Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of August 25

Hello again!

Barbara Gardener writes:

"I kept track of this lily and I actually deadheaded 50 blooms. It's very
different from any of my other daylilies because the blooms are very low on the plant."

What a gorgeous plant!

Barbara Gardener contributes another great photo just above. This is of cleome, one of my absolute favorite annuals. Cleome is one of those "electric flowers"--I define electric flowers as having those colors that just GLOW in the garden. Electric flowers stay bright and full of energy for the season. Obviously Barbara is just an Electric Gardener!

This from Barbara Gardener:

"Cleome that reseeded . It bloomed in front of delphinium that was going to seed. Nice. I accept all free gifts! I bought a flat from you this summer and it is blooming now with a lot of purple. Thanks!"

Cleome WILL almost always reseed which makes it the plant that keeps on giving. But, if you can plant in an area that you don't mind seeing unexpected but welcome plants the following year and you are "into" ELECTRIC FLOWERS" then the cleome is for you!

August 27:

Customer GG writes us with a tomato question: "I planted 2 tomatoes plants in a large wooden container early June. They had plenty of sun etc. They are not ripening. I have spoke with several people and theirs aren't ripening either. Any suggestions on how to ripen them?"

Our answer:

They will ripen if we can continue to get nice sunny weather like we are having. Much of our summer has been dark and cool and dark and cool is the exact opposite of what our tomatoes want. Keep the plants well watered; I am watering my containerized tomatoes almost daily now! A touch of Fish and Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune’s Harvest will not hurt. You may want to pick off any blossoms your plant has now so the plant will devote more energy to the fruit.

If we get into fall and you have a lot of green tomatoes, then you can try some methods like placing tomatoes on a sunny window sill upside down or putting the tomatoes in a plastic bag with an apple in the bag. (Gases released from the apple help the tomatoes ripen).

How is the fruit itself looking? Many of us have blossom end rot which comes from a calcium deficiency in the soil; again with so much rain leaching out valuable nutrients in the soil including calcium it is a banner year for blossom end rot which is a black section located on the bottom end of the tomato.

Customer PJ writes with a question about mildew on her peony: "This is the first time I have ever had mildew on one of my peony's, just on the leaves. Should I cut it to the ground so it doesn't affect any others that nearby, and is there anything else I should do in the future to prevent this happening again?"

Our answer: At this point with your peony at a dormant or near dormant stage I would definitely cut it down to the ground to lessen the effect on nearby plants.

In terms of prevention I would definitely recommend using Messenger monthly starting next April or early May. We have written about Messenger quite a bit at the Skillin’ Garden Log. Messenger contains harpin proteins (the same proteins that plants naturally manufacture and use to repel disease). Once sprayed with the Messenger your plant suspect an attack by disease because of the presence of the harpin proteins. This causes your plant to manufacture large amounts of its own protein and this presence of so much harpin proteins helps so much to keep diseases at bay.

Messenger is perfect for so many plants that are susceptible to mildews and other diseases. I have used Messenger regularly this year on my tomatoes, roses, phlox, lilacs, and crabtrees and the plants foliage is very healthy and green. And what a year this has been for diseases!

So we definitely encourage the use of Messenger!

August 26:

The wet weather earlier this month may have left some soggy bird feeders and food behind. Birds don't like wet food and wet food makes for mildew and all that. Take a moment and check out your feeders, make sure they are clean and that the food in them is dry.

Beautiful summer weather has been upon for a few days now and people's moods are much better! Your plant containers will need some good waterings as well as any newly seeded lawns and any large plant material planted this year.

If you haven't fed your annuals or vegetables lately it would be a good idea to spread some Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant Tone by Espoma to give them a boost for the many weeks of gardening we have ahead! My containers of flowers and vegetables are full of roots in the soil so within the past few days I have resupplied them with fresh Organic Plant Booster tablets (a great and natural fertilizer for containers) and I am watering them with Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer. Great weather lies ahead and I want to get TOP performance out of my container gardens for the next many weeks!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of August 18

Hello again,

Barbara Gardener kicks off the week's activities with this awesome picture. Barbara writes "I know you like dianthus--and so do I. Some have been blooming all summer and are continuing to do so. I cut back all of the tall ones to the ground and they are doing well and starting to bloom again. Naturally, Skillins impatiens have been blooming "full speed ahead" all summer. No news to you! " (Barbara has always been very nice to us here at Skillin's!)

