Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hostas Compete With Roots

 Sunday, February 23, 2014

27° here on the mountain this morning with a 2 mph wind. The moon is surrounded with a foggy looking halo while a minor number of stars still twinkle here and there. Strong winds went through last night knocking down tree limbs along the road and around the house. Today is supposed to be the last good day before the temperature drops for the balance of the week.

More and more people are trying to grow hostas now and often they come with a list of questions. Many do not understand how much shade is too much shade and many, many times we hear "Can you help me pick some hostas? I want to plant them under a _____ tree."

When planting hostas you have to consider that they still need sunshine to grow well and they need moist soil to  keep their leaf mass turgid and healthy. When planting hostas under trees, the tree roots will likely already be so well established that in short order the hostas will begin to grow smaller and smaller instead of bigger. This is a waste of time, effort and money. Here's a solution.

Back in 2004 a shade garden I was working on in an old barn foundation was coming along nicely. It had reached the front of the foundation and there were apple and maple trees on the perimeter.  I wanted to continue to plant more and more hostas but I  knew the trees were already too well established to plant hostas. 

A friend with lots of hosta experieince told me about using oversized nursery pots--those large plastic pots that trees and shrubs come in, say 15-20-35-30 gallon size pots. I took what I had and began a garden using them. I can't say this was easy work as digging holes into root systems that have been in place for years requires some energy. I took out all the roots and rocks, inserted the pots in the holes and then filled with mixes that would hold moisture and provide feed for some time to come. Then I planted the hostas. 

The project got a lot of publicity and the outcome received more. In time I really liked the idea because the pots held moisture and fertilizer in place and prevented the tree roots from encroaching. I recommend it. A lot of work and a few bucks? Yes! But the outcome is worth every penny and if for some reason you want to  move a plant, it's already potted. Give this plan some thought if you have a similar situation.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where juncos and blue jays are competing at the feeders as the gray sky offers no firm prediction of today's weather.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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1 comment:

Kathy said...

Wow. You must really love your hostas. And digging those holes didn't hurt the trees?