Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Time is Now: Bulb Planning and Planting

Hello again,

Okay September is turning into October and it is time to think Spring! How do you do that? By planning and planting a Spring flowering bulb garden, of course! And this Saturday we want to show you how best to do just that! 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! Come to our Bulb Planting and Planning Class! Remember that tu-lips are better than none and that the first step toward Spring is the planting of bulbs in the fall!

This free class is being offered at 10 AM this Saturday October 3 in Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth and you can reserve a space by calling any of the above numbers OR by contacting us at (just specify the store!).

Before I forget, we will once again have some nice refreshments on hand this Saturday as well for you to sample. All good gardeners need to keep the blood sugar level high and we love our food. So the subject will keep you on the edge of your seat but our hospitality should keep you smiling!

Want a great view of our Falmouth Maine farm where we grow mums, cabbages & more? Folks we are real Maine people growing Maine products—we are strong Buy Local supporters. Check for a great tour of the range where our fall mums and cabbages are grown. Terry Skillin is your host and he does a great job!

Bulb Gardening Thoughts

Spring bulb planting begins in October as the night and day temperatures begin to fall and the air becomes clear and dry. Purchasing bulbs is another story and that should begin in late August and September when variety and quantities are at their peak. Bulbs should be firm and show no signs of rot or damage. Some retailers sell inexpensive bulbs but be cautious of these, although they will survive they may be too young to produce flowers for several years if at all. Here are some of the products needed:

Bulbs of your choice Spring bulbs need to be planted in full sun (min. 6 hours) in little well drained soil. Each variety of bulbs has a mature height and bloom time so stag your planting low in front tall in back as well as stagger the variety for bloom time to lengthen the season.

Espoma Bulb Tone
Bulbs like many of our garden favorites are not always growing naturally in our yards so the nutrients that they require mat not be available in the levels that they need to perform at their best. Bulb Tone is an all natural plant food (3-5-3) a complete blend aiding in the full development of our bulbs. Always follow the recommend amounts that are suggested on the packaging unless a soil test tells us differently.

Coast of Maine Cobscook Blend or Fundy Mix Bulbs like most of our perennials require a moderate amount of organic matter in the soil for them to flourish. The Coast of Maine products are the most consistent and general show the best results.

Bulb Planters Nothing beats a good shovel when creating a mass planting of bulbs. However for spotting bulbs throughout the garden in and around existing plants a bulb planter or auger that fits onto a cordless drill is a very effective tool. Bulbs should be planted at least 3 X their diameter. This is from the top of the bulb to the surface of the garden bed. This means the top of a 2” bulb should be 6” deep in the soil making the hole approximately 8” deep.

Ro­-Pel Many of our native animals of all sizes enjoy our bulbs as much as we do but for an entirely different reason. They taste good. We have found that Ro-Pel has been one of the most effective repellant to protect our bulb investment. Before planting bulbs soak them in Ro-pel for one minute allow to dry before planting. For deer and other spring feeders spray all surfaces including both sides of the foliage.

Mark Your Calendar!

Here are our more of our classes and events. Our classes will be held Saturdays at all three locations (unless otherwise stated) at 10 AM. Space is limited so reserve today for the classes of your choice! Class participants receive a special Skillin’s discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class.


You can reserve a space in our classes by calling any of the above numbers OR by contacting us at (just specify the date, store and time).

OCTOBER 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.
We hope to see you soon here at Skillin’s!

OCTOBER 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.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 30, 2009

Falmouth Fall Leaf Collection

Hello again,

We have received a copy of the Falmouth Leaf Collection schedule. Here it is:

The Town of Falmouth is having its annual Fall Leaf Collection Program. Collection dates for the bags are as follows:

Thursday, October 29th
Thursday, November 5th
Thursday, November 12th
Thursday, November 19th

!!Be sure to place bags out at curb by 7:00 a.m.!!

Leaf bags will be available at Town Hall, 271 Falmouth Rd
and Parks & Public Works Building, 101 Woods Rd.

Leaf bags are available in quantities of 15 per resident (while supplies last).
Leaf bags are for leaves only. Please do not put brush in the leaf bags.

