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Friday, August 30, 2019

Hostas for Zone 9


Since most hostas require a minimum dormancy period of 30 days at temperatures below 43 degrees Fahrenheit, hostas grown in the low-chill winter zone of Zone 9 will emerge, but may become weak and may continue to deteriorate during the subsequent season.

For hosta lovers located in the warmer zone of Zones 9, finding a hosta that will perform well in your area can be a bit more difficult.

It is important to remember that sun-tolerant does not mean they are drought-tolerant. Hostas need consistent moisture to thrive. Sunlight is rarely an issue, but intense heat and dry conditions are. 

But that’s where Hosta plantaginea comes in!


The Shining in bloom

Hosta plantaginea is the southernmost naturally occurring hosta species, and therefore, more heat-loving.

In addition, their flowering habit puts them in a class all by themselves. This type of hosta actually needs exposure to the sun to develop their beautiful large fragrant flowers. The blooms are pure white as compared to the lavender blooms of their shade-loving cousins. And since they bloom later in the day, about 4 pm in the afternoon as opposed to the usual morning blooms of other hostas, they gained the nickname of ‘August Lily.’

And if their great fragrant blooms aren’t enough, Hosta plantaginea has the ability to throw up a second flush of new foliage during the summer months. This is an important feature for southern gardeners where the hosta leaves may succumb to damage or disease during the hot weather.


Here at Sunset Hosta Farm.com, we grow and sell these hostas that are well suited to grow in the Zone 9 region.




The Shining


So Sweet




In  the heat of Zone 9, with a little extra care, hostas will stay healthy and beautiful.


 Love Hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at affordable prices!

Hostas as Houseplants

If you’re looking for a houseplant to grace your windowsill from spring to fall, hostas are a perfect choice. They will need some winter care, which you’ll read about later.


Best Care Tips for Indoor Hostas

Container Size

Since hosta roots grow horizontally, for purely aesthetic reasons, the width of the pot should be greater than the height and the width should be no wider than 3” in diameter than the current root size of the hosta. 

This gives the hosta roots a chance to spread out and still nicely display the hosta's lateral and fan-shaped leaves. If you put a small hosta in too big of a pot, the hosta would be subject to root rot.


Regular potting soil amended with some peat moss for greater water retention is recommended.


In general, hostas like at least two hours of sunshine with morning or afternoon sun being preferable.

A south-facing window is usually a great place for the hosta, especially in the spring when the hosta is coming out of its winter sleep. Later in the season when the sun is brighter, a move near a window with some indirect sun may be necessary.

If the tips or outside edges of the hosta leaves turn brown, or you notice dull or faded spots on the leaves, the hosta is getting too much sun where it currently is.


Hostas prefer soil that is consistently moist, but not soggy. Too much water can cause crown rot. An inch of water per week is recommended. Deeply water the hosta whenever the soil feels slightly dry. Avoid getting water on the leaves if possible.

If your hosta is planted in a ceramic container, the soil will require more watering as the ceramic will absorb more water than a plastic pot.


Hostas grown in containers need slightly more fertilizer than if they were planted in the ground. Nutrients that feed the plant will slowly flush out over the season as you water the soil. Adding a slow-release balanced fertilizer in the spring and once again in early summer should be all you need to keep the hosta happy and healthy through the growing season.

It is recommended that you stop fertilizing container hostas two months before your expected first frost date to help the hostas get ready for their winter dormancy.


Winter care

Hostas are perennials and as such they require a period of winter dormancy that is provided naturally by their usual placement outdoors. You can mimmick the period of dormancy by moving the container to a cool, dark space where temperatures remain colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for four to six weeks. An unheated shed or garage is perfect. The leaves may drop off during dormancy, but this is expected.

Adding a layer of shredded bark or other organic mulch will help with water retention over the winter. Water lightly once a month through the winter, just to ensure the soil does not completely dry out. 

In the spring, move the plant back to its indoor location and watch it spring back to life!


Hosta varieties include slow growing, moderate growing and fast-growing hostas. The fast-growing varieties may need to be repotted, or up-potted, every two years to provide more room for the roots,

When it comes time to repot the hosta, just add fresh potting soil and tease the roots out and replant.



With the sheer amount of beautiful hosta varieties available, it’s no wonder that so many people want to have them grace their indoor spaces as well as outdoor. Their beautiful leaves and their ease of care are only two reasons that hostas continue to be a very popular perennial.


Related articles
Hosta 101


Love hostas or know someone who does?

Visit our website at SunsetHostaFarm.com

Great hostas at affordable prices!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How To Harden Off Seedlings

Getting your seedlings to a healthy state and ready for the great outdoors can be a challenge in itself.

They've been loved and pampered indoors, probably under fluorescent grow lights with pretty consistent temperatures.  So there's no doubt that it can be a big shock for them when they are moved to the variable and sometimes harsh elements outside. 

