Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Building a Raised Bed

(This is a reprint from a post originally produced on 3/31/2009)

David K.--a man of many talents--is a member of the staff at Skillin's Falmouth. David recently constructed a raised bed to grow vegetables and flowers for his family. He also would like you to know that he also built the picnic table. Wow! I am told he was ably helped by his young daughter who is a big Skillin's fan!

I asked David to record their Building of a Raised Bed and he has done that! Above is the finished product. Now here is the "How To":
"Thinking about starting a raised bed? I made mine in less than a day, and did it all organically. Here’s how:

Why a raised bed:
Raised beds allow you to control the soil, which is especially good if you live in an area with poor soil, or soil with high concentrations of contaminants such as lead. (Skillin’s provides soil test kits for moisture and ph levels. You can also have your soil tested for lead and other contaminants at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: kits are available in our stores.)

There is less stooping, making it easier to weed and maintain, which also makes them great for kids and those with limited mobility.

Raised beds warm up more quickly in the Spring, so you can begin planting a little earlier.

Build it:

Measure your available space. I chose a 4 foot by 10 foot area with a full day of sun (essential if you’re growing vegetables).

Buy the lumber: I used 2" by 10" by 10' lumber for the sides, and 2" by 10" by 4' for the ends. While cedar is the best lumber to use, it is hard to come by in the size I wanted. I used spruce, which will rot more quickly, but should give me 5 to 10 years of use. Do not use pressure-treated wood, as it is “treated” with chemicals you do not want in your soil, or in your body. (Pressure-treated wood used to be treated with arsenic, but these days it’s copper.) You can also use stone, cinder blocks, bricks, or fiberglass.

Assemble the bed: I braced my pieces with some scrap 2" by 4"’s lying around my garage (made of pine). Use deck screws or other exterior-use screws. If you don’t have a drill or can’t do the labor, you can purchase corner brackets here at Skillin’s. They save time too.

Fill it:
To figure out your soil needs: multiply your three dimensions (width, length, height) to establish your cubic feet. Mine was 4 foot by 10 foot by 3/4 foot (9 inches) for 30 cubic feet. Since one cubic yard = 27 cubic feet, I needed just a little under one cubic yard. Skillin’s sells composts and soils by the bag and by the yard (or half-yard). About a third of my bed is filled with various types of compost.

I put down a series of layers in my bed.

The first layer was cardboard, to block out any weeds. You can also use three sheets of newspaper. (Make sure it’s plain cardboard or plain newspaper: you don’t want the chemicals in colored paper leaching into your soil.) Wet it down if it’s a windy day to prevent it from blowing around. This layer will break down eventually.

My second layer was shredded oak leaves that I never raked up last fall. They decompose slowly and improve the soil.

My third layer was composed cow manure (available in 40-lb. bags). Because it’s composted, it doesn’t smell, and handles just like dirt.

My fourth layer was compost from my own bin. (Bins are available at Skillin’s.) It was very rewarding to see last year’s kitchen scraps dedicated to this year’s food production.

Then I added my soil. I used a mix of Jolly Gardener potting soil and Coast of Maine’s Bar Harbor Blend potting soil.

Finally, I used some Espoma Bone Meal to raise the phosphorus and nitrogen levels in my soil (good for veggies), and then watered it all in.

Plant it:
You are ready to plant!

Early Spring is a good time to plant any cold-season crop that says on the seed packet: “plant as soon as you can work the ground.” I have planted carrots, peas, spinach and lettuce.

A final tip: if like me you are using your raised bed to grow vegetables, don’t forget to add a few flowers here and there to beautify it. Marigolds attract beneficial insects and combat some pests."
David, thanks so much!

David writes a terrific Portland ME garden log called A Garden in Maine and I urge you to check it out!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Garden Talks Week of March 30

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 http://www.plants-unlimited.com/. The pictures that accompany Hammons' quotes are also provided by Plants Unlimited. We highly recommend a visit to Plants Unlimited if you are ever in the Camden Rockport Midcoast area!

* Pruning Flowering Shrubs

"Prune flowering shrubs and trees JUST AFTER they flower. So, do not prune azaleas, lilacs and rhodys now. Wait until just after they flower. When you do prune first, remove any dead branches or tips, then remove interior branches that cross through the plant - this "opens" the interior up for more light and air. Also remove branches that are rubbing together. Finally, you can prune to improve the symmetry of the tree by removing longer erratic branches. Use sharp pruners, loppers or saws as needed"

"Larger branches on trees often require heavier duty tools than hand pruners. Folding saws, pole pruners or in extreme pruning, chain saws, might be needed. The branches should be cut close to the trunk (but not too close) and on an angle. Larger branches often require an undercut so that the weight of the falling branch does not rip away tree bark when it falls. Also, cut larger branches in sections to avoid weight damage."

* Pruning Roses

"It's a great time to prune rose bushes too, while they are still dormant. Remove any damaged or dead canes and crowded or crossed stems. Then, shorten undamaged canes in order to shape the plant. A good general tip for pruning most plants is to select buds that will grow outward (they are on the outside of the stem) and cut the branch slightly above this bud. This forces the plant to grow outward, avoiding growth toward the inside which only leads to rubbing branches and congested plant form."

* Pruning Evergreens

"Evaluate the shape of needled evergreens and prune as needed. If there are branches jutting out at odd angles, early spring is a good time to get rid of them. The art of pruning certain older, overgrown evergreens and deciduous plants is sometimes a 3 year event! If you prune all the branches lower at the same time to the same length, you are often left with a stubby, ugly shrub (like the image on the above left). This is what happens when you continuously use hedge shears - you are shearing, not pruning! To "rejuvenate" older shrubs and certain evergreens, prune 1/3 of the branches low and deep in the plant to the desired ultimate size every year. After 3 years, you will have reduced the size and still keep the plant attractive ."

* Snowplowing

"This winter's continuous plowing on your driveway and road have left piles of sand and gravel on your lawn and plant beds. When the ground is dry, get out and rake and remove this before the grass gets growing and is smothered by this residue. Spring also brings a new pile of rocks in gardens and lawns that the frost has heaved from the ground. Remove these before you hit them with the lawnmower or rototiller. Evaluate how the snow was plowed in your yard. Is there a possibility that it may be plowed somewhere else next year to avoid lots of damage? Is there adequate room for snow removal or should you move certain plantings? Our experience shows that folks do not take snow removal into account in their yards and waste lots of money on plants that are only destroyed by the plows! "

* Transplanting

" We're ALWAYS asked when is the best time to dig and move flowering shrubs, trees and perennials. Early spring is the BEST time to do this - BEFORE the leaves emerge on the plants. This reduces trauma to the plant. Nurseries everywhere are digging dormant plants as fast as they can! It's a "Beat the Clock" deadline rush to dig before the leaves emerge. Although they (and you) can dig later, you greatly increase the risk of plant loss and damage. The only limiting factor is how soon the frost will be out of the ground so you can dig. Our guess is that there is not much frost because of the heavy snow cover, so grab a shovel and get to it! Try to dig plants at their dripline - the line drawn from the tips of the branches to the ground. As you cut any larger roots with your shovel, have pruners handy to make a cleaner cut on these roots. Try to move the plants with as much soil as possible. If you are not replanting immediately, wrap the root ball in burlap and keep the root ball moist. "

Take advantage of the opportunity to mix some great organic matter into the hole with some great loam when you do backfill around your plant. We have lots of great options here at Skillin's that you can use to supplement your soil and make for better natural microbial activity around your root ball. Also remember to water your transplant regularly throughout this gardening season!
* Planting Tips
"Whenever you plant or transplant shrubs and trees, get in the habit of forming a basin around every plant. Form this in a circle around the plant's drip line (the outer edge). Mound soil in a circle a few inches higher than the existing grade. This allows water to remain around the root zone and go straight to the roots. It is also VERY IMPORTANT when planting to make sure you set plants at the right depth. Many plants are killed because they are planted too deep and the stems smother. Generally, plant container plants level with the soil in the pot and balled and burlapped trees level with the top of the root ball."

