Getting ready for winter check-list

hostaLes(5)October 5, 2012

With this wild, hot and dry summer beginning in late March, I've been thinking of what I might do to prepare for the winter. I think some of our lurkers and newbie hostaholics (including moia) could use some advice. SO PLEASE ADD TO MY MEAGER LIST BELOW: I plead you!

-make sure the hostas are securely marked so in the spring when doing cleanup they aren't stepped on. Also if a hosta is to be moved in spring it can be found before unfurling. I use painted river rocks for markers so a plastic leaf rake in spring doesn't move them. Once the leaves die back I move the rocks right to the edge of the crowns since when leafed out I move them out so they can be seen.

-Provide cover for the winter in the hosta beds? What is the consensis on this? Leaves may provide a home for slugs and ugs.

We have had a good, not great year creating compost with the improved 3 section bin. Once we received some rain our neighbors, who bag their lawn (ugh) cuttings have begun giving them to us. Along with the garden waste and table scrap (pronounce it with or without the "s" as you wish) his first two large loads are still a little wet but totally black and what is in the finished bin is totally finished.

Even if almost done, should we spread the compost in the "in-process bin" over our hosta beds and let it finish over-winter there, or should we move it to the 'finished bin" and let it compost over winter? We will be needing the main bin for the load of green clippings already in the "raw bin" and the shredded brown fall leaves and garden waste, plus at least one more load of grass clippings from Terry & Bobbi.

Les and Theresa

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MadPlanter1 zone 5

Good ideas, Les and Theresa. Rocks are hard to come by here, so I'll substitute red flag markers. Between the turkeys digging for food, frost heave, and removing debris in spring, plant tags tend to vanish. I'll be making a new what's-planted-where map while I still know where everything is. Can't wait to see advice from more advanced hosta gardeners.

I don't cover the hostas, but we have so many leaves they get a blanket anyhow. Fortunately we live in the country and have no neighbors to complain. The ones that fall on the driveway and steps are carted to the compost pile.

There's a hard freeze the next two nights, and I'm so happy. 2012 has been the year from hell. After a mild winter that left every plant munching bug and bunny alive, spring arrived 6 weeks early . The raccoons dug up what they didn't get, then we had weeks in the 95-106 degree range with no rain. We're still in exceptional drought with no rain in the forecast. Time to close the book on a rotten year and hope for better things.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:10AM
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Les, I would not put the unfinished compost over the garden just yet. Let it finish.

Thinking of a hard freeze in the next two nights, as MadPlanter anticipates, is mind-bending. I think it was 90 here yesterday.

I must get busy potting the new arrivals from WadeGatton, which will require pots with a LOT of root room. I'm looking at one generous division from the previous order, Bennie McRae, a nice fragrant hosta, and I think it truly needs a bigger pot already. LOVE those fragrant hosta!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 9:44AM
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The greenhouse is stuffed, all the tropicals are inside. I rake the leaves off the paths but leave them over the beds and mow them on the lawns. Compost pile has been flipped and I have an empty bin waiting for fall debris and leaves. Just waiting for a hard freeze to cut back the perennials and clean up the annuals. I still have trays of seedling hostas to do something with, I probably will stick a few in the ground and repot the rest. They will spend the winter in my cold frame.

Soon it will be time to get out the chipper shredder for the excess leaves and top off the mulch.

Oh yes and cleaning up piles of oak twigs that the squirrels are csattering all over. They seem intent on pruning the tops out of all the oak trees this year. Wonder what's up with that? Darn nuisance is what it is!

Speaking of squirrels, I have had to put chicken wire around all the new fall planted hostas to keep the devils from digging them up. Grr.

It hasn't been that cold here yet, but this weekend promises to be chilly and rainy with lows in the mid-thirties, so it is starting to catch up with us. First time this year that we are having "normal" weather!

I think I'll be spending this weekend in my nicely just-cleaned-reorganized studio, making something fun! That and a pot of ham & beans are on my winter check list!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 9:55AM
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prairie_chick(3b MB)

Here's what I'm looking at out my front door today. I don't expect it to stay for more than a day or two, but that certainly brings home the fact that I don't have a lot of time to complete those winter checklists. Still need to clean off dead foliage, mark some plants, remove ornaments from the garden...


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:41AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Manitoba in October? It really looks pretty.

Mosswitch, I think you are right about squirrels digging up hostas. We have always had lots of walnuts but this years drought we didn't have many. I think it was squirrels that dug up our little DQ rescues and ate them.

Les wants to know who knows who Bnnie McRae is. Are there Chicago Bear fans out here?

I have a ham bone that I need to throw out because I didn't make a big pot of ham, barley and bean soup. I just didn't think to freeze it. Shame!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:48PM
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I'm nearly up to speed with my checklist. One more thing, though...Plant this beautiful beast of a 'Gosan Sunproof'in the morning......Hallson comes through bigtime once again (also a Rosedale Golden Goose and a bonus Elvis Lives)...Any advice or pointers for planting this biggie would be much appreciated... I ask because quite honestly, I dont think Ive ever planted AFTER the temps dropped so suddenly...I know to water very generously until the hard-freeze hits;good planting "dirt", of course, and....?