In order not to lose those precious seedlings to the weather, you need to harden the seedlings off. 


Hardening off “ is the process of SLOWLY changing the seedlings' environment so as not to send the seedlings into shock which can cause them to become weaker and susceptible to problems later, and may even kill them.

When to harden off seedlings?

Start the process of hardening off your seedlings a couple weeks before you anticipate planting the seedlings out into your garden. The timing of that depends on your location and the type of plant.

Generally, vegetables are categorized as hardy, half-hardy and tender. Here is a guideline to help you figure out your timing based on the zone you're in.

Hardy Vegetables

Recommended Minimum Growing Temperature is 40 degrees.

This category includes Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Cabbage, Onions, Leeks and Parsley.

Half-Hardy Vegetables

Recommended Minimum Growing Temperature is 45 to 50 degrees. 

This category includes Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Lettuce, and Endive.

Tender Vegetables

Recommended Growing Minimum Temperatures as follows:

Squash, Pumpkins and Sweet Corn – 50 degrees.

Cucumbers and Muskmelons – 60 degrees.

Basil, Tomatoes, Peppers – 65 degrees

Seedling in the sun on a table

How to harden off seedlings

There are three important things to consider.

The sun

The most treacherous element for young seedlings is too much sun. The sun is much more powerful than any fluorescent light that the seedlings have been growing under, so limiting the seedlings' exposure to the sun's rays is of paramount importance.

The wind

As the stems of your homegrown seedlings may not yet be very sturdy, protection from strong winds is also important. Any sheltered area that will receive dappled sunlight is perfect to start with.

The temperature

A sudden shift in temperature, especially night-time temperatures, can be deadly to the seedlings at this stage.

Now for the Specifics

After 15 years of growing seedlings indoors successfully, here is my yearly process for hardening them off.

Two weeks before I want the seedlings to go into the ground, I will start to harden off my seedlings.

Note:  Once the hardening off process begins, those seedlings need not go back under any fluorescent lights.

Week One

Days one, two and three.

The seedlings go outside two to three hours each day in the dappled late morning sunlight. I use an inside corner of my deck and let the sunshine through the wooden slats. 

The deck corner also shields the seedlings from any strong winds. After sunning, the seedlings go back in the house right inside the door for the rest of the day.

Days four, five, six and seven.

I expand the hours of dappled sun to four to five hours per day. After that, back into the house, they go. Their sunning time now reaches a bit into the afternoon.

Week Two

The seedlings are stronger now, so I move them onto a table on the deck for some full sun, starting with two to three hours a day and adding an hour a day through the week. 

Instead of taking them into the house now after their trip in the direct sun, they go back to the corner with the dappled sun for the rest of the day. I keep an eye on them for any leaf wilting or sun-scald. The seedlings will tell you if they're not happy.

Weather permitting, they stay outside at night now but err on the side of safety. If in doubt, bring them back in for the night. I've been known to forget once or twice during the two-week period, and find that the seedlings are always stronger than I think they are. But why take the chance?

By the end of week two, they're pretty much outdoors day and night, and should be looking happy and healthy!

A few side notes

  • Begin to cut down on the water now while the seedlings are hardening off, but don't let them wilt. You don't want to baby them too much. 
  • No fertilizer during the hardening off process.

Planting a seedling

Time to plant out

At this point, a light fertilizer is recommended to give the seedlings-turned-plants an extra boost. Water as needed, especially if they look a bit wilted.  Do Not Overwater.  This has killed more seedlings and plants than lack of water.

It is still important to keep an eye on the weather forecast, especially the night temps. If a late frost or cold threatens, a nighttime covering may still be necessary. A milk jug with the bottom cut off, staked into the ground with a thick stick can do the trick to warm the plant on a colder night. Keep an eye on the plants for any sun scald, and give them a bit of a shady respite if necessary.  

A piece of cardboard folded in half and tented over the plant can shield the plant from too much sun.  In the event something heavier is needed, sturdy sticks around the plant can hold up a thicker blanket for the night.

That's it!

Hardening off seedlings can be rather labor intensive, but it's only for a few weeks, and I find it's a small price to pay for healthy, productive veggies through the season!


Where to go next!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

15 Common Reasons for Veggie Garden Failures

I personally don't believe there are people with “green thumbs.” Successful gardening of any type takes good planning and dedication to follow through. Your plants are like children; they need what they need when they need it and not when you have time to do it.  

There are some basic necessities that every vegetable needs as it grows on to harvest, and without it, success is unlikely.  Everyone wants a beautiful vegetable garden like the one below with a bountiful harvest.


After 20+ years of gardening, the following is my opinion of the most common reasons for vegetable garden failures.  Following the list, I cover each number.  So read through, or skip down to the numbers that interest you the most.