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.
August 24:
Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockland Maine stops by with the following sound advice:
Take cuttings late in the month of favorite geraniums, coleus, begonias, and any other annual flowers that you want to overwinter for replanting next year. You can also bring these plants indoors for the winter if you have a sunny spot. Several popular bedding plants are perennial in warm climates and can be brought indoors as houseplants if you don't wait until the weather gets too cool. Cold temperatures can set them back and make it hard for them to recover. Gradually move the plants into shadier locations so they are better adjusted to the reduced light levels when you move them indoors.
August 23:
Some great gardening questions today and I hope some good answers:
First question from customer MD: "After my clematis filled out and before I had blooms, one stem turned completely black---dead black. This gradually continued through the summer which means that now I have this horrible black thing on the trellis. I have seen another one do this in the Wiscasset village. What happened???"
Our answer: This is undoubtedly “clematis wilt” which occurs more often in wet weather and boy we have had some severe wet weather this year! The following comes from the Washington Post in a gardening edition I found a few years back. I think it discusses clematis wilt very well.

“The disease you describe, known as clematis wilt, is caused by a fungus, Ascochyta clematidina . Like most fungi, it is most prevalent in wet weather. Fortunately, it only affects leaves and stems and does not kill the roots or the underground crown of the plant. Often a single stem on a plant may be affected while others are healthy.

Promptly remove any stems that may have blackened or wilted. Cut them all the way to, or even slightly below, the ground. Clematis that are established in the garden store great amounts of carbohydrate in the thickened roots that spread out from the crown of the plant, and they can recover quickly. Keep mulch away from the crown of the plant, water infrequently but thoroughly, and make sure that there is good air circulation in any place you'd like to grow a clematis.

Fungicides are not terribly effective on this disease, so focus your efforts on removing any dead vines and leaves. The fungus may also cause black leaf spots, so cleaning up any old clematis leaves that may be on the ground or caught in the tangle of vines may be helpful. This must be done well before new growth begins in spring.”
Next question from customer MS:
My weigelia is just under four feet tall and is giving off too much shade for my perennial garden beside it. I would like to cut it back to about a foot tall. Is Fall a good time to do it ; or should I wait until after it blooms in the Spring?
Our answer: The best time to prune a weigelia is within a few weeks after it flowers. Any surges of growth that has occurred after it flowers is quite possibly some of the growth that will produce flowers next year and so you will not want to cut too much into that new growth.

That being said, if the perennial garden is being held back by all the growth it may be best overall to cut it back now. Of course in time the weigelia will come roaring back which means you will be frequently cutting it back sharply (which is fine if you do that on an annual basis right after it flowers) OR you may want to move the weigelia at some point (early Spring is the best time to do this) to give the weigelia and your perennials more of their own space.
Next question from customer JP: I have 3 Endless Summer hydrangeas. The plants are gorgeous and so healthy looking. However, they are not producing flowers. One has a few, one has three and one has none. What is the problem?

This is their 3rd year and they have never produced many flowers much less ALL summer. Aren’t they supposed to bloom on new and old and therefore bloom all summer?

I was so excited to get them but am now so disappointed. A gorgeous bush but no flowers?
Our answer: I have consulted with Tim Bate our nursery manager.

Many of us are still trying to figure out all the “ins and outs” on the Endless Summers. By most accounts this has been a great year for them probably because of the massive snow cover we received this past winter.

In most cases you should see the first flush of growth around Mother’s Day time (May 10 or so) and then the first blast of flowers in mid summer. When the flowers decline we recommend pruning the plant fairly hard to reshape it and also to signal the roots to send out new growth and to produce a second wave of flowers in the fall.

The other time to prune would be at the very beginning of the Spring to prune any dead growth back.