Does anybody in the forum own a Gosan Sunproof? After seeing and holding it, I'm very impressed with it. When it eventually fills out, should be quite impressive...

Regards, everyone, I hope all our hostas hibernate happily and emerge to seasonal temps, as opposed to record highs every other day. Talk to you all later, thanks for helping out the rookie, I appreciate that.

Don B.
Westminster, CO

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

Last on my checklist is to collect seed pods. Task completed this afternoon. They're in envelopes, labeled, and sitting in the freezer.

Speaking of Goosan Sunproof -- here it is, third year. I got mine in the fall of 2010 from Chris at Hallsons. Due to it's late planting in 2010, 2011 was a sleep year. I think it did more than creep this year:


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:35PM
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Gesila(MI Z5)

Oops, just noticed I spelled "Gosan" incorrectly.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:38PM
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Good looking plant, Gesila. And Don, your big dude is amazing with its tall petioles as well.

You will really enjoy Rosedale Golden Goose. I got one from Hallson (bonus plant) this year too, and it is holding up well in our heat, has fantastic substance, totally tough leaves, and it stayed golden all season. I'll check out the latest photo of it for you.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 10:53PM
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Oops, sorry about straying a bit here.

In my winter check list, I'm inspecting containers for adequate drainage. If the soil is soggy, I'm either drilling more holes or changing the soil and moving the container to a better spot.

I'm removing all the pecans, all the sweet gum balls, all the camphor tree pomes from the pots. Then too, assessing the general health of the plant. The marginal plants are set aside in their own cluster, prepatory to deciding if it is plant I want to replace or not, should it come to that.

Some recap of what happened this year is also important to note. I'm making notes on the index what happened to that plant this year. For instance, Totally Twisted had the misfortune to have a rotten pecan limb fall on it, setting it back a bit. Several more were infiltrated by fire ants, and by the time I discovered the invasion, the condition was critical. Several of those were beautiful until then.

Assessing what chemicals to plan on getting next year, and study up on how to use them, if any are multipurpose, can I eliminate any. That's a winter project, not preparation.

Find a good dictionary stand for the Hostapedia. I need it close to my desk, but don't want to have it on my lap or covering the desk. So maybe a little roller cart? My lighter references can go below all in one spot. No longer cookbooks but hosta books populate my reading list.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 11:21PM
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The winter checklists seem well thought through ...

In my situation, we invariably get reliable snow cover, and in the shade, that snow will stay till the spring when feeze thaw isnt really an issue. Accordingly I like to remove all debris, leaves and needles etc leaving the areas of hosta growth bare. I dont want to harbour mice or other critters that might chew away.

The other thing that I do is watch the water in the soil. I shut down the irrigation system in late September as I need to pull the hose and sandpoint from the river while I can still bear the cold of the water. In that sense, the soil can dry out although cooler days and fall rains may keep it moist. If a few days go by without rain I try to water by hand the driest areas (ie areas so shaded by pines that little rain seems to get through to the soil underneath).

I usually add compost top dressing in spring to the garden areas most acidic but beyond that I don't fertilize as I rely on the lightly fertilized river water used in irrigation daily throught the season.

No snow yet ... but with the heavy frosts most hosta leaves have begun to show the onset of winter dormancy.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:14AM
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bernd ny zone5

I did not have a frost yet, only three temperatures between 36 and 40 are forecast for the next 10 days. So I am waiting for the killing frost, then let hosta leaves dry before I clean up the hosta landscape for winter.

Just yesterday I mowed the lawn and leaves, bagged it and filled up a compost bin, one bin is still empty, the third one is 2 1/2 ft x 3 ft x 3ft finished compost. Then I spread one can of BugGeta Plus around hostas. And last night maples dumped a lot of leaves, it is tough to time it right.

When all hostas are without leaves, I will clean up tree leaves from them. I then will spread finished compost, mulch and chopped-up leaves over the hostas. That's it then for winter. I like to get as much done as possible in Fall, there is much more time now than in Spring.

I plan to have my 4 pines limbed-up to get more light to plantings, perhaps also have one maple removed, need an estimate.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Thanks hosta gardeners. From your suggestions, and my own ideas, I have compiled a to do list.

Winter prep for hosta gardens

1. Take pictures of hosta gardens for reference and winter planning.

2. Cut back hosta to about 6-8 inches. Leaving that much to catch leaves and snow to act as a winter mulch. Otherwise, I don�t give winter protection to my hosta.

3. Mark hosta crowns with stakes. My husband, I notice, has a pile of wooden garden stakes he made, probably from scrap. I am going to use them this year as my plant labels aren�t ready, (winter project?)

