New Project

hostasmith(5)March 22, 2014

Just a little warning before going any further into this post, it is a little long winded. As we all agree, it has been a very rough winter and I am already driving my DW crazy with talk of hostas! I have been thinking a lot about hostas and such and just need to get it out.

As I wait for Spring to finally arrive for good in my own part of the midwest, regardless of what the calendar says, I have been slowing filling our seldom used garden tub with hosta.

I have been repotting the ones that I have brought inside and as you can tell by the picture above they are taking off like gangbusters. I have been making my own potting mix since last fall using pine bark ran through a chipper, perlite and peat mixed at 5:1:1. I have also been adding greensand, alfalfa meal and bio-tone to the mix at 1 cup each per cubic foot. When I figure the total cost of material it only comes to $1.54 per cubic foot. That does not include any labor or fuel cost into it, but the cheapest I could get any thing that would compare to this would be the Pro-Mix BRK + Mycorrhizae for $3.46 a c.f. and I would have to buy two 80 c.f. bales at $276.43 each to get that price. The 2.8 c.f. bags are $4.95 a c.f. and if I buy 10 or more it comes to $4.60 a c.f.

Now that I am repotting my hostas I am learning that the mix I made for my pots last summer and fall is not doing them very well for this spring. I have two that are on the verge of dying due to rot that I am experimenting with on trying to save, my EA sport and a Regal Supreme.

As you can see in the picture above, they are not doing too good! Lesson learned! Now on to what I have learned.

So, that being said, I now know that what I was doing was not a good way to take care of my hostas for the winter. Hopefully I do not lose a bunch because of it. I have now started to build myself an enclosure that I can keep my potted hostas in during winter and to also serve as a shaded growing area for this summer.

It is a 6' x 12' area with 1/2" outdoor rated conduit that are 10' long. As you can see in these pictures I have cut the conduit in half and drilled and pinned them back together so that during the summer months I can unpin them and they will be 5' high and I will put other 10' pieces across those to make a frame to hold shade material. I am hoping that with this enclosure and the new potting media next winter will not be so hard on my collection.

I will post some other pictures of the ones in my tub tomorrow and updates on my new project.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, thanks for sticking in there.

To all of those that are regulars on this forum, thank you for sharing all of your knowledge. It is hard to believe I have only been on this forum for a little over 9 months.


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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Devon, that is a terrific cold frame/shelter/nursery/winter enclosure! Sure looks like a professional job - that frame is very sturdy. I can see that structure being used in a variety of ways/purposes throughout the growing season. What type of cover were you thinking of using for next winter?

I wanted to say thank you again for providing the link where Al makes his own growing medium...which I've noted you do too..and you've added a couple of things to your mix. It will come in handy when I make my own mix.

Your hosta are doing really well! Some are way ahead and look so healthy!


P.S. The hosta that I brought in...all tips and buds look good and is 1" tall already...what fun!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:58AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

am i .. wait.. who's devon ??? .. i thought you were smith

am i to understand you are taking leafed out hosta into a z5 yard ??? .. were are you in z5??? ....

i think you are soon to learn about cold damage... if you leave them there ...

for my z5 MI ..... you are ONLY ABOUT 60 DAYS EARLY ....

if they were still dormant.. it would be a different issue ...


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Glad to have something long and complex to read, Smith. I am wasting away here for lack of hosta reading.

I get mininugget bags of pine bark at Lowes. It is great stuff and old bags damaged over the winter work very well. I borrow bags of perlite and vermiculite from my DH who in turn borrows cow manure and MiracleGro from me.
One ingredient that is important here is crushed crab shells.It feeds the good nematodes which eat the shells and then continue to eat the foliar nematodes. We have a problem with them earlier in the year than other places.

I would suggest the crushed crab shells to Jo but she lives in a persnickity community which might find their odor offensive. Plus, Smith, your wife might object to the odor emanating from the garden tub.

However, they are a product of Canada by way of GlosterMA however it is spelled. Sold under trade name of Neptunes Harvest. I buy it and dried kelp in 50 lb bags. In the summer when it is sweltering hot, UPS sends a special truck by early in the morning to get it out of their way. The fishy crab smell is said to permeate everything in the truck afternoon otherwise. Once it is blended with other ingredients, I discern nothing objectionable.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:42AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

lol, Mocc! I would have an army of persnickety kitties come visit me gardens if I introduced crushed crab shells to my mix..wouldn't that smell drive them crazy! My imagination is in overdrive, lol

Ken, your remarks had me re-reading Devon's post....I think you missed something when reading ... this structure is being built primarily to house/over winter his potted hosta for the coming winter...and double as a shaded growing area for the upcoming summer. As you stated, it will be awhile yet before it's safe for them for life outdoors.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b


Great work on your shelter/growing area. I too, am a little curious about what you will use to cover it. I would suggest at least 6 mil greenhouse rated plastic for the winter and 60% shade cloth for the summer.

