Dealing with unused space during a transplant

(Question)

Helping to Transplant
For a renovation, I’m transplanting some hostas from the front yard, where there is a porch. The small plot of 4 feet by 6 feet will be vacant for accessing the porch by workmen during a variety of tasks.
Filling in a Gap
If the space is going to be vacant, possibly from the present until spring 2015, should I place any type of soil there, so it will be ready for transplanting hostas, at least? Or does it make a difference?
I ask since some agricultural best practises are to rotate crops, including letting soil be fallow.
Gap and It’s Temporary Use
That spot should be very heavily trampled upon, since it would be between an AC condenser, which shouldn’t be moved, and stairs, which will be replaced. I have some leftover sheep manure from last year, which I thought of placing there, but I’m more focused on moving the hostas safely and urgently now.
Also, are there any low maintenance flowers, I could place in a moveable container, until the work begins?
I would then move the flowers to the back where they could be enjoyed, since one of our yellow flowers’ roots didn’t survive the winter, and I have to redeem myself.
What I could use
As I take inventory, I have too many lilies of the valley in the backyard, and a seed packet of brown eyed susan, as well as a packet of multicoloured sunflower “autumn beauty”. I wouldn’t place the iris’ inside a container, since they’re already about to bloom, and all the roses are in the ground, including a beautiful yellow rose whose roots became exposed and didn’t survive the winter.
I also have extra dirt in some buckets, which I can just dump there, and that would declutter the backyard, as I recover from winter with the rest of southwestern Ontario(Manitobans still have frozen pipes I hear, so I am counting my blessings).

(Answer)

Dear gardener, thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your question.

Renovation projects are always exciting but stressful. I will try to address your concerns individually:

  • Existing perennials in 6×4′ plot: yes, move the hostas to a safer location for the year. Since at this time of the year your hostas are probably a good size, try to keep the clump together so that they look well after transplant. Keep them watered and if available, add some compost or triple mix soil in the new location.
  • Exposed plot: the reality is that the structure of the soil will suffer tremendously due to compaction, lack of air, construction material (limestone, sawdust, cement, nails, paint, coffee cups…etc.). You are better off concentrating your efforts on the backyard where the transplants will be and where you can enjoy the garden for the year. Once construction is finished, you really want to amend the soil in preparation for replanting and to re-establish a healthier planting bed, attract beneficial micro-organism and improving soil structure.
  • Temporary ‘filler’: this may be the year you decide to splurge on some annuals in containers. Since the construction may last until next spring, it would be preferable not to have your perennials in containers as they may not withstand a cold winter (unless they are large enough and insulated). So why not have some nice pots with annuals which you can enjoy this season.

Good luck with your new porch and, when you see the workers trampling the area do not get discourage, just dream about how beautiful it will all look once finished. This may be the time to re-design and plan the bed!