Monday, June 09, 2008

New Nursery, New Hosta Garden


June 9, 2008

After almost seven years of building a shade garden at our Peacham Pond Road location, it was time to move the nursery and leave all that work behind. It will be impossible to forget that garden and even if we wanted to, customers wouldn't allow it. Gail and I have already been reminded of that about every day, so Sunday I got serious and began to build the new hosta extravaganza. Only time will tell how successful I am.

For a couple days, Austin, a UVM summer helper, toiled away at digging holes for me. He commented that it wasn't a great job but the day went by quickly. It wouldn't have for me but his preparatory work was much appreciated. When the holes were ready, we began digging hostas from more mature gardens and then loaded up the tools and amendments we'd need. I was hoping for a little help but he had a house to paint and Gail had other chores so I was on my own.

When hostas are 5 or 6 years old, any listed as large or extra large are heavy. There's no other way to get them out but to dig all around the plant as deep as you can go and then begin to slid the shovel under the root ball. I use a 6 foot pry bar and with a little luck and someone tugging on a corner we can usually free up the monsters. It has been raining hard here for many days so the ground was loose and the task was less than it would normally be.

You have to understand that the height of this new land is solid clay, the kind potters dream of. It is so heavy that when you finally get a hole dug and fill it with water, it forms a frog pond that takes forever to drain. That's where calcium sulphate comes in. At $6.79 a 40 pound bag from Wal Mart or a buck and a half more wholesale from farm supply outlets, it's become gold to me for what it does to clay soils. As soon as Austin dug the holes I had him dose them liberally, bottom and sides, with this miracle composition. From there I mix bagged manure, 4 year old rotted tree chips, handfuls of lime, one handful per hole of 10-10-10, about 5 pounds of peat moss and a bucket of rotted maple leaves. I fill the hole with water and turn and turn until it is well mixed. Then the hosta goes in and the sides get firmed and then covered with more wood chips.

Everyone has their method and their secret mixes. Mine aren't a secret although I have to say I'll never use Agway's products again as this manure of theirs was as much clay as Austin dug out of the hole in the first place. Vermont Compost from Montpelier, Intervale Compost if you can get it, or good old farm manure are the way to go. I used the last of the big pile a couple weeks back and elected not to bring in a truckload of fine smelling green manure while I was trying to lure customers to a new location.

This planting took a couple days and contains June, Parhelion, Aristocrat, Wolverine, Abiqua Moonbeam, Bressingham Beauty, Frances Williams, Shade Fanfare and a few others. Before I am done, there will be a trail leading down the hill parallel to the Winooski River and then on into the grove of box elders. The 450 hostas we have will in some part make the move and with luck some of the sad comments will dissipate. In time we'll have that answer. In the interim it's me and Austin and the shovel and the truck. If you stop by to visit us on Route 2, walk on down through the astilbe shade house to the river bank. You'll see what we have done.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's 74 degrees out. A lone mosquito is attempting to peck at my shoulder and he's going to get a good one if he'll hold still. Not as big a project as at 3 this morning when a June bug practiced maneuvers in the bedroom until banging into a wall and falling victim to the phone book.

Good gardening wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener Another good blog
Vermont Flower Farm A place to buy great flowers online

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