Monday, July 28, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of July 28

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post we will be letting you know what we are doing or what we hear is going on out there in our local gardening world.

We 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.

July 28:

We kick this gardening week off with some great gardening pictures and comments from our great gardening friend Barbara Gardener!

Barbara sent this picture along with the following comment: "Lovely background from last years (Apil) terrible storm. Could have been a lot worse." Barbara, you have done a great job gardening in front of the forest. What I really notice is the great mixture of all summer flowering annuals with some neat annual dianthus on the lower left in front of the white astilbe.

This next picture is a real show stopper. I have "oohed and ahhed" over pink impatiens in the past well Barbara took this fantastic after dark picture of a gorgeous Asiatic lily. Barbara must have more energy than me--she seems to be staying up pretty late!

Window boxes and containers are a great way to incorporate "extra" plants you may have on hand or a great way to use some plants that you see and really love but may not have the space in the ground at this point. Barbara told me "three plants of Skillin's Million Bells in the cedar tub. Verbena and "leftovers" in the window boxes. I have six windowboxes on the deck railing so I thought I had better stagger the weight by putting them in and out. A broken railing sounded a little expensive to repair."

Thanks Barbara Gardener!
I am a natural gardener as much as possible as I and so many of us here at Skillin's are very committed to Planting for the Planet. I will confess that 2 summers ago I surveyed my lawn in mid summer and was aghast at how the weeds were overtaking my lawn. An immaculate lawn is not something I desire but I feel like my lawn should be mostly healthy grass.
So I will admit that in 2006 I applied Bayer Advance All in One Weed Killer twice to my weeds and then twice again last year. These weeds were intense.
In both of those years I have consistently applied natural and organic lawn fertilizers to my lawn as well as Miracal by Jonathan Green to keep the natural products going into the soil and to preserve that good biology. For the fertilizers I used Nature's Turf by North Country Organics and I love the product--this year I have switched over to the all natural Four Step Lawn Program by Organica ( and sold right here at Skillin's!) and I am impressed by the Organica Four Step program.
Right now is a GREAT time to apply Step 3 of the Organica Four Step program--their Microbial Soil Conditioner.
Got lawn weeds bad? Consider the Bayer Advanced All in One Weed Killer (and use according to directions) and then follow up with Organica's Microbial Soil Conditioner. Any biological interruption that the Bayer Advanced product may bring can be pretty quickly reversed by sticking close to the Organica Four Step program and right now is the perfect time for Step 3!
Got lawn weeds medium bad? Get a dandelion fork or a thin trowel and dig those guys up. If you just have spotty weeds an hour or two of simple digging can eradicate many of those bad weeds. Follow up with some spot grass seeding using the Black Beauty grass seed by Jonathan Green and Grass Seed Accelerator along with committing to the Organica Four Step Lawn Program and you have a much better lawn situation IN A HURRY!
July 29:
Terry Skillin checks back in to the Skillin's Garden Log:
July is it suppose to be hot or rainy, we have had it seems plenty of both. Sun provides us with vitamin D and rain contains vitamin B-12 so this July has been such a multi-vitamin. Not only am I feeling at the top of my game from all of this weather, but also so are all my little mollusk friends. Those low down little invertebrates (I know the type so I can speak freely) are just feasting on everything in my gardens from my Aster to my Zinnias. It’s really the stuff in between that I am most protective of: beans, lettuce, and other veggies and I am very particular about what I use. For me my defense is Diatomaceous Earth. I use it to control slug, snails and even root maggots. I do reapply it after a rain or heavy watering while my garden is under siege. Diatomaceous Earth is fossilized hard-shelled algae and like me has an abrasive quality that cuts and dries out my little friends. Don’t get it in your eyes; even organic solutions have their hazards. Another great product that we offer is “Slug Magic” by Bonide its active ingredient iron phosphate and is safe for veggies and pets. Slug Magic lures these little beasties out of their hiding places and basically dissolves them into soil. We also have slug traps that use beer as a lure and they work great too, but hey what a colossal waste of a fine beverage. Remember we all need to read the labels, even on beer.