2. Store container hosta for winter. Some I will sink into my vegetable patch as I did last two winters, and some I will use the hosta forum tip method (I decided to name it such without permission and apologize to any forum members who disagree): store sideways and the north side of my house under the eaves so they will stay frozen and dry all winter.

3. Take notes. From what needs to be moved next spring to where I think I could squeeze in a few more hosta. Also which annuals worked best as hosta companions. Many of my hosta are still immature and I like to fill with annuals and groundcovers.

4. Water thouroughly one last time. It has been dry and windy here and the soil doesn�t freeze until late November or December. We have had it better than some, but have had to water. If it doesn�t rain this week, I will water one last time. After October 15th, no more.

5. Make a large pot of chili, buy some Spanish red wine, make a fire and enjoy the last of the garden,.

Happy October
(Sorry, this got rather long winded.)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Beverly, making the chili is a really great touch. My DH does not like spicy foods or chili, so it puts a hitch in my cooking of spicy foods--which I learned to cook all those years in south Louisiana and south Texas too. I would love to be there at your last hurrah for the garden.

And I think "tipping" is as good a term as any I've seen so far....very short and to the point. Do some tipping with a glass...or bottle....of red wine....tipping, tipsy, tipple, what the hay, sounds good to me! :)

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 5:21PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Beverly-when our work is done (is it ever?) can moc and I come over and share your chili and sip with you? That just sounds soooooooo nice!
This needs to be on everyones list!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Interesting lists and a good topic.

In years past part of the fall chores was clipping spent scapes. Last fall I broke my foot and ankle, so that did not get done. Since I saw several species of birds enjoying the leftover seeds all winter, that chore is now a Spring clean-up item.

Picking up all the dead and dying Hosta leaves is entirely impractical here, just too much. Besides, why would I remove all that natural self-created mulch? We deal with slugs in other ways and the cats keep the rodents at bay.

There have been a few comments on plant labels in this thread. Some of them discuss keeping them from being 'mis-placed' over the winter. I've seen all but the buried ones 'move' or go 'poof'. Make those garden maps. Do it in pencil. Or you'll eventually be sorry!

I don't recall seeing any mention of wrapping shrubs and trees. We have to do that or the deer 'trim' them for us over the winter since the electric fence doesn't work then.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:27PM
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We also have to drain and protect our bird baths and fountains. Shove all the ones in pots real close together for 'thermal mass' reasons. Roll up and store all hoses. Gather, clean and store hummingbird feeders. Remove and store labels that are not 'winter wind' hardy (that's only in the 'for sale' area). Mark the driveway and snow storage areas for the plow guy. Hide rodent poison tablets in the rock piles for winter activity. Cut back hydrangeas and grape vines. Store tools in shed. Burlap small trees and shrubs that are otherwise deer food over winter. Re-check electric fence for damage, then repair (once the snow reaches the bottom wire it won't matter, but until then . . .). Flush herbs pots soils with mild Joy dishwasher solution and bring indoors. Collect, dry, and store seeds from Hosta, Morning Glory, heirloom veggies, etc. Dump hanging pot annuals dirt on compost heap. Collect bagged up leaves from the curbsides in town for dumping on compost heap. Cover current grassy areas with cardboard and weights for next years virgin planting beds.

As I get through these items others always pop up ;-)

The only reason I can make this list is because it's been and is going to be cold, rainy, windy, so I'm avoiding doing it now. I hate getting bonked by tree branches, hard pine cones, and becoming wind-blown wet fast. Besides, I don't like harvesting wet seed pods - they mold too easily.

I'll also be 'red-flagging' plants that I'll want to 'git after' right away next spring, before or just as they're nosing up.

Wish me luck beating the first big snow!



    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:15PM
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Good luck, hh. The word flying around here is that there is an expectation of a cold and snowy winter - not like this past winter. I keep records of the low and hi temps, rainfall etc. and graph them each month in relation to normal mean his and lows. I can spread out graphs covering the past 5 years and from appearances it is shaping up to be a cold, snowy winter. I haven't found a wooly-bear to ask yet though. If you have horses I have found early coat thickening to be a sure fire way to predict an early cold winter. Maybe we should add to our lists to go out and check horses. LOL

You gave me reason to spread my graphs out and I was amazed. On Thanksgiving last year our hi temp was in the low 80's. On New Years Eve it was 56. And on March 17 or abouts it was in the 80's. All this in northern Illinois. In July we had an 8 day stretch with 7 of them new all-time record high temps with several 100F or higher.

"The weather outside if frightful, but the fire is so delightful ----Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"
musically! I'm looking forward to it this fall.

Back as early as April this year I have a notation on my graph that I was seeing the pattern forming for an early drought. I sure didn't expect it to be as bad as it was though.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:01AM
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Oaks are dropping a ton of acorns here. Wooly bears have a big brown middle. Some mostly brown.

My curly horse started fuzzing out at the end of August.

It's spit snow a couple times already.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 7:36PM
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