Sunday, May 31, 2009

Themes: Butterflies and Hummingbirds 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.

KCb is back at the Skillin's Garden Log with a vengeance!

Must be ‘western or cowboy day’, my mind wondered as I passed a group of children as they waited at their bus stop. Cowboy hats, boots, bandanas, even a western style fringed shirt were sported by the grammar school little ones. Children are not the only ones subject to theme days. I worked for 2 large and successful corporations that occasionally would offer theme days for the benefit of ‘fun in the work place’. We had our Cowboy/girl days, Halloween costume contests, even a day to dress as our favorite literary figure or movie star. While we had to keep within the boundaries of work place dress and good taste, many of us would welcome the challenge.

Themes are not just about dressing up. Without realizing it many decorate their homes according to a theme. Holidays, notably Christmas, different rooms boast of different themes. Country, Victorian, Patriotic, child and or pet friendly are considered styles by some, themes by others. Eclectic style appears to be an easy theme yet often takes the most forethought to make it work----well. A theme gone awry within the 4 walls can be costly. Even if it works, soon becomes weary, bordering on confining. Not so with theme gardens.

A Theme Garden begins with your imagination. One of the most popular themes is the Butterfly or Bird Gardens. A fave theme of mine is the Woodland Garden, and another, the ‘Moon’ or Evening Garden. I could go on. Today I will focus on a theme of the most popular theme. Throughout the season I will write on others. If there is a particular gardening theme you wish to learn more about, simply contact the Skillin’s Garden Log and that theme will be the next focus.

What makes up a landscape and garden beds that will attract butterflies, birds and other assorted wildlife. Most of us in Maine know what attracts deer, groundhogs even rabbit. What will lure a variety of birds, butterflies and beneficial insects may take some planning, the chances are that many of your favorite perennials are just the thing to attracted winged friend. In an age of multitasking the following garden theme is designed to attract the Butterfly and fellow winged wonder, the Hummingbird.

Butterfly and Hummingbird Haven

Things to consider:

· Species of Butterflies for the area (Maine has many but will pinpoint just a few)
· Nectar Plants
· Host Plants (butterfly eggs, larvae and chrysalis)
· Sunlight
· Water source
· Protection from wind/weather

Sunlight: Butterflies and Hummingbirds and the plants they enjoy are all sun lovers. Look for a spot that will have full sun, at least 6-8 hours of mid-day sun.

Plants: Nectar is not only for gods but Butterflies and Hummingbirds. Butterflies will perch on their indulgence of choice while the hummingbird prefers to drink on the run. A hummingbird dines on aphids and small spiders and looks to tubular and trumpet shaped flowers to satisfy his/her sweet tooth. Red, deep pinks, corals are more attractive to the tiny bird whereas butterflies are less partial to color.

Nectar Plants favored by butterflies:

· Purple Cone Flower
· Joe Pye Weed
· Butterfly Bush
· Butterfly Weed
· Liatris
· Tickseed Coreopsis
· Clover
· Chives
· Sedum (Stonecrop)-Autumn Joy and Neon are real attractors.
· Hollyhock
· Day Lily
· Cimicifuga Snakeroot
· New England Aster
· Host Plants (caterpillars)
Note: if it looks as if the foliage is being eaten, that is a good thing!
· Milkweed, Common or Swamp (Monarch)
· Dill, Parsley, Carrot (including Queen Anne’s Lace) (Swallowtail)
· Thistle, Hollyhock & Mallow (Painted Lady)
· Sunflower family & Iron Weed (American Lady)
· Violets (Various Fritillary)

Hummingbird Nectar Plants-opt for single blossom varieties for ease of entry.