Popillia japonica--the dreaded Japanese Beetle--with all of our controls may have yet another worthy opponent. The Winsome Fly! Remember back in the 80s how the midget wrestlers would always pick on AndrĂ© the Giant? Well it’s not really that important to my story here but Mike remembers. These little guys with warrior hearts would take on these massive giants, beat the “snot” out of them and win. (This is Mike and I remember that Andre the Giant would always beat the height challenged warriors in the end) In this scenario Andre’ is the Japanese Beetle and the midget wrestlers are the Winsome Flies. The Winsome Fly was imported from Asia specifically as a parasite to control the Japanese Beetle. The fly lays it’s eggs on the beetle and as the fly hatches it burrows into the beetle and starts to feed on the flying muscles making the beetle take cover back in the soil. The fly hangs out there feeding on the dead beetle until the fly reemerges in July. That’s just so cool! To read more check out or google Winsome fly. They way they describe the whole thing will not be as action packed as I have but it might be a smidge more scientific.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time in a Bottle by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Sands through an hour glass, the shadows on a sundial, the toll of a
distant church bell all measure time. Even the passing of blooms, changing of foliage all let us know that marches on. Some say that time stands still. Yet when gardening, time simply ceases to exist.

Once upon a time, before I became a ‘professional’ a time when I had my own house and garden, it would take me as much as 40 minutes to span the miniscule walkway from driveway to doorway before entering the house. My husband would refer to it as the ‘garden trance’.

I was en-tranced by my garden, scouring the area with my eyes to spy the emergence of a perennial, a self-sowed annual, dreaded weeds, and ultimately, pesky pests. If I should stop to pull one weed, pinch one spent bloom then all bets were off. There is no such thing as pulling one weed or deadheading one of anything.

Today I was suppose to meet one of my assistants at 10:30, first I planned to spend an hour, the most 2 at another garden in my care. 10:45 she calls. Where did nearly 3 hours go? This season I even missed a hair appointment as a couple of hours turned into 6 without much effort. Time is something I really should be more cognizant of. For me time is money and money is time. You can’t lose something you don’t own, so I do not loose time. What I do lose is money. Something I really should work on, when I can find the time.

Many of my clients are former gardeners who are not able to keep up with the regular maintenance due to lack of their own time, energy, or a combination of both. As part of my interview process, I ask how much time they would spend tending to their beds. ‘Oh, not long, an hour or 2, sometimes more, a day…….’ Not a direct quote nevertheless the message is the same. Relationships take time. We have relationships with our gardens. 14 hours a week may be excessive for just weed pulling or bloom cutting. True gardeners know there is much more to the task than pulling a weed or 2. Sometimes we aren’t really” working” at all--just standing back and taking it all in. The latter is certainly time well spent.

Soon we will be entering the time for my favorite blooms as displayed in the late summer garden. More on this topic when I have time………

Monday, July 21, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of July 21

Greetings again from our awesome gardening friend Barbara Gardener. She sends us several pictures per week and we appreciate them all very much. The picture above is of a very lovely delphinium that is just gorgeous.

Just below we are seeing a wonderful daylily--one of my favorites, so reliable.

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post we will be letting you know what we are doing or what we hear is going on out there in our local gardening world.

We 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.
July 27:
Just spoke to Tim Bate our nursery manager who wants to caution everyone that because the ground was SO dry prior to this last week of torrential rains that newly planted trees and shrubs still need good thorough waterings. The rain in most cases fell so fast and furious and the ground was so dry that only the top foot or so of the ground was impacted. This level of watering is probably fine for annuals, perennials and vegetables but is not adequate for shrubs and trees.
So, set that hose next to your newly planted shrubs and trees and let that water soak in SLOWLY for each plant for a good half hour to an hour per plant. Your plants will thank you!
Also speaking of watering, my cukes and tomatoes in containers badly needed a good watering yesterday even though they had been so rained on this week. So check any containers of flowers or vegetables you have growing as well!
July 25:
This question about moving peonies from customer BR:
I was wondering if I can move a peony bush (only over about a foot from where it is now) or should I wait till fall and cut it back first?
Our answer: You can move your peony bush now. “By the book”, it is best to wait until fall, cut it back and move the tuber then.