Similar to the transplanting note above, you do want to take advantage of the "open hole" and supplement your area around the hole with some great natural organic matter. Supplementing your soil in this way will greatly enhance the chances of getting some good natural biology going on around the root ball. We have many great choices for you that are easy to use!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brunswick Open House!

Our Brunswick Open House is up and running through today and our greenhouse has never looked better. Here is what one of our customers told us about our Open House:

"I went to the Brunswick Open House yesterday and I have never seen
the greenhouse look prettier."

We are also having our Open House today at our Cumberland store. ANd the store looks great!

Here is a picture of a great vegetable gardening class held Saturday morning at Brunswick.

We are open until 5 PM in both Brunswick and Cumberland; so come see us!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Spring Bulb Blues, Yellows, Purples………..

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

There is nothing as welcoming as that first sprout of a crocus. I have been known to dance with joy, squeal with glee. Grape Hyacinth, Daffodils, Hyacinth, Snow Drops and Scilla receive a welcome nearly as jubilant. Alas, I forgot tulips, though forgotten they are not. Sometimes just a disappointing memory. Yet I digress; the fact that buds and blossoms of the popular tulip are not devoured by a cute groundhog or stately deer is deserving of a celebration all their own.

As I meet with new clients this time of year, a common theme is spring bulbs. Those without the first colorful friends of spring are envious of the lucky landscapes sporting pops of yellows, purples, even whites. Others are frustrated as their bulbs have disappeared (squirrels, chipmunks anyone?) Then there are several whose bulbs are not doing well. All have a little less spring in their step, feel a little bluer, then their buddies boasting of bountiful blooming bulbs.

We do know that in order to be blessed with these early spring offerings we must plan and plant in the fall. For some reason many have revealed to me that by the time October/November rolls around they are ‘gardened out’. They are on to the new school year, holiday preparations or spending energies and money doing inside chores and repairs. Alternatively they are among the group who feel left out of the emerging colorful palette that welcomes the season. If you are part of the latter, mark your journals and plan for the future. Sign up for the e-mail newsletter from a favorite nursery or garden center. You will be among the first to be alerted that the bulbs have arrived. Much more inexpensive than a late winter Caribbean vacation.

One advantage of utilizing my services or of any landscape/gardening professional is that we will help you to meet your bulb goals. I do not profess to be a miracle worker yet there are things that anyone can do at this time of the year to help their bulbs. These are some of my springtime bulb maintenance tips:

*Deadhead spent blooms. You want the energy to be sent to the bulb and not produce a seed head. (see below regarding naturalizing)
*Remove flower stalk unless you want the plant to naturalize, as in the case of daffodils.

*Allow foliage to fade to yellow and/or brown before cutting back.

NOTE: If you want to utilize companion planting to hide the declining foliage there are many choices. Since it may be sometime before you choose and install a desirable companion the exact spot of your bulb plantings may not be evident. Mark bulb area with golf tees. They are relatively inexpensive and withstand many seasons. I choose neon colored ones purchased at surplus and salvage stores. Simply push into dirt next to bulb or around area if bulbs are grouped. When you begin to dig later in the season and a tee is spotted then you know you are in danger of digging up a bulb or two. Move your hole slightly.

*Fertilize with a balanced mix with high phosphorus P (middle number in plant food & fertilizer blends).
--Espoma’s Bulb Tone is my favorite.
--Bone meal is often used yet may attract animals.
NOTE: The ’to fertilize or not to fertilize’ is often a controversy. Some only feed newly planted. Others will do upon first sight of the sprout. the practice of applying after the blooms have all faded has been successful for my gardens. Make sure to water in well in any case.

What to do if you know you planted bulbs yet nothing comes up?
o Check to see if the bulb is still there of if it was planted pointy side up.
§ If gone, then some chipmunk or squirrel enjoyed a treat. Try sprinkling red pepper around bulb and again planting hole next you plant.
§ If upside down, try again next year.

You have tulips that have no blooms.
o If there is a stem surrounded by leaves then a deer, groundhog or perhaps a visiting rabbit enjoyed a treat.
o No stem; the bulb is spent. Most tulips will last 2-5 years. After that they will produce weaker and weaker blooms and eventually none.
§ Some will dig bulbs, divide, and/or remove any week bulbettes and replant. This is not a practice I maintain. It IS important to dig up the bulb, however. It will continue to put forth foliage for many years. It is best to dig up and begin again next fall.

For those who do not want to wait to fall to put forth their bulb passion, there are some that are made for spring planting, especially in our Zone 5/4. Refer to individual plant instruction on depth and space of planting. Most will require digging and storing over the winter.

o Canna Lily
o Gladiolus
· Some varieties are able to over-winter in ground for 2-5 growing seasons
o Dahlias
o Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile)
o Freesia (as annuals)

Personally, I do not plant ‘annual bulbs’ for my clients unless I can treat them as true annuals and begin afresh next season. In my travels I have seen the most spectacular Dahlias that are generations old. I have spoken to proponents of the Grand Gladiola and would not imagine a summer floral arrangement without them. I met a couple with dozens of majestic Lily of the Nile in terra cotta containers that each spring and fall had to be wheeled to their summer home from an onsite green house. All of these are labors of love. Any who attempt such an undertaking truly have my utmost admiration and envy.

It is never too late to put some spring in your step, or your garden. There are more than one way to accomplish the ‘blues’……….

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 27, 2009

Perennial Basics, Consider Birds, Filling the Gaps and Maintaining Beauty

We sell a wide variety of perennials at Skillin’s. We define perennials as usually green or herbaceous plants that are best planted in beds with other perennials or as a complement to your shrub and tree (woody) or annual plantings or other aspects of your landscape world.

Perennial plants are intended to give us the ever hopeful gardener years of enjoyment as we nurture and feed them, pinch and prune them, and divide and worry about them. Yes, perennials become an extension of our family. Many perennials do not flower for long periods of time which only makes our appreciation of their colorful offerings that much sweeter when that time of year comes. Perennials are a blessing!

Last year I came across a great article in a garden center trade magazine called “Green Profits” titled “Perennial Gardening Basics”. I think the article is fantastic for all perennial gardeners. For the next few weeks, I intend to give you small excerpts from the article (to whet your perennial gardening whistle). If at any time you would like the entire article emailed to you just let me know at info@skillins.com and I will send you a “Word” attachment.

For The Birds

Another consideration when planning a perennial garden is the type of wildlife in your area. There are perennials available to attract birds and butterflies and also plenty that will discourage our friends who might see a garden as a buffet table. Talk to the perennial expert at your local garden center to find out options that will work in your area. Wildlife gardens are becoming more and more popular, so chances are your favorite garden center has plenty of “attractive” options.

Filling Gaps

Of course, a new perennial garden will not be bursting with plants. Perennials take about three years to fill in and reach optimum size. A great way to fill some gaps without spending a fortune is with annuals, which help to add color and interest while your perennials mature. Even existing perennial gardens go through periods of the year when few plants are in bloom.

Maintaining Beauty

One of the main reasons gardeners of all skill levels love perennial gardens is that they require less maintenance than other alternatives like vegetables, roses and even lawns. They do, however, need regular care and attention for peak performance and health. But before you groan about the work required, remember gardening is a great form of exercise, and light gardening can burn as many as 300 calories an hour - similar to a moderate walk or a game of golf. Here are some weekly and seasonal perennial garden duties to add to your “workout.”

Skillin's Greenhouses
March 27, 2009 (reprint from 2008)

Sensation Lilac!