· Bee Balm
· Heuchera Coral Bells
· Peach Leafed Bell Flower
· Salvia ‘Purple Majesty’
· Beard-Tongue
· Trumpet Vine
· Weigela
· Evergreen Azaleas
· Quince
· Day Lilies
· Annuals:
o Nicotiana, Snapdragon, Fuchsia, Nasturtium

Hummingbird Nest Sites:

· Shrubs, such as sumac, witch hazel, northern arrowwood viburnum, and winterberry.
· Trees; Beech, Maple,

Other Elements:

· Offer several shallow water sources close to the ground.
· Flat rocks are favored perching areas for butterflies.
· Incorporate twigs and bare branches to serve as hummingbird perches. Low canopied trees also serve well.
· Substitute Nectar in the way of hummingbird and/or butterfly feeders
· Incorporate host and nectar for a true habitat
· Add or create a butterfly house to protect from predatory birds
· Incorporate a seating area for you to enjoy the liveliness of your garden

As in most attractive beds consider height when planting. It does make sense to place the tallest plants such as Joe Pye in the back of the border or utilize shrubs such as the Butterfly Bush or Weigela as specimens. Do not be afraid to break from the sensible by grouping the Joe in a clump that spans front to back of the bed. To bookend the Joe, install a mass of plants half the height, such as purple coneflower or bee balm. This will create definition and different look than the norm. A theme on the Joe Pye companion would be to plant rows of Joe behind rows of Autumn Joy or Neon Sedum. The Juxtaposition with the height along with similar flower heads is sure to be a conversation piece.

Plant like plants in drifts to keep nectar and hosting plants in close proximity. Yet do keep in mind enough circulation for plant and bird. Incorporate containers and hanging baskets into the bed and landscape. Fill with annuals that attract. This arrangement will add height and add ease of availability and view for both feeder and observer. Poke shaped twigs to promote perching.

Next time………..a fragrant garden that glows in the moonlight…………..

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
May 31, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Frost Alert!

Hello again,

The weather people have posted a frost advisory for Skillin’s Country this evening. There is much potential for frost especially away from the coast and to the north of the Portland area. You should be aware that early morning tomorrow could bring some hurtful frost particles to some of your plants.

If temperatures drop much lower than 40 degrees and we have clear overnight skies with little wind, then frost is very likely to occur. Keep an eye on those night time temperatures!

Tender material planted in the ground (such as annual plantings and most vegetable plants) is really the plant material that is at risk.

If you suspect frost damage is likely to occur on a particular night, try to cover the “at risk” material with a bed sheet. If you have no bed sheets to spare, then we carry some awesome thin but protective frost cover blankets here for you. Or give this material a shower of water at dusk and then if frost has occurred give the material another shower to melt off the burning frost just before sunrise occurs. The early morning sun will touch those frost particles and cause the particles to in essence “burn” the plant material.

Let us know if you have any questions about frost damage!


Mike Skillin

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden Talks May 21--Hot winds beware!

Hello again,

Warm weather is here! And that is great for most plants BUT beware of increasing warm winds later today as the hot winds from the southwest can quicky dry out soil and of course tender leaves of many young plants. In particular beware of young cucumbers and other vine crops as they do not like lots of hot or cold wind when young.

The above paragraph was written this AM and now I write at 1:45 PM. It is hot and dry; make sure your tender plant material is protected by seed shield or even a bed sheet if you feel it is real vulnerable for the next few hours. Also newly planted material of all sizes should be well watered!

Call us at 1-800-244-3860 with any questions!

More soon about gardening, for now back to business.....

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More P's to Ponder 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.

This post is a sequel to the exciting KCB Minding Your P's from April 28!

"Each May there are two events that anticipation abounds with abundant abandon. Meaning no disrespect, Mother’s Day is not one of them. We are not all mothers.

Some may be surprised by the May spectacle that sets many a twitter, a manifestation that rules the first Saturday of the month of May; The Running of the Roses, the First Jewel of the Crown. Yes, The Kentucky Derby, the most exciting 2 minutes on television. The Second Jewel parlayed in the form of the Preakness this past Saturday. Alas, once again the US will not boast of a Triple Crown Winner. Yet, this is not the event I alluded to.

Can’t you feel it? The anticipation is mounting. It is the running of the roses of another sort. And let us not forget vegetable seedlings, perennials and annuals. There are trees and shrubs at the ready. This coming weekend is Memorial Weekend. The time when we the masses race to our favorite, perhaps more than one, nursery or garden center. Everyone is chomping at the bit to be let out of the gate to participate in the next 2 Ps of gardening; Purchase and Plant.

