This is just ridiculous---tree roots!

newhostalady Z6 ON, CanadaAugust 12, 2013

I decided to remove one of my blue NOIDs due to overcrowding. I am going to plant it in a pot for now. Wouldn't you know this 15 minute job is going to turn out to be an over an hour job! I took tons of tree roots off of the root ball, but now the remaining are even harder to remove! The picture shows the exposed roots of the hosta. Everything else in between is just packed with roots! I am having a hard time. My back is stressed. I'm taking a break for lunch and have left the root ball soaking in water. Just ridiculous! Grrrrrr. Knew you'd understand.

P.S. I have heard about spinout bags. I am looking into getting some of those.

This post was edited by newhostalady on Mon, Aug 12, 13 at 14:16

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Babka NorCal 9b

A good forceful spray of water (like your thumb on the end of a hose) will wash away the soil so you can remove those tree roots. I so sympathize with the sore back making these tasks less than delightful. Despite the tree roots, that looks like a very healthy hosta!


    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 3:04PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Not a fun job! Once you hose off all the dirt, the tree roots will be more visible and you'll be able to tease them free...tedious but at the same time, rewarding once the job is done. THEN, you'll just have to reward yourself with an adult drink for a job well done, right?? Lol lol

I have to rescue a Plantaginea for the same reason. She is so dwarfed its almost comical. I spent good time prepping the area...dug up and tore out all kinds of roots last summer. The area was so lovely, tree-root-free! She is planted more than 6feet away from my maple, you'd think enough space, right? The fibrous roots from that darn tree reach 12-15 feet across into the bed!!! Anyway, there are plenty of us with that problem. I decided hosta in pots imbedded in ground is the way I'll go at this.

You have my sympathy, NHL!
Nice plant though and nice roots!
Jo :-)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 3:07PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Thanks Babka and Jo for your advice, positive encouragement and sympathy!

The job is complete! Unfortunately some of the hosta roots broke off---it really was very entwined. (In the picture, roots on the left were in the root ball and the roots on the right were what I had to remove to get even close.) But even with a few less roots, I think the hosta will be much happier now. I knew there were going to be roots, but not that many! That hosta has been in that spot for not more than two years. I was thinking that it was slow because it was a blue hosta! The tree roots fooled me again.

Jo, I have two very large maple trees in my backyard and it took me a long time to figure out that the roots were affecting almost all of my plants. The ones that I have put in pots have done so much better. I think you will agree with me.

I plan to get spinout bags and see how well they do for me.

I have decided to have an afternoon coffee, but my back says "choose the adult drink!" LOL

Jo, I see that you are in Ontario, Canada? So am I. I would send you an email, but your member page has not been set up to allow them. If you change that, I would email you.

This post was edited by newhostalady on Mon, Aug 12, 13 at 16:01

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 3:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what kind of tree???


    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 4:04PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

I was told my trees are Sugar Maple trees. Great for shading our home and reducing our airconditioning bills, but for plants, terrible, terrible, terrible!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 4:32PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I'd welcome email from another "neighbour"..quicker to give it haven't enabled email option because I simply didn't think of it..I just looked up member info and found email addresses that way...I should enable it though...thanks for the reminder...

BTW...the sore back deserves something stronger than coffee...written by yours truly resting hers right now!!! Trust me, you'll feel better lol

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 4:36PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I'll try pot and you'll spin? Lol

Never heard of spinout bags till I joined this forum...members seem to like them....quite effective...please let me know what you think once you've tried them.

That's a terrific job you did on that hosta! Aside from the back, don't you feel great, rescuing that beauty? Of course you do! Now, sip, swallow, another sip...scotch neat does it for me! Back never felt better..tee hee hee. :-)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 4:46PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

that wasnt you.. a week or 10 days back.. when i said tree roots.. said they said ..... pshaw???? .. come on.. be honest ...

you really ought to perfect pot growing.. winter storage is pretty easy ... start a new post if you are interested .. i dont want the pot peeps to inundate this post.. if you have no interest ....

i THINK the spin out bags.. are.. get this.. made in canada.. but NOT AVAILABLE in canada ... but maybe i dreamed that .. lol ... i dont keep my canadian fact in active brain cells... its all so foreign to me.. lol ...



    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 5:23PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Jo: "I just looked up member info and found email addresses that way." I didn't know that! Thanks for letting me know.

"I'll try pot and you'll spin?" You pot and I'll pot and spin! Joking aside, I think that spinout bags may have an advantage as they will allow moisture in from surrounding soil whereas the pot will not. I had heard of a pot within a pot method. This would allow pots to be lifted out and exchanged with another pot. I like that idea, but I could never find pots that would be the right color or the size was wrong.

