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Re: Organic Mix for Hostas?

  • Subject: Re: Organic Mix for Hostas?
  • From: Len Phillips <lenphillips@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 16:03:46 -0700 (PDT)

Bobby, I would take a completely different approach.

I like to grow my hostas in black nursery pots.  That way I am able to
keep the roots separate and provide my special soil mix just to the hosta
pots and not all the soil around the tree roots.  The plants in pots are
planted under the tree, and the pots should be tucked in among the roots
and buried to the top of the pot so it is hidden by mulch or the soil
level.  The pots can be set in a manner which protects the tree roots from
being cut unnecessarily, so the tree stays healthy and the hostas are not
bothered by the tree roots at all.  

My special soil mix consists of 1/3 rich garden loam, 1/3 composted
organic matter (such as your composted horse manure), and 1/3 gravel or
perlite for drainage.

Watering is less as well since the pots are buried and hold moisture
longer than if they were growing in the soil.  Fertilizer is added to my
special soil mix and does not get consumed by the tree's roots.  Another
advantage is that the hostas can be considered portable so I can move them
easily if I don't like the way they look in the garden, they need a
different companion, or they aren't doing well in a particular location. 
When doing some cross breeding it is easy to move the two plants close
together.  Still another advantage is dealing with little critters.  One
of my hosta beds is in a major vole nesting area.  Yet the animals have
never (yet) gotten into the pot to eat the hosta roots.  They burrow
around the pots but they never go underneath them to discover the drainage
holes and the delicious treat that they could have.  Hostas in this same
area, not in pots were completely wiped out.
 
The disadvantage of the hostas in pots concept is that they have to be
lifted or the pots rotated once a year to prevent the surrounding tree
roots from getting into the pots through the drainage holes.  I lift my
hosta pots with a shovel, acting as a lever, on the outside of the pot.  I
lift them in the late summer to early fall every year.  I first remove any
circling tree roots on the outside of the pot, then I check inside the pot
to be sure the hosta still has lots of root space.  If need be, I re-pot
the plant in a larger pot.  If the plant needs dividing, I do that at the
same time.
 
It doesn't really take that much time either.  All my new plants stay in
the pots they came in, or if I am getting bare root plants, I pot them up
when I get them.  During one week of effort, I timed my annual
inspection/re-potting process.  It took me 30 hours to go through 250
hostas.  This included the time I spent potting up over 200 plants for
sale.

Some people have asked me what size pot do you use and where do you get
them from.  I like to use a pot that would cover the top of the plant
without touching any leaves.  It may be a larger than necessary pot but
the plants do better with more than enough soil.  I get the pots from
either our local recycling center that has a "take it or leave it area",
or I ask several of my landscape contractor friends if I can have all of
their old pots.  They will even deliver them for free because they are so
happy to not have to pay to dispose of them.
 
I hope this helps you in dealing with your tree root problem.  If you have
any questions, please let me know.  

Len

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