*Reminder: The Town of Falmouth no longer does a Spring or Fall brush pickup. However, brush is accepted at the Transfer Station.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Late Blight Update--what to do now

Hello again,

The following is an excellent guide to the background of the very damaging late blight that affected our gardens this summer. It is authored by Jim Dill, the Pest Management Specialist for the UMaine Cooperative Extension. I will publish it in its entirety; the article is well written and pretty clear BUT please contact us at or any of our Skillins locations (contact info found at if you have ANY questions. We love to help!

Gardening after Late Blight
James F. Dill PhD, Pest Management Specialist

The gardening season has come to and end and you are already thinking ahead to next year. The garden was a big success except for LATE BLIGHT that wiped out the tomatoes and potatoes. A few tomatoes managed to ripen and the potatoes, if there are any, are still in the ground. Of course, the potato plants have been dead for 2-3 weeks now and the tomato plants certainly need to be given last rites. So, now what!

Let's first look at late blight and what happened in 2009. Late blight
(which helped to create the Irish Potato Famine and the "hungry forties"
in England and throughout Europe in the 1840's) is caused by Phytophthora infestans, a fungus that overwinters on living tomato or potato tissue. The disease first appears as irregular, pale to dark green, water-soaked spots. These spots usually appear on the tips or edges of the leaves. In cool, moist weather or under humid conditions, the spots enlarge rapidly and form brown to purplish-black necrotic areas with wavy, indefinite borders, surrounded by a yellowish-green halo. Also under these conditions, a ring or a surface of white fungal growth may appear at the edge of the lesion on the underside of the leaf, which produces spores that move to other plants and continue the infection.

In 2009, we had perfect late blight weather for the months of June and July. Unfortunately, there was also plenty of spore inoculum around from store purchased tomato plants to cause very early late blight infections in home and commercial gardens.

These spores continued to spread and caused severe outbreaks of late blight in both tomatoes and potatoes in southern and central Maine.Luckily, the weather in August was hot and dry and eventually slowed the outbreak down and brought it to a standstill.

However, that doesn't mean that the disease is gone. It is just lying dormant in those remaining leaf, stem, fruit, and tuber lesions waiting for the cool, wet weather so it can become active again and start sending out new spores for new infections.

So now the big questions come up. What do I do with my dying plants and disgusting fruit and, oh yeah, what about those potato tubers that I still haven't dug yet? What about next year do I have to worry about late blight in my garden again, especially since I had it this year?
Are there any resistant varieties?

Any healthy tomatoes you can salvage can be eaten. However, the USDA doesn't recommend canning tomatoes from late blight infected plants.
There is a concern that the fungus may change the acidity of the tomatoes and therefore affect canning quality. Late Blight is an obligate parasite and thus needs living tissue to survive. Once the infected plant material is dead the fungus will die and will not carry over to the next year.

The removal of living tissue is the key to preventing carry over. The remaining infected and dead plants (both potato and tomato) and infected fruit should be destroyed by burying or sealing in garbage bags and taken to a landfill. Do NOT compost diseased plants or fruit.

Composting is not recommended because many compost piles are not tended properly and are therefore not "cooked" to the proper temperature to kill the pathogens. Next year, if there are any surviving pathogens in the compost or on partially decomposed plants, they may be spread to living plants if the compost is used in the garden.

ALL potato tubers should be dug and carefully washed and graded. If you leave any tubers behind in the ground and if they have a late blight lesion on them, it is possible they could survive the winter in the ground and give rise to a new infection next year. After you have examined your potatoes, discard any damaged ones as was done with the diseased plants.
If you are storing your potatoes for the winter be sure to examine them every couple of weeks. It could be possible that a small lesion or two may have been missed during washing and grading and could give rise to an infection in storage destroying much of your winter supply, just like in the 1840's!

You are now ready for next year's garden. Don't plant any of the saved tubers from your late blight potatoes from this year. You certainly don't want to infect your plants before you get started. Buy and plant certified seed to reduce your risk of planting infected tubers. You can plant your tomatoes and potatoes in the same spot you did last year and you shouldn't have any late blight problems as long as you cleaned up plant debris well. However, it is certainly good practice to rotate the crops in your garden as much as possible. Don't plant the potatoes in the same spot in your garden year after year. Also, do not rotate with related crops. For example, tomatoes should not be planted where your potatoes were last year.

Planting late blight resistant varieties is also an option. The thing to remember about resistance is that it does not mean immunity.Resistance means that the plant can resist to a point, in this case, the late blight fungus. However, if there is a great spore load from many infected plants, then even resistant plants can get the disease although not as badly as the susceptible ones. The other point to remember is that the fungus can mutate and the mutation may be able to overcome the resistance.