However, if you need to get a project down now you can move the plant.

In either case do not plant the tuber too deep—JUST underneath the surface of the soil. It is always a good opportunity to get some good organic matter into the new hole as well, such as Coast of Maine’s Penobscot Blend or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. Finally, water the newly planted tuber well once or twice a week until the ground freezes in November.

July 24:
Okay enough with the rain! But as I have said before the moist ground makes for easy weed pulling!
Today I just want to talk about deer for a moment. For the first time in 20 years I have deer munching on some plants in my yard. So far the damage has been confined to a few perennials (no long flowering rudbeckia for me this year) and the first buds on some of my rose bushes.
For years we have recommended Liquid Fence as a foliar spray as a long lasting natural repellent. I know of several of our customers who swear by Liquid Fence.
I also know of several customers who faithfully spread Milorganite an old time natural fertilizer that has a well broken down human sludge component to it. The deer get a sense that a human is right around the corner so to speak and stay away from the area.
A few questions: What do you use? Tell us with a comment at the bottom of this post or at If milorganite works now (and it seems to be doing the trick after a few weeks) what do I use in the winter time if I want to protect some evergreens? Do I switch back to the Liquid Fence? Again most of the Liquid Fence users employ the Liquid Fence year round. I know frequent monthly sprayings are very important.
I look forward to hearing from you and now I need to reapply that milorganite after all that rain!
July 23:
Barbara Gardener checks in with the following. Great to hear from you!:
"So many perennials going by. I hate that. Losing too many that I love. Good thing we have plenty of annuals available with a lot of color. I have been spending so much time cutting back and cleaning up from the perennials that I didn't realize how many weeds had sprung up and were hiding around and under the perennials. I added a lot of just plain loam this year to replace what had washed away. Probably how I got the witch grass? Have to get that out of there before it goes to seed! I think we will be getting quite a few showers this week so that will make it a lot easier. Also the Espoma soil enhancer that you sold me last fall has really helped the clay situation. Sure makes weeding a lot easier. "
My response: "This season is going SO fast. You bring up several good points here that I am going to shamelessly bring to the Garden Log.

Annuals and perennials do make a wonderful mix. As so many perennial flowers are bidding us adieu for another year, their cousins the Annuals are getting bigger and stronger and their color more and more prolific.

Weeds! You bet there are weeds out there. If I get some time later on this week I have to do quite a bit of time on my hands and knees pulling those darn things. As you so aptly say the weeds sure do pull easier out of the moist soil. I bet they pull easier with some nice lemonade to drink also! Pull that witch grass as soon as you can!

The Espoma Soil Perfector is a great product to help break up clay pockets. Glad to hear your endorsement—I will keep recommending it."
July 22:

Terry Skillin checks in again with some great garden tidbits for our staff this week; we are passing on his notes to you:

Color in the garden all season long is not the challenge that some once thought it to be. This morning I had the chance to work in the Falmouth nursery for a few hours (then they discovered me and sent me away) and I came across a real cool shrub that I will add to my garden. Lespedeza thunbergii Gibraltar Bush Clover. It seems like a nice zone 5 plant (can tolerate –30 degrees) full sunmaybe a light shade spot and grows to approximately 5’w and 10’h max. In July and August they flower deep rose-purple pea shape flowers on 6” long racemes. This beauty did not make our catalog but if you would like check it out further, Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants pg 554. What else is Tim hiding fro me?

