Ask the Gardener: Hostas, figs & grapevine pruning

Posted on: November 1, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)


Question 1: Hostas

Bob: I have grown hostas, sum and substance, in a large heavy limestone container. It is too heavy to bring in. How can I get the plant through winter? Leave it in the container or dig it out. I live in Pittsburgh so I do expect freezing temperatures.

Doug: Hostas might be all right without protection, but if you wanted to help it out a bit, you could surround it with a couple bales of straw for the winter. When the foliage dies back, spread the straw around the container and on top of it too. In early March, remove the straw and use it as a mulch in the garden. I grow hostas in containers without protection.

Question 2: Fig trees

Jane: I have two fig tree starters (about 3 feet high) in the ground. This will be the second winter for them. What is the best way to protect them so they survive the winter?

Doug: I like to wrap them up in burlap so they are like a column, then put a big tomato cage over the plant and fill that with straw.

Here’s a story with a link to video on how I’m doing it. I do have to say, I’ve not had the best luck over the last two years.

Question 3: Grapevine pruning

Abby: My parents have a sort of grapevine conundrum, so I’m hoping you can provide some advice. My mom’s parents had grapevines growing around their house for years, using the grapes to make homemade wine (yum). After they passed away, my mom transplanted the vines to her garden area where they have actually been fairly successful in rooting. Our question: they should be pruned, but my mom is hesitant to do it herself. Do you have any advice?

Doug: Grapes are pruned in late winter, and it’s important that it’s done right. About 90 percent of the old growth is removed. You’ll get more grapes if the vines are pruned annually.

There are two types of pruning, spur and cane. You just need to worry about cane pruning. For cane pruning, look for about four new fruiting canes per vine. Assuming they are for wine, leave about 20 to 30 buds per plant, with twice as many for table grapes.
Leave one or two bud spur canes near the fruiting cane with one or two buds each. These “renewal spurs” will produce the fruiting canes for the following year and thus maintain fruiting close to the trunk. All other cane growth should be pruned off.

Question 4: Shasta daisies

Patricia: Can you tell me when is the best time to cut back shasta daisies and also when is the best time to divide them? I’ve see conflicting information on the internet.

Doug: I would cut them back now if you already haven’t. The best time to split them is in September, in my opinion. You can also get away with it when they emerge in the spring.

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