Thursday, April 17, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 14

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post I will be letting you know what I am doing or what I hear is going on out there in our local gardening world. I will be updating this post with quick supplements all through the week! So check here frequently!

If you would like to contribute just drop us a quick note at OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you!

April 17:

Question from CR: Do you sell a product that can help my grapes? They are Concord, I believe, and never ripen until cool weather in September. I pruned them way back to give them more light and last summer we had beautiful grapes developing. Then suddenly from one day to the next they got black spots. I call it The Black Withering Disease. I prefer to go organic if possible.

Answer: I consulted with Terry Skillin about your question and I think he came up with some good points.

First off, the pruning was obviously a great idea and we encourage a good pruning again.

When dry weather comes, make sure you are not watering at night so the grapes spend wet night after wet night. A lot of wetness like that can lead to disease.

Terry emphatically recommended that you try Messenger on a regular basis. Messenger (sold right here at Skillin’s) is an all natural product (the active ingredient is harpin proteins) that once introduced to the plant fool the plant into thinking it is being attacked by disease and therefore triggers the plants own natural immune defenses. It breaks down quickly and it is environmentally safe—it does not pollute the ground or water.

Messenger means stronger roots, increased vigor, stress resistance and increased flowering and fruit set for any plant that it is applied to. Many of our customers use Messenger for their tomatoes and peppers as well as rose bushes and lilacs as well as fruit trees and other fruit plants like grapes.

Messenger should be consistently applied every 3 weeks throughout the growing season.

Also once we are into the warm and wet season (late June and on into August), you should probably spray your grapes with a natural fungicide called Seranade on a weekly or every other week basis as a further precaution against black spot. Seranade is all natural and extremely effective. I used it regularly on my roses and upright phlox last year and really kept things under control. Terry also suggested applying Seranade to your grapes once they dry from a heavy rain.

I would still feed your soil organically a couple of times through the growing season and I would recommend Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma!

Question from CC: Roses are new for me. I have read you advice about pruning roses and think it will be very helpful. How much of the total cane should I prune off?

Answer: I prune my roses back to just a few inches above the ground. You want to prune back all the dead and dying growth from the winter and by the time you get that done symmetrically you seem to always just be a few feet above the ground.

Question from JP: Good morning. Do you carry pampas grass? Other ornamental grasses?

Answer: We do not carry pampas grass because it is not hardy in Maine. Check out our online nursery catalog at for more ornamental grass details. We do not have many in stock right now but we will have many more in by the middle of May when they are more flushed out.

Question from VC: I bought a lot of shrubs at Skillins last summer and fall —Rhododendrons and Green Emerald arborvitae. I'm not certain, now that mud season is over, when I need to start watering all these shrubs. There's about 35 of them. Can you advise? Also, should I feed them anything? And what would you suggest?

Answer: I would make sure your shrubs get at least an inch of water weekly. A good way to do that is put a rain gauge in the ground and see what the rain brings. If we have a dry week, then they should be watered well. If you use an overhead sprinkler, make sure you water them earlier in the day so the foliage can dry before the nights bring cooler temperatures. (Wet foliage and cool temperatures can lead to disease)

We definitely recommend twice yearly applications of Holly Tone fertilizer by Espoma for evergreens like rhododendrons and arborvitae. Holly Tone is a wonderful natural fertilizer that works to enrich the soil. It would be great to apply the Holly Tone anytime now and then later on in the growing season (late summer or fall).

April 16:

Customer SS has a question about corn gluten and weed control:

Question: I am looking to use corn gluten as as pre-emergent weed control, it should be used as soon as the forsythia buds begin to break open.Have you heard of any sitings of this budding happening in the area near your Cumberland store?

Answer: You can put corn gluten down soon. I will probably be putting some down in just a few days.

We sell corn gluten right here at Skillin’s; I recommend the Lawn Booster (Step One in their four part lawn series) by Organica. It is an excellent way to go and because of the patented natural microbes it contains the corn gluten breaks down very quickly for faster and more thorough weed control.

Next we hear from KP:

Question: I am writing to inquire if you might carry edible flowers. These would be used for the top of cupcakes for a wedding so we would want just the flower itself. Is this something you folks carry and what would the cost be?
If you don't carry them do you have any idea where one might find them?

Answer: We do carry pansies and violas and they are bright and colorful and edible. Later on we will carry nasturtiums and they are edible. They will be flowering by mid summer.
Borage is another edible flower that we will be carrying later on; we do have borage seed right now.

Question from TAS: When can I plant peas in my garden?

Answer: TAS, nice to hear from you again. NOW is the time to plant peas, spinach, and swiss chard seeds. We are also hoping to have available very soon lettuce, broccoli, and other cole crop plants--if not by this weekend, then very soon. It is great to plant all these crops now; you can have them all harvested by early July and then be ready to plant a second crop when the first crop is done.

Question: My rhubarb is going thin and I am getting less yield each year. What can I do?

Answer: Now is a great time to dig up and divide your rhubard. When replanting I would put in some nice organic matter like the Penobscot Blend by Coast of Maine (their recommend planting mix). I would also recommend applying a good natural fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma twice yearly each year. This will keep the soil in good shape and your rhubarb will THANK you for it! Remember too as with any new plant divisions, to regularly water your newly divided rhubarb throughout this growing season.

April 15:

Great news! Our 2008 Nursery and Perennial catalogs are now posted at in PDF form. Just click on Nursery Catalog at our header and you will soon have our catalog at your fingertips!

April 14:

KCB checks in with this very timely missive:

Excellent recommendations regarding the roses. Now is the time to prune and cut back. Proper cut: Cut canes at a 45-degree angle just above a leaf bud (swelling on the cane). Slant the cut away from the bud, to encourage growth outward. Clean pruners after every use to prevent the spread of disease. Keep pruners sharp to make clean cuts. Also prune away any canes that cross.

Another recommendation for the potted rose is to amend the soil when planting. Everything I put in the ground I use Coast of Maine Penobscot Blend or Jolly Gardener Tree & Shrub. If the soil is good, I use 1/3 mix and 2/3 soil. For soil that has not have the nutrients it needs then ½ & ½ is my norm. In all instances I blend the mix and the soil thoroughly. Always remember to water in any newly or transplanted shrub. During dry times this may need to be checked daily.

I heard a quote the other day that will become one of my new mantras for the coming season-------ah, but I won’t share it now.

You’ll have to read my next installment.

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