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.
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.