Sheliah from high atop North Raymond is back with a great picture of one of my absolute favorite lilacs, the Sensation Lilac. The white bordered flower is one of the prettiest ones ever. And the Sensation Lilac grows so well here in Maine.
Sheliah does her gardening high atop the hills of Raymond ME and if you can grow a green garden there you can grow one anywhere!
Here is Sheliah:
"I LOVE lilac's! I have three favorites. Monge, Beauty of Moscow, and this one that is pictured the Sensation. I wrote about the dark, dark purple Monge a while back. (Click The Monge Lilac for a great article about the Monge lilac and general lilac care). The Beauty of Moscow has pink buds and opens into a double white. It smells as good as the Old Fashion Lilacs which do smell the best. The draw back of the Sensation is that it does not have much of a smell - I can look past that because - look how beautiful it is!!!"
Sheliah for Skillin's
High Atop Raymond ME
March 27, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Sheliah checks in again from high atop of Raymond Maine. I have said it before and I will say it again; if you can grow a green garden there then you can grow one anywhere!
Look at her gorgeous dahlias!
Here is what Sheliah has to say:
"Garden Hint: Did you dig up your Dahlia's last fall? Start them in a window in April and give them a nice head start. You will be rewarded with a very long bloom time. I stated doing this after too many years of watching my Dahlia's loaded with buds turn black by the frost in early Spring. Let them get a great head start this April and most of May indoors and then place some beautiful plants outdoors and ENJOY some awesome color for the summer and fall! Mike wants me to tell you that dahlias and other summer flowering bulbs are on sale (20% off) this weekend as part of our Open House celebration!"
Sheliah for Skillin's Greenhouses
High atop Raymond ME
March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Has Sprung and So Was I...

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

As we in Maine enter our first full week of spring, can ‘mud season’ be far behind?

I don’t know about you, but I am so anxious to be outdoors on a full time basis. Still too soon to do any real gardening tasks for my clients, and having no garden of my own, I am going a little more than stir crazy. Fresh Air, exercise and interaction with nature that is surely the key to getting me thru the next couple of weeks. Besides it is time to get in shape to garden. What to do? Well, I did try……….

Late last week I experienced the fruitless attempt to walk the area of my new neighborhood known as ‘The Boulevard’. I awoke with the vow ‘today I am going to start my new regime and walk ‘The Boulevard’, or at least a part of it, each day’. Enthusiasm on overload I prepared for my outing.

As is recommended, I dressed in layers, including pocketing a fleece headband just in case my baseball cap didn’t do the trick. Bottle of spring water tucked in the side pocket of my well worn cargo pants, I was on my way.

The walk -way to my destination is in the city streets. I say ‘in’ because the sidewalks are nearly impassible. Snow in many instances is still piled in front of some residences. Those that are clear are so full of debris and things I’d rather not think about I don’t even attempt to navigate. I feel the streets are the safest bet. In the distance I can see that I am not alone in my ‘walking’ quest, the Boulevard is as active as I have ever seen it. This time of year we look for any excuse to enjoy the sun. Joggers, families, lovers, dogs & strollers made up the assembly. I was pumped.

The section of the path I entered was currently in full sun. I was ready to remove my 1st layer yet opted until making it past the first turn. Never can tell which way the wind is blowing. All seemed to be relatively calm. Face forward, arms at my side I was ready.

After a few steps something had gone wrong. So intent on joining the throngs of people I didn’t really look at where I was stepping. No, it is not what you think, perhaps that would have been a little easier. I was stuck, or at least my right foot was. I equate the feeling to stepping in a suction cup. I made the effort to become unstuck, with all my force, I did, but my slip-on walking shoe didn’t. Having recently awoken from its long winter nap, the mud appeared to be hungry. My foot would have been a good snack, but it was settling for my shoe which was being devoured in front of my very eyes.

Try as I might, I could not contort my foot in the same direction that my shoe had come to rest. Never a gymnast, a dancer or anyone with any semblance of balance or grace, I struggled to stay vertical. My arms whirled as I teetered. There was no way my foot was going to get back in that shoe. To reach over in an attempt to loosen it with my hand was not going to work. The more I reached, the more my socked unshorn foot went in the air in an attempt at balance.

Joggers, families, lovers, dogs & strollers, streamed by. I pretended to be in control of the situation. I smiled in exasperation. What seemed like hours were surely only a few minutes. Dressed in a pink hooded sweatshirt, I must have looked like an over-grown pink flamingo. Alternatively, they do not seem to have any problem balancing on one foot.

In one last effort I willed my one ‘good’ foot to steady and my arm to stretch to rescue my shoe. And then……………… it was over. I was down on one knee with my mud coated shoe as my victory baton. Mud had also found its way inside my shoe. Not fun walking with the squish squish of mud between sock and sole. This would mean my walk would have to wait until another day. That was 5 days ago.

So, keep this in mind as you walk around your property to inventory your gardening plans. Wear proper footwear, watch where you step.

Timely Tid-bits

Feed/Fertilize Rhododendrons & Azaleas soon if you didn’t do it late fall. They prefer well-drained acidic soil. I rely on Espoma’s Holly-Tone to do the job!

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Early Season Hydrangea Care!

Sheliah of Raymond checks in with a lovely picture of one of her Endless Summer hydrangeas and some great hydrangea gardening advice!
Sheliah does her gardening high atop the hills of Raymond ME and if you can grow a green garden there you can grow one anywhere!
Here is Sheliah!
"Just a reminder that as the snow melts away and your Endless Summer Hydrangeas look like lots of dead sticks - refrain from cutting them back! They bloom on old and new growth and you may cut off some of the beautiful future flower buds that set last fall. Those of you with the old variety Nikko Blue Hydrangea should remember they only bloom off their old wood. Leave them alone until the leaves start to emerge and you can safely snip the dead ends off. I use Holly Tone on my blue Hydrangea's and that seems to work great to achieve the beautiful blue color that I love. If you have a Pee Gee Hydrangea that grew out of control last year you can safely cut it back this spring and still have lots of blooms this fall."

Falmouth Open House Photos

Hello everyone, the following pictures were taken from good friend Marjorie Mills. Marjorie was on hand at the Falmouth Open House representing her company Marjorie Mills Event Photography (www.marjmillsphoto.com).

Enjoy the photos and if you ever need someone who is both talented and sweet to photo some of the best moments of your life, let Marjorie know!

We had bright sunshiny weather and everyone had a great time! Come see us this weekend (March 28 & 29) in Brunswick and Cumberland!

Thanks for viewing!
See you soon!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Garden Talks Week of March 23

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 http://www.plants-unlimited.com/.

*Persistence is the Key!

"Early spring, before the buds open, is a good time to control insects on trees and shrubs with dormant sprays. Apply these oil solutions to the branches to suffocate insects and their eggs. Spray as a fine mist and only on a sunny day with no wind when temperatures are above 40 degrees F. Use dormant oils on apple and pear trees to effectively control mealybugs, aphids, and mites. On ornamental plantings, use lower concentrations of oil as recommended on the package label. Some plants, such as the Colorado blue spruce, should not be sprayed as dormant oils will remove the waxy, blue protective coat on the needles. Always read the product label carefully for proper use and any precautions."

The Bonide Co. manufactures some excellent products for the important fruit tree sprayings. All Seasons Fruit Spray or the all natural Oil Lime and Sulphur spray are products to really think about for great fruit tree production!

One other Skillin's note about fruit trees: Fantastic fruit trees are here! Last Friday we received a beautiful load of terrific fruit trees--apples, pears, plums, peaches and more! They are budded and ready to be planted NOW!


"Early spring snowstorms are common, pesky and generally seen as a nuisance by most gardeners eager to get going. We get tons of calls from folks whose bulbs are starting to emerge and perennials starting to green wondering what to do when snow is predicted. Relax! Don't worry! Usually this snow is just a quick event and will not harm your plants. In fact, you might do more harm trying to cover them. If any precaution is needed, you might knock the heavier snows off trees and shrubs whose branches might crack with the weight."