There are some resistant potato varieties available to the backyard gardener such as Kennebec, Sebago, Allegany and Chieftain (a red-skinned variety). There are also some resistant tomato varieties, including Ferline, Fantasio, and Legend that are available.

Good gardening!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Composting Class at Skillin's!

Hello again,

Saturday September 26 at 10 AM brings a Composting Class to Skillin's at all 3 locations! (check for our location info). In honor of that class we want to write just a little bit about composting for you to consider.

If you can come to the class let us know at! Or let us know anytime if you have any questions about composting!

Composting is as old as time and by composting we can replicate nature's process of returning plant matter back into the necessary component of healthy soils. Adding compost to soil gives soil the organic matter that creates the environment for the growth and activity of millions of microbes that make plant nutrients available to be used by plants.

Products needed

Compost Bins Bins come in a variety of style and types. The pyramid style is an upright bin with a removal cover for adding rare materials on the top and a door on the side to remove the finished compost. This style allows you to continue adding and at the same time removing the finished product. Tumblers are the other typical style great for smaller yards and gardens and are ideal for batch composting, putting in the rare materials allowing it to completely compost then removing it all before starting the next batch.

Bio Excelerator Excelerator contains billions of microbes especially cultured for composting. These are partially important when composting end of season brown, drier vegetation and plant debris that can be more difficult to fully decompose.

Compost Thermometer Maintaining a composting temperature of 110 degrees is critical to complete composting. As the temperature start dropping it is important to turn your compost adding fresh material to the center of the pile to compost. Repeat this process until all material has been composted.

Compost Aerators Compost must be turned in order to create a fully composted material and like any job the right tool makes a good task that much easier. Compost Aerators are design for easy piercing of the compost and when pulled back up wings fold out pulling compost with it creating a turning of the material. If your compost pile is big enough a gardening fork can also be a great aid.

Terry Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 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 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. There is plenty of gardening time left so take a moment to protect any at risk material through tonight and then let’s enjoy what we hope will plenty of more great days!

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Time to Water!

Hello again,

Folks it is time to water in Skillin's Country.

We have seen much sun and and great late fall breezes that have left the ground surface pretty dry. As Tim our nursery manager puts it: "We have not forgotten all the rain of this past summer but our plants have!"

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 and up to one hour per tree. Let that water soak into the ground so the healthy white roots of your plant have moist ground to grow down into.

Smaller annuals both in ground and in containers and vegetables that are still producing 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
September 18, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hard to Find Spring Flowering Bulbs? We've Got 'Em!

Hello again,

The following article appeared lately at and while brief it does highlight some nice choices that we don't often talk about but never fear such bulbs are available here at Skillin's! (We have the BEST selection of bulbs in Maine for sure!).

Here is the article:

"Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) for White Winter Flowers

Hardy in zones 3-9. Graceful, drooping blooms are produced that can be lost in a bank of late season snow, but look pristine white in a muddy, early spring. They grow 4-6 inches tall and need rich, well drained soil. Snowdrops take part to full shade and can be used to underplant larger shrubs and ornamental trees. Snowdrops also prefer cooler weather so gardeners will find that by late spring the foliage has yellow, dried and disappeared completely as the bulb goes dormant until the following year. When snowdrops are allowed this process without cutting back the leaves, they will often naturalize by bulblets and seeds.

Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata) in Early Spring

Hardy in zones 5-8. This small blue, purple, or violet irises only reach 3-6 inches tall, but provide jewel like color in the later winter or early spring garden. They tend to look best planted in large sweeps of color or mass plantings. If gardeners want early blooming yellow irises they should look for I. dandfordiae. According to Missouri Botanical Gardens, if gardeners plant the iris bulbs a little deeper, at least 3 inches, they won't try to spread out via bulblets and the flowering display will be better. Small bulblets will produce lots of foliage but won't produce as many flowers until the mature.

Star-Shaped Blooms With Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa spp.)

Hardy in zones 3-8. A very hardy bulbs tolerates cold winters well and will provide delicate, star-shaped blooms in the late winter or early spring. The species flowers are purple with white an yellow centers. New varieties are available in pink or white. Another diminutive flower, as many early blooming bulbs are, the Glory-of-the-snow reaches 3-6 inches tall and prefers full sun to part shade. When suitable conditions are provided it will naturalize readily, increasing the show each year. Since glory of the snow flowers are not affected by jugone they can be planted under walnut trees and, indeed, they do well under most deciduous trees since their bloom season is over before most broad-leaf deciduous trees will leaf out.