From talking to Tim and others it is clear that the best light exposure for the Endless Summers is eastern or at most southeast exposure. Avoid the heat stress that the south and the west can bring.

We have also seen many cases of Endless Summers being over fertilized and thus producing too much foliage that can shade any plant buds or in some cases produce so much foliage that the blue flowers are actually hidden! Tim recommends one light feeding of Holly Tone by Espoma in the early Spring; I have done early feeding and I also put another light feeding down a few days ago of Holly Tone—but that is it for the year. Avoid liquid feeds like Miracid or Miracle Gro unless the plant is a pale green and really needs a quick boost. But in that case I would recommend a liquid feed of the Fish/Seaweed blend by Neptune’s Harvest for better results than the Miracid or Miracle Gro can do.

We have been told that the Endless Summers are hardy enough to not have to mulch and protect over the winter. A few years of experience with the Endless Summers in Maine have told us that may well not be true. As such, I would definitely recommend mulching in late November with fir boughs or compost around the base of the plant and to protect any growth I would wrap the Endless Summers in burlap to protect the growth against winter winds.

Last year, my Endless Summer produced poorly. I decided to not prune at all except for one obvious dead branch. I think the non pruning along with the winter cover from all the snow helped. Now I have some declining blossoms that need to be pruned out and I will do some reshaping. In your case, let’s not prune until early Spring when it is time to prune away any dead growth. If your Endless Summers are in a south or western location consider moving them to the east in early Spring. Don’t feed unless you put a light touch of Holly Tone by Espoma down. And protect the plants by mulching and burlaping in late November.
August 22:
If you have not done so yet, it is still a fine time to get Step #3 of the all natural Four Step Organica Lawn Program on your lawn--Step 3 is the Microbial Soil Conditioner. This product contains no active fertilizers which is fine since our lawns can get a little dormant during hot weather. But the Microbial Soil Conditioner is a great way to naturally reinforce your lawn's soil as the product contains natural microbes that your soil will use to produce beneficial bacteria. The beneficial bacteria works with the existing cell structure of your soil to make BETTER SOIL and this will result in deeper and healthier roots for your lawn. Deeper and healthier roots make a lawn that is better able to thrive in both the cold and the heat that our climate has to offer!
I know that we got some rain back on Tuesday in some areas of Skillin's Country and of course some rain over this past weekend but this morning I noticed that some of my sun loving plants in containers were quite dry. So make sure you check all of your containers and hanging plants for water--your plants may need it as we have had a nice stretch of sunny and warm days!
August 21:
I did some feeding of some of my trees and shrubs a day or two ago. Generally speaking I think it is best to apply good natural fertilizers like Holly Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica twice yearly to all trees, shrubs and perennials. So for many of plants this is the 2nd feeding of the year.
For the most part I cast generous handfuls of the appropriate food around the base of each plant. I have a couple of woody plants that are not doing as well as I would like for cultural reasons. First, I have a small row of lilacs that years ago I wedged in between some pieces of heavy ledge in the ground. Years later, their root systems are pretty tightly confined. My second situation is I have an old flowering crabtree that needs a serious pruning (will get to that shortly) and has struggled with age just a little bit. I have treated it with Messenger this year as I have discussed in previous posts and I do think that the tree has a cleaner and healthier look.
In both cases, I want to get the Plant Booster Plus closer to the root system rather than just sprinkle generous portions on the ground. So I have taken an oak stake (you can use a crowbar too) and pounded into the ground about a foot deep. After prying the oak stake out, I have about a foot deep hole. I have filled that hole with the Plant Booster Plus.
For my crabtree, I did these holes about two feet apart just in from the dripline of the tree a few inches. For my lilacs (much slower plants) I placed my holes about a foot away from the trunk.
I hope this technique gets the nutrients and biological matter from the Plant Booster Plus into the roots of these plants just a little quicker!
August 20:
A couple of great gardening customers check in with some questions and comments:
Question from SW:
This year I was soooo looking forward to starting a new garden in my new home in Portland.
Planted Echinecea, Bee Balm, Anise, last fall and a Weigelia Wine and Roses. However, something has been eating away at all of these, including my Holly Hocks in the yard, not to mention the Sunflowers I started from seed. I have tried the Slug pellets from Skillins, sprayed insect soap, and now have a spray that kills on contact. I have seen red beetles, pulled of Japansese beetles from Holly hocks and just sprayed the heck out of these BIG black shiny big beetles eating my new clematis I just bought from you guys.
The first thing you have to say is "I am not going to give up! I will have beautiful plants in my garden."
I want to compliment you on your choice of plants; they are excellent and all should do well.
With over 20" of rain this summer in the Portland area this has been one of the best summers for slugs. And the wet humid weather is a great breeding ground for chomping insects like the beetles.
Take heart, short of snow in summer, we won't have any worse summers for gardening!
Now back to the present. The slugs can be so disheartening and the Slug Magic won't get them all but I feel consistent and persistent applications are still by far the way to go.
In terms of the beetles, the best product still on the market are Rose and Flower Insect Killer by Bayer Advanced that contains imidacloprid or Merit. We feel it is very important to follow the directions and not over apply. This should take care of most beetles but it is wise to keep a contain of ready-to-use Insecticidal Soap on hand to spray any chomping beetles that you see.
This difficult summer underscores the fact that it is important to feed our plants in an organic and natural way as the natural products will provide better long-term sustenance to the plants roots. Deeper and more healthy roots mean stronger plants that are better able to withstand the swings of cold and hot, wet and dry, and any invasions of foreign creatures.
Much of this you are already doing I know and we applaud you. Keep the faith and the consistent persistence going!
Question from LJT: Now that fall is in the air, our thoughts have turned to transplanting and rearranging our perennial borders before the gardening season ends for 2008. As such, we have several questions about the process that we hope you can help us with. Some of our perennials have gotten tall, gangly and bent over due to the lack of support. Can we use tomato guards in the future to provide this necessary support? Someone said that we could prevent some of our perennials from getting tall and gangly by pruning them back, resulting in more compact plants. Is this true and, if so, when should this be done so as to prevent the loss of flowers? When is the best time to transplant perennials in the late summer/fall? When is the earliest they can be transplanted? When, if at all, do you severely cut back perennials? We have been measuring heights, checking color combinations and planning our perennial beds for next year. So, the answers to these questions will assist us in putting this new plan into operation for what we hope will be a spectacular perennial garden and border.
Answer: First off, I would say that you should definitely be attending our Dividing, Relocating and Transplanting class this Saturday at Skillin’s at either 9 AM or 1 PM; the class is free of charge and many if not all of your questions will be addressed at the class.