Great advice; we also generally recommend that you leave any heavy snows alone because the act of knocking heavy snow may break brittle branches.

*Be Patient, Let your Garden Dry

Yes, you're eager to get into your garden but make sure the soil has adequately dried before you try to do too much. Avoid on partially frozen or wet ares because the compaction from your weight is damaging to the soil structure. If you must get out, lay down some planks to walk on. These will help distribute your weight and lessen compaction. Nothing beats a few good windy March days to dry things out!

*Soil Testing

"Avoid the rush if you want a professional soil test and get your sample to the University of Maine as soon as possible! They'll be processing hundreds of tests this spring and the back log will mean a longer waiting time for your results. We have the application forms and all the information you need to send these samples in. Of course, we sell simple soil test kits that will help you determine basic soil information like pH and basic nutrients. These kits are inexpensive and the process is FUN to do with children - a real hands on experiment with immediate results!"

A good soil test can be a valuable tool that points you and your garden in the right direction.

*Tasty Tulips and other Plants

"It's time to be vigilant and start the tulip watch! You are certainly watching for those leaves and buds to appear, but you better be watching for rodent and deer. Squirrels and mice will often dig up the bulbs and deer usually appear just before the buds are ready to open! It has been a long winter and we know there will be huge deer browsing problems on many ornamentals. We have the repellent products you need to ward off these critters. "

Liquid Fence is one of quite a few all natural products that we offer that can protect your plants against munching pesky plant predators.

*Easy to Grow Phalaenopsis Orchids

"Phalaenopsis species are epiphytes requiring warm temperatures. They grow well under relatively low light intensities and are good plants to grow under fluorescent lights. These plants must have a very coarse potting medium that drains rapidly. They do not tolerate drying and must be watered frequently.

It is not uncommon for individual flowers to remain in good condition on the plant for two to three months. A well-maintained plant may flower up to 18 consecutive months."

Phalaenopsis orchids are just terrific houseplants that will flower and flower and flower!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Very Nifty Nine Bark

Sheliah checks in with the Very Nifty Nine Bark. The Nine Bark's name comes from the appearance of the bark which is flaky and can peel away in many layers as the plant gets a little older. The botanical name of the many varieties stems from Physocarpus.
Sheliah does her gardening high atop the hills of Raymond ME and if you can grow a green garden there you can grow one anywhere!
Here is Sheliah:
"If you have room for a big beautiful plant try this Nine Bark. It grows extremely fast and will top out at eight to ten feet tall. The burgundy color stands out so beautifully. I love the look of it planted with evergreens. This picture is of my Diabolo Nine Bark. This easy to grow plant is a zone 3! That means you can plant it a your camp on Moosehead Lake and it will thrive! It needs at least six hours of sun a day. It has creamy white flowers in the spring and berries that the birds love in the fall. The leaves are fabulous! Nine Bark is a native plant. Tim has brought in some of the new hybrids of this plant that will not get as big and have coppery colors. Last year we had a limey green variety too. If you are looking for a no care, easy and fast growing plant (that your neighbors probably don't have) check out the beautiful Nine Bark!"
Sheliah for Skillin's Greenhouses
High atop Raymond ME
March 22, 2009

Spring Open House Sale Items and Door Prizes!

What a great Falmouth Open House we are having here at Skillin's! I do hope you can all make it in and I CAN'T WAIT for this coming weekend for our Open Houses in Brunswick and Cumberland. We will see you soon!
(Fun for the whole family! This picture taken by Margie Mills at the 2008 Falmouth Open House! Check out Margie's website at www.marjmillsphoto.com to see how she can capture for your life the best of your life!)

Here are the sale items for our upcoming Skillin's Spring Open Houses:

Garden Center

All Birding 20% off
Bar Harbor and Pro Mix Potting Soils all sizes 20% off
Bulbs including Tuberous Begonias 20% off
Seed Starting Supplies 20% off
Earth Box Save $10
Topsy Turvey 20% off
Radius Tools 20% off

Gift Shop

Silk Flowers and plants 20% off
Telescope Casual Outdoor furniture 20% off with three or more pieces plus an extra 10% off on orders written during openhouse
Colonial Candles 10% off one full box 20% off 2 or more full boxes
Bean Pod Soy Natural Candles 20% off
Books 20% off (Terry Skillin's autobiography not included!)
Wind chimes 20% off
Christmas 70% off


Buy one get one free; 8” $14.99 foliage hanging plants (A true Maine product; these hanging plants grown right here in Maine!)

African Violets save $2.00 reg price 4.99 SALE 2.99


Spring Bonds 37.50 a $50.00 Spring Value


Carnation .49 (beautiful colors, price and value can't be beat!)
Skillin's Grown Jonquils just $3.99 per bunch

Here are our exciting door prizes and their locations at the Falmouth Open House:

Arrangement a month for 6 months
Register to win at station D

Floral Party for up to 10
Register to win at station D

Register to win 3 at station E

Spring Bonds
Register to win 2 Spring Bonds at Station C

Organica 4 Step Lawn Care
Register to win at station A

Register to win a 4” orchid at station E

Herb Planter
Register to win at station E

Landscape Design Consultation

Register to win 1 hour of consultation with Chad Skillin

Earth Box soil and vegetable seeds included
Register to win at station A

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Teacher Didn't Jump Across the Ladders

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with another fine life story that makes you smile and makes you think:

Many wild expressions are heard during election years. Before the Presidential election in 1992 Ross Perot stated that CEO’s of many corporations had “jumped across the ladder” to arrive at the top position and they didn’t fully understand the operation of their company. They would have a better understanding of running their company if they had started as janitor and worked their way to the top!” Those words made me think of one of my teachers.

When summer vacation (1949) ended, five students in Grade 8 along with students in Grades 5, 6, and 7, welcomed a new teacher, Mr. John Longmore, to our school in Perry. It didn’t take us long to notice that his smile showed a lot of teeth, his patience was good, he was musical, and he loved to tell stories about adventures in the wilderness of Maine. Sixty years later I’m still giving his Mathematics and Maine History lessons excellent ratings.

Several years after being our teacher my friends and I were still giving him friendly greetings. In retrospect we realize that his school year may not have been the easiest year in his work life. Our school didn't have running water or a telephone. The room was heated with a “pot bellied” wood stove. Two 100 watt light bulbs dangled from the ceiling. A very large physical education room was the great outdoors.

Early in the year I hit a baseball that was quickly moving toward right field. My friend playing first base, stopped it with his bare hand. He screamed, stuck his finger in the air and displayed a compound fracture. Without any hesitation, Mr. Longmore had Frank(and his brother) in his automobile and were heading for the doctor’s office in Eastport, Maine. The teacher of Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, became our supervisor for the rest of the afternoon. A few years ago Frank’s mother told me that for many years after that incident, in his friendly way, whenever Frank saw his former teacher, he would isolate his big deformed finger, extend his arm, and say: “Hello Mr. Longmore, remember me?!”

Spring arrived. Each afternoon Mr. Longmore’s students practiced for a school play that never had an opening night. An automobile accident on Memorial Day weekend claimed the life of my classmate, Janet, who had a leading role in the play. From two experiences I've learned that every teacher that has ever returned to school after a weekend and found “an empty seat” in their classroom can relate to Mr. Longmore’s feelings as that school year was ending. The day of the school picnic survivors of the accident displayed their scars and bruises. Janet's mother displayed colors of yellow, green, purple, and blue covering her face, neck and arms. Hearts of many people were heavy as my Grade 8 year was ending. The last words Mr. Longmore, as my teacher, said to me were: “Whenever you see me, be sure to say hello and tell me how you are doing.”

Mr. Longmore was a teacher at Perry for two more years, then moved away. More than thirty years passed before I would fulfill his request. Then several friendly but very short meetings happened with him. He would always ask questions about what I was doing and listen to what I had to say. We would exchange pleasant memories before continuing on our daily routines.

