Thursday, August 27, 2009

Garden Talks August 27-Hollyhocks,the annual biennial challenge!

Hello again,

I have not grown hollyhocks in my home garden but many of you do in Skillin's Country. We sell a great deal of hollyhocks and answer a lot of questions about them as well. SO, when Horticulture Magazine sent this neat little article about hollyhock care I was struck by the practicality of it and the fact that so many of you garden with the beautiful hollyhock. So here it is:

"I bought and planted some hollyhocks this year and they bloomed beautifully. Will they come back next year?

Answer: Hollyhocks (Alcea) are considered short-lived perennials or biennials. Your plants may return and bloom next year. You will also likely find some new seedlings sprouting in the area, because hollyhocks easily self-seed, making up for their relatively short perennial lifespan. These new seedlings may bloom next year or the following year if the species you’re growing is biennial.Hollyhocks are susceptible to hollyhock rust and other foliar problems. Removing the current year’s plants after the seed has dropped helps reduce the spread of these diseases in the following year. You will end up with fresh seedlings from the dropped seed, without the disease being carried over the winter by decaying foliage."

Simple advice: Let your hollyhock go to seed before doing any pruning of the plant. Once you see some new seedlings sprout up, you may be well on your way to another generation of hollyhocks. To help avoid hollyhock rust (it is nasty and can be prevalent in our humid coastal environment) clean up all the current year's plants.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Garden Talks August 26--Hydrangea Care; Easing Summer Garden into Fall

Hello again,

Customer KR recently wrote us a Question about Pruning Hydrangeas:

"This spring, I purchased two PW Cityline Venice Hydrangeas At Skiliins and I'm pleased to say that in spite of our weird weather this summer, they are doing fabulously, giving us beautiful green leaves and brilliantly colored flowers. Now, the flowers are gradually fading.
Do I cut the flower off after it is totally brown, or do I leave it over the winter? If I am supposed to cut, where on the stem do I cut?"

Our answer:

"I double checked with Tim Bate our nursery manager who reminded me that the Cityline Venice flowers on old wood. So for pruning purposes it is perfectly fine to prune off any faded flowers and the flower stem. Any further LIGHT haircutting is fine but it is best to preserve as much growth as possible so as to keep a good amount of "old wood" next year for best flowering.
Also now is a good time to apply a good feeding of an all natural granular fertilizer like Holly Tone by Espoma if you want to keep the flowers more purple. If you want them to be more reddish then do not use Holly Tone but more of a neutral pH fertilizer like Plant Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. Any of these fertilizers are wonderful for the soil and promote great root development."

Through BloominKrazy one of the websites we follow at I found a quick piece called "Five tips for easing your summer garden into fall". This piece is published at (the Baltimore Gardening Examiner). Baltimore is quite south from here but I like the article and I think their points pertain well to our area right now. I am listing excerpts from their five points and then making some comments in italics:

Many home gardens are still producing plenty of vegetables and flowers. However, some plants are beginning to fade as the summer winds down. You don’t have to give up gardening in the fall. In fact, it can be a rather busy time as some evaluate the growing season, grow cool weather vegetables and flowers, plan and plant spring bulbs and repair landscaping.

1. Assess your garden and landscape. Some gardeners keep journals but not everyone remembers to do this. It helps to at least record successes and failures at certain points in the growing season. Take some time to go out into the garden with a notebook or pad of paper. Note the plants you are growing, their location, how they fared, and any special weather or pest conditions that affected their growth. This will help you considerably when you plan your garden the next year. I am a poor journal keeper myself and an even worse photographer. But this advice is awesome and the timing is right. Scrawl out what looks good and where, what looks bad and where. Take a picture or five or ten.

2. Remove any spent or unsightly plants. If your annuals have stopped flowering or your cucumbers no longer produce, pull them up. Dying plants look depressing and you can better use the space for fall flowers or vegetables. Add well-rotted compost to the areas to prepare the soil for any new plantings. Replace old vegetable plants with new young plants like lettuce and broccoli that we have available here at Skillin's. Replace tired looking plants with fresh annuals (we just received a nice shipment of annuals that will flower WELL into the fall). We have gorgeous mums and fall asters. One customer purchased mums today and chose beautiful whites and purples because they do NOT remind her of fall; in her view these mums look pretty "summery". What a great take!

3. Consider fall plants. At this time of year, most garden centers have plenty of chrysanthemums and pansies. Herbs also do well in the fall and can be dried for winter use. Fall is also an excellent season for growing cool weather vegetables like lettuce, radishes, turnips, kale and cabbage. These can replace the worn out hot weather crops like tomatoes or watermelons. We have all these plants just mentioned!

4. Now is the time to plan your spring bulb garden. Start by researching bulbs online or at the library. Browse through catalogs or books to get a feel for what colors and types of bulbs you would like to plant. Think about size, height, and how the bulb would integrate with the rest of your landscape. Be aware of the needs and growing conditions of each type you select. Bulbs are generally planted in October. We are just getting our bulb collection in and the selection will be awesome so come and see. Buy the bulbs in September when the selection is best and plant in October when conditions are best. We can help you with the planning and we have a great Bulb Plannin Class on October 3 here at Skillin's

5. Repair your lawn. The cooler, more rainy fall season is a good time to get grass started. If the grass is compacted, weedy or bare, it should be patched. Remove any brown sod and loosen the soil about six inches deep. Smooth out the soil, tamp it down, and scatter the grass seed. Water it well. Great advice and I HIGHLY recommend Black Beauty Grass Seed by Jonathan Green paired with Grass Seed Accelerator (compressed paper pellets) as a mulch cover. This combination works fantastically for me!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Divide & Conquer! 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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

I tend to get a little melancholy at this time of year. As soon as the slight hint of autumn chill hits the air a rush of three distinct feelings or are they memories, overcome. First, I have a desire to go ‘back-to-school shopping’, though I have now been out of school for more years than I was ever in.