First off, you can always use tomato guards or some sort of support to prop up wayward perennials. Pruning does usually result in more compact plants. Spring flowering perennials can be effectively pruned or “haircut” right after they flower. This will help to keep them compact. Fall flowering perennials like a Montauk daisy should only be pruned early in the season.

Most perennial pruning this time of year should be confined to dead or dying growth or growth that has just got way out of hand.

Also take a look up. You may some overhanging trees that are causing your perennials to stretch. A few years ago I started a sunny perennial bed that because of overhanging trees is now a shade garden. I am going to cut some of those trees down and get some more light in there. Let us know if you need a good professional to help you with something like that.

Any severe cutback of perennials is usually done in the very first part of the year when you want to cut back any winter kill or prune back any woody growth that will keep the plant from being compact.

Gardening with perennials is probably my #1 gardening passion—I am typing this part small so the vegetables and annuals and shrubs don’t read this! So I am very excited for you and we want to help you all we can.
Response from LJT:
"I am looking for a good perennial diagram. I am concerned about creating a 'garden jungle'".
Answer: Don't be too hard on yourself about a “garden jungle”. My advice is to let the plants show off! My perennial gardens won’t win any awards but they consist of plants that I like—nothing more. If I see a plant and can buy it, I will do that AND THEN I will find a place for it.

