Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tomato Late Blight

Hello again,

Good gardening friend David K (check out his regular garden blog @ http://gardenmaine.blogspot.com/ forwards this email from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA):

"If you are growing tomatoes or potatoes, whether in your garden or on multiple acres, you need to be watching for late blight.
Tomato seedlings sold at a number of large 'big-box' retailers in Maine and the Northeast are apparently infected with the disease, and it's already started to appear around the region....
If your plants are infected, the best control is to pull the plants immediately and seal them in a bag for disposal so the blight spores don't spread further."

Check out this link http://plant-disease.ippc.orst.edu/disease.cfm?RecordID=1084 for a pretty good description and pictures of late blight.

You can always contact us at Skillin's (check http://www.skillins.com/ for contact numbers or info@skillins.com) with any questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 30, 2009

Barbara Gardener and her Iris

Good gardening friend Barbara Gardener checks in with an Iris Update:

"I planted a lot of these 2 years ago. (pink, blue, yellow and purple) They were supposed to be recurring blooms. This is the first year they actually did it. I think they would have been a lot happier with a little (lot) less rain. They are planted on a steep slope so they drain well which is a help.Those at the bottom of the hill I'm pretty sure have rotted. More planting space for next year--more business for Skillins."

Barbara is absolutely correct in that iris prefer a well drained soil so the iris at the top of her slope are probably happier than those at the bottom. I am sorry that some did not work out for Barbara but we always look forward to seeing her visit us!

Lovely picture by the way!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 30, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Garden Talks June 29--Messenger, Weed Pulling, Corn Gluten and My Perennial Hibuscus

Hello again,

I have some things I want to write about but internet connectivity issues have kept me away from the Garden Log for yesterday and most of today. After a visit by Chris of Time Warner Cable we seem to be more up to speed again.

Saturday saw my second spraying of Messenger for my rose bushes, tomatoes, upright Phlox, monarda (bee balm), an old azalea that has struggled with leaf spots of various types for a couple of years, and my newly sprouted perennial hibuscus. Also, an old crabapple tree is getting regular sprayings along with some of my lilacs.

I cannot say enough about Messenger and how effective it has been for my plants. I recommend applying Messenger every three to four weeks throughout the gardening season. Click Garden Talks May 15--Messenger, Azalea, Woodchucks in the Garden for a good recent discussion about Messengerand how it can naturally strengthen your plants. Messenger is EZ to apply and is sold right here at Skillin's.

I did get a few hours in the garden on Saturday (literally my first consecutive hours of the Spring) and it seemed like miles of weeds awaited me. Thanks to the moist soil the weeds pulled easily. Do not let the weeds get ahead of you. Many of my veteran perennial plants were being dwarfed and kept from valuable light and air by the pesky intruders. Pull patiently and deliberately and then do not be afraid to take a garden hoe to scrape and turn the top inch or two from your soil.

Also as I pulled many weeds flowers opened and we know what that means! Seeds scattering across the ground. So last night after work in between rain deluges I applied some natural corn gluten (sold right here at Skillin's!) to the now open and clean ground. Corn gluten adds some nice nitrogen to the soil AND discourages weed seed from germinating. How does corn gluten discourage weeds from growing? The folks at http://www.natureworks.com/ explain it well: "Corn gluten contains peptides (protein elements) that inhibit the formation of roots in newly-germinated seeds. Products such as Concern Weed Prevention Plus do NOT kill established weeds. As a seedling without roots won't last too long, this is an excellent means of preventing new weeds from growing. For this same reason, however, corn gluten should not be used in reseeded lawns or in areas where seed germination is desired (vegetable and cottage gardens, for example). Corn gluten breaks down completely within about six months, slowly releasing nitrogen as it does, thus acting as fertilizer as well as weed control!"

Grassy weeds that leave roots in the ground even with some careful pulling also grow back pretty quickly this time of year. This is why you should keep the garden hoe handy and be ready to "scuff" (or scrape) those weeds out of the soil very quickly.