Yes I am happy about rescuing that blue hosta, but a little sad to have torn some of its roots. I am now worried about the hosta that was planted next to it, an Earth Angel, that I just love. When time allows, I plan to pot or put the Earth Angel in a spinout bag (when I get one). I should take before and after pictures! I always love seeing everyone elses.

Sorry Ken, that wasn't me posting 10 days ago or so. Honest! I agree that I have no choice but to seriously consider using pots. I have many new hosta in pots and I dare not plant them in the soil. I am planning to keep them in their pots as long as I can.

Regarding the spinout bags, I believe that you are right---that they are made in Canada---but we can't get them. Now that too is just so ridiculous!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 8:38PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I am of the opinion (not a very popular one) that growing hosta under maples can be done very successfully. I think you just have to choose a hosta that can compete with the roots. My Elegans is about ten years old now and is three separate plants (Seed propagation? I only bought one) I have divided it into 5 additional plants; 3 huge and 2 getting there. Each division is doing well with one right at the trunk of a Crimson King Maple. My original (pictured) is right up against trunk of a Schwedler Norway maple. The trio is about nine feet long.

Here it is......

The bark on the far right is the trunk of the maple. I think if you choose a tough hosta it will compete and do well. My only experience is with the Elegans, but I doubt it is the only hosta up to the challenge.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 9:31PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Thanks Jon. I do believe you that it can be done. Thanks for letting me and forum members know. But I have to wonder whether the roots are different near the trunk opposed to the outer limits of the treeline. I have never planted anything very near to the trunk of these trees. I know that my trees are over 50 years old. Is yours very old too?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 10:58PM
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I also agree with johnnyb023. I have 6 Plantaginea up against 2 maples. Creating a hosta ring. They have done well. I attribute it to a couple things: 1- I don't water those hostas. They just get what mother nature provides. So if we have a dry summer then they suffer along with the trees. This way the trees don't take water from the hosta because I'm not providing any additional moisture. 2- I only do this with the old "work-horses" of the hosta world. This is not a location for for many hostas.

My maples and hosta ring:

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 9:18AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

That makes absolute sense! Leaf could not have said it better and what great timing for this post! Wise, very you, Yoda! :-)

When I first moved to this location 10 years ago, the Norway Maple (it can go back to Norway) the city planted was subdivision, new trees.... I read somewhere that for the first ten years of a newly planted tree, one must water deeply to develop deep roots/tap roots. This I did...i even built a garden around it...(idiot me) ....each subsequent summer I'd wake with the birds daily and get out there and water....I WAS TOO KIND and a little naive.

So now I have the most wonderfully canopied tree on the street...but as we know, the bigger the canopy, the wider the root system! I created more of a problem with roots overtaking my garden than I would have had I not "babied" this tree from the outset much to my chagrin!!!!!!

For the past two years, I've removed hosta, lilies, heuchera etc from under the tree thereby eliminating virtually any additional water other than what Mother Nature provides. The various low growing sedums, hens n chicks, festuca, pussy-toes and annual portulaca fend for themselves quite nicely without my interference. I've learned my lesson!

fast forward to 2013...NOW that I'm up to speed on these spin out bags.....and Leaflovers logic, plus all the additional wise advice from numerous forum members.....well, who knows???? Maybe, if one is so inclined, one CAN grow hosta successfully in the vicinity of any darn (or not so darn) tree!

Hmmmmm...with all the work I have undertaken in the garden lately, I won't even entertain that last comment!!! at least, not this year! LOL

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 10:00AM
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I have been relocating several of my hosta. I have been surprised that the ones near my silver maple have very few tree roots in them.

I dug up some Vanilla Cream planted near a Balsam Fir, and they were almost all tree roots. I hear everyone talking about maples, didn't realize pine trees were so bad.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 5:55PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

I do recall walking around my neighborhood last year and seeing hostas planted around the base of a tree. I wondered how they were able to do that! Now I'm not walking in the neighborhood anymore and instead sitting at the computer (bad girl!).

Thanks for posting your picture leaflover76.

I have heard that trees can be quite different in regards to their roots. Some have very deep roots. I don't know about pine trees, but I can tell you birch trees and cedars are bad for roots. And I have those too!

Also, just to show you how large my maple tree is here is a picture. My Patriot is approx. 2 feet wide and the tree is a bit wider (2 1/2 feet). And I have two of them like that!