Perennials make our gardens, if planned correctly they create endless color, texture and depth to the entire garden. Each variety has their time to shine in the garden but as the season evolves we need to cut back some of last months show stoppers. I have recently cut back several perennial in my gardens, perennial geraniums and Bachelor’s Button Centaurea ‘Montana’ to name a couple. This makes the garden look so much better and now we may even see more flowers from both. By doing this I have made room for other perennials to fill-in and I have opened up space to add a few annuals that will provide great color until frost. I have also now the opportunity to work my own compost into the gardens. If our customers don’t have their own compost Skillin’s has plenty of ‘Coast of Maine’ products and I have found their compost to be the best in my garden. Am I hearing the choir sing? As far as what’s hot in my garden right now I think it would have to be my Gayfeather Liatris. For me it is a great perennial that gives me some pretty cool vertical lines in the garden with great purple flowers--the botanical name is Liatris Kolbold. There is also white L. Floristan and violet L. Floristan Violet. Great late July and August color growing about 36” high, full sun maybe a little light shade, very tough, hardy to zone 3. I use to think I had a woodchuck that had developed a penchant for my Liatris. The woodchuck ended up being my wife Erlene and she likes filling vases in our kitchen with them, so yes they are great as cut flowers too!

Powdery Mildew, so what did you come up with? With all this sticky weather and recent heavy night rains we have stuff growing that is not a real plus for the garden. In the organic and natural category there is Serenade both as a RTU and a concentrate, Copper Dust, RTU or liquid concentrate. Copper I try to avoid using in hot mid day sun, it can burn the foliage. Fung-onil like the first two are broad-spectrum fungicides that will deal with several funguses, however this solution is chemical. All three of these are labeled for vegetable as well as other crops.

Vegetable gardening is huge this year as we all know and there are pests that intend to enjoy it as much as we do. Cabbage loopers and other somewhat similar beasties are starting the feast on cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. BT, short for Bacillus thuringensis (can’t for the life of me see why they wanted to shorten it) is a very effective nature biological solution with different label names, BT, Dilep 150 and Thuricide. These can be used as spray or dust and should be used now if the pests exist on the crop. Rotenone is another good organic insecticide and will control a more broad selection of insects. Even though these are organic still make customers aware that they are all a pesticide and reading the label is very important. Take a minute and check them and other solutions out, customers will be asking.

July 21:

Well, my goodness! Who knew we were going to get so much more rain yesterday (Sunday the 20th)? Skillin's Rain Gauge located in the heart of Skillin's Country recorded another whole inch of rain for Sunday giving us 2 whole inches since Friday morning.

Some areas in Skillin's Country did not receive that much and some other areas did receive more but what they received was buckets of rain or as Jeff Skillin would say rain like a cow "" on a flat rock!

In yesterday's post found at Garden Happenings! Week of July 14 I told you all "we are so dry and much of that rain came so quickly I would suspect that our newly planted material will still need a good quality watering in the next day or so from your hose and watering can."

For my particular yard, I am going to say that yesterday's rain will suffice for my new plantings for quite a few days. However, keep an eye on things; if you got less rain or if a dry windy day comes up watering needs could be quite different. Let us know if you have any questions!

Speaking of gardening questions, we LOVE gardening questions and feel free to email us anytime or give us a call. We will answer!

Here are a couple of great gardening questions we received today:

Question from customer SC: I usually pinch back by fall blooming sedums but did not get to it earlier in the season. Some of them have blooms on them already. Will I be sacrificing the fall bloom if I pinch back the stems now?

Answer: As you are implying, the best time to pinch back the fall blooming sedums or any fall blooming perennials is in the early Spring. So, to answer your question I would say yes, you would be sacrificing the fall bloom by pinching back the stems now.

Question from customer JC: KCB's writing (Facts of Life) was touching and well written, looking forward to reading more on her experiences.

I enjoy going to the Falmouth location and I have been to the Cumberland location as well.

I am a beginner gardener and I have tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in containers presently. I am wondering what I need to do to have spinach, lettuce and snap beans? Any help would be appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for being a customer and thanks for your kind words about KCB. KCB has been receiving lots of compliments about the “Facts of Life”—and they are well deserved. But I can assure you each compliment has gone straight to the head of KCB; KCB could be headed to New York or Paris or wherever the “high and mighty” hang out. Greater Portland soon may not be "great" enough or large enough for the author who is KCB.

The words “beginner gardener” are great words to hear and I hope your tomatoes, cukes and peppers are prospering. I have some very healthy tomatoes, cukes and peas growing in containers right now.

