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What and When do I feed my Hosta's

Rogue River , OR(Zone 8a)

Here in Southern Oregon this am it was 25 and the Hostas, are just breaking the ground. What and when do I feed my Hostas?

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Hi, Rick. I know you'll get some varied answers on this, and I'm no expert, but I'll tell you what I do--I give my hostas a nice top-dressing of compost in the spring just as the leaves are unfurling. Anything you can do that will promote good drainage and add organic matter to your soil is a win. Well-aged and dried manure is good, too. Some folks also swear by cotton bur compost, which I haven't tried yet but might this year. I've heard it can be smelly, but I don't have any firsthand experience.

After the hostas unfurl, occasionally I hit the foliage with an organic spray-on like fish emulsion. I haven't seen any noticeably positive results from doing this, though. The hostas grow fine with or without the extra boost. In my opinion, treating the soil is better than treating the leaves any day. :)

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

When I planted my hostas in this bed, I mixed in composted horse manure to loosen the soil. Each spring I put a cup of Milorganite on each plant as the shoots are just emerging (early April, here in Zone 5b)

Thumbnail by LeawoodGardener
Virginia Beach, VA

i have over 5oo+ hosta in pots and repotted all of them few weeks ago, I added good potting soil and compost. I used 2 bags of 10-10-10. approximately 2 tbsp of it.
Good luck. Bellie

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

I NEVER fertilize mine and they do great anyway, but as KaylyRed says I did amend the soil with a lot of organics years ago when planting them.

Doug

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Same here, Doug.

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

Here's my "Sum and Substance" hostas sending up sprouts 4-13-11.

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Rogue River , OR(Zone 8a)

I LOVE MY BANK !!! ( my information bank) Thanks for all the help. I am kinda of a organics guy ( old retired hippie, second year,) So here's What I did, Tossed on some compost, gave them a shot of Sea Weed, and I use Milorganite on the lawn the next time I do the lawn I will give them a shot. Thanks for the interest on my account.
I LOVE MY BANK !

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

This is the place for information that's for sure!!!

Doug

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I use some alfalfa tea once or twice a year and when I plant them, I throw a handful of alfalfa pellets in the hole. The soil is good with a large share of mushroom compost and I topdress some with my own compost as well.

Danville, IN

Mushroom compost rocks! It's amazing stuff and lasts for years!

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

I'm going to try the alfalfa tea - it sounds interesting.

Here's my border of "Golden Tiara" today. Others in view include "Sun Power", "Guacamole" and "Sum and Substance". I don't know the name of the dark green narrow-leaf variety bordering the path. It's from divisions I made from a neighbor's gift several years ago.

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Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

hey, I just saw my first bag of mushroom compost today at a store called Stockdales? It is new to our area. Good to hear that m. compost is a good product. It was priced at 4.00 a bag is that about right?

Danville, IN

Probably fine, but I don't know what size bag it is. IF you can find it in bulk, it's always a better deal. Check around local garden centers and nurseries. Of course, you need a truck!

Elizabeth City, NC(Zone 8b)

Hi everyone, I usually hangout on the daylily forum but I love Hostas too! Hope y'all don't mind me chiming in. So far I have only used Miracle Grow on mine this year. My Sum and Substance on the right is really doing well for a large hosta in a pot. :)

Thumbnail by DayBloomer
Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Hey, good to see you Daybloomer!
I collect hosta too but not big time. I have over 50 but I am needing to go small this yr. I am running out of shade :( but then daylilies do great in the sun!

Elizabeth City, NC(Zone 8b)

Hey bluegrassmom!

I know what you mean, my shade is limited too. Although I love them all, most of mine are minis or small. They take up less room! ;)

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Do you have your mini/smalls in troughs or in separate pots?

Elizabeth City, NC(Zone 8b)

Sorry just saw this, I mostly have them in separate pots but I do have a few together in one large planter. I saw someone's picture of some planted together and they looked very nice. I may have to try that.

Huntersville, NC

Re: Alfalfa Tea

Yes, I heard of this tea and made some too! It stank so bad hubby refused to let me leave it in garage or near the house! HAHAHA

We agreed to keep it tightly covered in the far corner of our property.
Well that was last summer. It had TIME to ferment and otherwise BREW!