Winter Aconite (Erantis spp.) for Early, Bright-Colored Blooms

Hardy in zones 4-9. One of the most eye-catching choices for early spring or late winter flowering bulbs, the winter aconite has dark green leaves circling bright yellow flowers like a leafy collar. Bright colored and cheerful looking flowers are a forerunner to the daffodil's golden blooms in the landscape. Winter aconite grows 3-5 inches and prefers rich, well-draining soil. They grow well in full sun to part shade and do well under deciduous trees. Bulbs sometimes bloom better if they are soaked before planting and gardeners should avoid periods of heavy drought even after the bulbs go dormant during summer and fall.

Gardeners can plant these early-blooming bulbs in the fall to enjoy late winter or early spring flowers.Read more:"

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Till Gardening

Hello again,

I found this article via BloominKrazy who we follow at The article was found at and is called No-Till Gardening.

The article is not a long one and does not lay out how to do No-Till Gardening. Well, No-Till Gardening simply means to me that you lay organic matter like compost on top of your soil in late fall or early spring and DO NOT till it in and DO NOT even turn it in into the soil because this activity will break up the microenvironment in the soil. This is not a new idea but the idea has gained quite a bit of steam lately. I am formerly from the rototill and "turn the soil in" crowd but I have to admit this concept makes a great deal of sense to me. So I support No-Till Gardening although I am sure better gardeners than me may well have a different take.

Here is the article:

"Question: What is the reasoning for no-till gardening?

Answer: There are multiple factors that have brought this method of farming and gardening to popularity. No-till gardening started with agriculture visionary Fukuoka Masanobu in 1938 with his natural farming experiments. The concept is basically to feed the soil in an accelerated manner by retaining organic matter and adding more to the surface of the soil.

The rationalization and reasoning for these techniques has increased to help prevent excessive soil, water, wind, fertility and carbon erosion, of which soil tillage is a major contributor. Plow-based farms can lose almost 20 times more soil seasonally than no-till farms. These no-till techniques are easily transferred to the yard and garden, helping retain moisture and fertility.

The process of tilling spreads bindweed, some thistles and some grasses. It also can destroy soil structure that soil organisms work to build. Other detrimental effects of repeated tilling is a formation of hardpan, which drastically reduces water penetration, increases nutrient run-off and might stress plant roots.

By practicing this method, you might notice a marked increase in worm populations working high in the soil surface.

If no-till gardening interests you, fall is a great time to dedicate part of your garden to this technique.

John Anderson is a Larimer County master gardener."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where Has All the Summer Gone? 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 will always be on record 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.

To New Englanders, perhaps most of the contiguous United States, the season of summer is not celebrated by the calendar but by the 2 holidays that serve as book-ends to the 3 months we call ‘summer’.

Memorial Day, many say is the summer kick-off and Labor Day escorts the season out. The summer of 2009 seemed non-existent to gardeners, vacationers and others who count on the sunshine of summer for recreation or economic stimulus.

With one of the wettest summers on record, southern Maine did achieve one record, the coldest. Southern Maine stretched to achieve this July’s average temperature of 74 degrees while the norm is 78.8.

August saw the Portland area reaching another record, the record high on 8/17 of 90 degrees. Early morning risers on the 28th of this same month were greeted with a colder than normal 49 degrees. September was ushered in with early frost alerts. It’s not even Labor Day and we’re covering our very stressed tomatoes? Looking back, summer in Maine seemed shorter than ever.

Guess again.

Summer of 2009 will go on record as one of the longest. You see, since we observe Memorial Day the last Monday in May, this year’s date of May 25th offered us the earliest possible date to ring in the unofficial summer season. Labor Day, being the first Monday in September, gave us the latest possible Labor Day. 107 days of summer! A gift of 9 days longer than 2008 and what we can look forward to in 2010.

Now don’t you feel better. An extra week of summer is like an extra week of vacation.

Having said all this, I’m still counting the days. According to the calendar, the Autumnal Equinox transpires at 5:18 PM EDT on the 22nd of September. That gives me 14 more days. With the extra week and 2 to go, I have 3 more weeks of summer than ever?!?!