These are the events of which I mentioned--Purchase and Provide!


v Bring your list. No list? Do another walk around your beds, take another look through your journal or pictures from last season. What’s needed? If you have previously picked up a catalog from your favorite family nursery, review and circle what you find interesting. No catalog? The 2008 Skillin’s Catalog is still on-line and can serve as a substitute. Am I going over-board with this ‘list’ thing? Perhaps. I know all too well budgets can be blown early on. As the season progresses more perennials are added as their bloom time nears.

v Carefully read the plant tags. I love plant tags. So much information.

§ Things of note:
· Hardiness Zone
o We are a zone 5 but some areas are better suited for plants that do not list Zone 5 listed as the lowest appropriate zone.
· Light requirements
· Full Sun = 6 hours of sun between 10 AM 6 PM
· Part Shade/Part Sun = less than above or sun earlier in day
· Filtered Shade/Sun = Under trees or structures in full sun
· Height of plant at maturity.
o That spiderwort can look all cute and cuddly nevertheless can grow to heights of up to14 inches and a rapid spreader.
o Look for plants of varying heights to add layers in your bed.
§ Think front, middle and back of the bed.
· Spacing to allow for expansion (see spiderwort above J)
· Bloom time
o Think color into frost. Look for different bloom times.
· Features of plant
· Best use or location for planting
· General care.

So many choices:
v Look beyond the bloom.
o Look for interesting foliage, texture and movement.
o Purchase plants with buds vs. full bloom.
v Check plastic or peat pot that is housing your purchase
o Soil still moist to touch
o Weed free environment
o Healthy stems and foliage
v No sign of insect damage or disease

Add to your shopping list products that reduce transplant stress. Include a slow release fertilizer and an organic planting mix if soil wasn’t recently amended.

v If you are not able to plant right away do not allow to become dried out.
o Keep plants where they will get the appropriate sun-light, protected from harsh winds (young plants in their containers are light and can easily be blown over)
v Plan placement.
o While still in their containers, place newly purchased plants at the potential spot. Once all are placed step back, walk away and view from different angles. (it’s easy to move potted plants)
v Water potted plants. Do not plant a ‘dry’ plant.
o Use transplant/plant starter solution
§ Refer to manufacturers directions.
v Prepare hole.
o Do not make hole too deep.
o If adding composted planting mix and/or slow release fertilizer make sure to mix in at least ½ of the original garden soil in the mix.
o Loosen compacted soil around the hole to allow for roots to move freely.
o Some transplant solutions recommend watering the hole in preparation for plant.
v Remove plant from pot by gently squeezing or rolling container to loosen plant. If roots extend through bottom push through or prune.
o Do not pull plant from stems or leaves.
o Cradle in hand while pulling away container
o Spread roots with hand or gently w/trowel or garden ‘claw’
v Place plant in the hole at the same level it was growing in the pot.
o Do not bury.
o Add soil mixture. Pat to remove air pockets while not compacting soil
o Water thoroughly

Continue to water until plant is established.

For most of us these procedures are second nature. Nevertheless each day I meet new gardeners. Furthermore, personally speaking, in all my rush I need to be reminded that even a $5 dollar plant deserves a $50 hole. This bodes especially for trees and shrubs.

The full moon has passed. Yet not all fear of a frost in some areas has subsided. For the more tender of annuals, you may want to wait a week.

Also do consider that all plants need not be placed directly in the ground. Containers are fun and a way to be experimental and even a little frivolous.

One final P remains and that is:

v Water as needed
v Remove any invasive weeds
v Deadhead, remove dead foliage as needed
v Love

A plethora of planting pundits prevails at your favorite family owned nursery/garden center. If in doubt ask!