Back near the beginning of this post I mentioned that my perennial hibuscus just received a shot of Messenger from me. Well, I had about given up my perennial hibuscus for dead! The perennial hibuscus is like my teenage son; it (he) likes to sleep late; very late! For the last several years my hibuscus has flourished in a hot southeast spot. It is a real beauty with it's big "hot red" flowers and coppery colored foliage. BUT it is a later starter and despite being blanketed under several feet of snow where I drag snow off my roof the plant did not even send a shoot out of the ground until about June 10 or so. The moral of this story is DO NOT dig your late shooting plants (hibiscus, butterfly bush, spice bush, etc.) too soon! If I had not been here at Skillin's all the time I bet I would have dug that hibuscus up well before Memorial Day.

Many people are still planting vegetables...we have some good sized plants here that WILL produce in time for plenty of harvest!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 29, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Garden Talks June 26--Feed those Annuals & Vegetables; Fungus Among Us; Garden Pests!

Hello again,

Well we are headed into another weekend and hopefully lots of gardening for our friends here in Skillin's Country.

By now many containers have been planted as well as colorful annuals into the ground. Folks, we have a short season here in Maine! Good composted soil is tremendously important for your plants BUT if you want season long (summer and well into the fall) flowering it is imperative that you feed your flowers! (and vegetables). We have a number of good options here at Skillin's. My personal favorite is Plant Booster Plus by Organica (loves those natural microbes that make a great place for your plants roots to be!) or Flower or Plant Tone by Espoma. This fertilizer I put right in the soil or on the soil around the plants. To give my plants an extra good start I pick up a container of Fish and Seaweed Liquid Food by Neptune's Harvest and water weekly with that until it is gone. By then it is later in the season and the granular food I noted above is now breaking down nicely into the soil. All this yummy food makes for big plants and big flowers. And with our long winters this is what we need. Use this combination for vegetables as well! Other folks here totally recommend Bloom Plus by Schultz; use it every time you water!

It has been wet and blah here in Skillin's Country and in many of our plants there is a Fungus among Us. Trim yellow leaves, pull of moldy growth, "deadhead" spent flowers! We have been doing it constantly here at Skillin's and can show you how IF you have any questions! This trimming is good for the plant--it sends a signal to your roots to grow! And this trimming also takes diseased growth away from the rest of your healthy plant. If your plant is riddled with leaf spot or mildew, we have some great natural solutions for you like Seranade. For plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, phlox, roses and others that mildew easily come talk to us about Messenger. (click on Garden Talks May 15--Messenger, Azalea, Woodchucks in the Garden for a nice talk about what Messenger can do for your plants!)

Finally, we have been fielding many questions about garden pests. Caterpillars are out and they are hungry. Slugs and snails are running amok in this moisture and their appetite is tremendous.

Caterpillars and beetles? Use Spinosad; all natural; it really works and it is sold right here at Skillin's! (click http://www.bonide.com/products/product.php?category_id=250 for a description of a great Spinosad product).

For slugs, we definitely recommend the all natural Slug Magic; safe to use around your pets and every effective!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Sales @ Skillin's!!!

Here is a pretty darned accurate list of what we have "ON SALE" here at Skillin's:

*Flowering Flats – Buy two Get one Free
(excludes vegetable flats)

*Seed Geraniums – Buy one Get one Free

*Selected Bird Seeds on Sale

*Caspari Napkins & Plates – Save 30%

*Cocoa Mats & Lined Containers – Save 20%

*Willow Supports – Save 30%

*Colored Metal Containers – Save 20%

*Colored Watering Cans – Save 20%

*Buzzy Seed Starting Kits – Save 30%

*Telescope Furniture – Save 20% when you
buy three or more pieces

*Yard Sale Starts July 1st – Save 70%!! (on many hand selected items!)

*New addition!!!! Beautiful (and fresh) 10" flowering hangers reg $28.99 are

Buy One for $19.00, Buy Two for $29.00!!! This is a Buy One Get One Free on Fresh
Beautiful Hangers!!!!

*Rhododendrons--beautiful--are 20% off!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

KCB: Rainy Day People...

