Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of April 28

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 info@skillins.com OR leave a comment at the end of this post. We would love any tips OR questions from you.

May 4:

Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport tells us "as your asparagus shoots start emerging, harvest spears at least pencil width from asparagus plants that are at least three years old. Cut the spears at ground level with a sharp knife and eat them that day for the best flavor. For asparagus, select a well-drained site in at least part sun; full sun is not necessary. Eliminate all weeds by repeated tilling, loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Prepare the bed by digging trenches four feet apart. The trenches should be 12 inches wide and six to 12 inches deep. Soak the crowns briefly in lukewarm water before planting. Draw a hoe along each side of the prepared trench to form a mound in the center running the length of the trench. Set the crowns 18 inches apart on the mounds in the trench, draping the roots over the sides. Cover the crowns with a mix of one part compost to three parts topsoil , burying the crowns two inches deep. Water the bed thoroughly. After about a month, once shoots have appeared, carefully add more soil to the trench.”

This is excellent advice for planting asparagus. One point I may depart from is that I am not a fan of repeated tilling since that will raise havoc with the soil structure but you certainly want to rid your new asparagus beds of weeds. Another point I would make is that asparagus plants are ugly to look at as the season goes on so choose a spot somewhat far from your house if you have the option. I would also add scatter some Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma into the compost for some good natural nutrients. Later on in the season I would side dress the plants with one of these products for more nutrients.

Take advantage of the unexpected rain we received on Saturday to get out and pull "hard to pull" weeds that may already be prominent in your perennial beds or lawns. Even mature dandelions pull a little easier out of moist ground!

Many years ago now Jim Crockett of Crockett’s Victory Garden wrote about raspberries in his fine book, Crockett’s Victory Garden:

“Of all the delightful fruits for the home garden, none is more productive than raspberries. That’s a special bonus, because growing raspberries at home is about the only way to get them to the table in perfect condition; they are extremely difficult for the commercial market to raise and ship since they are so easily damaged in handling.

Ordinary raspberries ripen in midsummer on canes that grew the previous year.

I set the young bushes, which we bought in a local nursery, into our ordinary garden soil that had been enriched with cow manure and peat moss. (We would recommend planting with Shrub and Tree Mix by Jolly Gardener after pre watering the hole with a good root stimulator like Roots or a good natural fertilizer like Bio Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica which both contain natural microbes for all natural root stimulation, both products sold right here at Skillin’s). After that feed twice yearly with a good all purpose natural fertilizer like Plant Tone by Espoma or the aforementioned Plant Booster Plus by Organica.

I don’t expect more than a handful of fruit from raspberry bushes in their first year, but after a year or two in the soil they’ll yield bountifully for many seasons.” We have a great raspberry selection here at Skillin’s!

May 3:

Don't remove foliage from fading spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips until it dies back on its own. The plant needs the foliage to manufacture and store food in the bulb in preparation for next year's bloom.Removing green foliage weakens the plant. Wait until the foliage yellowson its own in midsummer before trimming it back. In the meantime, hide the unsightly foliage by doubling it over and tying with rubber bands.

Now is a great time to feed your bulbs with a good natural liquid fertilizer like Fish/Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest. The bulb plants will take the nutrients and micronutrients supplied by this great fertilizer and both store them and also use them to grow bigger and stronger for more flowering next year!

DK adds to this: "I hide my fading bulbs with other flowers: my tete-a-tete
daffodils/narcissus are petering out right now, just as my daylilies
around them are about the same height. Soon enough, you'll never know the tete-a-tetes are still there."

(Thanks to Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited for the first part of this tip!)

May 2:

Customer JM checks in with a question: I purchased a tree from skillins 4 or 5 years ago. It has never bloomed since planting it in our yard. What should I put on it for fertilizer? I'm hoping that I can do something now that will encourage blooms for next year.

Answer: Location is very important as your crab should be in a day long (6 to 8 hours for maximum flowering) sunny spot.