One day I spotted Mr. Longmore at a distance as he was making his exit from a restaurant. I approached him and said: “Tell me what happened to you after you were my teacher.” This was his story:

My wife and children moved with me to East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I started taking courses at a near-by college and got a job as janitor at a place that designed and manufactured heating and air conditioning systems. When I applied for the job I mentioned that I had taken a very short course in drafting and had worked one summer in the shipping room at a sardine factory in Eastport, Maine. I hadn’t been with the company very long when my boss sent me to the shipping department. I worked there until the day my boss said: “They need lots of help in the Design Department. You know a little bit about drafting, so I’m sending you up there.” After a few years in that department the Assistant Manager of the company became Ill. They asked me to help in the Front Office. Then they promoted me to Vice President. I retired as President of the company.”

As our conversation ended and to the present day I have felt very proud of my teacher.

NOTE: During the past year thousands of people have lost high paying jobs. Some of those people have gained employment as janitors. It is encouraging to imagine that like my teacher, Mr. Longmore, within a few years they may be President/CEO of the company that hired them. Never Give Up!

Dale Lincoln
Perry ME
in Zephyrhills FL
March 20, 2009

Perennial Basics Placing Plants

We sell a wide variety of perennials at Skillin’s. We define perennials as usually green or herbaceous plants that are best planted in beds with other perennials or as a complement to your shrub and tree (woody) or annual plantings or other aspects of your landscape world.

Perennial plants are intended to give us the ever hopeful gardener years of enjoyment as we nurture and feed them, pinch and prune them, and divide and worry about them. Yes, perennials become an extension of our family. Many perennials do not flower for long periods of time which only makes our appreciation of their colorful offerings that much sweeter when that time of year comes. Perennials are a blessing!

Last year I came across a great article in a garden center trade magazine called “Green Profits” titled “Perennial Gardening Basics”. I think the article is fantastic for all perennial gardeners. For the next few weeks, I intend to give you small excerpts from the article (to whet your perennial gardening whistle). If at any time you would like the entire article emailed to you just let me know at info@skillins.com and I will send you a “Word” attachment.

Placing Plants

"Most perennial gardens include plants in clumps or blocks – three or more of the same plant grouped together. Creating the masses of color that make perennial borders so attractive means you need to plant clumps in a few different areas in each garden bed. Feel free to repeat clumps of varieties throughout your gardens. That’s up to you. Be sure to allow plenty of room for expansion. Every plant grows differently so consult labels for spacing between plants. Space clumps further apart – about two or three feet.

When choosing varieties, it’s vitally important to understand the area where you will plant them. Most perennials thrive in full sun, but there are options for shade, as well. And because perennials are long-term plants, thinking long term is necessary. If your garden is in an area with newly established trees, consider how fast they will grow and how much shade they will provide down the road. If you are planning your garden based on a color scheme, pick the basic colors but be open to changing varieties based on your garden environment."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 11, 2008 (reprinted March 20, 2009)

What to Do Now?

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

I am panic-stricken!

Winter in Maine seems to drag then suddenly spring sprints forward. The fact that daylight savings time started earlier this year than any time in my gardening history is more proof that spring is only weeks away, at least according to the calendar. (NOTE: This is not the earliest DST; during the energy crisis of the 70’s daylight savings time began January 6 in 1974 and February 23 in 1974.)

I’m not ready!

True! I long to be out of doors, assisting Mother Nature in creating and maintaining her beauty, to sweat and be dirty and, ultimately, to earn my keep. Still….

I need more time, please!

Can the groundhog crawl back in his hole only to reemerge and either see or not see his shadow? I never really did get what difference it meant either way. Nevertheless if one or the other will buy more time than I am all for it.

Feeling Frenzied!

Yes, I realize that the Vernal Equinox just happened on March 20 EDT. Just hold off for another week or 2.

Honing in on hysterics!

Why? Taxes. Dreaded Taxes. In less than a week, I must compile a year’s worth of paperwork for the poor soul who attempts to make sense of all my receipts and notes. We last met on January 3rd. I figured I’d start the New Year right. This year I’d be any accountants delight. He gave me a list, we both checked it twice and I vowed to be oh so not naughty but nice. Still or procrastinate.

In any event, when I should be having visions of pruning roses, cleaning beds of winters debris and sharpening of tools, I am inundated with the horrors of receipts of yellow, or white. Bank statements, invoices and sub-contractor bills.

It is my burden to bear. No need to tax you any further. Hmmmm... Is it a coincidence that tax and burden are synonyms? I think not!

In an effort to push all negative thoughts and piles of paperwork away, I will prepare for something else. The gardening season.

Most of what I about to say you know, either by reading my writings of last year, other publications and media or from just self-awareness. Yet, we all could use a reminder now and then.

*First, take a walk around your property. Doing so is helpful for garden and gardener. Walking is one of the best ways to begin your spring training for marathon gardening. Bring a friend, a pet, or both. In any case, bring your garden journal.

*Remove or at least pull from your garden beds any branches or limbs that may have fallen over the winter. As your ornamentals wake and push thru the earth, they will thank you. Would you want to wake with the equivalent of a 40-foot maple on top of you?

*Check and make note of any winter damage especially the inside of shrubs. Often dead branches can be overlooked once the shrub is in full leaf or bloom.

*Gently clear away any leaves or debris from the base of plants that has accumulated over the winter. Patience is key, as you will need to wait until the layers have thawed. Do not be too aggressive as to damage any new growth or seedlings. Hand clearing is best and if done in stages the effort is minimal. The sooner we get to this the less hiding places for slugs and other pests.

*Remind your self that no matter what the calendar may say, it is still March in Maine so…….

~Avoid removing any winter protection or fencing too soon.
~Straighten or remove if the protection is interfering with the shrub or tree*
~Don’t be in a rush to pull away any mounded protection of mulch or compost. *
~Don’t prune roses too soon. *

*Topics to be revisited in future writings.
There may be those whose property isn’t ready to be ‘walked around’. Alternatively, you may not be ready. Nevertheless, there is one thing we all should do; Check your tools.

If they weren’t sharpened upon retiring them for the winter, now is the second most perfect time. We have all been there; ready to prune our roses, or cut back spent foliage and stems with the only action being the bending of the target. Your efforts only produced a partial or worse no cut. While, you attempt to finish the job with your hand some of the bark or outer layer is peeled away. You are faced with potential damage due to disease or instinct.

The latter is as scary as my upcoming meeting with my bookkeeper.

My heart is racing!

There is so much more I could add, but I do not want to get ahead of myself. We still have time.

Unlike my taxes………………….

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Great Gardening Pictures; Great Inspiration

Good gardening friend Barbara Gardener returns with some great photos of some her tremendous gardens. Barbara IS a good friend and is also a hard working gardening soul.

From Barbara Gardener:

"And what plantings are you looking for? And just how many pictures do you want? I was looking for some that show annuals and perennials planted together so I'd still have color when the perennials stop blooming. By then the annuals are large enough to give me plenty.

(Have a big decision to make--do I sit here and read the blogs or do I get some housework done?)"

Barbara G (I am glad she did not choose the housework!)

Below: The perennial geranium on the left will flower for a good amount of the growing season and is a very reliable perennial. Once they get going, the annual zinnias just get covered with flowers. Fun colors too!

Barbara this is great inspiration! The picture below shows great use of purple and pink salvia. Salvia is an old time annual that does not get enough credit these days. And I am a fan of marigolds. Some people turn their noses up at them but all they do is flower and flower and flower with little or no trouble. How can you beat that?

Barbara Gardener for
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


AKA, The Benefits of keeping a Garden Journal
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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

I can still recall gently tracing the Celtic designs intricately carved into cover and spine of my first journal. The heady aroma of leather filled the air as I placed the buttery soft volume against my cheek. My actual age escapes me, somewhere in the single digits. Nevertheless I imagined myself years older as a famous author. Not sure what that would exactly entail other than an appearance on ‘lady’ talk shows that my mother and her friends watched. Coifed in a French Twist, donning a shirtwaist dress, accessorized with pearls I would answer as the person next to me asked. I was a writer long before a gardener. Each takes a certain amount of imagination.