Second, I have the urge to sky dive. I have 11 ‘jumps under my belt’. The first 5 were a few days before starting my freshman year at The University of New Hampshire. My next six were the following September, at the start of my sophomore semester. To this day, I hear a small Cessna or Beechcraft type prop plane overhead; I secretly hope that I can transform myself back to a time when I had a little less sense and no real need for more.

Thirdly, it is at this time of year I am the most excited about the results of the gardening season yet my heart aches with the knowing that soon my pruning shears will be put into over drive as I cut back and clean-out.

So let us prepare to begin the end.

I’m not saying it’s is time to put our gardens to bed, let us at least wind it down, almost like drinking a cup of cocoa or warm milk to ease into the night.

For most perennials, fall is the best time to transplant and divide. Recently I facilitated a class and one common question ‘How do I know the plant needs to be divided?’

It’s not always as obvious as it would seem. If the plant is too crowded or too large, then division or transplanting is recommended. Many plants such as Achillea ‘Yarrow’, Gaillardia ‘blanketflower’ and asters, will become woody in the center. Others will simply form rings where nothing is growing in the middle, (Iris, Sedum). These are signs the plant has become too large and needs division. Hosta, Daylily, Shasta Daisy are served best to divide every 3-5 years. Others can remain undisturbed, Peony, Astilbe. Then there are those with such long taproots, Balloon Flower, or extensive root system, Baptisia, that generaly resent being divided or moved.

As in every gardening project we must prepare. A few carefully chosen tools will better serve than a random arsenal.

First thing to bring, a great attitude. We tend to be a little less enthusiastic at the end of the season. Think of it as getting a jump-start on next! Cleaning the closet to allow for more purchases. Mix and matching old favorites so everything is new again. Make a celebration of it. Put burgers on the grill, beer in the cooler and invite friends and neighbors. Their reward is a good time and a few plants. Next season can be someone else’s turn.


· Hand saw—sharp. I tend to make people nervous anytime they see me with a sharp instrument. Hosta and Daylilies are tough. Do not be afraid to dig right in.
· Digging Forks—2 would not be over-kill. Great for dividing daylilies. Simply position them back-to-back and push to separate.
· Sharp utility knife—perfect to divide bearded iris and peony.
· Hedging clippers or shears—Sharp! Great for getting many stems at one fell sweep. Hosta fear them, Daylilies are petrified.
· Flexible or 5 gallon buckets—magic number is 2; one half filled with water for any plants you may need to soak. This is great for untangling fibrous routes and removing invasive weeds or grasses from a perennial clump. The second bucket is to mix your soil and compost.
· Bagged planting mix or compost—I cannot say enough wonderful things about my favorite, Coast of Maine Penobscot blend. I always mix this in with the soil. I heard it once said, for a 5-dollar plant create a 50-dollar hole!
· Watering can—I water in before and after.
· Water Soluble Plant Starter—the reason for the aforementioned watering can.
· Gloves—I often have 2 pair, one designed for working in the mud. I get really down and dirty and since I have watered in before, there is no telling how dirty I can get.

The following is only a partial list of perennials. As always, our favorite gardening center is always happy to answer any specific questions you may have regarding dividing perennials. You do not even have to leave the comfort of your computer, just e-mail!

"What, When, Time, How"

Achillea ‘Yarrow’3 years
Early spring
Dig clump, shake off soil, remove central woody stem. Plant as dry root. Do not allow to dry before planting

‘Lady’s Mantle’
6-10 years
Early spring
Cut crown into sections making sure each crown has a strong root system

2-3 years
Early spring
Cut into soil with a sharp spade between mother plant and emerging growth. This plant benefits from early pinching.

Astilbe ‘False Spirea’4-5 years
Early spring
Cut plant into divisions with sharp spade or knife as new growth emerges. Each division should have 5-growth buds w/strong root support.

Baptisia ‘False Indigo’
Not recommended
As new growth emerges
Dig deeply around entire plant to expose extended root system, remove without breaking. Wash, clean and cut sections assuring that each section has several shoots and amply supply of roots.

Balloon Flower
Prefer not to be disturbed
Early Spring
Lift Clumps as new growth emerge. Dig Deeply so that as much of the fleshy root is taken. Wash plant free of soil and cut into sections making sure each has strong shoots and ample roots. May not bloom for a year or 2

Campanula ‘Bell Flower’
4-5 years
Early Spring
Cut into soil with sharp spade or knife. Make sure each crown has a healthy root system

Chelone ‘Turtlehead’Anytime
Early Spring
When new growth is 1 inch, sever the young plant from mother plant with spade.

BugbaneNot required
Early Spring
Dig clump, shake, and wash off soil, cut plant into sections containing several shoots and ample roots.

ClematisNot necessary
Early Spring
Dig entire clump when new growth emerges, cut crown into piece assuring each portion has 1-3 stems and generous roots

Coreopsis ‘Tickseed’
2-3 years
Early Spring
Dig entire clump as new growth emerges. Wash or shake the soil. Cut plant assuring each has several growth buds and ample roots.

Delphinium ‘Larkspur’
1-3 years
Early Spring
Dig entire plant as new growth emerges. Wash or shake soil, cut crown into sections assuring each has 3-5 stems and healthy roots.