For wintering over, dormant Hostas need no water. A handful of snow won't hurt if the mix is bone dry, but you don't want to give them more impetus to start any earlier than they will. Because the plants in that structure will start early. It should increase your zone by at least 2. So the plants in that structure will begin about at the same time as Phil's plants in North Carolina. That's OK, as long as you are willing to care for them inside the structure until your last frost date is past. They'll just need water and fert when they begin to grow. I wouldn't worry about the amount of sun they get in March and April at your latitude. At that time of year the intensity of the sun is much less. I doubt very much if you will see any leaf burn from full sun at that time of year.

It looks like you are having fun. Keep it up.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Take my leafed out hostas into this not so stable weather? What do you think I am? Crazy? (don't answer that)

This is for the ones that are outside in pots that are not sure if it is Spring yet and to have a nice shaded area to keep them in until I find more permanent locations. I have a number of them that had started to come up and were taken out by the most recent cold spell. I am going to start doing some major repotting in my new media. The current stuff makes my pots too heavy to lug around and is not the most efficient at drainage. Does the weight thing sound familiar Ken? I remember you mentioning that in an old post of mine when I was discussing what I was using then.

I still have the twenty-one 20' 1-1/2" PVC bows to set up this summer. If I can talk my in-laws in to it, I would like to set up three 12' x 24' sections on the east side of the barn. One I want to fill and plant all of my seedlings in and the other two would be used for potted plants. If I set them up with 4' spacing in between them and connect them across the tops with 1-1/2" PVC to hold shade material I could have a very large area to raise hostas in and have a place to safely keep them during the winter and maybe have one section that I could partially heat during early spring to get a head start on the ones I want to sell at the local farmers markets. Our area is lacking in places to buy high quality, multi-variety, affordable hostas and I am a stay-at-home Papa that has two children that love to dig in the dirt with me.

As far as the structure I just built, I have some 5 quart jugs of used motor oil in the garage that I am going to paint black and will leave them setting out in the sun during the day and if it looks like the overnight temperature is going to get down around freezing I will put them in the structure and cover the whole thing with some 4 mil plastic that I already own. Next winter I would like to cover it with the white greenhouse plastic and buy 6 mil UV rated greenhouse plastic to do it right. I installed wirelock bar all the way around it for that purpose. Also, If it looks like the cold is going to be around for a few days I will just put my heat mats under those jugs to keep it above freezing during that time. I already have a box made up with a dimmer switch and a double outlet so I can control the amount of output from the heat pads. (I know, crazy!)

I tried the Neptunes Harvest on some of my seedlings indoors and I don't think I will be using that inside again!

As far as my homemade potting mix goes it seems like it is doing really well. The next set of pictures show less than one weeks worth of growth on my newly aquired hostas.

H. 'Great Arrival'

H. 'Ice Follies' & H. 'Rubies and Ruffles'

Let me say again, I really like this board. It is a great place to share our love of hostas and all our other gardening passions!

And yes I am having fun. It has been going on two years since I made the change from Production Engineer to stay-at-home Dad and I think Dora, Bob and Doc McStuffins was starting to get to me!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 3:50PM
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ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida

You put a new slant on garden tub. Great start on the hoop house. You need a door, so to speak. It will keep the frame from not coming down hard on the plants. Even with shade cloth the wind can take you places you may not want to go and it will bring you down twice as hard.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 4:18PM
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ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida

I also use AL's Gritty mix on everything. Roof support. We all sag a little sooner or later. This is my frame I used this past winter. I measure 12'x24'. The more support the better.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 4:25PM
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Paula, your cinder blocks are multipurpose. I suppose some PVC tubing is in my future too. Just later than sooner.

And Denis, when you mentioned using the Neptunes Harvest INDOORS, I really had a great chuckle. Whew, I bet that went over big with the lady o the house! hehehehehe

This is such a fun thread!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Mocc, I found that if you are going to start using PVC, go with electrical conduit. It is sunlight rated and much cheaper. The 10' pieces of 1/2" were only $1.43 each at Lowe's. 1/2" schedule 40 plumbing PVC is $0.25 a foot around here.

I picked up my 21 PVC bows used for $50.00 last fall. I had to drive almost 3 hours one way to get them, but it was worth it, they will make a 12' wide by 8' tall hoop house.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:01PM
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tHANKS for the info, Smith. Sunlight rated is a good thing here.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:23PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i figured the tub was laying out the backdoor from some half finished bathroom renovation.. silly me ... where is it.. in the dining room ... lol ..

listen close ... i move.. i take 1650 potted hosta... next hosta college.. i am the banquet speaker.. and i moan that i lost something like 9% ... blah.. blah.. blah ...

both your buddies.. wade and solberg ... come up to me after and say .. if they ONLY lost 9% per winter ... they would be rich ...

the biggest problem for both of them ... RODENTS EATING CROWNS IN UNHEATED GREENHOUSES....

i have thrown down the gauntlet.. now go figure it out ...

i also seem to recall that van said something along the lines of .... and you will have to verify this... pounds and pounds of bait killer .. and inches and inches of insulation above.. to keep them dormant as long as possible ....

and keep in mind.. there is no reason to close up the ends ... you really do not want any heat accumulation in that thing in winter ... in your zone ... [hardware cloth maybe.. but not plastic ...]


ps: who is devon.. you will always be smith to me ... mr studio ....

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Devon Green Thumb!

Don B.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:34PM
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