Spinach, lettuce and snap beans can all be planted easily by seed in containers. I am not sure what you are using for a potting medium but I heartily recommend the Bar Harbor blend potting soil by Coast of Maine Organics. Bar Harbor blend is EASILY the best potting soil I have ever used. This blend is a great soil that is rich in organic compost. I also mix in some generous amounts of Plant Booster Plus by Organica for plant starting and natural fertilizer purposes. Plant Booster Plus is rich in natural nutrients and some great microbial matter which will really stimulate the roots of your plants. Finally because this is Maine and we have a short growing season, I do recommend weekly feedings of a great natural fertilizer called Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer by Neptune’s Harvest.

Make sure your containers get over half a day’s sun. All day sun is even better.

You probably have time left in the season for only one sowing of snap beans but if you have enough containers and enough space for your containers I am willing to bet you can stagger your sowings so that you can get at least two more sowings of spinach and lettuce if you want to. I am growing my peas in containers on my south facing paved driveway and I am planning on having peas go well, well into fall if we get enough sunny weather. The sun heats up that driveway and that heat really keeps the soil in the containers warm. I would love to still have peas producing at Thanksgiving time in that spot.

I am not sure if I am answering your question; but we have the seeds, the soil, and the Plant Booster Plus AND the Fish and Seaweed food available right here at Skillin’s.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of July 14

Hello again,

Gardening is Happening in Skillin's Country!

In this post we will be letting you know what we are doing or what we hear is going on out there in our local gardening world.

We 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.

Greetings from to all of us from Barbara Gardener: "I have a lot of new columbine this year. I really liked this one because it was looking up and only 12 to 14 inches tall".

That picture symbolizes why we garden here in Maine! Lots of work but some great rewards!

Columbine is a wonderful old time perennial plant but as you can see from the picture above there are many new exciting varieties to choose from!

July 20:

Well, since late Friday we have received over an inch of rain into Skillin's Rain Gauge located in the heart of Skillin's Country; other areas in Skillin's Country may have received more than that.

Despite the wild weather that caused power outages, prehistoric sized hail and downed trees in some areas the rain was very welcome as I have noticed all my established plant material that was wilting from the dryness has now sprung back to life. That is a great thing!

However, we were so dry and much of that rain came so quickly I would suspect that our newly planted material will still need a good quality watering in the next day or so from your hose and watering can.

July 19:

I have some bare patches on some poor soil in my small back yard lawn. One of my gardening goals this year is to improve the soil and get some better lawn growing there. The soil improvement is coming and will continue to come from my faithful application of Organica's Four Step Lawn products (found at and talked about frequently by me here at the Skillin's Garden Log.)

I am always in a hurry and just the other day I simply cast some Black Beauty grass seed down on the bare patches, got my old sprinkler going and off I went! Well, after a few vigorous waterings from the old sprinkler I have noticed that my uncovered grass seed is being moved by the water into irregular piles. Rookie mistake!

To germinate and grow well, grass seed should be raked into the ground and then covered with a light covering of mulch. So today I am going to rake in that seed with a metal cultivator (like I should have in the first place) and then cover my seed with compressed paper pellets called Grass Seed Accelerator. I highly recommend this product as the compressed paper will expand once it becomes wet for the first time and then it will hold the seed in place during the required daily waterings from my old sprinkler.

Again for seeding in tough areas (and frankly in Maine between our challenging climate, ledge, clay or sandy mediums all lawn areas are tough areas) I would recommend the Black Beauty Grass Seed by Jonathan Green. It is the best combination of good appearance and toughness for our challenging gardening climate in Maine that I know of. Check out this link for more details or better yet simply come over to Skillin's and check this excellent grass seed out!

July 18:

I had a customer bring in a classic example of tomato blossom end rot today. Blossom end rot shows up as dark sunken spots on the bottom ends of tomatoes, peppers, and squash. It's caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant -- the soil may have adequate calcium, but the plant isn't able to take up enough to supply the rapidly developing fruit.To minimize the problem, keep soil evenly moist, apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture (the Fundy Mix by Coast of Maine is an excellent choice), don't overfertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer.

We do carry some excellent sources of liquid calcium which could quickly turn the calcium deficiency around. We recommend Rot Stop by Bonide or Flower Booster by Organica.

