Monday, February 16, 2009

Garden Talks Week of February 16, 2009

Happy Presidents Day everyone!

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME sent out some very timely gardening tips recently and I am going to shamelessly share them with you. Plants Unlimited is a great operation and can be found on Route 1 in Rockport as well as at

*Plan your Garden with Photographs

"Did you take any photographs of your garden last year? Why not gather them up, sort them by the season and maybe even put them in an album. Your garden photos will cheer you up on a winter day! Of course, gardening magazines also inspire, but since you're here on the internet, why not look at all the flowering plants available for 2009? Click here for our inspirational pictures and descriptions of our flowering shrubs."

(the link shown is from

*Start New Houseplants

"February is a great month to start new houseplants! Water the plants the night before. Cut young shoots 3 to 4 inches long, dip their ends in a rooting hormone powder and then stick the cuttings in soil. Use a soilless mix in a pot or flat. Make sure it is sterile (most out of the bag soils will be) and moisten the soil before you stick the cuttings. Cover the cutting with a piece of clear plastic and keep them in a warm, sunny location. "

A good soilless mix to use for this project is Pro Mix--sold right here at Skillin's!

*Seeds to start in February

"If you want to grow your own celery, leek, or onion transplants, February is the time to start them because these slow growers need several months before they are ready to set out. This also is the time to start small-seeded flowers such as begonias and petunias. Plan for the next step when you will individual pots with moistened sterile soil and then gently transplant the seedlings into the pots. Set these in a bright warm spot or consider providing about 14 hours of light with artificial gro-lights."

We just got in great looking tuberous begonia bulbs and now is a great time to start these bulbs. I just had a great conversation with a veteran gardener from the Brunswick area on Saturday and he grows tuberous begonias every year. He plants them in big tubs and plunges the tubs into the ground. As he put it, the color his begonias produce is a "traffic stopper"! I highly recommend planting tuberous begonias this year; they will give you great color all summer and fall until the heaviest of frosts.

*Check your Indoor Bulbs

"If you potted bulbs for forcing last fall, check their progress. Soil should be barely moist. If tips have sprouted and have a few inches ofgrowth, bring the pot into a cool, bright room (50 to 60 degrees F). Gradually expose the plant to increasing warmth and indirect sunlight. Increase waterings. Feed once a week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer. To help the stems grow straight, turn the pot every day. When buds and foliage are fully developed, bring into full sunlight, and enjoy!"

If you have not forced any indoor bulbs, DO NOT despair! We at Skillin's have some wonderful indoor flowering hyacinth (my personal favorite but don't tell the crocus and tete a tetes!), crocus, tete a tetes, large daffodils and even some tulips!

*Forcing Branches for Indoor Flower

"If you didn't force any bulbs, you can still brighten up your home by forcing branches of spring-flowering trees such as forsythia, dogwood, pussywillows and crabapple. It's simple. Just cut the branches, place them in a bucket of warm water, and recut the stems to enhance water absorption. Then sit back and let nature take over. In a few days the branches should produce flowers."

We write about this frequently but it is worth repeating this time of year. Right now at Skillin's we have some cut forysthia that is just starting to "pop" yellow if you want to try some.

*Salt tolerance of plants

"With heavy snows comes heavy salting of roads, resulting in subsequent damage to roadside plants. Certain preventative measures, and selection of salt-tolerant plants, will help lessen the damage.

The symptoms of excessive salt resemble those caused by drought or root injury. They include stunted, yellow foliage; premature autumn leaf coloration; death of leaf margins (scorch); and twig dieback.

When conifers are injured by salt spray,the affected foliage turns yellow or brown in early spring. If spray is the primary cause of the salt deposit, discolored needles are soon masked by the new year's growth.

However, if salt is excessive in the soil, the new needles may die as chloride ions accumulate in them. This could be lethal to the entire plant if it occurs for several consecutive years.

One characteristic of salt injury that aids in diagnosis is that it is often confined to branches facing the road. Trees closer to the road suffer more damage than those set farther back.

Screens of fencing or burlap may be erected to ward off salt spray from roads. Salt and snow should not be piled around plants or in places where the resulting salt water will drain into plants when the snow melts. If weather permits, it's a good idea to flush the area around roots exposed to salt with fresh water as soon as the snowmelts.

Where new trees and shrubs are to be planted and where exposure to salt is likely, select species or cultivars resistant to salt injury. Examples of salt-tolerant evergreens include tamarack (larch) and Austrian pine. Salt-tolerant deciduous trees include yellow birch, Russian olive, honey locust, white poplar, white oak, red oak, and weepingwillow. Salt-tolerant shrubs include rugosa rose, tamarisk, tatarian honeysuckle and pfitzer juniper."

Hammon Buck borrowed the above from Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont ( a lot of salt is spread on those Vermont roads I bet!). If you know your soil received lots of salt in the winter, we recommend applying liberal doses of natural gypsum (sold right here at Skillin's) in the early Spring. Gypsum can pretty quickly rescue salt infested soil and minimize visible damage to your lawn and trees. Then follow up immediately with a good NATURAL fertilizer like Plant Booster Plus by Organica OR Plant Tone by Espoma. These fertilizers are heavy in natural bacterias that will help soon to restore "good natural biology" to your affected soil.

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