Garden Mum
Dig entire clump; shake surplus dirt, cut off new growth from central core. Discard old portion and plant new sections immediately.

Hardy Mum
Cut clump into sections with sharp spade.

Dianthus ‘Pinks’
As needed
Early Spring
Dig entire plant as new growth emerges. Cut into sections making sure each has strong growth ‘eyes’ and healthy root system.

Dicentra ‘Bleeding Heart’
Every few years if needed
Early Spring
Dig up clump as new growth emerges, wash away all excess soil, and cut plant into sections. making sure each has strong growth ‘eyes’ and healthy root system.

Echinacea ‘purple coneflower’
If needed
With sharp knife or spade slice crown into sections.

Geranium ‘cranesbill’
6-10 years
Early Spring
Dig entire plant as new growth emerges, wash it free of soil, pull apart by hand. Assure each division has a number of strong eyes and healthy roots.

When clumps begin to die in center
Cut clump into section with sharp spade, discard old central portion of the crown

Every 3 years
Dig up entire clump. Use sharp knife, spade, or fork to divide. Wash soil. Make as many divisions as possible. Plant as bare root

Heuchera ‘Coral Bells’
2-3 years
Early Spring/l
Late Fall
Dig up entire plant, divide with sharp knife into sections of several stems and ample roots. Discard older center clump if woody.

3-5 years
Early Spring/fall
Dig up entire clump. Use sharp knife, spade, or fork to divide. Wash soil. Make as many divisions as possible. Plant as bare root

3-5 years or as needed
Anytime after blooming/late summer
Divide Rhizomes

Daisy ‘Shasta’1-3 years
Dig up plant, cut crown into sections with sharp spade or knife making sure each division has several shots and healthy roots.

Liatris ‘Gayfeather’4-5 years
As new growth emerges in spring or late fall. Dig up the plant and wash it free of soil. Cut the corms or rhizomes into sections with a sharp knife Make sure each division has strong shoots. It may be best to dust with a fungicide. Plant new divisions immediately.

As desired
Late Summer/fall
Dig up large clump, divide into individual bulbs, sow.

‘Gooseneck’, ‘Yellow’
6-10 years
Early Spring
As new growth appears dig entire plant, wash it free from soil, separate with fingers or sharp knife. Make sure each section has several shot and ample roots.

Monarda ‘Bee Balm’
Every year or as needed
Early spring
Dig up plant, cut into sections, remove woody or dead centers. Take divisions from the newest growth outside the clump.

Nepeta ‘catmint’As needed
Early Spring
Cut into clump as new growth emerges. Divide as needed making sure each section has healthy foliage and roots.

PeonyPrefer not to be disturbed
Early fall
Did deeply and remove entire clump from ground. Wash and clean dirt from extensive root system. Cut with sharp knife making sure each division has 3-5 ‘eyes’. Remove dried and broken root tissue. Recommend dipping roots in a broad-spectrum fungicide. Do not bury too deep to keep portion of ‘eye’ exposed.

2-4 years
Early Spring
Dig up plant as new growth starts. Cut Crown into sections each with 3-5 stems and ample roots. Discard central core if woody or dead.

‘Cone Flower’ ‘Goldsturm’
‘Black-eyed Susan
4 years
Early Spring/Fall
Dig entire clump retrieving as much as root system as possible. Cut clump into sections each with several stems and healthy roots attached.

Salvia ‘Sage’
As needed
Dig up the entire clump as new growth emerges or as plant dies back. Cut clump into sections each with several stems and healthy roots attached.

Sedum ‘stonecrop’
As needed to maintain shape and size
Early Spring
Dig up or slice into plant. Sedum has a tendency to fall away from soil as you work with the plant. May be planted in several clumps making sure healthy roots and shoots are attached.

2-3 years
Best as new growth emerges. Dig entire plant, use sharp knife or spade to cut into sections each with several stems and healthy roots attached.

Vernonica ‘Speedwell’
3-4 years
Early Spring/fall
Dig up or slice into plant as new growth emerges or as plant dies back. Cut clump into sections each with several stems and healthy roots attached.

It has been said that "all is fair in love and war". If it was only so in gardening. What we cannot conquer we will endure (or remove it complete and replace it with something better!)

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
August 28, 2008
(reprinted August 25, 2009)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It’s not over…..I haven't sung yet!

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

The following post is a reprint from August 2008 but we find it very timely, shall we say "timeless" and with the approval of KCB here we go!

Mid-August, some approach it as they approach mid-life, ‘It’s all down hill from this point…’

I am energized by August. For me it is when I truly enjoy ‘my’ gardens.
Everywhere you look, there is life.

Earlier today, I lost count of all the different sizes and shapes of ‘bumble bees’ weaving in out of the petals of a Lime Light hydrangea. I watched a monarch larvae devour a Milkweed leaf while securing another leaf as a blanket. Dragon Flies and Humming Birds dance in the air as butterflies alight on the prickly Cones of Echinacea.

The perennial bed in August is a display of richer colors. Let pastels reign during the earlier months. The crown jewels are the rubies, golds, amethysts, and emeralds of now. Joe Pye towers above Blacked Eyed Susans. Russian Sage and Cosmos sway in the breeze. Succulent Sedum satisfy the soul. Many of these will offer their blooms long after the beach chairs retire.

I recently learned that the Monarchs born in Maine at the end of August or early September are the chosen ones. It will be they who make the migration to Mexico. Goose Bumps as I imagine the fate of the caterpillar I witnessed today.

