Microclimates and Other Weather Effects

Microclimates are something that every garden has.  Microclimates are areas of your yard where the temperature is affected by the landscape. This includes the grade/elevation, any prevailing winds and wind speeds, the presence/absence of standing water, etc.  

Growing Plants and Elevationhills

Hills are more exposed than other microclimates. These microclimates are generally colder than flat surfaces. Ravines or dells are more insulated, so they can be warmer on average than either of the previous situations.  So if you are in a Zone 4 climate, your hilltops may be on the colder end.  Any ravines or dells may be more sheltered, and you may be able to experiment with more Zone 4A or even Zone 5 plants there.  Keep in mind experimenting with higher zone plants has the possibility of failure.

Wind’s Impact on Growing Plants

Knowing your prevailing winds and their average speeds can help you plan the microclimates your garden for success.  South and West winds are generally going to be warmer than North and weathervaneship12East winds, for example.  

Faster wind speeds will have a cooling and drying effect on areas experiencing them, as the wind pulls water out of the plants through evaporation.  The point at which damage occurs can be hard to predict, since different plants can take more or less wind.  If you can notice a significant wind coming through pretty steadily, please take it into consideration when you are doing your planting.

For example, if you have a corner of your garden with a prevailing Northeast wind, and a noticeably brisk speed, you will have a significantly cooler climate there.  If you have an area with a strong Southwest wind, you may have a very hot and dry area to plant!  

You can try to soften the blows by planting in masses and using larger shrubs and woody

windbreakdiagram

Diagram of Appropriate Windbreak Design (worldofagroforestry.org)

perennials as windbreaks.  By forcing the winds through other, stronger plants, you can mitigate the speed and to some extent (not 100%) the direction, as having a large planting insulates significantly and can keep more moisture to itself than an isolated single plant, surrounded by hot or cold air.

 

Standing Water and Its Effects on Microclimates

gardenpondStanding surface water can have a significant impact on your garden’s temperature.  Any presence of standing surface water has a cooling effect in summer, since water is constantly evaporating into the atmosphere.  It also has an insulating effect, keeping temperatures more stable and moderate, and less prone to spiking with heat or cold.  These areas may take longer to warm up in spring and cool down in fall.  The effects vary with the size of the body of water, so expect small buffering from smaller ponds (and possibly still temperature spikes), and a larger ‘calming’ effect from larger ponds or small lakes.  

If you live near a large enough body of wlakeater (like a very large lake or even ocean) you may also see significantly more snow, due to what is called the ‘Lake Effect’.  Since plants see snow as a great insulator against winter temperatures. More snow is not usually a concern from the plants’ point of view – they don’t have to shovel!  

Snow weight might be concerning if you have delicate or new woody plants or trees, so be sure to watch any build-up carefully, and remove when it becomes too heavy to prevent limb breakage.

Climate Change and Global Warming Effect on Growing Plants

globaltemp1nasagiss

(From NASA GISS)

As our global climate changes, our growing zones have begun to shift as well.  The USDA is continuing to collect data and research, and updating the map as needed.  However, what’s becoming more common is temperature swings. So extreme and abnormal temperatures have been recorded more frequently.  

Cold Snaps and Heat waves are something gardeners must always be prepared for. That’s because the Hardiness Zone map does not take them into consideration. Winter mulch is recommended for any tender or newly-planted areas. Plants appreciate shade and water in extra hot summers.  Being prepared for extremes always increases survival rate. It’s hard to be able to predict whether or not you’ll need preparations. But it’s better to be prepared rather than sorry!  

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Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’

If you have new plantings, remember to give them a little extra TLC, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Extra water, shade, mulch, and attention are all good ideas.  Baby plants need some, well, babying.  They haven’t stretched their thirsty roots out very far yet. and their leaves and crowns may be used to greenhouse conditions and not the ground freezing solid quite yet.  A little care goes a long way to set them up for future success!

Tips for Easy Hosta Maintenance

The following blog talks about the tips a gardener needs to take for Hosta maintenance to promote the growth of their hostas and entails advice for their protection from slugs.

Tips for hostas maintenance

There is no gardener who does not admire the hues of hostas! Hosta maintenance has always been a cakewalk and that’s the major reason behind their popularity. In order to promote their growth there are a few steps which should not be overlooked.

  • Hostas grow best in a neutral soil and that implies the pH of the soil should be strictly between 6 to 7 and hence it is important to check the acidic content in any possible fertilizer before mixing it with the soil.
  • Hostas are shade-tolerant plants and have been nicknamed as “shade-lovers” but keeping them in a completely dark area is not at all advisable.
  • The hole should be dug wider for hostas plants as their roots tend to grow away from the center. Hostas are also suitable for green-walls and vertical gardening as they have a tendency to soften the walls.