With this type of logic and calculations it is a good thing I’m a landscaper and not an accountant.

Where has all the summer gone? Gone to flowers, every one………

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
September 9, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Garden Talks September 6--Peonies, Pumpkins, Frost, Brussel Sprouts, Winter Squash, Fall Flowering Crocus

Hello again,

While putting together the latest Garden Talks Online for Skillin's email subscribers I came upon some past garden writings from some old Garden Talks Onlines that are very topical right now. Basically I ran out of space for the upcoming Garden Talks Online (sign up for Skillin's email list at if you would like to hear from us that way but by following this blog you get all of that and more) I decided to post some of these past notes, updated of course for 2009 if need be!

Peonies can easily survive for over 50 years in the garden. Peonies are one of the showiest of garden flowers; their blossoms can reach 6 to 8 inches across in early summer and there are many neat colors available. Peonies can be left in the same spot indefinitely, but if you want to move your peonies or divide your old tubers to make new plants, the best time to do that job is in the early fall. It is important to dig the whole root system carefully. Leave any foliage so as to continue to build strength for the roots. Try to identify small pinkish buds that are the beginning of next year’s growth. (You may have to wash the garden soil off the peony roots). Any new division should have 3 to 4 buds on it; simply use a sharp knife and slice through the root system.

Place the divisions where the new plant will receive plenty of sun. Make certain you have placed plenty of good organic matter in the new hole as well! The real key to making peonies blossom is in the planting depth. If the tops of the plant’s buds are more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil, the plant will seldom bloom, though it will produce plenty of foliage! Don’t forget to water your new transplants well and make sure the ground stays moist right up until the ground freezes.

Pumpkins are ready for harvest when they are completely orange. They can be left on the vines beyond that time as long as the weather does not get too cold; pumpkins rot if they are subjected to a freeze, so if cold weather occurs (low temps around 40 degrees or lower), cover the pumpkins with a sheet or a tarp.

Use shears to harvest pumpkins because if the stem pulls away from the fruit, rot can set up quickly. Also avoid scratching the pumpkin’s skin. Pumpkins keep well if they are stored in a dry spot in temperatures in the low 50 degree area. A garage works great!

Terry Skillin wants me to tell you quickly about potential frost damage. Nighttime temperatures in some outling areas have been dropping to lows of right around 40 degrees. If temperatures drop much lower than that, 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. However, we still have many warm sunny days ahead of us, so we urge you to try and protect that plant material because we still have several weeks ahead where your flowers can be quite “showy” or your vegetables can still produce for you!

If you suspect frost damage is likely to occur on a particular night, try to cover the “at risk” material with a bed sheet. 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!

The best time to pick Brussels sprouts is right after a good stiff frost. This is when the sprouts are at their sweetest, so be ready to start picking your Brussels sprouts somewhere close to the middle or end of September. Leave most of the sprouts on the plant through the frosty fall weather, you can harvest Brussels sprouts until the ground itself freezes! I planted Brussel sprouts for the first time this year. I have to tell you, I underestimated the size of the plants and they are planted much too close. Apparently with all the odd weather sprouts are behind anyway but with the lack of light down into my plants my sprounts are tiny. So early this past week I decided to follow Paul Parent's advice on the topic (given a week ago) and snap most of the branches off my brussel sprouts plants. This has allowed much more sun and air "down into" the plants and it seems as if the sprouts are starting to grow well. Paul also recommended that we sprout growers pinch the tops of the plants to tell the roots stop growing plant and start producing side shoots (in this case sprouts). Paul also raved about his fresh Brussel sprouts he prepares with lots of butter each Thanksgiving. I am going to see Mr. Parent later this week so I am going to ask him for some cooking tips. Paul can be heard every Sunday morning on WBACH at 104.7 or online at His website is pretty darned informative as well if you have time to take a look.

Rosemary is a wonderful herb to use for cooking purposes and can be grown indoors in the winter. We have rosemary plants available here at Skillin’s! Or if you have a fine rosemary specimen in your garden you may want to take cuttings and start a nice fresh plant for the winter! To take cuttings, merely take a slanted slice of outer stem growth from the plant. Dip the cut into water and then into some rooting hormone (sold right here at Skillin’s). Then place the cutting into some good quality potting mix (also sold right here at Skillin’s). Keep the soil moist by misting the soil frequently (try not to mist the plant too heavily). Once the stems start to form little branches, pinch back the tips to encourage branching. At this point the rosemary plant can be watered from a watering can and not from the mister. Keep your plant in a sunny windowsill and enjoy the fresh herbs!