Yes, summer in Maine is short; winters are long so why not make the most the current season. Do not miss out on a moment. There is still so much gardening that you could do.

Visit your favorite garden center. Take advantage of any sales. Yes, the plants may look a little forlorn, in spite of the diligent care. All they want is to put down roots in a home of their own. I equate them to puppies in a pound. You can almost hear them say ‘pick me’. I spied a lone Fire Witch Dianthus on a bargain table. As I lingered a little too long I could have sworn it perked up, was that a wag? Was it really that happy to see me? I couldn’t resist so I took him home with me. That little guy was given a little corner in a bed, watered, fed and has put forth some blooms. Such happiness at a discounted price. The plant was weed free and healthy just waiting for me. Again, I cannot stress the importance of purchasing from locally owned and operated garden centers. With everything I plant, I mix Penobscot Blend in the soil and offer it a full drink with a water-soluble plant starter. Good beginnings make good blooms even if we must wait until next year for their glory.

Seeing mums before September does something to my stomach akin to sour milk, however if it is almost instant gratification and color you need, go for it. Look for plants that have more buds than blooms. Pansies and violas often will make an encore performance as the weather cools. Want herbs? Why not? Many are still available. The basil you take home today can be used tonight. A client wanted cilantro and all I could find were seeds. In spite of all the rain and no sun in the week since they have been sowed, the eager herb poked thru the earth of its container. I suspect she’ll be able to pick some next week. Just in time for garden fresh tomatoes. Salsa any one?

August is the new April. . We are coming on to the best time add new, divide and transplant. Especially this year. It seems we will escape the ‘global warming’ of consecutive 90 degree weather. When was the last time lawns in August looked this green?

Summer is not over. I may be delusional about a lot of things, however the calendar clearly says we have more than a month in which to say it’s summer.

I’m not ready to give up Chardonnay for Cabernet and you, certainly are not ready to hear me sing.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
August 15, 2008
(reprinted for August 23, 2009)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Garden Talks August 22--Water!; Tips for Tall Phlox; Pee Gee Hydrangea

Hello again,

Just a quick note. I have spent a pretty good amount of time in the garden today and don't be fooled by the showers we received last night in Skillin's Country.

All containers and hanging baskets as well as 2009 planted shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals and vegetables most likely need a good thorough soaking if you have not watered them within the last couple of days! For good watering techniques go to Garden Talks August 14--Time to Water!

I am taking the time (on a gorgeous day like this, it is a pleasure!) to not only water the material I mentioned above but also to give my vegetables, containers (both flowers and vegetables) and 2009 planted perennials a good liquid soaking of water and Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer. Of course, I have recently side dressed them with their "second half" dosage of granular and all natural Plant Booster Plus by Organica. So they are getting a good double dosage of food today. Remember this is Maine! Our season is short and we ask a lot of performance out of our annuals and vegetables--so give them the help they need with good dosages of healthy fertilizers. Come see us or ask any questions at or leave a comment at this post; we will get back to you!

I noticed that the foliage on my tall white phlox is getting droopy. Combination of heat and although the phlox was planted years ago the soil around the plants is looking to be getting dry. SO, I have run a hose just to the first clump of phlox and have the water running quite slowly into the clump. Slow enough so there is no runoff of water. I will leave the hose at each clump for up to 60 or 90 minutes and just let the water seep into the ground. This should water the root system quite well.

From past experience I know that my Pee Gee Hydrangeas will soon be getting droopy as well as the foliage always turns "in" and "down" when the soil gets dry in late summer. So after the phlox have had their quality waterings I will do the same technique with my Pee Gees. They stand about 5 to 6 feet tall and have been in the ground for about 10 years now. The stems are pretty fat and they produce much foliage (and beautiful flowers too!) SO I will probably let the seeping water from the end of the hose stay at the base of each plant for about 3 hours. Again let the water seep in slowly; there should be no runoff.

BOTh the Pee Gees and the Phloxes have recently had their "Second Half" feeding of granular all natural Plant Booster Plus by Organica (Plant Tone by Espoma is also a good choice) so this good thorough water also helps to get these all natural fertilizers down into the soil just a little faster. Great for the soil!

Back to the phlox!: If the flower heads on top of your phlox are starting to turn a little brown then by all means prune the top flower heads out. This will encourage more growth from the side flower heads just below the tops and mean more color for at least a couple of more weeks from your gorgeous phlox!

Is your phlox foliage mildewy and spotty? They and you DO NOT have to live that way. Remember to give them sprayings of Messenger every few weeks. We talk about the benefits of Messenger at here.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 22, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Skillin's Garden Classes Sept and Oct 2009

Hello again,

Following is a listing of classes starting August 29 here at Skillin's. These classes are some of our most popular so we hope you take advantage!

Our FREE classes will be held Saturdays at 10 AM (unless otherwise stated).

Call Brunswick 442-8111 (1-800-339-8111), Cumberland 829-5619 (1-800-348-8498), or Falmouth 781-3860 (1-800-244-3860) to register. You may also register by emailing us at, just specify the date, time, and location! These classes can sell out fast so sign up today!

Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% off coupon!


29—Dividing, Relocating, Transplanting Class

Don’t be shocked! We’ll show you how to move your plants so they can grow and grow and grow! Fall is a great time to replan and rearrange the garden; upcoming cooler temperatures make fall a great time for planting!


12-Pruning for a Purpose

Make your outdoor plants take a new shape. Proper pruning helps rejuvenate established plants and start new plants on a great growing path!

19-Thriving Houseplants!