I have been fertilizing my vegetables with side dressings of Plant Booster Plus by Organica along with weekly liquid feedings of Fish/Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest (lots of calcium there!). So far my tomatoes and the small fruit I have is looking just great!

July 17:

Paul Tukey pointed out to me this morning that we really should not be selling Sevin as it is not a planet friendly product and he claims it will be de-registered by the EPA within 5 years.

I agree with Paul in that Sevin is not my product of choice for pest problems in the garden. Between effective products like Neem (I love K Neem by Organcia), pyrethrins (Japanese Beetle Killer by Bonide is a hot product right now) and All Seasons Spray Oil (we sell an effective oil by Bonide) there are plenty of other choices out there!

Let us show you how to best Plant for the Planet!

July 16:

Terry Skillin our leader and garden guru checks in with this note he wrote to our staff just the other day. It hurts me to admit it but this is real good stuff:

Japanese Beetles as many have noticed are back with a vengeance. Those pretty metallic red beetles are eating everything and our gardening pals are having little patience for their rude behavior. They want them dead! There are several possible solutions that we can talk over with gardeners. Bayer Rose and Flower RTU is a great control for the little beasties. Beetle Traps, can work too well and because of this you need to stay on top of emptying the bags as soon as they fill. The traps use a floral and sex lure (sounds a little like Valentines Day) that attracts the beetles by the hundreds. It is best to place the trap away from the gardens that you need to protect so the spill over does not just end up feeding on the garden. Grub Beater by Bonide is an insecticide, repellant, and insect growth regulator, that uses a botanical component. I like growth regulators and not just because of what seems like a diabolical plan to get even, which does render some satisfaction but it is using some of what nature provides for control. Sevin or Carbaryl is a non selective chemical solution that has been around for years, that for a chemical is relatively safe and quite effective. Be careful of bees with this one. Bayer Tree and Shrub or Imidacloprid would kill these guys as well but remember like any systemic insecticide the little beasties have to eat the plant to be killed by the insecticide. Rotenone and Pyrethrins are both a good none selective organic insecticide. Like Sevin they are contact killers which means that they need to come in contact with the pest so that they can RIP. I use Pyrethrin (one nice version is Japanese Beetle Killer by Bonide) and get a quick kill however I need to stay on top of the population and repeat often. Milky Spore and other grub controls are really the first line of defense and soon the adult beetles will be laying a new generation of eggs in our lawns. So as the eggs hatch over the next 4 to 6 weeks we can get some great control this late summer and fall and help reduce the number of beetles next year.

Vegetable gardens--now that it is summer and mostly dry our vegetable gardens will need more attention from the garden hose. Morning watering is the best to help minimize fungus problems and will best help support the plant during the heat of the day. If gardeners have to water at night it certainly can be done but try to talk them into morning. I know if it rains at night there is nothing we can do about that but when it does it is infrequent. Night watering that occurs every night usually keep plants and fruit too wet too long.

Fertilizing also becomes important now that plants are in full development and creating fruit. Side dressing our vegetable garden is an old slang tern for applying fertilizer sparingly along the side of the plants. This should be done two to three times per season. (From Mike S: I am using the Plant Booster Plus by Organica for my vegetables and I absolutely LOVE the results. I am also liquid feeding every week with the Fish/Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest to get added calcium into the soil!).

Color is king in the garden and there is still plenty to go around. Hydrangeas of all colors and sizes are starting to do their thing. From the different whites like Annabelle Hydrangea arborescens a great zone 3 to 9 plant 4 to 6’ tall or Hydrangea paniculata “Little Lamb” compact 4 to 6’ zone 4 to the blues like Hydrangea macrophylla “Endless Summer” and the red H. mac. “Lady in Red” zones 4 and 5 respectively. Each will be around 3 to 4’ tall and wide with Endless Summer maybe up to 5’ tall. Check them out with others in our nursery catalog! Our nursery catalog can be found online at

Perennials like Coreopis “Moonbeam” and “Jethro Tull” providing great color zone 4 full sun and grow to about 18” tall and if you like yellow but need more height False Sunflower Heliopsis “Orange Sunflower and Summers Night grow to 3 to 4 feet tall and are hardy for zone 3 to 9. Pretty tough. Page 25 and 12 in our 2008 Perennial catalog.