Sadly, I admit, the gold edged paper of that first journal never met a pen. It was ‘too good’ to be filled with my cross outs, false starts and senseless ramblings. To this day, I collect journals of all sizes, shapes and styles. Some are elegant and that ‘too good’ tape is replayed, others are school composition books purchased at bargain basement rates. I have journals in all my various bags, backpacks, purses and tool cases. Once I could boast that I had a journal in every room. My current cozy pad sports 2 rooms. I must compensate for the lack of space somehow. Books abound! Voluptuous volumes longing for words rest next to each chair, under, even over, the bed on the shelf that also holds my gnome & elf collection. Gnomes? Elves? Never mind.

With every purchase of a new journal I visualize myself writing upon the pages diligently each day. Visions of me donning Edwardian clothing, sipping pink lemonade and scribing of long lost loves in elegant cursive have been replaced.

Now the pages are streaked with dirt and other organic matter. Notes of ‘first crocus: March 12, 2006; Mr. Mocking Bird woke me at 3:30 AGAIN June 6, 2007. Applied Messenger to McD Roses 5/13/08.

I, like so many others of my ilk, am keeping a garden journal.

Do you or should you keep a garden journal? The reasons are as many as empty journals in my apartment. Keeping a garden journal only benefits if it is referred to at a future date. If it sits upon a shelf then all is lost, that is until someone else finds it.

Revisiting our journals, especially years later, offers a portal to another time, other seasons. How can you look back if you never began? No time like the present.

For this writing I will overlook the romantic notion behind keeping a journal and focus on the practical. Keeping a journal can save you money. It may make you a ‘smarter’ or more aware gardener. Did I have you at ‘save you money’?
I often equate keeping a gardening journal with a shopping list. Better still, not keeping records is like grocery shopping when hungry. Poor choices and overspending result.

Gardeners are blessed with unique memories; we remember killing frosts in June, droughts in July and abundance in August. Alternatively, all memories are temporarily erased in May. We cannot wait to get out and fill in all those empty spaces. We have forgotten we took advantage of an end-of-season sale at our favorite nursery. We forget that while our beds are showy in May & June and vibrant late August thru September it the times between we must fulfill. The mental note that the Baptisia was invading the Shastas, the clethra is not dead, it will leaf in June. Will this be the second or third summer for my bugbane? Did I really wait until the first of June to plant impatiens?

Armed with this information as you plan for new purchases will result in appropriate choices, happier gardener.

So now you know the ‘why’ about keeping a journal. Lets get to the ‘how’.

Recently I had the privilege of facilitating a class titled “The Garden Journal” at each of Skillin’s 3 locations. Most in attendance had kept or tried to keep a garden journal of sorts. Those who diligently kept gardening observations shared their successes; others were looking for alternate methods and variable ways to capture their garden notes. Then there were the novices, not necessarily new to gardening or journal keeping but to the combining. All on board agreed that ‘garden journal’ meant pages of writing.

Not necessarily.

A definition for Journal is ‘a record of daily happenings’. We are in a digital age, baby. One picture says a thousand words. Pictures do not need to be printed on expensive and glossy paper. Standard paper, post cards or even index cards can be used. Notations can be made along, on or the backside of the printed picture. Inexpensive albums with pockets meant for 4X6 photos can hold a picture in one pocket with notes on the 3 & 5 in an adjoining pocket.

I also keep the plastic plant tags as part of my journal. Very beneficial for planning the tag is full of pertinent information such as height, width and bloom time. Often we purchase plants in bloom. Being much happier in the ground and wanting to go to a home of their own, often the blooms are either before or beyond their natural time. Wouldn’t you put on your best face?

Feel free to include a wish list in your journal. Pictures of other gardens you want to replicate. Include the journal in your garden tool bag. Mental notes abound while actually working in our beds. ‘Divide Yarrow’ that you thought last summer will not even occur to you in the spring when the time is appropriate. ‘Too much yellow’, will lay dormant when you are about to purchase several Waldsteinia (Barren Strawberry) as a groundcover.

See all the more reason for the ‘why’.

Now for some more. The best things in life are often free. Remember and sharing special times in our lives costs us nothing.

As part of the presentation, I borrowed journals from fellow Master Gardeners. I was in awe. Entries made were much more then just gardening, they were about life. One such journal was started ‘around Memorial Day 2002’ with a dedication to her baby daughter with a note ‘should she ever be so inclined’ to follow in her mother’s steps. Years later her daughter as a preschooler made her first entry upon a page of that very book.

Let us all stimulate our gardens this summer. It is never too early or too late to take note.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Garden Talks Week of March 16

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 http://www.plants-unlimited.com/.

*Looking for Something New in the Garden?

"If you are tired of the 'same old' annuals that you've been planting year after year, why not plan a 'new look' in your garden. Today is a wonderful day to sketch out your annual beds and decide what plant's you'll need to enliven the color and perhaps even be less care. Be careful of the spacing of plants that you choose in your plan. Know the mature size of each variety because, in our experience, many people actually buy more plants then needed! A great annual gardening resource? Proven Winners!"

Check out our Annuals and Perennials class to be held on Saturday, April 11 at 9 AM and 1 PM at each of our locations! More class and contact details can be found at http://www.skillins.com/!

*Wintered Over Plants

"If you have overwintered tropical plants like bougainvillea, hibiscus or mandevilla or annuals like geraniums in your basement, take a peek at them today. Check the plants for any signs of green buds and the soil for moisture. If the soil is dry, water them lightly. Then, start to bring these plants into a warmer and sunnier location. It's time to get them sprouting for spring! If you don't have enough sunny windows, use fluorescent grow lights."

Also a good time to give many of these plants an aggressive pruning to a good shape. Such pruning encourages new growth and new growth means FLOWERS! The plants cited above are heavy feeders; give them regular doses of a good natural fertilizer like Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed blend or perhaps even better pick up some all natural plant fertilizer tablets by Organica. (All such products sold right here at Skillin's!)

*A Nice Lawn Can Be Easily and Naturally Had

"Is your lawn in need of major repair this spring? The first thing you need to do is understand your yards sunny and shady locations. There are fine grass seed mixes for dry sunny locations, dense shady spots and other blends to meet your needs. Later, we also recommend that you get a soil test to learn more about your soil."

I love the Black Beauty grass seed mix by Jonathan Green--I highly recommend as a good low maintenance grass seed. Also Organica makes some awesome lawn care products including their all natural 4 Step Lawn Program. A naturally cared for lawn means less watering and less fertilizeing over time!

*Sweet, Bountiful Grapes

"If you grow grapes, it's time to aggressively attack your vines with loppers and pruners while the vines are still dormant. You do this to keep the vines healthier, bear the best tasting fruit and keep the grape harvest within reach. Cut off at least three-quarters of last seasons growth, pruning all the way back to a handful of buds per cane. It's harsh pruning but it bears results in the fall!"

It has been explained to me that sometimes a good gardener needs to be cruel to be kind.

*Lawn Debris

"You' re itching to get outside (especially after this winter) so pick up a biodegradable leaf bag or wheel-barrow and walk through your yard once the snow has melted. Wear good gloves, carry pruners and bring a rake. Clean and prune any of last year's dead plant material and branches. Rake up any leaves and debris that you missed in the fall or that blew into your yard this winter. "

Once the lawn has dried out a little bit and you have cleaned up the heavy debris, give your lawn a good vigorous raking. Clean out those grass blades that has worn out; this will let valuable air and light into your lawn and really help new quality growth to jump start!