Okay the plants on your porch and patio are now back inside with you. Don’t want to bungle your jungle? Let us show you how a great variety of plants can thrive indoors. We’ll help you Plant for the Planet by giving all class goers a free 4” potted plant of your choice.

26-Composting Class

Let us give you “the poop” on making your garden soil richer in a highly natural way. Wise gardeners know the key to good gardening is the soil and the key to good soil is….COMPOST!


3-Bulb Planning and Planting

Fall is the time to plant bulbs for Spring color and we have the best selection in Maine as well as easy to use supplies! Remember that tu-lips are better than none and that the first step toward Spring is the planting of bulbs in the fall!

10-Fresh Floral Arranging (10 AM & 2 PM)

We are all about color and fun here at Skillin’s! Or is it fun then color? No matter because everyone’s favorite class is back! We will show you how to make the coolest, most colorist, most funnest arrangement!
There is a $15 fee to cover materials.

17- Birds in the Back Yard

Gardening is great! And birding is awesome—they really go hand in hand; 2 outdoor activities that attract people of the same feather. HaHaHa! Let us show you how to attract and keep the finest of our feathered friends.

24-Pumpkin Carving with Skillin’s (10 AM TO 4 PM)

Bring family and friends, purchase pumpkins for half price and let us help you carve the coolest, scariest, funniest and “ghouliest” pumpkins ever. Pumpkin carving is great family fun and we have some tricks and treats (yes refreshments for you!) up our sleeve!

31- Beds to Rest

Getting a good winters rest makes the Spring look brighter. Let us share with you how to get your perennials, roses and shrubs tucked away for winter.

Four Part Landscape Design Series (Brunswick Sept 9,16,23,30 10 AM) (Falmouth Sept 10,17,24, Oct 1 10 AM)

What a great chance to get a jump start on plotting how to landscape your home the right way! Class fee is $40 to cover materials—you will have a great landscape plan at the finish; this is a class that you will learn from; fun will be had but homework will be required!

The Time is NOW!!!! Big Sale at Skillin's!!

The Time is NOW

This is fresh material on sale, while much of our competition have had plants on sale for months that were purchased a long time ago, we have been buying and selling, selling and buying and keeping our offerings fresh. Our stock is gorgeous and NOW it is on sale! And we have more orders in for more fresh stock so we will keep the deals coming!

Get More, Plant More, Save More!

Shade & Evergreen Trees 50% off--make it 60% when you buy 3 or more!

Shrubs 20% off--make it 30% when you buy 3 or more!

Perennials 20% off--make it 30% when you buy 5 or more!

All tools (need tools to do all this planting!) are 30% off!

Garden watering equipment--hoses, nozzles, even rain barrels--are 30% off!

Open 8 to 6 M-F and until 5 both days on the weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garden Talks August 14--Time to Water!

Hello again,

Folks it is time to water in Skillin's Country. The soaring temperatures, higher skies and summer breezes (finally!) have left the top few inches of soil dry for any shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals or vegetables planted this year.

We must get back into the mode where any such 2009 planted material should get two to three quality waterings per week. In these cases if you don't have an irrigation system, get your garden hoses out and set the hose on slow water next to your plants. Let the water run into the ground slowly for at least several minutes per perennial, potentially up to half an hour for each shrub. Let that water soak into the ground so the healthy white roots of your plant have moist ground to grow down into.

Smaller annuals and vegetables should get good soakings in a similar fashion. Or if you are standing and watering hold the slow running hose off to the side of the plant and let that water soak in. When you get to run off stage, pull the hose to the next plant but keep in mind to come back to the plant you just left a second or third time.

Good quality waterings take time but your plants will thank you!

Post any questions or comments right here at this blog post or shoot us a question at or 1-800-244-3860.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Garden Talks August 13--Time to plant more vegetables

Hello again,

Margaret from posted the following note very recently and I thought I would pass it onto the Skillin's Garden Log if she does not mind. Her comments will be in quotes and I might add a comment or two (not in quotes of course!)

"'s also a perfect time (hurry!) to fine-tune the vegetable garden and eke out some produce for late summer, fall-and beyond-with a never-say-die garden salvage job. I've spent a lot of time lamenting the loss of tomatoes and other crops that washed away or just plain succumbed, but I'm now fighting back, with an even more aggressive succession-sowing plan than in a "normal" year. Into every empty spot, I've plugged a liberal next round of something fast-growing, and you can, too: "

"Bush beans: I used a 55-day variety for faster results, to beat fall frost, and will have a floating row cover on hand for possible cold nights later on. " If you have a sunny hot spot give the beans a try. WITH the use of a row cover I think you can still get a bean harvest in Skillin's Country. We have brand new 2010 seeds just in from Botanical Interests ( and 2 varieties caught my eye: "Tavera" at 54 days AND/OR Contender--an heirloom, only 40 days from sowing to harvest. Yes, YOU could be a contendah!

"Collards and kale: These cold-tolerant crops will do just fine (and by the way, are amazing eaten young as well, at about 30 days onward). "

"Swiss chard: ditto. " Try the Bright Lights swiss chard (sold right here at Skillin's!). Love the colors and the taste is good!

"Arugula, mesclun mix and two kinds of lettuce. " Plenty of time for those guys. We have brand new lettuce seedlings in--looking good I might add! My favorite lettuce is Red Sails, a leaf lettuce and a good tasting one at that! We have it along with Salad Bowl, another good one!

"Carrots (beets and turnips would be nice, too, as would varieties of those grown for their tops, or greens, and also radishes). "

"Basil (and Cilantro if you use it). Scallions are likewise fast. " These are fast growing tasty plants. The first frost will kill off your basil but it will grow real fast in the remaining hot days of this season.