Slugs

The slug is the mortal enemy of hostas. Slugs will eventually attack your hostas and to overcome that there are various steps you can take-

  • The process of protection from slugs begins before planting and ideally starts with mulching. It is necessary to keep the soil well-mulched and add organic materials like bark and composted manure.
  • Slugs are attracted to hostas but are often repelled by hair or plastic. So you can ideally keep half-cut plastic bottles or threads of hairs to avoid their visits.
  • To get rid of slug eggs and hibernating slugs, it is best to cultivate the soil during spring to expose them to the elements.

There are various other ways in which you can protect your hostas. Coffee grounds and crushed egg shells are some home remedies.  To see more information on battling slugs and other hosta pests, see our Hosta Pests information page.

Fall Gardening Tips for Zone 4

Fall Gardening Tips for September Through November:

Below are fall gardening tips for gardeners in zone 4. Your timing may be different depending on your location. These same tips have been featured in a recent newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter please visit our website and enter your email.

Fall is a great time to plant hostas!

Hosta roots continue to grow until the ground is frozen. We have planted Starter TC hostas as late as the second week of November in Minnesota while it was snowing, and they did great.

The one exception might be with fragrant hosta varieties that evolved further south in eastern China from H. plantaginea. However, these fragrant varieties are often hybridized with more cold tolerant hostas so it is difficult to predict. To over winter well, they might need to get more established before planting or make sure you cover them through the winter.

Hostas planted now will come up looking fresh in the spring. A cold winter dormancy triggers plant hormones, called vernalization, that make the plant better.

Do not fertilize after July 31st. Your plants need to slow down so they can go dormant.

We recommend you label your plants before winter with a durable plant identification marker. The styrene labels that come with our plants or from other vendors get brittle, break, or come out of the ground easily.

From our experience and those of our customers, it is very frustrating to not be able to remember your plants’ names. Our IDeal Garden Markers business offers unique stake and nameplate options, custom engraving, and labeling services and products.

fall gardening tips

Water your plants in the fall.  Dry conditions during this period before dormancy leave the hostas subject to crown rot. In addition, oxygen in the root area creates healthier plants. Remember that hostas planted under trees may need extra water as the tree’s foliage may prevent the water from getting to the hostas, and their roots compete with hostas for what moisture there is.

Slugs: You will get “most bang for your buck” by putting down slug killer just before the slugs lay their last batch of eggs. In Minnesota that is often around the second week of October. For more information on slugs and other hosta pests, see our Hosta Pests Info page.

Foliar Nematodes:  These microscopic worms that leave brown streaks in your hosta’s leaves start to appear as early as late June in the south and the third week of August to the third week of September in the north. HostasDirect, Inc. has never had a foliar nematode reported in the plants we have sold in 9 years. More information on Foliar Nematodes here!

With our Starter TC and Advanced Starter, you are assured of a clean plant as they are grown in sterile clean room environments and virus tested.

Our Mature Divisions were all started from Starter TC – and we have never had one complaint.

Removing blooms or seeds: To help the bees and other pollinators, we recommend you please leave your blooms on your plants until the blooms expire. Then, you can cut off the blooms before they go to seed. Removing spent flowers before seed production will allow more energy to go into the plant.

Should you cut off your hosta’s foliage before winter? Doing so saves a lot of work in the spring. In addition, some gardeners think cutting off and removing foliage creates less of a haven for foliar nematodes, fungal diseases and slugs, and your yard looks clean in the spring.

Fall Gardening Tips for November or December:

Do NOT use wood chips for winter cover! Wood chips may cause your plants and their roots to rot.

For HostasDirect’s recommended winter mulch method, see our Overwintering Perennials Page.

Cover some perennials just after the ground freezes!  Covering is cheap insurance to protect your investment of time, money, work and emotion. We recommend covering all first year perennials you purchase from us. In particular mini and smaller hostas (as they have more shallow roots), hostas and coral bells planted later in the season, and fragrant varieties of hostas. Beware of voles and mice.

How and what to use for covering plants: In the first year, after the ground is frozen, protect your hostas and coral bells with 6” to 1’ of straw or leaves (in a bag or secured by other means so they don’t blow away). This helps stabilize soil temperature and moisture ranges, reduces freeze / thaw, and prevents hostas from growing too early in the spring only to be damaged by frost or snow.  See an illustration of this method here.