Again let the plants show themselves off and let the plants create the angles and features. I will admit on occasion the next year I will look at a plant and say” what was I thinking?” when I plant it but then I just move it to another spot. A good perennial garden is often “in flux”. But that is a good thing; the garden is alive and growing!
August 18:
Now is a great time to prune evergreen shrubs like yews, hemlocks and junipers. Most of these shrubs should have pushed out new growth by now that has turned a darker green (a sign of the growth hardening off). With clean hedge shears or clippers take those shrubs back to a nice shape--don't be afraid of aggressive pruning to help rejuvenate growth.
Also if you have not done so lately, spread some Holly Tone by Espoma around the base of each shrub. Holly Tone is an all natural food and provides some great nutrients for these acid loving plants.
Now is NOT the time to prune most rhodys and azaleas as they have already started to form flower buds for next year.
Contact us at or at any Skillin's store with any pruning questions!
Speaking of pruning, we are offering a great pruning class on September 27 at all Skillin's stores.
Check out for class times and contact us to sign up for the free classes!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Garden Happenings! Week of August 11

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.

The above picture is from our good friend, KCB, the soul of Maine gardening, who writes:

here is a pic you may want to post. I was so very excited. The critter was found on one of the wonderful swamp milk weeds I purchased from a favorite family owned garden center on Rte 88.............". Thanks KCB and just to let you all know the 'critter" is a monarch butterfly larvae which love to inhabit milk weeds. Soon, the larvae will "morph" into a beautiful butterfly!

August 17:

KCB checks in with typically great observations:

I also really loved the ‘plug’ within the Heuchera piece. I have to admit, I am a garden center junkie and Skillin’s has the best selection of Coral Bells. The subtle shading in the scalloped leaves make for great specimens. I recently paired some of the Green Spice with some existing Stella D’Ora Daylilies. The contrast worked! I’m not a big fan of day lilies when not in bloom so I needed something to draw the eye away. ……….

I have an exciting gardening tip to share. I had to see if it worked first and it did!

I have a landscape with a circular driveway bed with daylilies, sedum and hosta. Each year the hosta become a favorite snack of our dear friends the deer. Since I’m only there weekly, sprays weren’t the answer. This year I installed chives among the hosta. I use chives quite regularly as an ornamental. Long after the blooms of purple puffs are gone, the succulent spiked foliage is great filler. The spike/broad combination of the hosta and chives worked aesthetically. Better still, did the job! No munching. I do not know what took me so long, I’ve been working this place for 4 years. Feel free to share this tip!

Thanks KCB; check out KCB's contributions often here at the Skillin's Garden Log!

August 16:

We have had a lot of rain lately but today I noticed that I had some very thirsty containers of flowers and vegetables. Any containers with mature plants are full of roots at this point and it does not take long for these thirsty roots to pull available water out of the soil.

Check your containers today and while you are at feed those hungry plants with a great natural fertilizer like Fish and Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest!

August 15:

Mid to late summer always uncovers some bare or thin spots in the lawn--now is a perfect time to fix those bare or thin patches by "overseeding" these areas with some grass seed. You may apply grass seed by hand or if you are overseeding a large area by spreader. Once the seed is down scratch it with a metal rake or cultivator. Sprinkle some Grass Seed Accelerator (compressed paper pellets sold right here at Skillin's) on top of the raked in seed and water daily!

What grass seed to use? We carry several great blends here at Skillin's; my favorite is the Black Beauty blend by Jonathan Green.

I am busy patching some bare areas this month. I have two larger areas that are not bare but thin. Later this fall I am going to spread some seed over that whole area for a true "overseed".

Also later this fall I am going to apply Miracal by Jonathan Green--which is a great natural product to neutralize my soil's pH and also another great way to get valuable calcium into the soil. Calcium is so important for plant material and many of our soils here in Maine are deficient of calcium. Miracal is a BETTER product than regular lime and we highly recommend the product here at Skillin's!

August 13:

I was speaking to one of our many landscape professional customers this morning and she reminded me of some good gardening advice I wanted to pass along.

It is so great when perennial and other garden beds have great FOLIAGE features in them. This particular customer was buying some heuchera this morning. Heuchera is a wonderful and very hardy perennial that features many different varieties within its wide family. The leaves of each variety can be STRIKING and really create great visual interest all season long. Such contributions from your plants can be so important in wet seasons like this one where our flowers suffer. And it seems like there are less perennial flowers this time of year anyway so the more foliage interest the better! Our good friend KCB has written about shrubs and perennials that create great foliage interest for many months right here at the Skillin's Garden Log. Let us show you some great plants with foliage interest.