Is the title of one of my least favorite songs by one of my most favorite troubadours, Gordon Lightfoot. Who? Am I showing my age? Perhaps. When most of my friends were blasting Springsteen, Aerosmith, and other such icons of the day, I was stuck in a time warp loving the lyrical stories known as folk songs from the sixties. In spite of my lack of love for the tune, this song, or at least the opening line, is playing like a repetitive tape in my mind.

In the name of research I read the lyrics. One line, ‘Take it or leave it, or try to believe it….’ is more fitting for my day than just the title. Like it or not, taken in the context of this writing, we are all ‘Rainy Day People’.

Unless you can drive or fly to a dryer clime to leave IT we have to take IT. Today, I believe IT! I’m glad it’s raining. When I alerted this fact to one of my favorite people they indicated that I had gone over the edge. ‘Crazy’, I believe was the word. How could anyone, especially someone who attempts to make a living as a gardener, like this weather? Have I suddenly found a fondness for slugs and snails? Am I practicing to be a mud-beggar for a Renaissance Faire? Am I testing the benefits of a mud facial mask? No (definitely NO), no (or not now) and no (but it may be worth a try).

These past weeks have certainly dampened my business. Some days were a total wash-out. My income is certainly taking a bath. All puns intended. Light rain and moist soil does allow for ease of weeding. Nevertheless, walking and kneeling within extremely wet beds can cause more damage than slimy pests or sprouting weeds. Installations are also stalled. The earth is unstable, too difficult to maintain upright.

Still, I am almost giddy with the knowing that it is not a good day to work. I even find myself looking out the window searching for the telltale sign of ripples in the puddles. Knowing that precipitation continues enhances my belief that things happen for a reason. With the rain is less guilt, for not working, less frustration, for not working, and more motivation, to do what I must do when not working.

You see, I am moving. Again. If anyone ever told me in December that within 6 months I’d be moving again it would be I who would refer to someone as ‘crazy’. Truth be told, I would be a fool not to move.

I’m going back home, or at least to the building that was my home for the past 5 years. Returning to the neighborhood that I embraced for over 16 years, Munjoy Hill! Missing the corner stores, the restaurants, the view and mostly the people of ‘The Hill’ I called my former and soon to be landlord. In a confession that paled the offerings of the most prodigal of sons or daughters, I left a message asking to come home. Did I mention the view? I left my former apartment as it was just too large and too costly to heat and therefore no longer fit within my budget and downsized lifestyle. But above my “then home” was an attic transformed to an apartment sometime during the mid part of the last century. Cozy, a more efficient source of heat, and—get this-- a better view than the one below—my “then home”.

I received a return call the very next day. It just so happened that the current tenants just were approved for a mortgage. They are moving on. With no closing date I had to be somewhat flexible. My flexibility did not have to last as long as originally expected. With proper notice to my current and soon to be former landlord I move this Friday.

So today I pack. The rain alone has not caused this sudden urge to prepare for a move that will happen in a few days. My lack of vehicle is another cause.

Evidently my truck missed the mechanics that she had been spending a little too much time with lately. An AAA card and a tow have brought her back for yet another visit. Still I believe. I have no choice but to take the current state of weather and wheellessness and make the most of it.

Once I am finished packing and my truck returned to me, I will no doubt hum another song. ‘Rain, Rain, go away…’ followed by ‘… please don’t take my sunshine away.

A 2 day reprieve is on the way. The sun will briefly emerge only to be followed by showers of a more dynamic sort, thunderstorms! Or so claims my Internet weather source. Happiness abounds as I visualize the display of dark clouds and dancing lightning over Casco Bay to be witnessed from my 3rd story porch. Did I mention the view?

Today I spy another view. No need to peak out the window to see if it is raining, the blurring sheets of water offer the answer.

I believe I must continue packing. This time not to the mingling sounds of talk radio and rain, but the melodious voice of Gordon Lightfoot. The lyrics of a favorite song by said singer now repeats…

‘In the early morning rain…..’

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
June 24, 2009

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.

Garden Talks June 24--Containers, Rhodys, Kelp Booster

(I talk about these lovely gazanias below!)

