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Nothing will grow here!

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From: Maureen Mueller
Galesburg, IL
I have been gardening for 25 years, granted mostly in Northern California, but for the past 4 years in central Illinois, and I have never encountered this: nothing will grow in the bed I created in front of my house. By nothing will grow, I mean things actually die, or they barely survive. The first year I owned my house I cut down several spindly, unattractive Yew shrubs. As it is a very sha3dy area due to a large Maple tree (Norway? I think?), I then purchased and planted 3 Rhododendrum (after liberally amending and working the soil). They literally began turning black and died within a month or two. I attributed this to poor plants but was shaken. I have never had plants die so definitively before! Wanting to fill the space, I then planted some Salvia and Sage, just for temporary color. Goners. Really? Salvia?? I amended more, tilled, and in late fall, planted tulips, 3 Densiformis Yew, one Princess Spirea, and one Red twig dogwood. The tulips bloomed, and there was growth on all the shrubs. i was psyched. That was 7 months ago, and while there has been minute growth on the Spirea, I am pretty sure the Yew haven't added a single needle since early spring. It's like they are frozen. Oh, and I forgot, I had the Maple canopy thinned radically, so the area gets filtered sun now. What the heck is wrong? Nothing is thriving. Later this spring I planted a Rosy Glow Barberry, and it is getting yellow leaves and not looking good. Help?

Extension Message
From: Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
Champaign/Ford/Iroquois/Vermilion Unit
Maureen, I feel your pain. It has been a tough year to try to grow anything. This is a great time to take a soil test to rule out basic nutrient issues. I think your best bet is to try to rule out different variables. Then look at watering techniques, etc.

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