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The Most Likely Reason Your Plants are Dying

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I get calls at the nursery about brown dying plants all the time. While I love helping people and want them to have happy plants I am reluctant to replace them because most of the time the conversations goes something like this:

“Ok, you’ve got a brown and dying plant. Have you checked the irrigation system?”

“It’s not that, my plants get plenty of water, I have them on an automatic sprinkler system.”

“That is great, but sometimes heads get clogged, broken, or pointed in the wrong direction. Is everything working?”

“All my plants are getting water, I have them on drip. I want you to replace my plant.”

“How often are you running the system?”

“Twice a day.”

To some folks this may sound great, but to the experienced gardener it reads like a horror story. Let’s break it down a bit to see what is really happening.

  • I asked if the irrigation system was broken and followed up by pointing out a few common problems. In return the customer made it clear that they did not check for problems with the system, nor did they even turn it on and look.
  • The client assumed that automated systems are perfect and stay perfect. Maintenance is needed on any system. Even a new system flexes and changes. As the parts get repeated shots of pressurized water things get shaken loose and heads and emitters get jostled out of place. If you don’t bother to check these things on a regular basis, especially when you have plants die, you will be asking for even more trouble down the road.
  • Drip systems are great, but they are often times not designed properly and do not have the coverage required for the plants they are supposed to support.
  • Overwatering kills plants just as well as under watering. Even though I live in the second driest state in the nation I have never found a need to water on a daily basis unless it is newly seeded plants. And this is even when I lived right next to a sand and gravel pit. Systems that run everyday are also more likely to overwater the top of the plant and under water the deeper feeding roots.

In short, if you are unwilling to have your system checked you are likely to have dead plants. That includes the plants that you are asking the nursery to replace because you are sure it is their fault. Though I haven’t seen this in a legal case, it seems to me that asking for a replacement for an item that the client killed because of neglect is fraud. It is most certainly dishonest of one of my clients to get a plant for free when they have not done the work to find out if they are responsible for the dead plants.

So when you have plant problems stand up and take responsibility for your plant and make sure that you are giving them the care they deserve and the care you committed to when you bought them. If you find you need more expertise to work with potential problems do not be afraid to hire an expert to help you figure things out before you ask for a replacement.


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