*Flowers Ahead of Time

"You can bring spring into your home by forcing branches of many common early blooming shrubs and trees that you probably already have growing in your yard. Cut stems from forsythia, daphne, willow, flowering quince, cornelian cherry and many other early bloomers. Split the base of each stem about an inch to increase water absorption. Arrange them in lukewarm water and keep them in a warm room. Once the buds swell, they'll last longer if moved to a cooler spot."

We have brought this point up before but the timing is STILL great to do this fun project. This is a good family project as well.


"Some clematis vines need to be pruned now - the ones that you expect to bloom on new growth this season. Pull down last year's tangled, dried-up growth, cut it away from the plant, and remove it. Finally, lop off all the stems to within a foot or so of the ground. Not all clematis are pruned this way so make sure you know the pruning for each variety."

There are few flowers more beautiful than a clematis!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Open House Classes and Events

(Lots to see and smell at the 2008 Falmouth Open House; this picture taken by Margie Mills)

Skillin’s Greenhouses
Spring Open House!

Falmouth - March 20-22
Brunswick & Cumberland - March 28-29

Saturday Event Schedule

9:00 Vegetable Gardening - presented by Cumberland County Master Gardeners

10:00 to 2:00 - Learn about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
from area farmers, including:

Crystal Springs Community Farm @ Brunswick
Deri Farms @ Falmouth & Cumberland - Juniper Edge Farm @ Brunswick
Laughing Stock Farms @ Cumberland, Brunswick and Falmouth
Pleasant Valley Acres@ Falmouth

11:30 Natural pest control strategies for the garden - Falmouth Only

10:00 Organic Lawn Care - Brunswick 1:00 - Cumberland

1:00 Mulch & More Ron Tripp - Falmouth & Brunswick 10:00 - Cumberland
1:00 Birds in the Backyard- Cumberland

2:00 Home-grown fruit - Don Ward of Eastern Shore Nurseries – Falmouth Only

And for the Entire Weekend…

Flowering Plants and Awesome Color Everywhere!

Many, many sale specials for gardeners

Visit our edible landscape exhibit for a taste of spring!

Refreshments & Door Prizes Galore!

Landscape consultations with Chad Skillin

Discuss orchids with the experts from the Maine Orchid Society – Falmouth only

Skillin's Spring Classes and Events!

Our classes will be held Saturdays at all three locations (unless otherwise stated). Space is limited so reserve today for the classes of your choice! Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class. To sign up for a class just email us at info@skillins.com and specify the store, date and time of the class. Or give us a call at any of these locations:

Skillins Greenhouses [info@skillins.com]
422 Bath RoadBrunswick, ME 04011 1 800 339-8111 207/442-8111
89 Foreside RoadFalmouth, ME 04105 1 800 244-3860 207/781-3860
201 Gray Road Cumberland, ME 04021 1 800 348-8498 207/829-5619

March 21 Pruning for a Purpose (10 am & 1 pm Brunswick & Cumberland)
Special classes March 28 9 AM & 1 PM Falmouth

To prune or not to prune, that is the growing question. Proper pruning makes our outdoor trees and shrubs look great and healthy. Learn techniques to help rejuvenate and keep your landscape in shape. Free

March 21 Vegetable Gardening (9 AM only Falmouth, part of our Open House celebration!)

March 28 Vegetable Gardening (9 AM only Brunswick and Cumberland, part of our Open House celebration!)

Let us give you the best tips going for how to plan and prepare a vegetable garden. Over the years, we have seen the good and the bad so we can advise on the best and safest steps to be had. Free

April 4 Gardening 101 (9am & 1pm)

What better way to celebrate spring than to talk about some gardening basics that you may be wondering about. We are gardening in Maine; what plants work reliably the best? Why lime my lawn? What fertilizer should I use that is best for my yard but also our planet? I have a budget, how can I stretch my dollars? For 125 springs we have been answering these and many other gardening questions. Let’s talk gardening and learn. We will emphasize how best to Plant for the Planet in your yard! Free and well worth more!

April 11 Outdoor Gardening with Annuals and Perennials (9am & 1pm)

The classics and the new! The red, purple, yellow and blue! Butterflies can be free to fly, hummingbirds to almost sing in your garden. People change, plants too; we would love to show you what to do! Here too, there are some very awesome plants we can show you that grow well in Maine. Free

April 18 Rose Gardening for Thorny People (9am & 1pm)

Look none of us are perfect. We definitely get a little mildewy and bugged on occasion. I am talking about roses of course! But the layers of petals, the bright yet tender color, the unmatched fragrance; ahh! the pursuit of the rose. We know it can be done; let us show you how! Free

April 25 Container gardening (9am & 1pm)

There is more than one way to garden. Whether you live in a condo, apartment, or are using small spaces, gardening in containers provides a creative use of limited space. Let us show you how to grow flowers and/or VEGETABLES in containers. Free

May 2 Vegetable Gardening (10 AM Special Time)

Let us show you how to safely and smartly grow your own food. Gardening, especially vegetable gardening can be so rewarding and a fun and healthy activity too for family and friends! Free

Skillin’s Falmouth Open House!
March 20, 21 & 22

Skillin's Brunswick Open House
March 28 & 29

Skillin’s Cumberland Open House!
March 28 & 29

Come see us soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Awards Show Part II (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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Miniature search lights, wait staff in the standard black, white and bow-tied uniform, local celebrities, anticipatory smiles and weary grins. Clinking wine glasses, muffled voices, laughter, oohs and ahs, loudspeaker announcements, envelops opening, names revealed, applause. These are just a few sights and sounds of the Opening Night Gala of the Portland Flower Show.

I was giddy with anticipation for days before the event, yet nothing fully prepares me for the result of the reactionary deep breath upon entering the garden displays. As if by instinct we close our eyes and inhale so deeply to fill our lungs with all the air they may hold. It is as if we strive to pull the aroma of the musky mulch into the very depths of our soul. Memories of sun-warmed days spent on knees erupt. True lovers of the earth will identify, others may shake their head and mumble words resembling ‘geek’, ‘crazy’ or ‘she/he’s not with me’. To say that I was less than jubilant at the premature signs of summer would be less than candid.

Hardscapes, water features, familiar perennials, colorful annuals, forced bulbs, native and often underutilized shrubs abound. “From the Mountains to the Sea” is the theme of this year’s program and is just so happens to be my favorite title to date. It is Maine.

The flower show for me is a way of awaking myself to the soil. It is also a place where I reconnect with vendors, and like-minded people whether they toil in the earth for job or joy (or, as in my case, both). During the 5 days of the show I spend a part of each day volunteering. One of the many rewards of being a Master Gardener.

If you missed the Portland Flower Show this year, do make a point of it for next. I just hope that our beloved show does not go in the way of the Boston and Bangor events.

In the mean time, there is another ‘show’ to look forward to. Skillin’s Open House. See you there………….

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 15, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Perennial Basics Getting Started

Let’s move from annuals to perennials! We sell a wide variety of perennials at Skillin’s. We define perennials as usually green or herbaceous plants that are best planted in beds with other perennials or as a complement to your shrub and tree (woody) or annual plantings or other aspects of your landscape world.

Perennial plants are intended to give us the ever hopeful gardener years of enjoyment as we nurture and feed them, pinch and prune them, and divide and worry about them. Yes, perennials become an extension of our family. Many perennials do not flower for long periods of time which only makes our appreciation of their colorful offerings that much sweeter when that time of year comes. Perennials are a blessing!

Lat year I came across a great article in a garden center trade magazine called “Green Profits” titled “Perennial Gardening Basics”. I think the article is fantastic for all perennial gardeners. For the next few weeks, I intend to give you small excerpts from the article (to whet your perennial gardening whistle). If at any time you would like the entire article emailed to you just let me know at info@skillins.com and I will send you a “Word” attachment.

Getting Started

“Chances are you are not starting from scratch and already have some trees, shrubs and possibly existing perennials in place. Feel free to work within existing gardens, but be sure to clean them up first. If your gardens require extreme trimming or removal, it’s a good idea to contact a professional for advice and service.