"Pak choi will go in next week, a liberal planting of a mini kind, along with spinach and maybe some broccoli raab. " We also have broccoli and cauliflower seedlings ready and people are loving them. Come and grab some! Again cut the main heads of your broccoli and then just enjoy the side shoots for weeks and weeks and weeks--smaller than the main heads but they sure taste good.

"A row of peas went in mid-July (again, a shorter-stature, faster variety). In areas where frost comes much later, this is still possible. " Getting late for peas here unless you can put them in a real warm spot. Cascadia is a good variety.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 13, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Garden Talks August 7--Dividing Oriental Poppies

Hello again,

Our oriental poppies that blossomed so brightly back in May are now at or near complete dormancy which means NOW is a terrific time to dig them up to divide them or to move them. I have a new spot I want to prepare that would be great for some oriental poppies I have in the front of my house. I love their brilliant orange color but like so many locations I choose I am thinking that a dense little bed in front of my house was a poor choice for the poppies. These Oriental Poppies need to range and roam a little bit!

Here is a great link which discusses how to divide oriental poppies. Good pictures and the writing is clear:
One last fun note: Our Garden Mums are just showing color so we have brought some to the retail stores for sale! But Terry Skillin wants me to tell you that our poinsettia plugs have arrived so we are busy in the production greenhouses potting poinsettias that we will sell at Christmas! This business is fun in that you often think a season or two ahead.
In the meantime, enjoy this summer weather!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 7, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden Talks August 5--Fruit Trees, Rose of Sharon, Water those Containers!

Hello again,

A gentleman by the name of Dick Poffenbaugh recently published a garden Question and Answer in the Mansfield Journal based in Ontario. Ontario? They can garden there. Well yes, they can. Below is a couple of questions and answers that caught my eye.

The entire link is and we found them through our friends BloominKrazy who we follow at

Here goes:

Question: Why are apples on my dwarf tree so small? Does a dwarf tree only produce small apples? Can anything be done to increase fruit size?

Answer: First, a dwarf or semi-dwarf apple tree produces normal size fruit. Tree size has nothing to do with fruit size. Apples and peaches tend to produce heavy crops of fruit if there is no late spring frost to kill flowers.

There is only so much nutrition produced by a tree to nourish the fruit crop. The greater the number of fruit, the smaller the fruit size. The same is true for squash, pumpkins and tomatoes. The more fruit produced that remain on the plant, the smaller the size. To grow a giant size pumpkin of the right variety, leave only one or two fruit on the vine to maturity.

With tree fruits such as apple and peach, this is where "thinning" is required. Excess fruits are removed from the tree, generally within a month after the tree flowers. Some trees help in the process with a natural fruit drop -- very common in plum trees.

Try to space apples on a branch 6 to 8 inches apart. All the energy will go into those few apples rather than into double or triple the number.

If summer growing conditions are dry, water fruit trees to help increase fruit size. While thinning is a time-consuming task, it pays big dividends with much larger fruits.

Question: When is the best time to prune a rose of Sharon shrub? Does it form flowers on new or old wood?

Answer: Do the pruning in March to early April. Like other summer flowering shrubs, flowers form on new wood (this year's growth). If pruning is done later, some of the new wood with flower buds will likely be removed, resulting in fewer flowers.

This morning before I came to work I spent some time giving my containers of plants (I have several containers of great looking flowers and some good vegetables as well!) a good thorough soaking of water. Frankly with all the rain we have received I was surprised that these containers needed water but they actually did. I think the reason why water was needed was twofold: 1) the plants are getting large enough to actually keep a good amount of the rain from penetrating the soil and 2) the rain that is getting through is getting quickly used up by all the roots that have now formed in the pots.

A week ago I gave all my containerized plants and annual flowers and vegetables planted in the ground a good "top dressing" of granular all natural Plant Booster Plus fertlilizer by Organica. Over the remainder of the season the benefits of the Plant Booster Plus will really help my plants grow great strong roots and the plants will respond well to that.

But this is Maine and I wanted to give my plants a little extra boost so in my waterings this morning I added a dose of Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend to the water in my 2 gallon watering can. Watering everything with my 2 gallon can took a little extra time but the all natural boost of nutrients including calcium found in the Fish and Seaweed Blend in liquid form will give my plants an immediate boost. The Time is Now! Good growing lies ahead!

Also this morning to my alarm I inspected my tomato plants and found some oval dark leaf blight on a couple of my plants. This blight is fast moving as it was not there this weekend. I bought my plants from Skillin's and we have not seen the blight here. My plants are pretty big and the blight was noticeable but not yet major so what I did was snap off all the branches and/or leaves that were blighted and disposed of them in the trash. I do plan on spraying with all natural Seranade (sold right here at Skillin's) tonight to help suppress any more blight. I may also move up a planned application of Messenger from a couple of weeks out to this weekend to further fortify the plants. My tomato plants are doing great overall, nice color and good fruit development. They are loving the warmer sunnier days, the Messenger of this season and the Plant Booster Plus!

Tomato lesson: Blight or not, the Time is Now to snap off any medium to lower height branches that are not producing fruit. The action is at the top of the plant, clear out the lower growth for more light exposure and air circulation to the fruit.

As always let us know if you have any gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 5, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Garden Talks August 3--Flowers to Sow Now for Fall/Spring Color

Hello again,

Our friends at Botanical Interests posted a great blog entry a day or two ago detailing some great seeds to sow now for fall color and early Spring color next year. The link is and I will copy the text below for your reading pleasure.