Now go forth and ponder………

And don’t forget to mind your P’s

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Talks May 19

Hello again,

Gardening is happening in Skillin's Country where we are all about teaching you to Grow A Greener Garden!
One of the prettiest plants in my yard is the Brunnera Macrophylla Alkanet a shade tolerant perennial with beautiful blue flowers right now. I borrowed the picture above from the site found through Google images. The plant is a beautiful medium green shade with some gorgeous contrasting blue flowers. We sell it here at Skillin's and I highly recommend it for shady spots.
Yesterday morning I finally installed my Mole Mover tubes to protect my vegetables and flowers. These tubes are the best battle I know of against pesky and voracious woodchucks. Those big woodchucks get hungry and they love tender vegetable, annual and perennial plants. Come see us for the BEST protection. The Mole Mover tubes work great. They run on C batteries (in the new models the C batteries can last 18 months, a big improvement over the old models, and this is a little better for the environment). The tubes need to be plunged into the ground within 30 feet of the woodchucks holes--not necessarily in or near the garden. Once battery powered and in the ground the tubes emit a consistent annoying sound every 25 to 30 seconds. This sound can be heard underground only (and in the woodchuck's den) and it slowly but surely drives the woodchuck beserk until he and the family leave the area. Once plunged into the ground give the tubes a week or two and then the woodchucks will be gone. A few years back now I had some fat woodchucks that almost drove me away from gardening . They ate nearly all my perennials, annuals and vegetables. I tried fencing, hot pepper wax, throwing rocks, gasoline rags in the holes, filling the holes, fake owls, motion activated water throwers, rotenone garden dust, coyote urine, fox urine, fencing again and praying and finally the praying led me to the Mole Mover tubes! They worked and now I garden happily! We sell them here at Skillin's!
I had a question today about pruning lilacs--it is fine to cut the flowers now and enjoy them indoors. Lilacs can be pruned freely for up to about 2 or 3 weeks after they are finished flowering and then should not be pruned after that so as not to disturb next year's wood that they will flower on. So enjoy those lilacs now and prune soon!
Planting tomatoes? Plant with Tomato Tone by Espoma or Tomato Maker. During the garden season water feed your tomatoes with Fish & Seaweed fertilizer by Neptune's Harvest; these natural fertilizers contain good doses of calcium which help to strengthen your tomato plants and fruit. This helps to alleviate Blossom End Rot a common problem for tomatoes in our cool and often wet climate.
Also, give your tomatoes plenty of SPACE. Most problems I see with tomatoes (leaf blights, lack of fruit) happens because not enough light and air circulation can get to the tomato plants. And last but not least tomato plants love monthly applications of Messenger--if you do nothing at all give your Tomatoes Messenger!!! (we talk about Messenger in some detail in the posts of May 18 and May 15).
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Garden Talks May 18--KCB talks tulips, Messenger and assorted thoughts!

KCB, Reigning Master Gardener of the Year for 2008 and renowned contributor to the Skillin's Garden Log checks in with observations from "what is going on out there":

Tulips and foliage:

Many of the newer, especially the larger variety tulips flower best the first spring. Over time the energy will wane and will only produce foliage. The foliage will continue for many years so it is less frustrating to dig up the old bulbs and start over. Do this in the spring so you will know where the non-performing buggers are. Fertilizing all tulips once or twice a year, in fall or early spring, will encourage them to flower well for several years. It is ok to remove the stalk or ‘deadhead’ but keep foliage until yellowed and browning. If the site of dying foliage is bothersome plant some companion plants to disguise foliage. Other conditions affecting tulips would be over crowding on varieties that naturalize. If this occurs, dig up your tulips just before all the foliage has completely died down and divide by pulling smaller new bulbs from the base of the old bulb and replant them.

Sandy soil is best for Tulips (or any bulb) to increase and flower in later years. Good Drainage is essential. The fact that there is moss overtaking the lawn may mean there is a drainage issue. One final tulip note, at one of my bulb classes someone remarked that they had stalks but no blooms. Sorry to say the bloom was food for a ground hog. The couple lived in the city so the thought of a groundhog was never considered.

Messenger, oh, what can I say. I still use it selectively; mostly for roses and peony. However this spring I had some Heuchera that were suffering from winter damage, rusty leaves and looked rather sad. I cleaned the effected leaves, doused w/messenger per directions. The next visit 2 weeks later I witnessed their transformation. Better looking than the year before. Heuchera has become one of my favorite foliage plants. All the Coral Bells in my gardens will be awarded a Messenger drenching and maintain the treatment through out the season.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
May 18, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Garden Talks May 17--Peas, frost?

Hello again,

Gardening is happening in Skillin's Country where we are all about teaching you to Grow A Greener Garden!