To begin, all gardens need a focal point to help draw the eye and give the garden an orderly look. Your focal point is completely up to you and can be anything from a spectacular specimen plant to a unique sculpture. Once you have this in place, it’s time to think about a color scheme. Try to pick three or four colors to create a scheme. If you spend a lot of time entertaining outside, it might be fun to match outdoor furniture and d├ęcor.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Preparing the garden bed is as important as choosing the plants. Most common perennials prefer soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, but as always, there are exceptions. Be sure to read plant descriptions to learn about special light and pH requirements they might have. Be sure to rejuvenate existing soils with amendments like manure, humus or compost. This will help kick start new plants and keep them healthy as they establish.”

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 13, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ornamental Grasses!

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

This past gardening season Ornamental Grasses were added to my ‘I love’ list. The list seems to grow with each day. What I do not love is the snow we are experiencing today. Nevertheless we still need some insulation, as we will continue to experience freezing weather. We do not want to trick our shrubs, trees and perennials that spring is here.

Our change to Daylight Savings Time and over 50 degree weather this past weekend had many of us think spring. This is not a bad thing. More on why later. Now back to grasses.

This past year, I installed one garden that sported primarily grasses, another where grasses were elegant companions with Sedums.

Why do I love ornamental grasses?

Once established grasses flourish with just one good haircut early to mid spring.
It’s best to cut back the old straw-like growth while the new shoots are just poking through. Do not despair if this is not possible; just get to it when you can. Depending on the type and/or size of the grass all you really needed is sharp grass or hedge shears.

Add height, movement and texture in any landscape.

One of the few plants that can also benefit the sense of sound, one that we rarely consider when designing our landscape.

Variety-the spice of life.
Perennial & Annual Varieties

Colors range from whispery gray, silvery strands, regal purples, vibrant reds, soft blues, variegated blades.

The selection of height and widths can make the smallest or the most expansive of beds a work of art.

Attractive fall color and winter interest.

Birds utilize the blade for perching and nesting material.

Common ornamental grasses:

Fescue: Clump forming, often mounded with blue foliage varieties the most popular.

Miscanthus: Showy flowers (plumes). This group offers the most variety in height, blade width and hues.

Switchgrass: Fall color, upright with new cultivars becoming available.

Fountaingrass: Annual & Perennial varieties available for our zone. Foxtails often come to mind when in bloom.

So much can be said about grasses, and if given the space I most likely will comment more about the versatility of including ornamental grasses in the landscape.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 9, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Lost One at Sunday School

Kind friend Dale Lincoln returns to the Skillin's Garden Log with a true and memorable tale:

A young man was at my church waiting for Sunday School to begin. He was filled with an extra supply of energy. I was the Church van driver. A few minutes earlier, in the van, I had notice that “the kid” had “zip” while giving him a ride from his home to the church. Many adults in the church were observing his actions and could have said to him:”Go Get Lost.!” But I would never say those words to him even though I was not overjoyed with his actions that morning. It was easy for me to thank the Lord that he was healthy and in the church. I recognized “the kid” by name. On a very dark night about eight years earlier I had been beside “the kid” and his Dad in the wilds of Maine---an unforgettable experience..

During October, darkness arrives very soon after sunset along the coast of Maine. One autumn evening, in the twilight, I drove from Eastport to my home in Perry. A half hour later I was on an errand, driving over the same section of U. S. Highway #1. A half mile from my home automobiles were lined up for a half mile. There were few parking spots!

I stopped and asked a person near the highway why all of the cars were stopped. Upon hearing the words: “Kid Lost” I quickly returned home for boots, coat, gloves, and a flashlight. Soon I was at the central area for the search parties. I found out the location where “the kid” was last seen and headed for that area. For thirty years, while hunting and fishing, I had walked through those same woods in the daylight. Darkness brings along more difficulties while tramping through a forest. My heart was heavy. I learned that “the kid” was about three years old! The temperature was in the low thirties. A cold night was happening.

“The Kid” had accompanied his Dad and a little hound dog on a rabbit hunting expedition not far from the highway. They had been walking along an old logging road. The dog started chasing a rabbit, His Dad took his eye off his Son for a very short period of time. Soon he realized his Son was missing and was sure he needed help. In a panic he ran to the nearest home, spread the alarm, and hurried back to continue searching.

I was praying that “the kid” would quickly be found. My flashlight started dimming and I knew that very soon I would have to return to the central area for batteries.

Suddenly three very loud shotgun blasts echoed through the cool night air! I had heard the signal that “the lost was found.” I thanked the Lord, hurried back to the central area, and was resting in the darkness—not noticing or recognizing the people around me.

Within a couple of minutes my night vision allowed me to recognize a small group of people walking in my direction. About ten feet from me they stopped, bent over, and reunited “the kid” with his Dad who was sitting on the ground. .

The sounds of a man crying with joy that I witnessed in those moments while standing in the darkness are not in my ability to describe. I was crying with joy as I headed toward my car and home.

The next day I talked with the man that found “the kid.” His group had continued on the logging road.
A few hundred yards from where “the kid” was last seen, he heard a whimpering sound. “The kid” was lying face down and crying only a few yards from the logging road.

To this day, I'm still amazed at how quickly a very small town had about one hundred people joining in those search parties.

Meanwhile back at the church, Sunday School classes ended. I returned to the Church Van. “The Kid” was still smiling but remained sitting in his seat as I returned him to his home. During the next two or three years I gave “the kid” several round trips from his home to Sunday School in the church van and with my family in our auto. We became friends.

For many years I haven't always been happy with kid's behavior but I don't think I ever told any of them to “Go get lost!”

Dale Lincoln of
Perry, Maine
for Skillin's Greenhouses
in Zephyrhills FL
March 7, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Roses by Sheliah!

Sheliah checks in from high atop the mountains of Raymond Maine. Folks, if you can garden there, you can garden anywhere!

"I can't believe that in about a month I will be out examining my roses to see how they did over the winter. We have had lots of snow and the roses should be in pretty good shape. I like to uncover the mound of frozen dirt or compost that I mounded them with late last fall gradually. I never start cutting back dead canes at his time, though I know that some growers recommend this. I have found that waiting until I see leaves starting to push out in May is a better time to give those roses a good cut back. I have found over my many years of growing roses, that when you cut roses back too early in April there is a chance that a cold spell can kill them after they made it through a long winter. Once you see the leaves begin to grow it is time to use a fertilizer.

I rarely use chemicals in my garden but I have been known to use them on my roses. It's all out war when it comes to my roses! Rosetone is a great food for those of you who prefer not to use a chemical fertilizer. There are organic fungal sprays that should be used at this time. If you had black spot and other fungal problems last year you need to start early with a fungicide. I like the 3 in 1 products that are watered in and take care of bugs, fungal problems and feeding in one shot. There are also 3 in 1 sprays that work very well. I am excited to see what new products Skillin's will have to offer this year. If you lost a rosebush or two don't be disheartened, it happens. In the nursery this year we will be offering some beautiful shrub roses that need little or no care and bloom most of the summer. If you have never had good luck growing roses come by the nursery and we will recommend the perfect one for you! "

From Mike S.: Sheliah I had tremendous luck last year with my roses in battling leaf spot and fungus by using Messenger. Messenger is an all natural product that contains harpin proteins. Harpin proteins are used by plants to fortify their cells and thus to naturally fight diseases. Messenger "tricks" the plant into thinking that there must be a disease on the plant because of the presence of the harpin proteins supplied by Messenger. The plant then thinks it has a fight on its hands and starts to produce harpin proteins in overdrive. Thus the plant is very well protected from leaf spot, mildews, etc. This makes Messenger an awesome product for roses; spray Messenger monthly throughout the growing season.

Sheliah for Skillin's
Raymond ME
March 4, 2009