Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 October (Second Edition)

Frost finally comes to the Inner City of St. Paul;
and I introduce a new project for this winter!
REMINDER: Readers must understand that I write this in fragments over the two weeks, the order of comments may appear out of sequence to events.

General Comments

First week of October brings to the Inner city of St. Paul a wave of late night upper 30ºF/-1.11ºC temperatures.  There's even a night with 35ºF/1.67ºC which makes me uneasy.  I try to focus on the fact that this is how the seasons change. I am hoping that my small garden can make it to the week of the 19th without frost.  A frost at this point would have a devastating effect on my Hosta - especially the ones planted this year.
  • October 2: Building spigot water has been shut down for the season.
  • October 4: Even with the National Weather Service sending out a Frost/Freezing warning our temperatures here are predicted to be ABOVE 32ºF/0ºC this evening.  Tonight I hold my breath to see what happens.
  • October 5: No frost yet!  The six day forecast says freezing weather by Thursday.
  • October 8: Frost date has been moved back to the 10th by regional forecasts.  This brings me an extra day to plan with.
  • October 9 and 10: United States Weather Service issues a Frost and Freezing warning.  Temperatures reached 35ºF/1.67ºC; it may not have occurred.

Frost Prevention - My Way

Frost … why might it be so bad?  Let me try to explain.  Frost is the first freezing of the winter season.  At this moment my garden is saturated with water.  Basic science says that when water becomes to cold it freezes.  If water in smaller plants freeze the cellular structure can burst.  Hosta has what is known as a crown. The crown of a hosta is just below the ground level and is the meeting point where the leaves meet the rhizomes.  Within this transition point there are things such as growth buds and scape buds.  In basic terms It is at this level that also regulates the plants health and internal water pressure.  If enough of any of these critical buds and regulation points in the plants are damaged the entire plant can collapse and possibly die.  If the plant passes into one of the latter phases the plant can also succumb to what is known as 'Crown Rot'.  IF the freeze did not kill of the plant - the rot certainly will.  Rot does not just take over the crown but it moves on to any other part of the healthy plant as well.  The chances of crown rot CAN be reduced.  Remember this blog is about hosta so the procedure here reflects hosta.

In the past you may have seen your neighbors frantically run outside to cover their plants with blankets and sheets on late fall days.  What these neighbors were doing was protecting their plants from …freezing and subsequently Crown Rot.  But rather than running around like a mad gardener I think there is a more calm, more sensible way of doing this. Below are my steps to control crown rot.  Remember to consult your cities, and neighborhoods, laws and policies before proceeding with this.

Supplies Needed:
  • Bricks.  Approximately one brick for every 3 feet off garden edge you have.  This includes the side of any building.
  • Acquire either a frost tarp or fabric, or even plastic sheeting - enough to cover the garden space.  Be ready to configure it so that you can pull it back and also restage it both later and conveniently!
  • Rolls of Duct Tape for both putting things in place and to prevent tearing.
  • A week before the first frost stop watering your plants.  This will permit the ground to possibly dry out.  One can not prevent it from raining.  Don't panic as there will be enough moisture in the atmosphere to sustain the ground conditions and your plants.
  • The same day you cut your garden back … also be ready to do the next steps:
  • Position your bricks in place.
  • Lay your covering out over the garden and trim it accordingly leaving an extra 6 inches on outer edges and 6 inches away from any building.  This will promote ventilation.
  • Take one piece of duct tape (the same length as one brick) and lay 90º to the edge of the covering and mount it TO the covering so that the width of the tape evenly wraps from the front to the back of the covering where a brick will be.  This will prevent it from tearing in the wind over the early fall and early spring.
  • Take a second strip of duct tape (again the same length of a brick) and mount the covering to the brick.
  • Take a third strip of duct tape and cover the mounting tape to the brick itself.  This last peice of tape will insure that the mounting tape will stay adhered to the brick.
  • Continue repeating process making sure that all points are taunt to one another.  Again the goal here is to insure there there is ventilation passing UNDER the covering while preventing direct moisture ON the garden space

Key Moments for This Process:
  • Prior to first frost: covering must be up and in place.
  • Also apply your last application of your slug prevention now.  Any remaining slugs will want … food (smirk).
  • Prior to first snow: the cover must be pulled back.  If you get an ice storm preceding the snow your going to be out of luck here.
  • In the spring the snow melt will be the first watering for your plants; and signal them to 'wake up'.
  • Places like Minnesota have what is referred to as "Indian Winter" where the temperatures might rise above freezing for about one week during mid-winter.  This will in all likelihood be ok for your plants as they entered the winter DRY.  The ground ought to be able to absorb and drain off most of the water and protect the plants.
  • After the first spring thaw: the covering is pulled back over and into place.
  • IF you can; and especially If you had ice before the snow; start watering on non-freezing nights on their regular watering schedule.  REMINDER: The ground still needs to be dry for freezes.
  • If you do slug control apply the first application now.
  • After the final freeze: the covering is removed for the growing season.  If it is in good condition a gardener 'might' hide it in the back of the garden for next season.  If you do remember to add extra slug control around it.