Hello again,

Here are some recent customer questions posed to us at info@skillins.com!

Question from customer MM: "I was wondering if it is too late to start container gardening ? If not what types of plants should I choose from?"

Answer: It is NOT too late to start container gardening.

We have some good sized tomatoe plants that would fit the bill as well as cucumbers and lettuces that grow awesome in containers. I have just planted all of these in large containers in just the last couple of days.

I would definitely recommend using the Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine as your potting soil. It is a top quality composted mix that works extremely well. To help catch up I would also recommend several handfuls of all natural Garden Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. These natural fertilizers will work with that top quality soil to naturally “rev up” your plants and will provide much needed calcium which results in top quality fruit.

Question from customer SB: I wonder if you could tell me what I need to do to get my Rhododendron to fill out at the bottom. They are both very leggy and no foliage at the bottom. They are over 30 years old but I don't want to get rid of them as my father planted them for me when we built the house. I have used Tree tone on them and I have tried to cut them back a lot as they are getting too tall. My Dad used to put holes around the base and fill them with fertilizer but I am not sure how much to use. Would you have any suggestions as to how I can get them to have some foliage toward the bottom branches. Also should I be pruning them now or wait.

Answer: Generally speaking now is a fine time to prune your rhododendron. Most have just flowered and as such have not formed their flower buds for next year. The key is to prune the top portions to force growth to come out along the bottom. This growth will take time. I pruned some old rhodys I have that were getting too leggy in June 2007. I gave them an aggressive pruning. They did not fill out much in 2008 but are coming along nicely on the bottom in 2009.

Holly Tone is probably the preferred fertilizer although Tree Tone is not a bad choice at all. Both are non burning so it is hard to over fertilize. I would make holes around 2 to 3” deep about 6” to 12” within the drip line of your rhody and fill each hole with the Holly Tone. It is a good technique but requires some bending over and is time consuming. Space your holes about a foot apart or so. 2 such feedings per year are optimal.

Speaking of containers, I just recently planted one of my all time favorite annuals, the Gazania (I love the bright oranges, reds, yellows and whites of the Gazoo mix, see the picture at the top of this post) into a container. I place this container in the hot blazing sun after I have filled the pot with Bar Harbor blend, Plant Booster Plus by Organica and 3 flats of gazanias. When the sun comes out (take heart it will!) my pot will be ablaze with color. Gazanias are also great to plant in the ground; anywhere where there is blazing sun!

NOW is the time to apply Kelp Booster by Organica to your lawn. Kelp is one of the best natural "additives" we can apply to our soil as most of the time our soil is starving for calcium. Kelp Booster is Step 2 of Organica's Four Step All Natural Lawn Program. Calcium is key for adding to and maintaining of our plant's vigor. Plus the Kelp Booster as all the Organica products do contain valuable microbes for the soil that our plant's roots reside in. Click http://organicatechnologies.com/consumer4stepnaturallawn.asp for more information about this outstanding program sold right here at Skillin's!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spring Pictures by KCB

Check out Think Ahead by KCB for a great article about garden planning as well as some great tips about alliums and chives. Here are some great pictures by KCB!

Thanks to the chives; there will be no
deer munching this hosta! (above)

Think Ahead 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.

Biting ones tongue can be painful, figuratively and literally. On two occasions I felt this pain. I could also feel the pain of those who caused my lament. The store staff couldn’t help them. I couldn’t help them. They did not plan and now would have to wait.

In my harried "shoot from the hip lifestyle" I’m hard pressed to think about tonight never mind tomorrow. As the busiest time of my year winds down I am often asked, how do you prioritize? I once joked that I write all my clients names on golf balls, throw them into the air and whichever falls on my head first will get my attention. That may have been true early on in what I now refer to as ‘my calling’, yet surprisingly I am have become more organized. Adult like, even. I guess I can thank the skyrocketing gas prices of the summer of 2008.

