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.


henbogle said...

I have 2 questions
1) Can you talk about the difference between kelp and fish emulsion in a foliar application? I've used fish emulsion for years but have been reading lately about the benefits of kelp.

2) I lost my black knight butterfly bush this year. Any suggestions for improving the soil for longevity? It is in a spot with pretty good loam, next to a paved drive (3 ft away).


Mike Skillin, Skillin's Greenhouses said...


Thanks for your excellent questions.

My quick understanding of the differences between fish emulsion and kelp is that fish emulsion is a decent natural source of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK) as well as some trace minerals. Kelp kelp extracts do contain small amounts of NPK, but kelp is more valuable as a growth stimulant because kelp contains potent concentrations of trace minerals, micronutrients, amino acids, and vitamins essential to plant growth — but most important, kelp contains many growth hormones, including cytokinins, auxins, and gibberellins, which stimulate cell division and larger root systems.Research and field trials have confirmed the role of kelp in increasing crop yields, drought resistance, frost protection, and stress recovery. (I have drawn much of this material from some information made available by the University of Colorado). I know personally that kelp is "high" in calcium and calcium really helps fruit quality of tomatoes and vine crops like squashes and cukes.

Fish and kelp are actually best used in conjunction with each other which is why I so often recommend the Fish/Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest--it is just a superior product.

2nd question: About the butterfly bush, have you planted a new one yet? If not, I would supplement the hole plentifully with Plant Booster Plus by Organica. I feel that currently the Plant Booster Plus is the BEST fertilizer and soil supplement on the market. If you have planted already, take a stake and gently "drill" several holes about a foot away from the plant in a circle around the plant and pour some of the Plant Booster Plus in the small holes. THEN through the growing season to further strengthen the butterfly bush I would feed every couple of weeks with a solution of the Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest.

Make sure your butterfly bush gets at least 2 quality waterings per week (our Moisture Meter section at the Skillin's Garden Log can guide you). Finally in late November once that ground gets crunchy pile high over your butterfly bush with a good mulch (several inches of cover) to keep the butterfly bush insulated. Butterfly bush are tender for our area and will always need some "TLC" but butterfly bush can be so rewarding!

Let us know if you hsve any more gardening questions!


Mike Skillin