All this rain this AM reminds me of why the peas I planted in some large tubs barely sprouted and then collapsed. Shortly after I planted them we received rains of only what I can describe a "Biblical Nature". Much rain and I believe the soil in my containers stayed too wet for too long and probably rotted the seed.

I use a mix of Bar Harbor Blend potting soil and my own compost in my containers. I must admit that the potting medium in these two containers is probably about 2/3 compost. I believe that ratio is too heavy and I should have more Bar Harbor and less compost. What I am recommending to you is that I know your own compost is cheaper than the Bar Harbor mix BUT if it is "heavier" or more dense in composition than the top quality Bar Harbor then make sure your ratio is no more than 50% compost!

Frost alert? As the rainy weather clears out and clearer weather arrives our temps are going to get cooler tonight and tomorrow night. Is frost a possibility? I think it is in western and northern areas of Skillin's Country. (That is you if you live more than a few miles away from the coast or north of Brunswick). If you have tender material outdoors then be prepared to put a bed sheet--we also sell easy to use Frost Blankets--over your material to keep any frost particles away from tender growth. Bring in any potted material OR window boxes with tender young growth to protect it for the night. It is better to be safe than sorry--especially away from the coast or urban area of Portland. Drop us a question at or 1-800-244-3860 if we can help you more!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 17, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Apple Blossoms in the Slushy Snow

Kind friend Dale Lincoln returns with a great story about this time of year back in 1945. As Dale wrote to me:

"Early May each year my memory takes me back to the year 1945. Most of the times I send you a story I try to keep in tune with the season we are living in. I know that people in your family and some people that work at Skillin's remember May 1945 and the sinking of the USS EAGLE off Portland harbor."

Enjoy the quick tale:

Starting in the late 1940's and during the 1950's my friend Lee Corbett and I completed many adventures while hunting, fishing, and exploring in Perry, Maine. Lee's parents took us to many places out of town. Preparing for and completing our duties with the U.S. Military Services ended our youthful adventures. More than fifty years later my friend Lee is once again my next door neighbor. On April 18, 2009 Lee's wife was visiting out of town. It was fun for me and Elsie to invite Lee to our home to celebrate his 74th birthday. It was a conversation during mealtime that inspired me to write this article.

Lee's Dad was adventurous and I loved to listen to his stories. As a teenager Mr. Corbett had traveled West on a train to answer the call to help the Canadians with the wheat harvest in the Province of Saskatchewan. (Note: Before the USA entered World War I in 1917, Canada sent many troops to the War in Europe. Many young men from the States were employed by Canadian farmers that were desperate for manpower especially at harvest time.) Lee's Dad also became involved in several large construction projects:( Liberty Ships in South Portland: Limestone Air Base, and The Saint Lawrence Sea Way.) He was often away from home.

The summer of 1942 Lee and his mother went to visit Mr. Arthur R. Corbett where he was working a construction job near the Coast of Massachusetts. It was on that visit when his son Lee (Age 7) saw a burning ship that had been torpedoed by a German U-Boat.

During my six years while being employed as an engineer aboard Gulf Oil Corp. tankers several crew members, that had sailed merchant ships during World War II, told me about sailing through waters infested by German submarines. One engineer told me about making a voyage on a merchant ship in late 1942. On that trip from New York to Texas people on his ship never lost sight of a burning ship. During World War II many people along the East Coast of the United States must have seen ships burning after they were hit by a torpedo. I am surprised that Lee was the only person to tell me about seeing a burning ship off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. (During the years 1942 to 1945, from shore, did you ever see a burning ship?)

Nearing the end of the War in Europe the great menace of the German U-Boats was being brought under control by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. However, two of the last ships sunk by German U-boats happened off the coast of New England: Near noon on April 23, 1945 the USS EAGLE, PE-56 was torpedoed only a few miles off the coast of Portland, Maine. Forty nine of her sixty two crew members perished. Less than two weeks later, on May 5, 1945, the S.S. Black Point with a cargo of coal, was sunk by a German U-Boat off Point Judith, Rhode Island. The S.S. Black Point was the last U.S. Ship to be sunk by a German U-Boat during World War II. (The same U-Boat is credited for sinking both ships.)