When my associate, Ryan, and I met for our 2008 strategy, I came up w/the brilliant idea to plan the schedule according to neighborhoods. This may mean that my Cape Elizabeth Tuesday client may have to move to Thursday, the same day as another Cape client, or vice versa. Similar negotiations were made for Falmouth, West or Foreside, South Portland and Portland neighborhoods. I began to plan. It was working! Then, upon a referral, I acquired a new Cape property; along with the request to have Wednesday as their scheduled date. It seems the couple wanted to enjoy their property on Thursday, their only day off sans children. This would also mean I wouldn’t have to contend with flying soccer balls, badminton birdies or sun worshipping teens. This had my attention. Another plan was formed. I met w/the other Cape clients to have Wednesday be ‘Cape Day’. I was thinking ahead.

Enough about me. What of those people that caused me to remain silent? What was it that they wanted? Alliums!

The first person was at a nursery in the Spring asking for those big purple lollipops she was seeing everywhere. The person she asked did not understand so radioed another associate. When it was determined that Alliums were the key she was led to the bulbs. Alas, not available. Now is not the time. Alliums are purchased in the fall.

Within a day or two I visited yet another garden center. This time a young man entered with a shopping list, with alliums # 1 (was it alphabetical?) Again, sent to a bin of bulbs until one associate explained that these were only available for fall planting. This particular customer had another motive for his quest. Aesthetics aside, he wanted to keep deer at bay. Chives was the associates recommendation. A practice I follow myself.

It is known by some that Alliums, ornamental onions, have become one of my favorite garden elements. Their sizes, shapes and even colors vary. I tend to navigate towards the large purple orbs that seem to hover above the rest. Many varieties bloom before many of the companion plants that skirt the base.

Alliums are best planted among perennials whose foliage will flourish about the time those of the allium wane. In fact, in most cases the tropical low growing foliage browns before it blooms. The alliums I grow stand tall long after the bloom is off the bloom. They dry to a unique ball of mini spikes. In the dry state they remind me of the ‘Sparklers’ that was so much part of my childhood 4th of July celebrations, without the fear of burning or the bright light. If this is not a look that pleases you, simply cut the stalk. The foliage will ultimately disintegrate. If stalk is left as is, ultimately it is laughingly easy to pull out when ready. An easier and more powerful perennial you may not find.

As far as the chives. I wrote last year of my celebration of saved hostas. Four years I struggled. The deer, well, what can I say? Last spring I installed chives between the hosta. Not one of these succulents were touched. Each week the circular bed where my experiment percolated was approached with apprehension. Would it work? The succulent spikes of the aromatic herb worked well with the broad leaf hosta. Miniature purple pompoms offered color while the other plants waited to display theirs. At seasons end a dance of joy shook the small landscape. I thought Ryan was going to quit on the spot, but soon understand, though he opted out of the dance.

Chives can be planted now. For the alliums, you will have to think ahead.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
June 23, 2009
Hey! Check the next post, Spring Pictures by KCB, for some great KCB pictures that really complement this post!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Garden Talks June 22--Weeds! (and rain)

Hello again,

I will be back in another day or so (and KCB has a piece that will be posting!) so check back with us soon!

Actually got a little time away from work today and man are my gardens infested with weeds. I am paying for "slacking" on my weed pulling from last year and many weeds have re seeded and come back in heavier than I have seen in my 21 years of gardening on my property.

It is time to go to war...I have filled the equivalent of 2 barrels with tall, short and medium sized weeds. My soon to bloom daylillies, perennial geraniums and other plants appreciate it. There is more weeding left to do.

I will say one advantage to these large volumes of rain is that even tall well rooted weeds are easy to pull completely out now. So this is today's garden lesson: take advantage of the moist, moist earth for relatively deft pulling of weeds. Ground too muddy? Maybe like you me you are blessed with plenty of ledge or other stones. Lay the stones out in open spaces and step on the stones! That way you won't sink into the garden too much!

More tomorrow and look for KCB as well!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 22, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garden Talks June 10--Slugs and more!

Hello again,

I need to get back out to the greenhouse and I hope to type more later in the day but I just wanted to reinforce that wet weather brings out voracious slugs and snails. The volume of fleshy plant material these slimy little serpents can eat AT NIGHT is incredible.