Jo, looks like pots and spinout bags are it for you!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 10:43PM
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I'm not at all certain what variety of pine trees I have, but they have been quite hosta-friendly. Their roots seem to be deep, and not fiberous. I don't encounter roots very often when digging/planting under them. I'm grateful.

Don B.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 11:28PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

It's been my experience that the roots near the base of trees (red maple. Eastern hemlock. & apple) are primarily "structure" whereas those further away are the "feeder" (problem) roots.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:10AM
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Never heard of problems with birch tree roots. Here is my paper birch with many hostas around it.

I have planted: First Frost, Francee, Summer Fragrance and Sugar Daddy (behind).

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:36AM
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bernd ny zone5

Most of my hostas grow under 4 large Eastern White Pines without problems. Some hostas under red and silver maples show problems due to tree roots after a few years, and maple roots can reach very far from the trunks. Bernd

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 8:47AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Squirejohn, I think you hit it right on! It seems that near the base of the trunk are large roots primarily stabilizing, supportive tree roots. And then there are the feeder roots.

Leaflover76, I know there are a lot of different types of birch trees and some may be better than others for invasive tree roots. But I am talking about mature birch trees and mature maple trees. And my two birch trees are mature and they are hell to plant under. Each of those trees have a planting around them, but I am not happy with it because it is usually very dry and each year there are roots to break apart. In fact one of them has undulata univittata around them and they are stressed! I want to remove those hosta, but wouldn't you know, my husband says that he likes them! That's because he doesn't know what they really look like in ideal conditions. Besides, I would choose to cut down one of the clumps of birch trees, but my husband brought it from the cottage his father used to have. The other one is a city owned tree.

I was just reading an article about tree roots saying that many tree roots grow laterally along the top of the soil because the soil is too compacted to penetrate. And perhaps water is a factor too. I am itching to tell my neighbors who planted a maple tree (oh my gosh!) last year to water deeply once a week to encourage a deeper root system. Get this: they said they had a maple tree planted because they liked ours! If they would have asked me, I would have told them to plant something else!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:35AM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)


The situation that you had/are having is identical to mine. In 2013 I pulled out two hostas that I planted too close to a maple tree and the tree roots were severely entangled in the hosta roots. I ordered the spin out bags and I turned them inside out and covered a black nursery pot with it and replanted the hostas in the same location.

This year I planned to lift the pot out and see what has happened. If the roots haven't entangled themselves in the fabric, then it has worked as the bag is supposed to repel roots.

Do you think one year is enough time to get a true picture?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 11:03AM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Coll is the one who does the most pots in the ground. If she shows up, ask her to do some photos. You might be able to find some of her posts by searching. She usually does lots of photos.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:31PM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)

I did ask Coll last year and she said that she builds up the soil around the tree. She commented on the fact that you 'aren't supposed to do that' but it has worked for her. I don't think she has lots of maples but I seem to recall quite a few birch but I could be wrong. Clearly, we need some new photos from Coll! hint, hint

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 2:07PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Hello Paula.
In my own experience, the roots from my Maple trees are in most of my backyard garden beds (except one) every year. In the past, when I have turned over the soil in spring, it's been crunch, crunch, crunch---the breaking up of fine roots---every single year! So if you have the same problem as I have, then one year is enough time to see if roots are invading your pots/bags.

Do I understand you correctly---you potted the hosta and then put a spin out bag over that? May I ask why?

I have several spin out bags in use now. This year I too will be lifting some of them to have a peek. Perhaps we can compare notes after doing this?

As for raising the soil around a tree, one should only raise it a couple of inches or so each year. But if you have the kind of root invasion I have, no amount of soil raising will deter the roots from mature Maples.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:55AM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)

Hi Newhostalady,

I place the hosta pot inside of the inverted bag. Nurseries use the bags the other way to stop the roots of whatever they are growing inside the pot from trying to get outside of the pot. In my case I invert the bag to stop the roots from the tree from getting inside of the pot. I hope that makes sense. Here is a pic of the work in progress last year.
Digging out the Tokudama

The pots in their spin out bags

The maple roots that I detangled out of the hosta roots.

I think comparing notes is a great idea.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 1:16AM
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Great thread. I would like to chime in on trees. I have been growing under one freeman maple (cross between red and silver) and one silver maple. I have had luck with only two hosta so far, Elegans and Fragrant Blue. They are probably smaller than they would be under a friendlier tree.

I also grow next to spruce, fir and pine and they are different. Pine is a garden friendly plant where as spruce and fir are not as nice - but still way better than the maples. I successfully grow Krossa Regal, Francee and Royal standard between a spruce and a fir and they are quite large.

