Hop to it: It’s a great time to divide, move hostas

March 20, 2013
Carefully dig up entire clumps of hostas with your hands or a garden fork and spread the roots apart. Replant them immediately and water well.

Farmers, politicians and psychics often try to predict the future, with equally bad results. At the lowest level of the Great Depression, President Hoover stated,  “Prosperity is just around the corner.” Some farmers and gardeners play it safe and put off planting until late in the season. Others are gambling growers who plant as early as they can. With cold snaps and late frosts, your flowers and vegetables can be killed off in a single night.

But cold snaps or depressions aside, spring, like prosperity, is just around the corner. You may see green shoots of hosta poking up early in the spring. If you want to divide them or just move them, this is a great time to do it. Carefully dig up the clumps of hostas and either with your hands or a garden fork spread the roots apart. Replant them immediately and water well.

Hostas grow best in rich organic soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 or slightly acidic soil. Good drainage is important. Dig the planting hole down to about a foot deep. Hostas do best in semi-shade, with morning sun and afternoon shade.

You can mix early blooming bulbs and perennials in with your hostas for a very full garden effect. Try interplanting snowdrops, daffodils, crocus and tulips with the hostas. After the bulbs bloom and their leaves start to die, the dying bulb leaves will be hidden by the larger hosta leaves. You can also put hostas in with forget-me-nots and ferns.

Spring is also a good time to rake the mulch back from your emerging perennials and bulb beds. This will speed up the sun warming the beds.

Plant roses, trees and shrubs as soon as you can work the soil. Plant raspberries and blackberries now too. Even cold-loving vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli can go into the garden now. Set out cold-hardy herbs, such as rosemary, chives and thyme. Tender herbs such as basil will have to wait until the ground is warmer.

Direct seed cold-hardy sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), poppies (Papaver spp), and rocket larkspur (Consolida ajacis) right into the garden.

There is still time to start warm-weather crops such as melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and most annual flowers indoors.

Many gardeners prefer to plant seeds in small, individual containers such as peat pots rather than in flats so the roots don’t grow together. Because you plant the pot and all, it avoids transplant shock.

Most indoor seedlings fail because of lack of light. Choose the sunniest spot for your seedlings or use a grow light. Try watering the seedlings from the bottom. Just let the water soak slowly into the pots or flats. Most importantly, harden off your seedlings before putting them into the garden by placing them on a draft-free porch a few hours a day so they get used to being outdoors.

March can be a tricky month in the garden, but it’s worth taking a chance.

Even if things go wrong, you will have enough time to replant. Prosperity is truly around the corner even though the Depression lasted a good seven years after Hoover uttered that famous boast. After all, Hoover never said which corner.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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