Before I do that our 2009 Botanical Interest Seeds have just left here and within a week we will have a whole new assortment of 2010 seeds! So any seed mentioned below we will have in stock by the end of next week. Here goes:

Flowers to Sow Now for Fall/Spring Color

Even though the mercury may be sky high on the thermometer right now, it’s the right time to consider starting flowers for fall blooms and to provide pretty bulb covers in the spring.

Pansies and Violas add a fabulous pop of color to fall borders or containers. July to August is the best time to start them. (It takes around 2 ½ to 3 months from the time you plant pansy or viola seed to get the first blooms.) Consider how ‘Bewitching’ the black and orange ‘Bewitched Blend’ Pansies would look in October if you start them now!

Burgundy Amaranth will give your garden bright jewel-toned burgundy leaves even if you don’t have time left in the season to achieve their full height or plumes. The leaves are also edible and make a colorful addition to salads when picked young.

Coleus Rainbow Blend will add an explosion of bright color to those shady spots that may be looking a little barren or bedraggled by late summer and early fall. It can take the heat as long as it’s kept moist and has some shade. Foliage will last until the first fall frost. When frost looms near, you can take cuttings of your favorite colors to root in a vase of water for some indoor color that lasts for a couple of months.

Perennials – If you start perennial flowers now, they will have time to put down roots and survive the winter, giving you lush blooms next spring and summer. Most perennials need to be planted 8-10 weeks before the average first fall frost date.

Bulb CoversIf you are planning to plant bulbs this fall (like tulips, hyacinth, crocus), consider sowing some Pansies, Violas, Candytuft Snowflake, or Alyssum Basket of Gold within the next few weeks to make a pretty bulb cover next spring to complement the blooming bulbs and to mask the foliage as the bulb blooms fade.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
July 31, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August Garden Chores

I found these helpful garden tips at when I was noodling around BloominKrazy one of the sites we follow at The advice given is based on a zone 5 situation in very northeastern NY state and western MA. I like a lot of the information they present. So I am listing some of what they have to say (their advice is in quotes) and I comment briefly as to how we hardy gardeners in Skillin's Country can follow this gardening advice to our benefit.

"I SOMETIMES THINK THAT AUGUST, not April, is the cruelest month (though T.S. Eliot famously thought otherwise, and spelled it cruellest for good measure). Hazy, hot and humid…and plum tuckered out. But give up we must not. Every weed pulled now is a hundred you don’t have to deal with later (well, who knows the precise math of mama weed to baby weed, but you get the idea: prevention). Don’t let them go to seed. But that’s not all there is to do around here, so let’s get started on the list...." I love August--and April for that matter. As I get older I praise God for every month I get to see!

"WATERING IS another major focus; if you’re dry, don’t waste water on lawns, which will bounce back from brown in time when cooler, moister days return. Target your offerings to the most precious subjects, particularly recently planted things. " Folks we are NOT dry here in Skillin's Country, we are very very wet. BUT we cannot forget that material like perennials, shrubs and trees planted in 2009 still need a couple of good quality waterings every week. Many weeks the natural rain has sufficed as we have received close to 20 inches of rain since June 1. But if August dries out a little bit our newly planted material will need some water. Keep checking the Skillin's Garden Log; we will keep you posted if such waterings are needed.

"MAKE A PASS through each bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants. Top up mulch in all garden beds if washed or worn away to help in the plight. " Very good advice. I was just speaking to a customer this morning who put in a solid day of weeding on Saturday. But as she put it the weeds are pulling quite easy these days since the ground is so moist. Take advantage of the moist ground and get out there and pull those big weeds. Lots of little weeds. Check out a good scuffling hoe like the Hula Hoe (sold right here at Skillin's).


"DON’T FEED WOODY plants any more (better, even, to stop in July). Promoting more soft growth in high summer isn’t good; time for them to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till earliest spring. " I DO NOT agree with this. I do not advocate getting woody plants any more liquid feedings with a "quick rush" (think coffee) food like Miracle Gro. But I do believe all woody plants needs two good feedings per year of a good natural fertlizer like Holly Tone by Espoma for evergreen plants or Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant or Tree Tone by Espoma. I believe if you feed your trees, shrubs and perennials consistently twice yearly with these quality all natural foods then you will provide a good slow yield of nutrients and microbes that will benefit your soil and then the roots and then the plant immensely. But consistency is key; two feedings per year. Spring, summer. Spring, fall. Summer, fall. Keep those quality ingredients coming to your soil.

"ALWAYS BE on the lookout for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts." Great advice here. We will be having a pruning class at Skillin's this fall and we will let you know about that soon. But we are always available to answer any pruning questions you have. Dead, damaged and diseased wood can serve as a host for further diseases and/or insects and that prospect is nice to avoid.


"HAVING TOMATO TROUBLES? I know I am this year, along with much of the East." Check out Garden Talks July 28--Lawn Weeds, Bed preparation; Tomato issues. At the end of that post we had a good tomato discussion with one of our customers. I think there is some good information there.

"AS AREAS COME EMPTY from harvest, build vegetable-garden soil by sowing cover crops: medium red clover now, or perhaps winter rye if you don’t do some areas till mid-fall. These “green manures” will be turned under to improve soil tilth and fertility. " Good advice. Even if you have a small space that is turning empty late summer and fall is a good time to at least layer some compost on top of the empty space. Use your own compost or of course we sell great compost here at Skillin's "in bulk" or by the bag. Simply layer the compost on top of the empty space (the more the better) and let it break down over the remainder of the season, winter and early Spring into your existing soil.