Winter squashes such as butternut, buttercup and acorn squashes are intended for long periods of storage but if they are picked in the wrong way, they will only last a few days. The quick and lazy way to harvest squash is to just pull the fruit from the vine, breaking the stem off where it joins the fruit. But this will leave the squash open to disease and rot. Instead cut the stems with shears about 1” from the fruit and also take care not to scratch the squash as you harvest it. Then put them into a dry room where the temperature will stay at about 55 degrees and you can be confident that the squash will last through most of the winter.

We have loads of spring flowering bulbs available right now--tulips, daffodils, alliums and crocus. We also have many unique bulbs available and one of those is the fall flowering crocus. Yes, it is true! You can plant crocus that will flower in the fall! Usually we think of crocus as being those darling little bulb plants that pop out and flower in the early Spring. Well at Skillin’s we now have available flowering crocus in whites, purples and reds that are best planted in August and September. They in turn usually flower in early fall (late September or early October)!

Plant the little bulbs in the same manner as you would the regular Spring flowering crocus. Plant about 4” deep and 2 to 3” apart. Be sure to add Bulb Booster for best results. Water the little gems well after planting. For the first year, it would not hurt to add extra mulch that can be cleared away in the early Spring. Similar to their Spring flowering counterparts, they prefer a sunny or half shade location. For best effect, plant the little bulbs in “naturalized” groups of 10 bulbs or more!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 6, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garden Talks September 4--Mum's The Word; The Time is Now--Great Gardening Tips!

Hello again,

As we have turned the calendar and are now into September and Labor Day will soon be behind us, it is time to dress up the yard just a little bit with. We have many great options here at Skillin's but one of our finest choices are our Garden Mums home grown by us right here at Skillin's!

Maybe it is because I appreciate each passing year just a little bit more but I think this year's Mum colors are more brilliant than ever!

Technically our mums are perennials but they seem to be pretty tender for this area so that is why we cannot honestly (and we are honest!) guarantee their survival for the next year.

BUT, there is a definite school of thought among wise gardenersthat mums planted early in the season (August and the first week or 10 days of September) have a great chance at success.

Paul Parent of gardening radio fame (check out his web site at steadfastly maintains that if you "score" the roots of your mum plants EARLY in the season before you plant them then the roots will explode in more root growth and thus be well anchored in the soil and will much better survive and thrive for the following years. Paul tells his listeners to pick out a budded Mum at a quality garden center (think Skillin's--Paul loves Skillin's!). Then Paul tells his listeners to "score" or cut two sides of the Mum root ball and then slice an X in the bottom of the root ball. Make sure you slice those roots and then plant the Mum into some good organic matter (I would recommend some nice compost and then a handful of Plant Booster Plus by Organica). Give your newly sliced and planted Mum at least 2 quality waterings per week until the ground freezes. When that ground gets crunchy, MULCH well around the base of the plant to help keep that root ball cold and in place for the winter.

Will this work? As I wrote many gardeners wiser than I believe in this method!

The Time is Now for some great fall gardening habits! Check out this link ( for some great garden tips put together by Terry Skillin and some great helpers. We recommend products and good gardening habits that will make your garden jump for joy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September Garden Chores

Hello again,

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 5B situation in very northeastern NY state and western MA so the gardening info given is quite appropriate to our conditions in Skillin's Country which probably averages zone 5A. 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 (in italics) as to how we hardy gardeners in Skillin's Country can follow this gardening advice to our benefit.

"THE FALL IS COMING, the fall is coming. Nothing to worry about, Chicken Little, if the garden’s been planned for enjoyment in all seasons…well, unless you slack off now and let those foxy weeds go to seed and gobble up the whole place. No, no definitive “end” to the season lies ahead, and some of us even feel happy about the coming of slightly quieter, more contemplative times where less obvious garden stars can shine. Peak planting and dividing time is coming up now; make that work include some focus on the addition of fall and winter plants to the landscape. " Very appropriate to slide in advice to keep weeding. Weeds left unattended for the summer in many cases have or will be forming seed pods. When those pods let go, we don't hear the hundreds and thousands of tiny little seeds that crash to the ground BUT we sure the effects of those seeds by mid Spring next year. Weeds galore. So pull, scrape, turn over--however you do it; get those weeds under control!