The benefit of snow: Snow acts as insulation and keeps the soil temperature warmer and more even. We worry when there is little or no snow and the temperatures are very cold and prolonged!

If you follow the above fall gardening tips, your plants should come up looking fresh in the spring. Please note that these tips are for Zone 4. Your timing could differ based on where you are located.

Rest, Renew, Regrow | Hosta Growth Stages After Planting

Author: Peter Kelly, Content Manager

Rest, Renew, Regrow

Those are are three “R”s of horticulture.  They apply to hostas just as they do to any other plant. The three “R”s help us understand the hosta growth stages.  With those words I will answer one of our consumer’s questions: Why are my hostas NOT growing?

Before getting to those three “R”s, the gardener needs to understand that EVERY TIME they move a Hosta it goes into what is known as; “transplant shock”. Then it will go through different hosta growth stages as it adapts to its new surroundings.  

It is a thousand times better to find that right place for the hosta, plant it, and care for it as you wait for it to grow vigorously!

OK, so you have your new hosta or heuchera planted and you’re excited for it to mature; but the plant just sits there.  We assure you that only in film can a plant go ‘sproing’ and suddenly become full sized.   The thing with gardening is that you have to be patient.  How patient?  Rest, Renew, Regrow!

Hosta Growth Stages Using the 3 “R”s

The first stage after you plant something it will … Rest.  Resting means acclimating itself to where it is planted, getting used to the new spot of sun; trying to figure out what nutrients are below it.  If you plant it late in the season it might rest through the second year as well.

The second stage will … Renew.  Renewing means the plant might grow even a little smaller or to the size of what you first planted it.  Fear not brave gardener for the plant is not being lazy on you!  Be it known your plant is growing UNDER the ground and sending out rhizomes and gathering those important nutrients.  Again, depending on the variety, it might carry its renewing into a second year. This is all just part of the hosta growth stages.

We get to the third stage … when the plant Regrows.  This is that hosta growth stage where we may see leaps and bounds of growth.  This is also the time where you might see your first scape and blossom on your plant.  With each year after, the plant will keep moving toward maturity.  Some hostas mature in three (3) years and others take 6 to 8 years primarily due to size and general rate of growth.

Even after that, the plant will continue to look good for years to come if cared for properly.  Over these years, if the gardener is nice they may put in some extra fertilizer to help and encourage the plants to grow.  Remember over-fertilizing can have hazards as well, so fertilize responsibility.

Now lets all take a deep breath and reflectively say, “Rest, Renew, Regrow.”;  and remember to fully exhale.…

10 Ways to Keep Deer Away From Hostas

Deer are a common problem for hosta lovers. One day your garden will be nice and lush, and the next morning you will be left with a bunch of chewed-off stems. This can be very frustrating, so we’ve decided to put together a blog post on ways to keep deer away from hostas to prevent this from happening to you.

keep deer away from hostas

There really is no surefire way to keep deer away from hostas. There are, however, a number of options you can use to help stop them. Several options are listed below.

Tips to Keep Deer Away From Hostas:

  1. Wireless Deer Fence – a sweet smelling deer training device that will train the deer through negative reinforcement. Effective method proven to keep deer away from hostas.
  2. Deer Scram – all natural granular repellent to keep deer away from hostas and other plants including shrubs and trees.
  3. Liquid Fence – a liquid repellent that you spray directly on your plants (be careful not to apply in direct sunlight as this could burn the plant). The scent of the spray will deter deer and other garden pests from destroying your garden.
  4. Plantskydd – an odor-based repellent that deters deer and other pests before they taste the plant.
  5. Put up a fence – this may be the most effective way to keep deer away from your hostas, but it is also the most expensive method. The fence should be 8′ to 10′ high.
  6. Get a dog – having a dog can be an effective way to scare away deer.
  7. Avoid fragrant hostas – deer are attracted to the smell of fragrant hostas. If you have a lot of deer near your home, you might want to avoid planting these in your garden.
  8. Human hair – spread human hair around your garden to keep deer away from your hostas and other plants.
  9. Noise and/or light deterrents – place sensor lights around your garden that will turn on when deer come near your garden. The light will scare them away. You can also try putting radio noise in your garden to scare deer.
  10. Don’t feed the deer – feeding them will just encourage them to keep coming back.

These are just a few tips that can help you keep deer away from hostas and other plants in your garden. There are several deer repellents out there, it’s just a matter of figuring out which method works best for you. We don’t enforce any of the above methods, this is just simply to provide you with information.

Comment below with any other methods that are effective for you!