Many people still remember early May of 1945. People ten,to twenty years older than myself know some good news was happening—The War in Europe was ending.---However, the News from The War in the Pacific was not all good. The U.S. Troops were having a tough time on the Island of Okinawa and many people were anticipating an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. In retrospect I realize my condition was very good at the time. My home was in a little house by a swamp in Perry, Maine. I had spent the war years there. My Mother, Father, Brother and Sister were in that home every night.

At school I talked about the War with my friends. The day we heard that the War in Europe had ended we sang patriotic songs for much of the morning. There was much happiness at my school. Spring had arrived early. In Downeast Maine April 1945 is one of the warmest months on record. The sap was high in the alder trees and the bark easily twisted off the wood. My friends and I, with our jack knives, made alder whistles and squirt guns during recesses and noon times. On good days boys grades five through eight were playing baseball in the field adjacent to the school. The girls in all grades jumped ropes and played hop-scotch. The warm spring weather added to people having “that good feeling.” My mother was singing one of her favorite songs: “I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time;-- a month earlier than usual. Most people in my area didn't panic when the weather was cooler on the evening of May 10, 1945,--- but big changes occurred over night. At daylight “the world” was white,-- with millions of apple blossoms in the slushy snow.

Dale Lincoln
Perry Maine
May 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Talks May 15--Messenger, Azalea, Woodchucks in the Garden

What a beautiful glorious day!

Before work today and on a quick lunch break I sprayed Messenger on my roses, upright phlox and also on some lilacs that are struggling a little bit as they deal with heavy ledge around their roots. Also, I sprayed an old crabapple tree which is flowering beautifully this week. After the flowers are gone, that tree needs a good cut and shape! Both the lilacs and crabtree have suffered quite a bit with mildew and various leaf spots in the last several years and I think the harpin proteins that the Messenger will induce will really help them!

Induce! The active ingredient in Messenger is from a family of naturally occurring proteins called harpins. In nature, harpin proteins are produced by bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plants have a special ability to “sense” harpin proteins. It’s like an early warning system that alerts the plant when it’s under attack from something that will cause a disease (because when a bacterial pathogen is around, so is a harpin protein). When a plant senses harpin proteins, it activates its own natural responses to help fight off the attack and stay healthy. Just as our bodies respond to an infection, you can think of this as the plants version of an immune response. This "message" induces the plant to produce its own natural resources at a fast rate and thus PREVENTS common disease issues like mildews, leaf spots and other fungus and disease from attacking your vulnerable plants.

Think about plants in your yard and garden that often become set back by disease--rose bushes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, upright phlox, fruit trees, grapes and on and on. These are perfect candidates for Messenger--and Messenger works! Naturally of course!

Messenger is best applied monthly.

We sell Messenger here at Skillin's and you can check out for more information!....

I also sprayed Messenger on a leggy azalea (another old plant in my yard) that has been plagued by leaf spot for the last couple of years. The azalea is just breaking into bud (it is a tough old plant) but as soon as those flowers go by that plant is going to get a good haircut....

My work schedule has been crazy but I also still need to get out my Mole Mover tubes to ward off any woodchucks that might like to burrow in the area and get after my tender Red Sails lettuce, brussel sprouts and broccoli that I have planted. Those plants are doing great and thanks to the Mole Mover tubes I have not had woodchucks for quite awhile. I will tell you more about my wood chuck travails soon BUT I can assure the Mole Mover tubes are the ONLY device I have been able to use effectively against woodchucks. How about you? If you have a good plan drop a comment below OR shoot us an email at!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garden Talks May 14

Hello again,

It is time to share some Questions and Answers from the Inbox here at Skillin's. If you have any gardening questions, just drop us a line at and we will get you an answer!

Question: Good gardening friend JP asks

I'm sure you will get a lot of questions after Mother's Day. I had a wonderful day and have 2 questions.

1. I got a healthy looking Patio tomato plant. My daughter put it in one of her Italian tomato cans. The can is 6 inches wide and 7 inches tall. It held
6lbs. 10 0z of tamatoes. It is so pretty I would like to leave it in this can. Do you think I can or will I have to transplant it into a bitter container?

