We moved from Chicago (with its wonderful black topsoil) about a year and a half ago. Now that we are into my second Arkansas gardening season, we have a perplexing problem with which we hope you can provide some guidance. When we bought a home in Diamondhead, outside of Hot Springs, we acquired a raised garden plot of some 180 sq ft. We have tried to plant shrubs and perennials that are deer resistant, and have been mostly successful in that regard. Our problem is that some of our plants (especially two gardenias and a caryopteris) over time have been slowly losing their leaves - they turn brown or yellow and then fall off. (Last summer, we thought, the problem was related to extreme summer heat, but it is already occurring again this year.) Other plants don't seem to be affected. Our neighbors have a cat that runs free, and who we are quite sure had frequently been using the garden plot as a convenient litter box. (We have taken steps to keep the cat out of the garden.) Could he be the cause of the problem with our plants? If so, what can we do to fix the soil to be more tolerant of our plants?
It is possible that the cat is causing problems. Have your soil tested to see what the pH is and the salt levels. Gardenias like an acidic soil and can have yellow leaves with green veins if the pH is too high. If you are worried about the cat using the flower beds as a litter box, mulch the garden with sweetgum balls. The sharp spines usually keep them away because they like to scratch the soil when they go to the bathroom. Aerate the soil under the plants and water well after taking a soil sample to try to leach out any ammonia problems and let’s see what the soil sample says.
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