"SOW ANOTHER CROP OF PEAS right now for fall harvest (and perhaps freezing for offseason use). Shelled peas from the freezer really make risotto in January taste like summer. " Great advice and even in Maine we have time to plant another pea crop. That reminds me, we have another crop of broccoli, lettuces and cabbages on the way for you to plant. I believe we will have it available in about another week; just in time for cool weather harvest!

"STRAWBERRY BEDS may appreciate rejuvenation now, if you didn’t get it done last month. " Pull any old plants that did not perform well, spread a dose of Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Garden Tone by Espoma across the bed to reinforce that soil if you have not given the area a quality feeding with a good natural food since Spring.

"KEEP ASPARAGUS well weeded. Let asparagus ferns grow till frost to feed the underlying crowns. " Asparagus is awesome and grows very well in Skillin's Country. Yes, clean the asparagus bed of weeds and again a nice dose of Plant Booster Plus or Garden Tone would probably be very timely.

"DID YOU HARVEST GARLIC? Save the best heads for replanting this fall, the ones with the biggest cloves (or order more for fall delivery). " We should have garlic for you to plant this fall.

"ANOTHER SOWING of chard, radishes, arugula, spinach, turnips, beets and lettuce means succulent fall crops. With salad greens, sow small amounts now and again in 10 days. " We have seeds in stock still AND we are due to get our 2010 seeds from Botanical Interest ( very soon. Their array of seeds is ideal for this task but in the meantime we still have some 2009 seeds that will work equally well.

"DID YOU START MORE BASIL from seed? Young, fresh plants sown immediately will be better than woody old ones for combining with fall tomatoes. Is there enough fresh dill coming for late pickles? For peak flavor, basil, sage, marjoram and oreganos, mint and tarragon are best harvested just before bloom. Harvest lavender, rosemary and chamomile as they flower, blossoms and all. " Great herb advice and we have fresh herb plants of many types that were just written about here.


"DAYLILIES can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed. " We still have an awesome selection of daylilies still in flower here at Skillin's!

"PEONIES are best divided and transplanted in late August through September, if they need it. Remember with these fussy guys that “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface. " Peonies will be getting pretty dormant by the end of this month; I agree that in just a few weeks is the best time to divide and conquer them. The depth advice is crucial. I would also put a little Plant Booster Plus or Plant Tone underneath them so when the peonies awaken in late March or early April the soil will be in even better shape then it is now.

"MANY POPULAR ANNUALS can be overwintered as young plants if you take and root cuttings now rather than try to nurse along leggy older specimens. Geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, even impatiens (to name just a few common ones), if grown in good light indoors and kept pinched and bushy, will yield another generation of cuttings for next spring’s transplants. Probably best to expend this effort and space on things you really treasure—an unusual form of something, not the garden variety." Great advice; especially about just trying to preserve absolute favorites. Time and space are precious here in Skillin's Country. In many cases you will be happier and less stressed starting anew in the Spring.

"MANY PERENNIALS and biennials can still be started from seed if you hurry, then set out in the fall into nursery beds. " Yes and we have perennial seeds still in stock in some cases with 2010 seeds due to arrive soon!

"DEADHEAD FADED PERENNIALS and summer bulbs unless they have showy seedheads, or you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only). " See this recent post Grateful Dead(heading) by KCB where KCB writes eloquently about the benefits and necessities of dead heading those perennials. Very good garden habits written about there. Dead heading is so beneficial to your perennials!

"PREPARE NEW beds for fall planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top. " We have talked about this technique in the past at the Skillin's Garden Log. Check out More Discussion on Newspaper as Garden Mulch!

"RE-EDGE BEDS to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A clean edge makes a big difference, as does topping up the mulch a bit." As the year goes on, beds can always use edging and more mulch (I prefer compost).


"IF HOUSEPLANTS NEED repotting, do it now, while they’re still outside (less messy than in the house). Don’t step up more than an inch in diameter (on small pots) or a couple (on large ones). Most plants don’t like to swim in their containers. " We have some great new containers on the way and always have a good selection of pots. I recommend Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend for your soil. All natural, best quality, local company!

"MID-AUGUST TO MID-SEPTEMBER is prime lawn-renovation, planting and re-seeding time in the North. " Check out Garden Happenings! Week of April 27 where I wrote about how pleased I was with my lawn renovation efforts from last August and September and the products I recommend.

DON’T BAG OR RAKE clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil.


"DON’T LET the heap dry out completely, or it will not “cook.” Turning it to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned. " I have a compost heap that is thoroughly soaked and cooking nicely. Turning is very important.

Drop us a comment below with any questions or email us at!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 2, 2009

Skillin's Summer Sales (updated list)

*Hanging Plants—Reg $28.99—Buy one for $19.00 (save$9.99),
Buy two for $29.00 (save $28.98, buy 1 get 1 free!)

*Flowering Flats – Buy two Get one Free

*Seed Geraniums – Buy one Get one Free

*Bird Food 20% off

*Paper Napkins & Plates – Save 30%

*Cocoa Mats & Lined Containers – Save 70%

*Willow Supports & Buzzy Seed Kits – Save 70%

*Colored Metal Containers & Watering Cans – Save 40%

*Summer Table Top – Save 20%

*Wood Containers– Save 50%

*Patio Furniture – Save 40% in stock pieces! (not plastic Adirondack)

*Yard Sale Starts July 1st – Save up to 70%!!

Come see us for these fun summer sales!

(instock items only, while supplies last, prices subject to change, very few other restrictions may apply)