I too am considering spin out bags. I did here from a person hosting a garden tour that the root inhibitor only lasts 3 or so years and then the hosta has to fend for itself. However I really want to remove the freeman maple in the back yard. I think I have convinced my husband that it is too close to the house for such a large (but beautiful) tree. I can't believe I picked that tree out.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:06AM
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I feel your pain, having two Norway maples I garden under. Nevermind the digging, its the seedlings that kill me.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:39AM
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Pines that I'm familiar with have tap roots. They seldom get uprooted in hurricanes, but their tops are twisted off, or nearly so by its winds. Not too many surface roots to deal with, but some. I love the long needles that our pines grow, and it makes excellent cover for flower beds, keeping the soil much cooler and not providing a habitat for slugs. The acid loving plants grown around here benefit from a layer of pine straw. Things like azaleas, camellias, blueberries, strawberries, hydrangea, and such. I dearly miss the pines from our yard which we had to cut down to keep the insurance company happy. Otherwise we would have had a hard time getting wind coverage....there were 4 pines a good 80-100 feet tall, 2 sweet gum, and 1 water oak.

While Mobile has a tree ordinance, the arborist got the permits for all these trees as a matter of safety of power lines and property. The water oak and sweet gums were hollow inside and very weak. Now I'm planting shorter when mature trees and using umbrellas for hosta shading. Everybody tries to get that proper balance!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 10:13AM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)

Beverly, thanks for the tips on the survival stories; adaptation is the best option by far. Perhaps 3 years for the root inhibitor is enough to get a strong start for the hosta? It remains to be seen.

undbidden, love your garden and I agree, the seedlings are brutal, I have to sift everywhere to get rid of them. They literally make a carpet every year and find the tiniest nooks and crannies to get into.

Moccasin, I learn so many things on this forum regarding other areas of the planet that I wouldn't otherwise have enough thought of! Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:18PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Thanks for sharing your pictures with us Paula

I don't think I phrased my question to you clearly. I am wondering why you use the pot and bag together? Why not just use the bag by itself? Wouldn't that allow for better drainage?

The tree differences you experience (in regards to tree roots) is very interesting Beverly. It goes to show that some hostas can perform in difficult and varied conditions. I had not heard that the root inhibitor in the spin out bags lasts only three years. I will see what I can find out.

Beverly, since you were able to convince your husband to remove your freeman maple tree, maybe you could convince mine to remove our birch tree clump? LOL! We have two birch tree clumps in our front yard, and they too have shallow root systems. I have been trying to enlarge a bed in the front, but am experiencing the same problem as with the maple trees in my backyard.

Unbiddenn, oh yes those seedlings! All last season our two huge sugar maple trees dropped those whirlybirds. They were everywhere, every day. I am still picking them out of the hosta pots this spring. Messy . . . m e s s y . . . M -E -S -S -Y !!!!!!!

Moc, your post brought me back to about five years ago when my husband and I were cleaning up my father-in-law's home after his passing. It was a large ravine lot (how many hostas I could have planted there!). It had about six very large spruce trees. Within months two of them came down. Luckily no one was hurt and there was no property damage. What a mess to clean up---twice! So I can see why the insurance company wanted your trees to be removed.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:56PM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)

newhostalady, I used the pots for several reasons. 1. I can concentrate watering and I can ensure that any fertilizer stays with the hosta 2. I can remove the hosta from the ground easily 3. I can use whatever 'soil' I choose and 4. the space for the hosta roots can be maintained. The maple roots might not get past the spin out bags but maybe it can push it? I have no idea, I just thought that it gave the hosta roots better protection.
I live in Uxbridge on the Oak Ridges moraine and there is a lot of sand here so drainage has never been a problem.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:15PM
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Paula, So how big of a pot and how thick. I can't imagine one of my thin black nursery pots to not be cracked by a maple root. Do you buy your pots? I think I might experiment, some bags and some pots - its going to be a lot of work digging those holes.

Newhosta lady, I don't have birch because all of the old birch in my neighborhood look terrible. I'm sure they were multistem trunks at one time but now they are obviously missing parts and look sickly (many have been removed). I believe the age of the birch to be about 30 years (to replace those elms damaged by dutch elm disease 30 years ago). When and if this happens to your clump you can probably talk him into removing them but I can't see removing a healthy, beautiful clump. I wish more oak had been planted then instead of birch, spruce and silver maple.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:28AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Thanks for giving the reasons you pot and bag, Paula. I did actually pot and bag one hosta, but otherwise I have just put the hosta or plant in the spin out bag. I will be removing the pot and bagged one (if it survives) because I feel that drainage may be a problem. (We have clay type soil, but have been adding amendments for several years now.) My second most favorite hosta (Paul's Glory) is in the same location as the pot and bagged hosta, but it is just in a spin out bag. It might be interesting to see how they both did, considering they are practically side by side.