The tenting went up late in the afternoon and early evening of October 9th.  I found a number of problems during and after that I had not expected; the garden is living up to its 'previous' theme of Chaos and Destruction.
  • I pre-cut my plastic sheeting two feet to short; extended it to correct that problem.
  • The plastic sheeting I have was 3 ft wide … the raised bed seems to be closer to 3 ft 6in.; this weekend I will go back out to re-adjust the width so that the bricks are ON the outer edge of the raised bed NOT in the raised bed.
  • This width also means that garden plans might change to what I keep and what I let go next spring. ([kidding] just don't tell the plants).
  • As I was making some of the last cuts on the hosta I had the fun of gently cutting the top of my right, ring finger with the scissors.  I am current with my tentness (sp?) shot so no worries there!
  • As I came into recover from all the fun outside … I noticed that I overlooked planting the late additions to my garden (see below).  Depending on the 14 day forecast, with special consideration to freezing temperatures, I may yet install the plants outside.
  • As time has continued I have noticed that the plastic is acting like a sail and pulling bricks out of place as the wind blows (Minnesota is also a windy state). 

Yet Another Hosta Addition …

But this time it is MY choice.  There are many of us among hosta growers who politely joke about growing hosta becomes an addiction.  This fall may have been the season that it has exhibited itself the hardest for me,   A company that I respect sent out their last call for orders this last week (September 26).  I have decided to support them in the purveying efforts, and purchase 2 varieties.    Now readers MUST understand that the frost in this metro area will come probably during the week of October 19th; and their arrival will come very close to that date.  There are some bold growers out there that will claim that one can plant hosta all of the way just past the first freeze (even fewer might suggest up to the first snow!) - and have them STILL survive.  This year I will tempt fate and do the same.  If they survive they survive - if they don't they won't.  The back pocket catch is that I have both of these varieties already in my garden so what I am trying to do is to expand what I have.

The two varieties are: Frosted Mouse Ears, and Popcorn.

Popcorn has a reputation of being finicky about where it grows.  This season the plant was replaced, and then sent out ONE new leaf which was ceremoniously eaten by slugs.  The other three leaves have stood tall and look very proud.  At the time of this writing they have NOT changed color yet.  So I have better hope for this plant for next year, than last years attempt.  These can grow 25 inches/63.50 centimeters in diameter.
  • October 8th: The coloration of the existing Popcorn plant is still green and yellow with no sign of changing for fall.  This specimen has held up exceptionally well in comparison to its predecessor which turned color on the first 50ºF/10ªC night last year.  The leaves still are standing extremity upright.
  • October 9th: Plants arrived … I think the frost did not!
Frosted Mouse Ears has been in my garden for two years now.  These plants are still small but can get 18 inches/45.72 centimeters in diameter when they mature.  Two extra divisions of Frosted Mouse Ears certainly would push this effort forward a little.

Both can be magnificent examples of hosta that have white when they grow and survive.  As mentioned before If they survive, they survive - if they don't, they won't.  At the very least it will be a study in what the latest time one can plant in this garden.   The corollary to adage is another that says the later you plant - the later the division will come up (both of these are under studied areas of hosta growing).

The delivery of the above hosta will arrive tomorrow (October 9th).  The debate now is where to put them.  In the garden, or in the window …?

As I am talking about white I am considering exchanging the locations of Masquerade and Chartreuse Wiggles as this would complete a row in white next season; which would be another small achievement for my garden.

The Hosta Report

Just like last year; just when you think there is nothing more to report; I find more.  The cut back was performed on October 9th this year.  This is earlier than last year by about a weeks time.

Golden Tiara gets the mark for sending the last scape up this year; but there is no way in biological logic that it is going to bloom.  Little Devil will get the mark for blooming last; and Dragon Tails will get third mention for sending a scape up and partially blooming in time as well.

The extra plants have arrived … the debate now is do I plant them inside or outside.  The answer became let's try them with a temporary growing station (see below).

The garden just before the 2014 cute back!

Normally I would be saying 'that's it for the year' but this year will be different because I am going into over time with a second project; to grow hostas from seed.  My writing continues this winter with a series of columns entitled "The Blue Meyham Project" (see next post).

2014:  Full GArden with Tenting2012

Until you come back - May the hosta be with you! ...

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