  1. No detailed plan.
  2. The plan is too aggressive
  3. Not taking detailed notes with dates.
  4. The timing was off.
  5. Not hardening off seedlings or plants.
  6. Soil problems/Wrong soil.
  7. Placement errors; Sun vs. Shade.
  8. Spacing plants too close together.
  9. Watering errors.
  10. Not mulching,
  11. Fertilizing errors, especially lack of fertilizer.
  12. Not protecting plants from wind, insects, and critters.
  13. Not stopping disease early.
  14. Cutting corners.
  15. Distractions.

Let's take them one by one in detail.

No Detailed Plan.

It is imperative that you make a detailed plan for each vegetable you intend to grow.  We'll use carrots for our example. 

Some important details to add to each vegetable plan may look something like this:

Carrot Carrot

Specific Type Chantenay Red Cored

Days to Harvest: 75 days.

Sowing Date: This will depend on your area.

Estimated Harvest: This will depend on the sowing date.

Sowing Details: 1/4" deep, seed spacing 2" apart or thin seedlings to 2" apart.

Keep soil moist for at least ten days after sowing. 

Cover with a wood board or cardboard and check daily for sprouts then uncover.

Sun/Shade: Full sun. Will tolerate partial shade.

Soil Preferred: Rich, loose and well-draining.

Water: Consistent watering for best flavor.

Fertilizer: Low in nitrogen. Higher in phosphorus and potassium. (5-10-10)

Other Care: Cover the shoulders of all maturing carrots with mulch to keep the carrot shoulders from turning green.


Having a great plan ready to go will go a long way to your success.  

The plan was Too Aggressive.

One of my biggest challenges, being the overachiever that I can be, is having to pare down my over-aggressive garden plan that I devised as I sat comfortably on the couch during the winter months perusing those seed catalogs.

Be realistic about the hours you can devote to your garden, and leave room for unexpected trips to the garden center or vacations you have planned. Only grow as many plants as you can reasonably care for. You want as many successes are you can get!

Keep in mind that the gardening season can seem very long and you don't want to tire out midseason just when the final goal of harvesting is approaching.



Not Taking Detailed Notes.

I never go out to the garden without my trustee notebook and pen (and phone for taking pictures).  I note every step I think will be important to me later in determining why I had the successes and failures that I had.

The three most important things to add to every note you take – the date, the date, and the date. So you noted that the lettuce plants that you cared for lovingly keeled over. If you haven't written down the date, you won't know later on as you have time to study your results whether you planted them out too late and the heat got to them, or you planted them out too early and the freeze weakened them. A note without a date can be worthless. I've learned this the hard way.

Some important notes to add include when you started the seeds, when you planted something out and when you fertilized and with what.   You should note any insect damage, and leaf yellowing or blotches or unusual weather events that may have caused a problem. 

You will be digesting this information at the END of the season, so be specific with the details and the date. It may surprise you how many aha! moments your notes give you later when you get a chance to study them.

The Timing was Off.

When you're growing food, timing is key, and this is the most important reason for having that detailed plan in place before the rush of the season begins.

Some vegetables take quite a bit of time to come to the harvest stage; tomatoes (90 days), butternut squash (120 days,) whereas other crops, like lettuce and spinach, can be ready to pick as soon as 30 days. 

If you're growing flowers and your timing is off, you may not get the blooms you were expecting.  Unfortunately with growing food, you may not get a harvest at all.

I have had many failures over the years simply because I jumped the gun and started my seeds too soon or planted the seedlings out too early in the season. Mother Nature loves to throw in a last-minute early freeze to keep gardeners on their toes. 

And it's really no fun to have to run out every night and cover up some crops that you planted out too early. Even if those plants survive the frigid nights, that experience may have weakened them for the entire season, and weakened plants are more prone to disease later.


Not Hardening Off Plants/Seedlings.

Hardening off a plant is both an art and a science. If you're growing any seeds indoors, it is imperative to slowly get them ready for the big outdoors so you don't shock and weaken the plants.

Hardening off seedlings and plants simply means to slowly acclimate the plants to the outdoor weather.  The key here is slowly.  

There are many ways to do this.  A common schedule includes taking the seedlings out in the late morning for a few hours shielded from any intense sun, then bringing them back in for the night.  Then you would increase the number of hours they are outdoors slowly until the plants are happily staying outdoors all day and night.

Soil Problems/Wrong Soil.

Entire books have been written about soil and its interaction with plant life. 

Suffice it to say that part of your pre-planning must be jotting down the general type of soil that the plants you want to grow prefer. You can do a quick internet search to find out the best soil recommended for each plant you grow so you can have it on hand.

If you're going to grow some of your plants in containers, make sure you use “potting soil,” not “garden soil” or soil from your garden which will harden and kill the plant.