Last night just before dusk I went out to cut some broccoli and reviewed a bed where I have planted some small tomato plants and marigolds. (Yes, I LOVE marigolds and am not ashamed to admit it!). The marigolds looked great.

This AM I went out to add some kitchen waste to the back compost pile (aka Worm Eden) and these very same marigolds were almost "sawed off" from the ground up. Slugs and/or snails for sure. There were none around (never are during the day because they work so hard all night) but the damage from the ground up (the marigold tops are just fine) is unmistakeable. In my haste I have never applied Slug Magic to this bed.

A mere 30 feet away is another bed of broccoli, brussel sprouts, red sails lettuce, pepperd, eggplant and, of course, marigolds. AND a generous scattering of Slug Magic The marigolds and everything else is full and lush.

The message: All natural Slug Magic stops slugs from eating plants. Pure and simple. If you have not done so in this wet weather get that Slug Magic down around your plants.

Some quick pointers I want to "flesh out" later:

NOW is the time to trim your lilacs and most rhododendrons for shape.

My perennial hibuscus has at last come up! Wow! I will tell you what this means.

Many customers I have spoken to have not planted their peas yet! Don't despair. Beans make a good predecessor for fall peas. I would like to talk more about that.

Back to the greenhouse; I will be back later today I hope to "flesh out" the above topics and more!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 10, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Garden Talks June 8--Cleome and Peonies; Broccoli and Lettuce; Perennials!

Hello again,

Wow! What a beautiful run of weather we have had!

I want to just "line item" some quick thoughts that I have--mostly as a result of talking to many of our customers who are fine gardeners.

Cleome is one of my favorite annuals. It is a tall flower needs at least half a day sun to do well. But once it begins to flower in early summer; watch out! The colors of the cleome are ELECTRIC! As the plant grows and clumps it you get more and more flowers and the cleome fast becomes a standout in your garden. One customer I spoke to plants her cleome right around her peony plants. Peonies flower in the latter part of June; they are brilliant but then they are done for the year. As the peonies complete their flowering and the peony foliage starts its decline the cleome really "turns it on" and earnestly starts to become its "showy" self. So pair up peonies and cleome. Sounds like fun!

Gardening friend and guru Paul Parent reminded listeners the other day to cut the broccoli florets when they are small and young and tender. Yummy! Store the small florets in a zip lock baggy in your refrigerator. The sooner you cut the more florets you will get. Just keep adding little florets to the baggy and use them when you want. Young is when they are the most tender as well! Good timely advice as my broccoli is ready to cut now! Paul Parent can be found at http://www.paulparent.com/.

Speaking of cutting vegetables I highly recommend the planting of leaf lettuce. About the time I planted my broccoli I planted Red Sails leaf lettuce and the plants are bearing many juicy lettuce leaves now. Very very good tasting!

Many of you know I absolutely recommend the application of the all natural Four Step Lawn Program by Organica. I started to use the Program last year and I am elated by how good my lawn seems this year. My turf is pretty thick and the weeds are under control. NOW is the time to apply Step #2--the Kelp Booster; this product supplies much needed calcium and natural beneficial microbes to your soil. Put that Kelp Booster down and really improve your soil. (Kelp Booster can also be applied to your garden. Calcium is extremely beneficial to all plants--especially vegetables!).

I love my perennial beds. Tom Atwell--a great friend of local Maine gardening--wrote a terrific article about Must Have Perennials in this weeks Home and Garden Section of the Maine Sunday Telegram. I highly recommend you read his piece and I don't think he or his supervisors would mind me giving you the link: http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=259877&ac=Home.

I agree with all the names on his list and I soon will write about a few more Must Haves for you. And what the heck I challenge my good friend KCB to do the same!

More Garden Talks soon....

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 8, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Beds 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.

Wouldn’t be great if we could have the sleep number bed for our garden beds? Simply push a button and the preferred comfort level would appear. Mattresses allow for our comfort and ultimate good health that is brought about by a good night’s sleep. A flower bed allows for the comfort and ultimate good health of the ornamentals and or/vegetable plants we want to enjoy via mouth or site.