We just recieved some more high bush blueberries in our nursery today. High bush blueberries are awesome plants. Besides the obvious benefits of the great blueberry fruit, blueberries typically turn different hues of red in the fall and this really adds interest to the garden!

August 12:

The vegetable gardeners are NOT giving up! We are selling seeds day after day even though it has been a challenging vegetable year with all the rain and thick humid air. Don't give up! There are plenty of crops that can be planted for a great second harvest: lettuce, broccoli, swiss chard. There are many possibilities!

August 11:

This question about lavender from customer LL:

"When is the best time to cut down Lavender--also to separate?"

Our answer: "You can always cut out dead or dying growth but the best time to do a drastic cut back is in the early Spring. Actually early Spring is a great time to do a cutback of several inches. Because lavender grows from a single stalk it does not lend itself well to being separated."
Please don't hesitate to send your garden questions to us at or through the comment section at the end of this post!

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport Maine recently published some good information and advice regarding garden diseases. Here is a reprint of what he wrote:

Powdery mildew, as its name suggests, resembles a white powdery mildew on leaf surfaces of plants. Leaves eventually turn yellow, then brown, then die. Although not fatal to plants, it makes plants unattractive and may weaken plants over several years. Annuals that may be infected most commonly include zinnias snapdragon, and verbena. Perennial flowers that may be infected commonly include delphinium, lungwort, and garden phlox. Choosing cultivars (cultivated varieties) resistant to this disease is one of the easiest methods of control.

Unlike most such fungus diseases spread by microscopic structures called “spores”, this one actually is inhibited not promoted by rain and wet leaves. High humidity will favor this disease, so keeping plants spaced properly will promote air circulation and lower humidity around plants.

Least toxic controls shown effective include horticultural oil and baking soda. Least toxic sprays closely related to baking soda are registered for use on this disease. Make sure and begin applications at the onset of the disease, often in late June or July, and every two weeks after. We highly recommend either Serenade Disease Control or Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 (Garden Fungicide by Safer that contains sulfur also works well. All are organic and effective.

Gray mold is perhaps the most common disease of flowers, attacking many species under conditions of high moisture and cool temperatures. It too is well named, appearing as a gray mold on any plant part but primarily on old and dying leaves and flowers. It begins as water-soaked spots, growing into the gray fuzzy coating.

The spores on this disease as with most fungi are spread by wind and splashing water. So one control is to prevent splashing water, such as watering near the base of plants with drip irrigation. Water early so the foliage can dry during the day and not go into the night wet. Allow plenty of air circulation around plants, and remove any diseased flowers or leaves.

THE CURE? ORGANIC? Any spray containing Neem Oil like Bonide Rose 3 in 1 care or K Neem by Organica or Serenade. The Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 will also control Insects and Mites on Roses and Flowers!

Roses are one of the most popular and widely grown flowers of all time in temperate areas, and black spot is one of their most important and common diseases. According to a University of Maine Extension leaflet, this disease begins as black spots and so the name. These are most prevalent on upper leaf surfaces, and are up to one-half inch across. Leaves turn yellow around the spots, then all yellow and fall off. Spots may also appear on rose canes, first purple and then turning black.

The black spot fungal disease requires at least seven hours of wet conditions for infection, and is inhibited above about 85 degrees (F). So although you may not be able to keep plants hot in the garden, if you can keep them dry through proper watering and air circulation you can minimize the disease. Grow plants in an open and sunny location. Avoid watering during cloudy weather. Allow plenty of space between plants for air circulation.

Black spot overwinters in fallen leaves and infected canes, so pruning out infections and raking up leaves at the end of the season also will go a long way towards providing control. Fungicides can be used during the growing season.

THE CURE? ORGANIC? As we just noted any spray containing Neem Oil like Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 Care or K Neem by Organica or Serenade. The Bonide Rose Rx 3 in 1 also kills insects and mites on roses and flowers!