It had NO scent when I opened, stirred and applied it this spring! My hostas look happy, healthy and strong.

ByTheWay - second batch is in the making! ROFLOL!

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Does anyone use the M. Grow foliar feeding?

Elizabeth City, NC(Zone 8b)

Noooooooo wayyy, I can't imagine it having no smell, my Alfalfa Tea smelled like horse poo this spring! LOL, I know the neighbors had to be smelling it.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

The alfalfa tea I used last year made me dry heave a few times. Its a difficult smell to describe. Not sure how well it worked...too soon to tell for me. Some hosta appear to have had huge increases, and others not so much. But I still have a huge bag of alfalfa, so I guess I will continue with it. Other than using compost when planting, I don't feed anything. I'm just too lazy .

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Can you make it from the pellets?

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

Yes, that's what I used . I put them in a leg of a pantyhose and tied it off, making a large teabag. Otherwise I think you have to skim off the crud that form as it brews.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I like Ann's idea of dropping a few alfalfa pellets in planting holes. I may give that a try.

I'm just taking a quick break from being outside spreading mushroom compost and a thin new layer of cocoa hull mulch before it rains. I know some people don't like the cocoa hulls, particularly in shady places because of the mold that sometimes grows on it, but I find that if I keep it raked and fluffed a little it is fantastic at preventing weeds and seems to deter slugs. My back bed (no compost) had slug-munched hostas last year. My front bed? Nothing. The only holes my hostas had were from falling sticks due to a wind storm.

To stay on topic, I'm experimenting to see how an annual regimen of spreading a thin layer of mushroom compost followed by a thin layer of cocoa hulls works out for me. My thought is that layering on this stuff each year will add a lot of nice moisture retention and organic matter to the soil. Not to mention making the soil more fertile.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

One concern about cocoa hulls is for people with dogs- evidently it's toxic to them if eaten. I like the way they look, though. And if it repels slugs, that's a major bonus in my book.

Ya know, I'm seeing some surprisingly big leaves out there on plants like Maui Buttercups. I wonder if that alfalfa tea didn't have some effect after all. But, I also used in on the one hosta I cut back after the hail and it evidently didnt help that one a single bit, since it's been set way back to square one.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Yep, that's why I only have the cocoa hulls in the front yard--the dogs get the back. I've read that a dog would have to eat quite a bit of mulch for it to have a detrimental effect, but I'm not willing to take chances.

I don't think the cocoa hulls are for everyone. Some people love the look but hate the mold/fungus that can grow on the stuff, especially in shady areas. I wouldn't put it anywhere where there isn't good air circulation. And you have to be prepared to rake and fluff it up a bit if it starts growing mold. That's probably too high maintenance for a lot of people, but since my front yard is small I put in the extra effort to use it there. Plus it's a good weed suppressant, which saves me time weeding.

I have an old bag of cocoa hulls that got wet and grew some mold inside. Does anyone know if it would cause any problems if I mixed it in with the soil in the new beds I'm preparing? Since it's no longer "pretty," I was thinking to use it as an amendment.

Huntersville, NC

KaylyRed - I'm not sure about a few pellets of alfalfa. I was told a "handful or so". The pellets I have are small.

Noreaster - I didnt think to strain the brew. Would straining lessen the smell?? I had thought that curd - decomposed as additional fertilizer. But I am no expert. :(

As it stands now, I also made a paste that hopefully will become a powder for easier distribution.

I think I see a drastic difference in the application of the tea and plant growth without it.
But it appears as though the plants had a growth spurt, but have since slowed. Many have much smaller leaves. Go figure.

Hopefully, I can use the powder for this summer while another large tea batch brews-the-smell-out over winter! :)

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

The first few years that I made alfalfa tea, I just dumped the pellets in and dumped everything on the plants. Didn't look too pretty but it worked OK. But putting them in a nylon (if you have them- who wears them anymore?) also works. Had to buy a new bag of alfalfa pellets this year and I had to register them since they are used as animal feed.

