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Writing about the things I love. My writing work has appeared in hard copy magazines including Green Prints, Twins Magazine, Practical Parenting Magazine, The Journal of Court Reporting, and more as well as hundreds of articles in Sunset Hosta Farm's Hosta blog and The Homesteading Village blog.

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.

  

Guacamole


  

The Shining


  

So Sweet

  

Honeybells

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

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 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.




Soil


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





Light


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.



Water

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.




Fertilizing


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!


Repotting


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.

 


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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.

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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

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.


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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.





Distractions.


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.


  




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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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fragrant Hostas







Although the blooms of hosta plants are commonly considered secondary to their beautiful leaves, there is a type of hosta, Hosta Plantaginea, that produces beautiful fragrant blooms that have been described as a strong honeysuckle-like fragrance. They are perfect for planting next to walkways, patios, decks, borders or near a garden bench.





The Shining Hosta in full bloom

The Shining Hosta




Hosta Plantaginea has the largest pure white blooms of all hostas, as much as 6” wide which is enormous by hosta standards. Whereas most hosta varieties bloom around 4 p.m., the Hosta Plantaginea's best bloom and scent time is around 4 p.m. in the afternoon. 


They also bloom later in the summer, hence their nickname, “August Lily." They also emerge earlier in the spring than the much more common hosta, Hosta sieboldiana.


These fragrant hostas are often recommended as some of the best hostas for the warmer areas of the Southeast U.S. because of their ability to tolerate and adapt to hot, humid conditions. They need sun, about four to six hours a day, to bloom well and be at their best.



Another benefit of hosta plantaginea is that when other hostas are heading toward the "summer uglies," hosta plantaginea will flush out a second round of foliage.



Some of the fragrant hostas we grow and sell at Sunset Hosta Farm are:



Blue Hawaii




Mature Size: Very Large Height: 30” Width to 42”

Blue Hawaii has giant lightly puckered round blue/green foliage. It has a more upright vase-shaped appearance. The powdery sky blue leaves hold their color from early spring to mid-August. In early summer, heavy blooms of white lightly fragrant flowers emerge. There's no doubt why this one is so popular.



  
Guacamole Hosta Grouping in Bloom

Guacamole Hosta



Mature Size:   Large  Height: 24” Width to 54”

Guacamole is one fast grower and will fill an area quickly. It forms large, dense clumps and thrives in partial shade where the sun can brighten the leaf centers. Its avocado green leaves are shiny with a dark green wide margin. The leaves are moderately folded. Fragrant white blooms appear in early summer making it perfect for planting near walkways, patios, decks or paths. Very sun tolerant. 2002 Hosta of the Year.



 
Honeybells Hosta

Honeybells Hosta



Mature Size:   Large  Height: 22" Width to 45”

Honeybells' long, wavy apple green leaves are puckered downward giving the clump a very unique shape. Strongly scented lavender blooms draw in the butterflies and honeybees. Looks great when planted next to a variegated hosta for contrast. Also, sun tolerant. Scented hostas like Honeybells are wonderful when planted near walking paths, patios or decks.









 
So Sweet Hosta

So Sweet Hosta



Mature Size:   Large   Height: 26”  Width to 60”


The compact shape of So Sweet makes this hosta ideal for edging a shady garden. The leaves are glossy green with creamy yellow margins that fade to white later in the season. Its compact growth makes it great for containers, too. It’s sun tolerant as well as fragrant. 1996 Hosta of the Year.





 
The Shining Hosta in bloom

The Shining Hosta


Mature Size:   Medium  Height: 20”  Width to 36”


This fast-growing beauty of the hosta world is especially charming when in bloom. Unlike most hostas, this bright mound of gold foliage produces gorgeous white to light lavender fragrant flowers in late summer. It displays the best color with half a day of sun. A stunner, and one you will want to use as a specimen plant or as a focal point.


  

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Even if the garden fragrance is not important to you, the ability of fragrant hostas to adapt to hot humid summers of the southeast US is enough to give them a great spot in your garden.

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Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit our website for great hostas at an affordable price!
Sunset Hosta Farm.com



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