Often when I’m improving the look of an existing landscape I subtly change the existing flower bed. A gentle curve, the addition of a few inches or feet often makes a considerable difference. Some of my clients have opted for less lawn, more ornamental plantings. Perhaps a vegetable patch or a kitchen garden to grow herbs. The thought of eliminating sod (grass) to allow for new plantings once intimidated the heck out of me. Not being fond of tilling a small patch of earth, I would dig by hand. The process took several weeks. No longer. It is as if I discovered the fountain of youth.

Recently the Skillin’s garden log offered an excellent instruction on creating a raised bed. I will not duplicate that. I’m talking about a simple garden bed all prepared for planting. Little effort, lots of results. It all stems on one major component….newspaper!

This magical elixir happens to arrive on the coat tails of the shrinking daily news. Gone are the days that you would need to lift weights before attempting to carry home the Sunday Paper. Not to fret, there are plenty of free newsy periodicals to get your hands on.

So, how do these inky pages create new beds? So easy, my friend.

I no longer recycle my papers in the usual way. I also ask clients to begin hording once they have completed the cross word or word game of the day. Glossy or heavily inked print can still be relegated to the recycle bin. Once I only utilized the black and white pages however I have incorporated colored print into my beds.

Step one, mark off the new bed. I’m not known for straight lines so a free form spray of lining spray paint works. A flexible garden hose is also useful. For a more crisp, formal and straight line use string tied to wooden stakes.

Cut through sod with a sharp flat end spade or half-moon edger. I use the spade. Make cuts approximately 4 inches deep at an angle pushing sod toward the inside of the bed. To keep weeds at bay and kill existing grass, lay newspaper strips or whole pages to cover the area that represents the new or expanded bed. I usually over lay 4-5 pages. Wet paper as you go to keep in place. For large areas you may have to work in sections. Top paper with a mixture of bagged loam and organic compost to a depth of 4 inches. Coast of Maine Penobscot blend and Jolly Gardener Top Soil are my bagged material of choice.

Once soil/compost blend is in place water again. Within a day or 2 you may begin to plant. You will be able to cut through newspaper to install any perennials, annuals, shrubs and even bulbs. Over time the newspaper will break down allowing for more plant material to be installed. The bonus is the earth worm activity that will be generated. Time after time I have been totally impressed and puzzled as to how these gardening beneficial beings suddenly appear where once there were none.

I have created countless beds this way. Gone are the days of toiling for hours hand digging clumps of sod or renting a rotatiller I admit, I haven’t used this technique for massive vegetable beds. I’m just pleased it has worked for what I have needed. And sometimes that is the best thing of all…………………

for Skillin's Greenhouses
June 3, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Garden Talks June 2--Slugs and Deer!

Hello again,

Another busy day here at Skillin's BUT there have been some quick things I have wanted to mention to you

Last week's overabundance of rain has really brought the slugs and snails out. These leaf loving creatures can do an amazing amount of eating at night. They love to shred the leaves of many annuals, perennials and garden plants and they do their work at night. We only see a few very fat and satisfied slugs during the day. Do NOT underestimate these pests. Some people try beer and other homemade remedies that can work but are messy to use and since when was beer really cheap? We recommend Slug Magic by Bonide. Slug Magic contains pet safe iron phosphate pellets that are not toxic. They fill the slugs up and the slugs cannot digest these pellets--so then you have plugged slugs. And better quality plants!

Don't let the deer get you down. We have a number of fine solutions here at Skillin's. Liquid Fence is a very dependable and sticky spray that does not wash off in the rain. It is perfectly safe but the deer hate the smell. Also we sell a new product called All Season Deer Repellent. This product is a canister that can get opened partially and the product in the canister emits natural odors slowly over a 6 month time period that deer cannot stand. I have had several customers endorse the All Season Deer Repellent. This product is effective all times of the year--even winter. Finally in season I (and many of our gardening friends) have had success spreading a ring of Milorganite--an all natural fertilizer--around plants that deer find delectable. The deer are deterred by this old time fertilizer and go somewhere else.

Drop a note at this post with any comments or questions or of course we can be reached info@skillins.com!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 2, 2009