For best flowering I would recommend twice yearly applications of a good natural food like Flower Tone by Espoma. Also I would try a couple of liquid feedings of Fish and Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest to get some more natural ingredients into the soil that are conducive to the long term health of your tree and therefore it's flowering.

At some point it would probably be wise to do a soil test around the area of your tree.

Finally, it may be good to give the plant at least a light trimming or pruning but do it right after similar trees have just finished flowering. You don't want to wait too long for that.

May 1:

I am sure you cannot help but notice the beautiful Forsythia shrubs that are in blossom all over Southern Maine!

Forsythia is an easy shrub to plant and grow! Occasionally we will hear that customers have trouble with them blooming but that is usually because they may have pruned them in the fall. Forsythia grows fast and loves to be pruned and shaped but the time to do the pruning and shaping is right after they flower (think later this month). This pruning timing is the case with so many plants. Fall pruning of forsythia will mean you are shaping your bush BUT you are also cutting off the growth that will result in next year's flowers.

Forsythia loves full sun and a well-drained soil. I usually feed them with Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica twice per year.

As you can see, they make excellent hedges, borders or foundation plantings! We have some greatvarieties here at Skillin’s and would love to show you them

Barbara Gardener checks in:

"Not too happy that the heavy rain beat down so many daffodils and giant hyacinths. A friend ordered 25 giant stargazer bulbs and then gave them to me because she didn't want to plant them. And naturally I was stupid enough to take them. Also a huge trash bag of pachysandra. Have no idea how to spell that and neither does spellcheck. That stuff is terrible to dig up. Couldn't find where the main root was so we just pulled. Some of it is a yard long. Should be a fun afternoon! "

Barbara already knows this but pachysandra is a classic groundcover for a partial shade area. I just love it!

April 30:

I was driving from Falmouth to Cumberland earlier today and I saw my first “mowed lawn”. One of the most important steps in organic lawn care is to NOT mow your lawn too short in the Spring and summer. A 4” lawn is best, a 3” lawn will do and folks I can guarantee that these heights are taller than most of us are used to. Why so long? Well, keeping a “taller” lawn encourages deeper root growth, discourages weeds by having tougher lawn roots and more of a grass canopy, and reduces watering needs in the heat of summer.

With a taller lawn it is vital that you keep your lawn mower blade sharp throughout the season. Also, another good step is to aerate your lawn once or twice a year to let more sun and air down into your soil. We sell Aerator Sandles here at Skillin’s that you can strap on while doing your yard work and lawn mowing. With the sandles you just keep poking helpful holes into the earth!

April 29:

Happy Birthday to my mom Brenda Skillin. She and her sister in law Sally Skillin (wife of my late uncle John Skillin) married two hard working gentlemen named David and John Skillin who dedicated so much of their lives to building Skillin's Greenhouses and to educating thousands of Maine gardeners.

Dave and John were away from home a great deal and my mom Brenda and my aunt Sally raised 3 kids apiece and made a lot of meals and were the backbone of the house while Dave and John were working.

What you have done for so many should not be forgotten!

April 28:

Now is the time to plant "cole" crops. "Cole" refers to any of various plants belonging to the Cruciferae or mustard family. Even though you might not be familiar with the impressive scientific name or enjoy eating mustard you are certainly familiar with other members of this family which furnish gardeners with many gourmet delights during the season. The mustard family includes cool season crops such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips and watercress. These crops should be planted about 2 weeks before your last frost date in soil amended with compost. Don't be concerned if the leaves turn red or purple. It's often a sign of phosphorus deficiency due to cool soils and will go away once the soil warms. Other crops to plant include lettuce and peas.” I planted some broccoli and red leaf lettuce the other day (just before all this rain!) Terry Skillin is worried that his pea seeds may have drowned in all this rain. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

But sunny days lie ahead and with it great days for gardening!

(Thanks to Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited for this tip!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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