Powdery Mildew is back in the garden showing up on plants like Phlox, Begonias and Lilacs. We recommend all natural garden sulfur or another exciting all natural product called Serenade is very effective against powdery mildew.

It is still not too late to begin a monthly spray program for roses, grapes, tomatos, phlox, lilacs, crab and fruit trees to combat powdery mildew and other leaf spots using an excellent natural program called Messenger. Check out this link from a past Skillin's Garden Log entry where we discuss the merits of Messenger. The link is found at Garden Happenings! Week of May 12

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Emergence by KCB

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Out of the ground they came, not one at a time but clutching each other as in fear or solidarity. It took me a while for my mind to register on what it was witnessing. Curiosity, then, um, gulp, dread. The Japanese Beatle was resurfacing. Years ago, I had witnessed ‘june bugs’ make their mass exodus when the twilight passes to night. As a child I wondered at the function of this particular clumsy bug. They would interfere with pool parties yet other damage was not known to me at the time. After all, I was not a gardener and by the dawn’s early light all evidence of this flying mini-blimp had all but vanished.

The Japanese Beatle is another story. They live to eat and breed. Even in pre-emergence state they wreak havoc on the lawn. Not one to go into details, I hate most bugs and insects. The thought of life cycles, well, lets just say I choose not to think. Perhaps not the wisest practice of a gardener. I deal with the situation without much thought. This is not to say I am not aware of the environment, beneficial insects and mankind. Yet I am not totally an organic gardener.

Long before it was easy being green, I was practicing safe (in)sects. Milky Spore!

During my horticultural studies I was told that Maine was not the optimum environment for the Milky Spore. Soil must be 65° to work. All I know it worked for us. Long before we ever saw a Japanese Beatle, our lawn was dying. Not only did it have brown spots where the grass was eaten from the bottom up, we had holes from the skunks digging to find the (yuck) grubs.

Our lawn was small, the garden large. We had dogs and I enjoyed the feel of lush grass between my toes. We wanted to use something we would all feel good rolling around in. Ok, perhaps not actually rolling around, yet something that wouldn’t cause damage to us.

Milky Spore is a naturally occurring host specific bacterium (Bacillus popillae-Dutky). It is said Milky Spore is will not harm beneficial insects, birds, even if they eat the grubs, pets or humans. Bees are also not effected. Well or natural waterways are also out of harms way. The bacterium is ingested by the grubs. The rest is history.

Research indicates that the Milky Spore remedy may take 3-5 years. This did not seem to be the case with us. It is critical that one is consistent in the application; Spring, August and fall. For the spring application, it is said to count back approximately 6 weeks from when the first Japanese Beatle was noticed. We would apply ours in late April/Early May. August is the time when the beetles start laying there eggs and fall for when the grubs start feeding.

In all instances, whatever it is you use for your Integrated Pest Management, (IPM, the practice of preventative common sense approach to pest control) apply per the directions on the manufacturer’s packaging.

The benefits of Milky Spore continue to be debated, including the one I had a couple of years ago in one of my gardening classes. I do not promote, or oppose. I just know what worked for my personal gardening needs.

Most of the gardens I tend to have a separate service to tend to their lawn needs. Most do apply some kind of insect and grub control. As we look to ways to be less chemical, more natural some people are shying away from any controls. There are products that do work. As always check with your local nurseries or garden centers. Also make sure that anyone who is treating your property be licensed to do so.

In addition to my Milky Spore remedy, I do apply a systemic feeding system. Not organic, yet when applied according to package directions it diminishes the need to use sprays. At this time of the year I avoid spraying.

If you find yourself in a situation that spraying is necessary, please make sure that the sprays are applied early in the day. Avoid the heat and hot sun of mid-afternoon. Foliage burn can occur otherwise.

Another hotly debated topic, Beetle Bait traps. They work. They do attract. My theory, why attract what I do not want. You decide………….