Placement Errors – Sun vs. Shade.

As with any plant group, some like it hot and sunny, some prefer the cool shade and some like it somewhere in between. This is another big reason to jot down each plant's preference and have a spot in your garden in mind beforehand.
Shade can be trees, bushes, structures, but can also be manmade. 

If I see a plant that is wilting from the intense heat of the mid-summer, I fold a large piece of cardboard in half and tent it over the plant for a few days. Old umbrellas, draped sheets, anything can work for some manmade temporary shade.  These sail shades are really in style.

Spacing Plants Too Close Together.

At the beginning of the season, your plants may look so small that you will be tempted to place them closer together than is recommended. But if you do that, you're compromising important airflow that the plant needs and you are subjecting the plant to an increased risk of disease.

Follow the spacing recommendations for the best results.

Watering Errors.

There are water-loving plants and there are plants that are pretty drought tolerant and actually prefer dryness. Where the plant originated from has a lot to do with its needs.

Note on your plan whether the plant prefers wetter or drier conditions and water accordingly. The general rule is that long soakings less often is always better than frequent light waterings. You need to get that water down to the plant's roots before it evaporates.

This is where a good soaker hose is invaluable.

This is especially important in the heat of the summer.

Not Mulching.

Not only does mulch make your garden look tidier and keep the weeds in check, but it also helps to keep the moisture down in the ground and helps to stop it from evaporating before it's able to reach the plant roots.

There are many different types of mulches to choose from.  For vegetable gardening, the best choices for mulch include hay or straw, pine needles, compost, leaves, and grass clippings.  
Be careful when shopping for mulch.  

Many commercial mulch products contain some recycle wood waste that could contain chemicals such as creosote and CCA (chromated copper arsenate) which is the chemical used in treating lumber for outdoor use.

Fertilizing Errors.

This was a difficult part for me as I began to garden years ago.  Nowadays there are a variety of different fertilizing products on the market to choose from. I recommend you add a specific fertilizing plan to your preplanning sheet with the times that it needs to be done. 

Many beginning gardeners choose to start with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) and use it on everything. This will yield an adequate result, but as you gain experience, you will want to have a fertilizer plan for each plant. Again, internet search is a valuable resource.

Not Protecting Plants from Wind, Animals, and Insects.

Tall plants can be damaged by high winds. A staking plan for those is helpful.  Learn the specific insects or animals that might find your plants tasty and devise a plan to protect the plants.


Here at Sunset Hosta Farm, we also home senior rescue dogs. I have an occasional problem with the dogs especially Rusty, mistaking my plants for a fire hydrant. Some type of fencing may be necessary for you, too, depending on what you are growing.

Not Stopping Disease Early.

One of the reasons I choose to hand water, although it takes much more time, is that it gives me time to look carefully at each plant. Spotting the start of disease quickly helps you fix the problem before it takes over the entire plant or the plants next to it.

A good example of this is my tomato plants. If I notice that the bottom branches have grown and are beginning to touch the soil underneath, I quickly cut those branches off.   

Leaving them touching the soil would invite them to develop tomato leaf spots on the bottom leaves. These appear as ugly brown spots and will spread up the plant if not removed.

Cutting Corners.

I love being frugal on everything, but there are some areas of gardening I won't go cheap on.
One is seeds. I started with the seed trades online but found that a lot of those seeds were past their viability date and didn't germinate at all or the packets were just plain mismarked. 

One year I ended up with a giant squash growing out of a container that was planned for the dwarf squash it was marked as.

Buy your seeds and plants from a reputable company.   

Save the seed trades for your flowers  (You'll want to add those too!)

Another area not to skimp on is your soil. A good quality garden soil for beds and potting soil for pots will also increase your chances for successful growing keeping your plants healthy and happy.

Another area is gardening tools. Buy good quality tools.  They will last a long time if you clean them and put them away after each day.


Here is an area that is difficult to pre-plan for.  However, the most important tasks that you will have deal with plant care. 

Sounds simple enough, but when I'm out in the fresh air and feeling strong, I start more projects than I can reasonably handle, like building a trellis or spray painting some thrift store gem. I have done this on a nice weekend day to the point where my plants have been neglected – to their detriment.

My new rule is, plants First. When I start out on a day, the not-so-stimulating plant care comes first, whatever that may be. If I have time after that, I can allow myself to do the fun stuff I have planned.

During the growing season, you will most likely need quick answers to problems that come up. The internet is an invaluable resource, especially Facebook gardening groups. I highly suggest you join a few groups early in the season. They are wonderful for getting quick answers to your specific questions, especially when you add a picture to detail the problem.



If you got to this point in the article, congratulations! Your chances of success are just around the corner!

Have a great vegetable gardening season, and digest all of that information later on in order to make the next season even more successful!

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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