Seven Tips for the Fall Hosta Gardener

Fall is a great time to be in your garden. After the busy summer days are over, you can slow down and reflect on the past season’s growth. Stand back and just look at your garden…

Tip #1: Make a list of plants which should be transplanted next spring.  
Are some plants crowding others out? Large plants towering over smaller ones? Or maybe two cultivars getting intermixed (especially important for plants similar in appearance). Make a list so you will know what needs moved next spring.

Tip #2: Make a list of plants that are growing poorly. Look for plants that are struggling. Now is the time to evaluate each clump, its health and maturity. Are some hostas scorched by the sun? Blues that have turned green? Yellows that faded to white? Or is one struggling in too much shade…perhaps one that has a lot of white in it? Are any deprived of water and nutrients due to root competition? You can move them next spring or take steps to solve the problem, if you make a list now.

Tip #3: Record plants which are mature enough to divide. Some gardeners divide their hostas to enlarge their garden or to trade with a friend. You can record the number of shoots and know what will be available when your hostas pop up in the spring.

Tip #4: Record the hostas which are damaged by slugs, and concentrate your slug control methods on those specific plants next summer. They go for the thin, tender leaves. Don’t worry about the others. When warm weather comes next summer, those rascals will head for the leaves that are full of holes this fall. Make a list and apply slug bait to those varieties next summer before they’re riddled with holes.

Tip #5: Now that your lists are done, it’s time to get moving! Clean up your gardens, but save some hosta seeds to grow. Remove those dead flower scapes. They aren’t very attractive during the winter and will be dropping a lot of seeds, which creates a weeding chore next summer. Select seeds  from your favorites, especially those that are streaked and most likely to produce variegated seedlings. Gather the pods when they turn yellow and let them dry. When they start to split open, shake out the seeds and throw out the debris. Plug in the grow lights and you’re ready to go!

Tip #6: Apply a protective mulch, especially for young plants and those hostas which were transplanted this summer. A fall application of mulch will help protect your plants this winter. A coarse material such as evergreen boughs, bracken fronds, straw, or pine needles can help prevent heaving during the early spring thaws. Apply the mulch after the ground is frozen, if possible.

Tip #7: Last of all, prepare a new site if you’re a real diehard hostaholic. Fall is a great time to collect organic matter- grass clippings, leaves, vegetable garden leftovers, wood chips, watermelon rinds and corncobs…all to be tilled into a new area and left to compost during the fall and winter. The soil is moist and workable. The temperature is pleasant. And you have all those months to dream and plan where each new hosta will go.

Now it’s time to go indoors. Send me those mail order catalogs! And grow seedlings, grow!

Don Rawson

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