"AS YOU BEGIN to wind down and clean up, take notes of what worked and didn’t. Mark areas that would have been easier to maintain with a workhorse groundcover in place, for instance, or areas where more bulbs might fit. I have already made a walkabout and identified a few shrubs whose days are numbered; just not enough bang for the buck (well, for the space they take up). " Garden journaling is something I do not do well enough; me and you probably; but any sort of recording can be immeasurable help! Try quick digital pictures with some quick notes in Microsoft Word or a notebook of some type.


"BE SURE TO WATER trees and shrubs now through hard frost, so that they enter dormancy in a well-hydrated state. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winterburn if not well watered before the cold and winds set in." This certainly applies to all 2009 planted material; I could not agree more. Trees and shrubs that are prospering and have been planted for awhile may not need any such waterings unless we do start to go many days without water. I have several plants that have been in the ground for awhile but I know that they do begin to look poorly after a couple of weeks without water. I am thinking about some Pee Gee Hydrangeas that I have as well as some rhodys and azaleas and some perennials. These plants have dense compact root systems and it only takes a couple of weeks without water before they can start looking droopy. Large deciduous and evergreens really spread their roots out so I have never really watered those once established. Finally speaking of desiccation (browning of leaves through moisture loss) and winterburn we STRONGLY recommend the application of all natural Wilt Pruf to all broad leafed evergreens in mid to late November before winter truly sets in. We will write a lot more about Wilt Pruf when we get to that time period.

"DON’T PANIC IF EVERGREENS start to show some browning or yellowing of needles this month and next. The oldest, innermost needles typically shed after a few years on the tree.

HOPEFULLY YOU STOPPED FEEDING woody plants in July or August. Promoting more soft growth after July-ish isn’t good; time for them to start moving toward the hardening-off phase of their cycle. No more eats till earliest spring." I agree with this advice IF the fertilizer is a liquied fertilizer like Miracle Gro. I do not agree with this advice if the fertilizer for your woody plants is an organic granular food like Holly Tone by Espoma for your evergreens or Plant Booster Plus by Organica or Plant or Tree Tone by Espoma for your deciduous material. We usually recommend twice yearly feedings of these organic granular products--Spring, Summer; Spring, Fall; Summer, Fall. These products are devoted to improving the structure of your soil. They work slowly daily to make the soil a better place for deeper roots; Deeper healthier roots mean more hardy, healthy, happy, heavenly plants! To keep the benefits of these products working more consistently in the challenging environment that Maine (aka Skillin's Country) represents the twice per year application year in and year out seems to make the most sense.

"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. No hard pruning now, though; too late to risk encouraging regrowth. " I agree because such "regrowth" will be soft growth that the coming cold will damage.


"AS VEGETABLE PLANTS (and annual flowers) fade, pull them to get a start on garden cleanup. Before composting the remains, cut them up a bit with a pruning shears or shred, to speed decomposition. That said, my earliest crop of lettuce each spring comes from a ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ plant I just let flower and self-sow in a corner of the garden year after year. Untidy to some eyes, but it always makes me smile. " Speaking of lettuce we still have lettuce and other cold loving vegetable crops available that will be just great to harvest this fall. So don't clean out all areas of the garden just yet.

"PARSLEY AND CHIVES can be potted up and brought indoors for offseason use, or freeze some (or give the plants some extra protection and keep harvesting from the garden). A few garlic cloves in a pot will yield a supply of chive-like (but spicier) garlic greens all winter for garnish. Sow seeds of bush basil in a pot, too, and grow on a very sunny windowsill if you are a really determined type." Great herb advice. We also keep on hand a good supply of herbs all winter long for you. We also have 2010 certified seeds in stock from Botanical Interests that could lead to all kinds of fun edible plant growing in a sunny indoor spot--think herbs, greens, etc.

"IF NEXT YEAR’S GARDEN plans include a patch of strawberries or asparagus, do the tilling and soil preparation now so the bare-root plants ordered over the winter can be planted extra early come spring." We also have strawberries and asparagus early in the season if you want to save mail order costs. A great compost to use for soil preparation is Quoddy Blend by Coast of Maine Organics if you need some compost.