2. I also got a gorgeous blue hydrangea plant (it came from a florist shop). Can that be planted outside?

Any help would be appreciated.

By the way I met your wonderful Mary at a Polish supper a while ago. What a gem!

Answer: Great to hear from you and I am glad you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

The patio tomato is a great gift and it will produce many fine tomatoes. I feel like it should ultimately be in a bigger container as I have grown Patio tomatoes in 10” containers (we sell those units here at Skillin’s) and by the middle of the summer those plants have grown large and the 10” containers are tipsy and need good waterings daily. Keep your tomato well fed with a good natural fertilizer rich in calcium like Tomato Tone by Espoma OR give it frequent liquid feedings with Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend.

Onto the blue hydrangea, if you got that from a florist shop then chances are it is a florist hydrangea and cannot be planted permanently outside. Water the hydrangea well and check it daily for water; they have a thirsty root system and crave lots of water.

Plain and simple, Mary is the best. We both like to eat and she told me about the Polish supper (my mouth was watering) and she also told me she met a Skillin’s email fan!

Question: SB asks the following

I wonder if you could tell me what would cause moss to grow on our front lawn. It is really not that shady so I am assuming that the soil is lacking something. Do you think more lime would help it. Also if we decide to redo the front lawn should we dig up all of it and put more loam down. The last two years we have had this problem and we have been there over 30 years and not had the problem before. Any idea as to what causes this?? I also have some tulips that the leaves did very well on but no blossom so I don't know what would cause that.


Moss does thrive in the shade and I know that because of ever growing trees on my property I am getting moss where I did not used to. So take another look at that.

Moss also likes acidic soil and if you have not limed for awhile it may be time to do that. I highly recommend Miracal by Jonathan Green (sold right here at Skillin’s) as an effective and fast acting way to reduce the pH of your soil.

With the tulips it could be lack of sun. Also we are learning that tulips should be planted much deeper than the traditional (3 times deeper than the bulb is wide or about 6”) recommendation. If you can plant them more like 8 to 10” deep the tulips will be happier as they will be more insulated from the roller coaster effect of hot summers vs. cold winters and how the corresponding soil temps affect the tulip bulbs. In a couple more weeks will be a great time to dig up those tulips and replant them a little deeper with a good natural fertilizer like Bulb Tone or Plant Tone by Espoma. Again tulips need to grow in the sun.

Back to the moss; if you have some bare spots in your lawn, now is a great time to re seed those patches or OVER seed thin spots with a great grass seed called Black Beauty by Jonathan Green. Black Beauty is a Tall Fescue that roots deeply—“more deeper” than traditional grass seeds—and that root depth enables your grass to grow stronger with deeper roots and to better endure those roller coaster climate conditions that I referred to in the previous paragraph.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring: All Consuming; Yet Still Thrilling

Hello again,

I am sorry to have been away so long. I really haven't been too far away but Spring here at Skillin's has launched into hectic mode--crazy! The demands on time are All Consuming; the days are long ( I sit here in my 13th hour for the the 24th straight day of 12 plus hours) yet Still Thrilling. This is the time of the year when I see so many old customer friends at Skillin's and just a few moments ago I made new friends with some new transplants from Colorado. Being at Skillin's tires us out but for some reason the busy times and the constant talk of gardening and looking ahead thrill me so. I thank God for Him putting me here and in touch with you!

My brain is kind of mushy so we will give the blog some more effort soon.

Some quick teasers: time to get Messenger onto your roses, tall phlox, lilacs and even crab apple trees that may have shown signs of leaf spot!

*Corn gluten can still be applied as a weed preventer and natural fertilizer (we sell a great brand of it called Lawn Booster by Organica here at Skillin's; it is NOT just for lawns either!) but the days have almost gone by where it will be effective for the spring germination of crabgrass.

*I still have not applied Holly Tone to my evergreens and some of them need some greening up badly. Holly Tone twice yearly keeps your evergreens green and sturdy under most conditions!

*I took a quick walk through my yard early this AM before work. Holy smokes! I cannot believe the growth of so many of my plants in just a few days. Spring is just a thrill; it just is!

See you soon!


Mike Skillin