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I don't think straining lessens the smell....I squeeze the tea bag to get as much juice out as possible...that's usually where the dry heaves come in! And the crud is probably good to add to your garden, you're right- but it's just gross looking and I wonder if it would make the smell linger on the plants/mulch. If it's just liquid, it goes into the ground and I find the smell doesn't linger that way.

Ann, panty hose are the invention of the devil! At least they are good for something. Problem is, I had to buy some since I don't wear them. I bought the cheapest ones I could find at Kmart. I wonder if I can get them at the dollar store.

Now that things are really unfurling, I am encouraged enough by the changes I'm seeing from last year to keep up with the tea. I think I will wait until some warmer weather is expected and make my first batch.

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

Noreaster, I know Wal-Mart carries cheap hose (the short trouser kind). I think it's 2 pair for 50 cents or a dollar in a little plastic ball container. I use them to catch lint from the water return on my clothes washer.

Lewisburg, KY(Zone 6a)

Where are you putting pantyhose in the washer?

Maine, United States(Zone 5b)

I got a couple big black plastic bins today with lids. If the sun ever comes back out, those are my new teapots!

Eleven, I think the trouser socks might be too short. I remember the alfalfa filling up the legs pretty good, and then you have extra hose to tie into a knot. I have to look up the formula again- I can't remember how much I used. I seem to recal there being one recipe out there that called for a lot, and one was less. I think I used somewhere in between.

Royal Oak, MI(Zone 6a)

bluegrassmom, the return hose empties into the basement sink. Hardware stores sell mesh lint traps you can attach to the hose end, but our HVAC guys said the panty hose would work just as well. It's actually working better, because the pantyhose can go longer without getting clogged.

We just had our large oak trees fertilized yesterday. The company used a mix of mycorrhyzal fungus, iron, and standard fertilizer stirred into some manure. They had a bit leftover and tossed some onto our old hostas up front. If those plants look any different this year, I will have to look back into additives. So far, I only added some mushroom compost to my new hostas last year. I remember thinking the alfalfa looked a lot more expensive.

Midland, TX(Zone 8a)

Hey, folks, we talked about this several years ago, but I see it's time to repeat.

If your alf tea stinks, you have gone past fermenting and have rotted the stuff. You need only let your tea brew until you see a good amount of bubbles on top. It will not smell bad. It will smell like alfalfa. Also, just cover enough to keep the sun out. You don't need a tight fitting lid. More oxygen is better. In fact, give it a stir every now and then. You want more aerobic microorganisms and less anaerobic. Anaerobic promotes the growth of pathogens, which are not good for plants or for the people handling the brew.

Depending on the temp when you make your tea, 2-3 days might be all you need for a fantastic brew. Just wait for the bubbles. The higher the temp, the more quickly your tea will ferment. Put it in a hot place but out of direct sun.

Also, you don't need to use a stocking or filter. Just pour the tea off the top when it's ready, leaving the majority of the"crud" (undissolved alfalfa) in the bottom. You can fill your container with water again and use the same stuff. Second batch will be weaker but still quite beneficial. After the second batch, fill with water again and disperse it on your lawn or around a tree or work it into a blank spot in your garden. Still good stuff.

With alf tea, you are feeding the soil more than you are the plants, but the plants will love you for it because they will love their soil. And the worms will thank you, too. Alf tea is a really great amendment for treating your soil before you plant, too. Just keep those batches brewing and soak every bed you can.

I use 3 cups alfalfa in a 5-gal container of water. I usually add a good splash of molasses (feeds the microorganisms), and I add a water soluble plant food when the brew is ready. The plant food is for the macroorganisms. The tea is a good source for microorganisms but not macros. By adding the plant food (all-purpose for shrubs--rose food for flowers), you've fed your soil and your plants.

Remember--you never have to deal with smelly alf tea again.

--pen



Virginia Beach, VA

I had not tried this and the way some describes it I am scared to have it near the house. Dh will really get very upset!! LOL!!

It is bad enough for the compost smell which is at the end of the yard behind the shed.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

We have six compost bins - no smells.

Leawood, KS(Zone 5b)

I'm going to try the alfalfa tea, although I have to say, my hostas seem pretty happy with the Milorganite diet I've given them.

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Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I agree, Leawood! They don't seem mad at you at all.

Pennzer, thanks for the great and detailed information.

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