Check out Plants Unlimited at 629 Commercial Street (Route1) Rockport, Maine 04856 or at 1-800-830-7754 or at

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays (Tuesdays, Wednesdays,…)

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.

No doubt you can identify as I explain that I am having trouble typing this little piece. It seems my fingers will not stretch as far as days past; they have become webbed. This doesn’t bother me half as much as the need to cancel my much deserved pedicure appointment. I can walk around with my hands in my pockets when not working but displaying webbed feet to the person who already has the daunting task to create pretty toes would just add insult to injury. I called and told them I was a little under the weather. They offered me a raincheck.

Yes, all this rain has left us and everything else a little damp. Bath towels must be removed from the dryer just before the shower in order to do their allotted task. The paper for my printer is limper than my spirits. At this point, if we stand still too long we will begin to grow mold. Like a stone, we must roll to gather no moss.

I am empathetic for exterior house painters and roofers who are not able to work in this weather. Those whose livelihood is the tourist trade must not only contend with the outrageous gasoline prices, now can add mother nature as a player in the blame game. At least I have been able to work most days, drawing the line with the first rumble of thunder or sinking in the mud causing more harm than good. As was the case earlier this week when attempting install plantings to a newly revived hillside.

Every cloud has a silver lining; the containers planted earlier this season have not dried to near death between visits. Lawns are a lush golf course green; without the need for irrigation, rainwear is much more fashionable and Wellies come in many colors and patterns. Me—it’s all about being green. I opt for the traditional boot as worn across the pond. I’d be remiss in not mentioning the easy work of weeding in this weather, especially the grasses and other undesirables that poke through the cracks in walkways and patios, my focus of the week. Best of all, everyone is having a bad hair day.

Alas, into every life, a little rain must fall, the rain being SLUGS and SNAILS. When it rains it pours! They are everywhere. To see one is just a drop in the bucket. These machines of slime and degradation seem to be enjoying their own (under the) ‘rock concert’. I am labeling it ‘Slug Fest 2008’. I can almost see them now, frolicking in the mud not unlike the infamous Woodstock. Bet the buggers are even chowing on hallucinogenic mushrooms. It would be the only way they could find each other attractive. Of that is right, they are hermaphrodites. How horrible!

This is one subject I didn’t expect to broach in August yet I felt the need to remind fellow gardeners of our duty to maintain the fight against the menacing mollusk.
This spring I wrote on the need to keep beds clean of debris to offer less hiding places for these slime machines. As in April, August is calling for aggressive action. Remove fallen flora, cut back stalks and stems, and relegate them to the compost bin sooner than later. When the dry weather returns, sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth near the ‘dears’ favorite haunts and plants. This and other related products are available at a favorite family gardening center near you.

Not much more to add, I just wanted to get my 2-cents in. No doubt, I’ll return, rain, or shine.

Until then, keep a stiff upper lip, the sun will come out tomorrow*.

Epilogue: In an effort not to have the song from Annie* etched in my brain I am stuck between a rock and hard place in deciding which Beatle classic to hum; ‘Tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun or ‘Here comes the sun…’
Which would you choose? The ball is in your court……..

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
August 10, 2008

Some Lovely Pictures!

Some lovely mid summer gardening photos courtesy of Barbara Gardener! Barbara, now we see what you have been up to!

Barbara writes about this first photo:

"I have a lot of bees and humming birds. Tried to get a picture of one on the lily but it looks more like a snail than a bee. The humming birds love your red million bells but impossible to get the screen door open to get a picture."

These are bountiful boxes! A closer look at the photo would show plenty of red or rose impatiens with some great trailing but compact bacopa. We have a short season in Maine folks--don't spare the plants! Boxes this full require checking for water on a daily basis this time of year.

Barbara, what do you feed those boxes with?