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
July 14, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Facts of Life

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

As a ‘professional gardener’ ‘there are some rules that I am forced to live by. A client who lives in a pine tree grove cannot expect beautiful, fragrant lilacs. A landscape over-run with deer may not produce majestic hydrangea blooms. An arid border may not bring forth succulent hostas. The southwest coast of England is home to the most luxurious Fuschia Shrubs imaginable while in Maine it is relegated as an annual. A plant will not thrive in an environment not suited for its variety.

This is also true for humans and other animals. Personally, I know I must live by the Ocean. I have had the opportunity to live by the banks of the Tennessee River with the great Smokies outside my window. I considered Chattanooga Tennessee for a while until I walked along Pine Point Beach for what I thought would be the last time. The answer came in ocean waves. Maine will remain my home. At least for now.

I will only flourish within a miniscule drive of the Atlantic Ocean. In addition living in a hardiness zone 5 excites me. It gives light to a passion that areas with longer grower seasons cannot embrace. Imagine not feeling excitement at the onset of March with crocus poking thru the snow. How boring to live where year round blooms exist. I have convinced myself I prosper because of where it is I live.

It is no secret I am a dog lover. Golden Retrievers are my kindred spirits. Their ‘all is right with the world’ dispositions are what called me to them in the first place. Our first dog as a married couple was a Golden named Roxy. She was 2 when she came to live with us. Her humans were expecting their 2nd child and their small apartment would not accommodate this loving beauty. Our gain for sure.

Roxy only required some pruning, watering, and nutrition to fit into our garden. We embraced her at 2 and I held her as I said good-bye to her half way thru her 14th year.

6 months later it was time to fill the void. Replant. Replenish.

One day on a whim I said to my husband lets to go the shelter. I could sense we were needed. There he was. A pure bred Golden of 8 that no one seemed to want. Skinny, and covered with a rash, it was still obvious he had solid roots. I knew he would bloom where he was planted. My vet, neighbors, and all who met this footloose canine voiced that this senior boy was the happiest of Goldens. I retained physical custody of Molson, the Golden after my divorce. Molson would flourish anywhere. Love, long walks and a cool swim is what he lived for. Nearly 7 years he was with me. He had lived a great life and there was nothing more I could do. Another good-bye was said as we lay nose to nose. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not one to be without a 4-legged companion I adopted again. The search was made with the assistance of several Golden Retriever rescue groups. I had fallen in love with several I had met ‘on line’ yet none seemed to be a match. I had to have a Golden and it had to be someone’s reject.

Finally, the call came; they had found ‘my dog’. A dog that needed to be loved. Heck, I could do that. This beautiful Red Golden was no longer wanted as her people opted for a loveable puppy after she spent years seeking their approval.

I would nourish this girl. With everything I plant, I say a sort of prayer. I speak softly to it and ask it to grow, flourish, and bring forth its beauty. It’s given a good beginning and tended to along the way. Some plants need more maintenance than others. I have always been a low maintenance gardener. This means to know not only the plant’s needs but also the needs of my client or myself if I am to tend it.

When a plant, shrub, or tree doesn’t thrive in my care, I wonder if there was anything else I could have done. After ruling out pests or diseases I try transplanting it, perhaps a severe pruning, and even taking a cutting to my local family owned gardening center for answers. I give it all I have. Sometimes nature has other ideas. To every thing a season. Perhaps the plant just wasn’t THE right plant after all. Another site may do the trick.

I had taken on a dog that needed more than I could truly offer her. I brought her to a point where she trusted me, would allow cuddles, and even learned to swim. Her leash manners were the best of any of my other Goldens. My garden and the time I could tend to her were too small. So, this weekend my Kayla was transported to Long Island Sound. I met her new gardener in Massachusetts. This wonderful woman will work with Kayla with a stronger yet still loving heart. She will have acres in which to explore, a pond to swim and the ocean a few feet away. Heck, perhaps I should have asked to be adopted as well.

My heart is heavy. Luckily, I have a career where I can truly lose myself. There are many other living things I can tend to. First, I must wash all the nose prints from my truck windows…………….

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
July 7, 2008