I had not considered that the maple roots could "push" against the bag. That is an interesting concept. I also never considered that the fertilizer I applied would leach out into surrounding areas. In fact, I figured that the bag would help contain the fertilizer. These are things we will need more time to figure out.

Beverly, you said "I can't see removing a healthy, beautiful clump" of birch trees. Let me paint the picture and see if you change your mind:

Our backyard has two huge, mature maple trees. They affect all the soil in the whole backyard. After we purchased the house, I said one of those trees has to come down! But 25 years later, they are both still there. In fact, my husband built our patio around one of the trees.

Now in the front yard, we have a mature ash and two clumps of birch---one city owned, and one my husband planted about 20 years ago. So when I wanted to expand my hosta bed (never enough room, right?), I thought I would put in a large bed in my front yard. I have discovered the birch trees are just as bad as the maples! I am very disappointed. The only tree we could freely remove is one of those birch clumps. It began with a clump of six. We are now at 4. My husband agrees to cut one of the four remaining, but I don't think that that will make any difference at all. The soil is always dry there and it is filled with a lot of little roots. So the bottom line for me is: life is short; hostas bring me so much joy. How can I plant more hostas? So now, I ask you again: Can you help me convince my husband that the birch tree clump should go? (LOL) I would be happy to plant a hosta friendly tree to replace it!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:32PM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)

newhostalady, I would be i interested in the results of your pot/no pot experiment..

If the root inhibitor only lasts for 3 years, I thought that perhaps then, the roots might 'push' the bag but not before.

Fortunately my soil has never had a problem with drainage. Our home is on land which was previously a farm and the soil is really good and in addition, I amend it every year with plenty of organic matter.

With regards to the fertilizer, I was comparing no pot and bag to natural earth but I am sure just the bag would help contain most of the fertilizer as well.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:04PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

The info I received with my roll of Tex-R Agroliner (Spin-Out) states "...can be re-used multiple times."

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 7:08AM
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I realize that the "three years or so" that I quoted above is just one person's experience with the product. I tried to confirm that with another hosta grower who has used them who merely replied "it doesn't last forever". I imagine you can reuse the fabric - but realize that it might not repel roots as effectively as it did to start with. Also, one person's experience doesn't make a rule - its just information from which we can make our decisions.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 5:32PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

I Agree - just posting info from Texel.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 7:11AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Paula, I was thinking that in three years the hosta may need to have a larger spin out bag. So if the roots start pushing at the bag after three years, it won't really matter.

That brings me to another question---should the spin out bag be as large as the hosta roots are expected to be or should the bag be smaller at first? Does anyone know?

As for my pot/no pot experiment, I have had to conclude that experiment. The back of my garden has been quite moist since thawing. I think that it is wetter than it has been in the recent past due to the volume of snow we received this winter. I have been worrying about whether it would be too wet for the hostas and some of my other plants. So after hearing the amount of rain we were just about to receive, I decided to pull out some of my spin out bags from the garden and place them in a dryer spot.

What I noticed was that it seemed like the tree roots were stuck onto the bag which made it more difficult to remove the bag from the earth. But as far as I could tell, no roots were able to get into the bag, and all was good. The only place that roots had entered the pot was at the top. One of my spin out bags was buried too low. With the rain and snow, part of the bag was buried. It was at that point that tree roots did enter the spin out bag. I also discovered that pulling out a spin out bag was more difficult than pulling out a pot in a spin out bag. So after one year, no roots have penetrated the bag or the pot in the bag (other than from the top).

The rain has stopped for several hours now. The holes where the spin out bags were located are stilled filled with a few inches of water. I am glad that I removed some of the spin out bags, but I worry for the hostas and plants remaining. My Sagae is still in ground in a very large pot. I hope that it will be OK.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:37PM
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paula_b_gardener 5b_ON(5b)


It sounds like it was a good idea to remove them. I am glad to hear that the roots were unable to penetrate the bag nor the pot/bag.

Removing the hostas in the pots is a lot easier as they tend to slide in and out quite easily. This is something that I would normally do when it is dry, as that is when I tend to be out in the garden moving things around. With pots, you have that option.

Thanks for the update.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:46PM
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