Bad Soil or Bad Plants?
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Brenda
Posted on: December 16, 2010

My daughter and I finally got a house with a backyard we could garden in. I bought seeds & planted them in the spring. They grew perfectly until it was time for them to bloom & they all had stems that looked exactly the way they ought to according to the plant that they were: there were echinaceas - 3 kinds, daisies, bee balm, & sunflowers (the suns were ok but grew slowly and I only got 3 or 4 blooms out of around 12 plants). Once it was time for them to bloom, they all had the same identical flower for a bloom, these tiny daisy like flowers where the real flower should have been. The bee balm didn’t grow at all but the rest did. Is it because they won’t properly bloom until next spring, or are they or the ground infected with something? Do you know what’s wrong with them? I keep thinking it’s the soil because of the way they all grew so poorly. Could it be they won’t bloom until this spring & those fake blooms were indicating that it takes a year or more for them to bloom?

You did not describe your soil, so I can only give you my best guesses. First of all, sunflowers are mostly annual, so what you saw in the flowers either meant that you got the wrong seed or that your soil is in dire need of fertilizer. If you are on thick clay soil or on dry poor sand, you need to add sand to the clay or lots of organic matter to both types of soil. Start a compost heap and compost all your kitchen waste -meat would have to be tightly enclosed or all manner of critters will come and get it during the night and mess up your garden while doing so. Work the compost into the soil when it is crumbly and black.

Perennial plants tend not to bloom until the second year. Annuals must bloom the first year and they will usually do so prolifically. This means that if they are large sun flowers such as the ones we offer, they need rich soil to get enough nutrients to achieve such growth in the first year. Poor growth is not usually an indicator of a disease. A disease will be indicated if the plants show an overgrowth of "white powder", or black streaks, or dying-off of leaves. The latter could indicate a root disease. But all you have described point to nutrient poor or hard compacted soil.

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