As you can see by these last two pictures Barbara makes great use of daylilies. Daylilies are just tremendously hardy perennials that come in a variety of colors and even sizes. They are dependable and if happy will grow into large clumps for you. Daylilies are a MUST for any Maine flower garden
The other flower pictured below is just "not any old flower". It is an annual cleome and I really like how Barbara mixes perennials and annuals together. Perennials are good friends who will stick with you year after year--annuals are with you for one summer, but what a summer of memories they can give!
Cleome is one of my favorite annuals--the colors can be electric! And after all, we need all the bright fun we can get out of the garden. Plant cleome in a place where you won't mind them popping up next year. They do re-seed like crazy!

Thanks to Barbara Gardener for your fine pictures and inspiration!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 10, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Plenty of Time; But Let's Get Started!

Hello again,

I have been fortunate enough to be able to get out and walk the yard early this AM and to survey my soggy gardens and lawn.

What a week and more of rain! Water rains and mildew reigns!

But DO NOT give up on this gardening season.

Today besides needing to scrape a healthy amount of peeling paint on the house I do intend (and have already started) to whip some of my plantings in shape. Here are a few pointers:

1. The ground is SO moist that all weeds--including normally hard to pull weeds like crabgrass--are EASY to pull out of the ground right now. So get out there and do it!

2. My flowering plants need much dead heading and some mildewy leaves need to be trimmed. BUT down a little further on my plants are plenty of flower buds JUST WAITING to pop with some upcoming sunshine. So get out there and do some dead heading!

3. I have much creeping grass around my rose bushes. With just a little effort, I should be able to easily scrape that creeping grass away before I get some healthy compost around the rose bushes. Tomorrow AM if the rose bush leaves are more dry than this AM I am going to get spray some Messenger on my roses and garden phlox as well as some other plants. "Google" "Messenger Skillin's Garden Log" to find some great discussion by Terry Skillin and others about the benefits of Messenger--especially in wet summers like this.

Let us know at or leave a comment at the end of this post about what you are doing in the garden and we will pass your info on! As always you may leave us any questions and we will answer them.


Mike Skillin

Friday, August 8, 2008

Taking Stock

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.

Not sure of the exact moment when the line is crossed from ‘Abundance’ to ‘Overwhelming’, nevertheless, it happens.

It is often during these dog days of summer our gardens appear to be out of control.

Gardeners are cursed with selective memory. We tend to forget how full our gardens can be during the height of the season. Allow me to digress………

When the season was young, we were full of energy, low on patience. Empty spaces left us feeling, well, empty. In defiance we rebelled against planting instructions that called for 18” spacing. Victory shined on our dirt-streaked face as we estimated 10 inches. No sooner had the new plants taken hold when the perennials installed 3 years ago filled up and out as on steroids. Today we are faced with Turtleheads and Monkshood going shoulder-to-shoulder while Foxglove and Phlox flounder. Black-eyed Susans and Veronica vie for attention.

Even I, who appreciates bodacious plantings and voluptuous beds, can agree that too much of a good thing can be, well, too much.

As a ‘professional’, August has become the month I acquire the most new clients. When the season is new, most are enthused to work their gardens, weed, prune, move, redesign, and plant. Enthusiasm wanes, weeds flourish, plants flop, bedlam prevails, and those who wanted to take care of their beds themselves feel overpowered by the jungle of greenery and blooms.

August may not be the best time to divide, move, and/or transplant. The weather is too hot, often too dry, and will unduly stress plants and the humans that love them. I’m not saying it cannot be done, however if at all possible wait until late fall, or early spring as may be appropriate. Who am I kidding? We will do what we will. If something is being choked and/or not able to be seen, then by all means, cut back or move what ever is in the way. A plants life just may be at stake.

Not up to doing this now? Prefer to wait? Congratulations! However, you’re not getting off that easy; it is time to take stock.

Walk around your landscape with your journal, pen, and digital camera. Step back; look at your landscape with the eye of a visitor. What is it that you see? How would you react if seeing it for the first time?

Look for empty pockets, or crowding. Is there evidence of, mildew or fungus? How about pest damage? What about color, too much, not enough? If you are just not ‘loving’ something, jot it down.
Love everything in your garden? Pleased with the results? Do not put that camera or journal away. Record the pleasures.

In any case, you’ve worked hard. Pour yourself another glass of Ice Tea and relax…………..