same symptoms and dies.
  • A soil test was performed, and reviewed by an agronomist with a masters degree. Everything checked out satisfactory with the exception that the soil is low in PNK.
  • The majority of plants are thriving, but a minority is struggling/dying off.
  • It is nearly impossible to over-water. The soil is extremely well draining. For example, the Bermuda lawn needs to be watered daily just to keep it green. Cutting water back speeds up the dying process of the subject plants. Increasing water has no effect.
  • I have consulted a gardening professional (known as the Tree Doctor in Bakersfield) and a professional agronomist also. The agronomist is experiencing some of the same issues across the street. He thinks something more complicated might be the issue, such as fungus, root rotting bacteria, nematodes, etc., but he is unsure of any certain diagnosis.
  • Soil has been treated with a heavy does of gypsum (1 year ago) because the first prognosis was salt burn. There has been no positive results.
Any professional suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

WINTER GEM BOXWOOD



LEAF - WINTER GEM BOXWOOD



GARDENIA



LEAF - GARDENIA



PHOTINIA



LEAF - PHOTINIA



CAMELLIA YULETIDE



LEAF - CAMELLIA YULETIDE



RED OAK



LEAF - RED OAK



GINKGO BILOBA



LEAF - GINKGO BILOBA



ANOTHER WINTER GEM BOXWOOD NEXT TO A THRIVING ONE



CARPET ROSES (dead) - Notice the thriving carpet roses directly across the street. Same watering schedule, same plant.



Thanks so much for any help. I'm desperate at this point.

Thanks,
Kelsey Gallegos
 

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It looks almost as if your plants have herbicide damage. Do your neighbors uphill use Weed and Feed or anything similar?
 
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It looks almost as if your plants have herbicide damage. Do your neighbors uphill use Weed and Feed or anything similar?
Chuck,

Thanks for your response. I've considered this also, and it's not to be ruled out. There have been two herbicides used around the base of the plants, "Roundup" and "Spurge Power". The "Spurge Power" contains chemicals Isooctyl, Butoxyethanol Ester of Tricklopyr Acid, and Dicamba Acid.

I was told by the Agronomist that as long as I didn't spray any of the leaves of the bushes, that these chemicals wouldn't harm the 'woody' plants. Was I instructed incorrectly?

Specifically, here's a list of what types of chemicals have been sprayed:

Red Oak & Boxwood - Nothing this year, last year individual weeds we're sprayed nearby with "Roundup".

Photinia, Carpet Roses, & Camellia - Last year nearby weeds were sprayed with both "Roundup" and "Spurge Power", this year only "Spurge Power" was used.

Ginkgo Biloba - Planted in January 2016. Both "Roundup" and "Spurge Power" have been sprayed all around the base of it.

Chemical weed spraying will now be off the table. If this is the problem, any suggestions on how to balance out the chemical in the soil?

Thanks,

Kelsey
 
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Roundup won't hurt the trees and even if got on the others it wouldn't do this. I don't know what Spurge Power is. I have seen instances where lawn herbicides were sprayed or spread and then after a heavy rain it washed down onto peoples property and did this same type of damage. But there is no telling what it could be if it came from elsewhere. If it were me I would start by applying molasses, in this case 1/2 cup per gallon of water and drenching the soil. Molasses is a main ingredient in soil remediation projects
 
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Roundup won't hurt the trees and even if got on the others it wouldn't do this. I don't know what Spurge Power is. I have seen instances where lawn herbicides were sprayed or spread and then after a heavy rain it washed down onto peoples property and did this same type of damage. But there is no telling what it could be if it came from elsewhere. If it were me I would start by applying molasses, in this case 1/2 cup per gallon of water and drenching the soil. Molasses is a main ingredient in soil remediation projects
Thanks Chuck, I'll give that a shot. Where is a good place to get molasses? Possibly a feed store?
 
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Try whole foods if you have that where you are. Any grocery store should have it.
 
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I would take what he says with a grain of salt. I have read some of his articles before, and most things he says is sketchy. I personally think molasses is a very powerful tool that people have used for decades.

I believe you should try it out. Honestly, with the state of your plants, you've got nothing to lose.
 
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I would take what he says with a grain of salt. I have read some of his articles before, and most things he says is sketchy. I personally think molasses is a very powerful tool that people have used for decades.

I believe you should try it out. Honestly, with the state of your plants, you've got nothing to lose.
I'll agree with that (nothing to lose). I have been laughed at today by two farmers with agronomy degrees when I asked them about molasses. One said, "Yeah, sure, if you want a million ants in your yard.", and the other said, "Molasses does increase microbials, but it's short lived. The internet is full of 'do good' gardeners. Use Humic Acid."

I'll give it a shot anyways. We'll see what happens.
 
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Besides this guy, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of people who use molasses and have posted with their own websites and other websites as to the benefits of using molasses. I stated that soil remediation went hand in hand with molasses. Expand your research. I would start with Medina Inc. They have been using molasses for years on toxic waste dumps albeit with other more exotoric products mixed in. All organic. All molasses does is feed, and rapidly feed, soil microbes. It doesn't usually last more than 3 weeks, but during that limited time all kinds of things happen. I have been using it for about 35 years in compost teas and as a soil drench. I have nothing to say except great things about it. If it didn't work I would not be spending money on it year after year. I have done side by side tests and all proved positive.

Have you asked about anthracnose?
 
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Besides this guy, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of people who use molasses and have posted with their own websites and other websites as to the benefits of using molasses. I stated that soil remediation went hand in hand with molasses. Expand your research. I would start with Medina Inc. They have been using molasses for years on toxic waste dumps albeit with other more exotoric products mixed in. All organic. All molasses does is feed, and rapidly feed, soil microbes. It doesn't usually last more than 3 weeks, but during that limited time all kinds of things happen. I have been using it for about 35 years in compost teas and as a soil drench. I have nothing to say except great things about it. If it didn't work I would not be spending money on it year after year. I have done side by side tests and all proved positive.

Have you asked about anthracnose?
Thanks for your help Chuck. I'm definitely going to give it a try. I picked up a 5-gallon bucket of molasses an hour ago, so I'm on board with giving it a shot.

To answer your question, no, I haven't asked about anthracnose - I'll do some more research. You know how it is, many things your read on the internet are true and not true.

It's like CrazyConure said above, not really much to lose at this point. -Thanks-
 
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I hired another gardening consultant today. The prognosis is in. Phytophthora is the culprit. He found it with a soil probe.
 
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Phytophthora is caused by too much water. I find his prognosis very interesting, especially with a soil probe.
http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/pathogen-articles/pathogens-common-many-plants/oomycetes/diagnosis-and-control-phytophthora-diseas-1
Chuck,

Yes, that was his prognosis. Even though the soil is well draining, daily watering is still too much and allows the fungus to grow. Take a look at this picture. Notice the grey band about 1 inch below the surface. That's the Phytophthora.

 
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So, is you soil different from your neighbors or were you just watering too often? Sorry if I seem a skeptic about this but did he test the grayish stuff for fungal growth? This really makes no sense to me.
 

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