"AS AREAS COME EMPTY from harvest, build vegetable-garden soil by sowing cover crops: medium red clover if you get right to it, 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." Age old good advice here. Great gardening friend David Kuchta (check out his gardening blog at uses left over legume seeds (think peas and beans). Plant your seeds in the fall and they will germinate. Then turn these plants over once nice and green!

"IF YOU HARVESTED YOUR own garlic, save the best heads with the biggest cloves for replanting later this month or next (about a month before frost is in the ground). Otherwise, order bulbs now. Prepare a sunny spot, and plant each clove 1-2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in the row, with about 12 inches between rows. Green growth will happen this fall, which is great; don’t panic. It’s a hardy thing." We do have garlic cloves available for sale now at Skillin's but they do sell fast. I love garlic but I am going to confess something now. I have never planted it. There! I wrote it now I need to pick some up and plant some!


"DON’T DEADHEAD FADED perennials, biennials and annuals if you want to collect seed (non-hybrids only) or plan to let some self-sow. Nicotiana, annual poppies, larkspur, clary sage and many others fall into this leave-alone group. So do plants with showy or bird-friendly seedheads, like coneflowers, some sedums, clematis and grasses." I love the coneflower; the seedheads are brilliant in the garden AND the birds love them.

"DAYLILIES can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed." We still have a great selection of daylillies and they are ON SALE along with all our perennials and shrubs and trees! The Time is NOW!!!! Big Sale 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. " Great advice. And next year is bound to be a better year to enjoy peonies. So many nice peony blooms got battered by all that June rain.

"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." I agree with the latter piece of advice. Probably more accomplished gardeners than I can get better results from the cutting effort; my efforts have been mixed. However just growing something can be pretty fun in the winter if you have sun, space and time. Not many of us have all 3.

"IF TUBEROUS BEGONIAS are starting to go slack, let them dry off and rest early, or they will rot. This ultra-wet season was too much for mine, which have been under cover in the garage drying for weeks now. " Good 2009 advice here; this has been a strange season.

"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." Skillin's Garden Log star KCB is a real advocate of this method! This does work well to vanquish grassy weeds that are in the way of a new planting bed!

"RE-EDGE BEDS to make a clean line and define them. Don’t let them get overrun just because summer’s wound down. A clean edge makes a big difference." I have spent some recent time doing this. Grass from the lawn is invasive and can blur the lines between lawn and flower bed quickly.


"REST AMARYLLIS BULBS by putting them in a dry, dark place where they will have no water at all for a couple of months. I put mine in a little-used closet." Good advice and check out this link for a very concise rundown on how to get amaryllis to rebloom: How Can I Get My Amaryllis to Rebloom?

"IF HOUSEPLANTS NEED repotting, do it before they come inside later this month (less messy than in the house!). Don’t step up more than an inch (on small pots) or a couple (on large ones). Most plants don’t like to swim in their containers." Also check your plants carefully for any pests. IF you suspect the presence of little creatures then come see us for some very effective and safe to use Systemic Houseplant Granules by Bonide.


"MID-AUGUST TO MID-SEPTEMBER is prime lawn-renovation and planting time in the North. Have you reseeded yet?" Last year at this time I did a lot of re seeding and over seeding using Black Beauty Grass Seed by Jonathan Green. ( I HIGHLY recommend it as I am very pleased with the results. I team the seed up with a product called Grass Seed Accelerator (compressed paper pellets) AND daily waterings and before long I have a rich deeply rooted grass. This fall will bring a little more reseeding in some areas as the cold of Skillin's Country will always mean some re seeding but the Black Beauty holds up best through the cold and wet that we have here.

"DON’T BAG OR RAKE clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil, right through the last mowing in late autumn." Absolutely true and furthermore the use of all natural lawn products like the All Natural Four Step Lawn Program by Organica ( will make best and fastest use of those leaves.


"ORDER A SUPPLY of bulk mulch, which is cheaper than the packaged kind and also eliminates the waste of all those heavyweight plastic bags. Many local nurseries deliver. Top up mulch in all garden beds as they get cleaned up gradually in fall." I actually prefer using composts for most of my garden beds and we do sell bulk compost that can be easily delivered.

"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 extract more finished material and screen it each fall, to work into the gardens (and make more room for incoming fresh debris). " I have a compost heap and turning it IS important. We also sell natural enzymes called Compost Booster that hastens healthy decompostion. AND use your compost as your beds open up this fall; great for your soil and also great to keep that compost heap cycling with newer material.

Drop us a comment below with any questions or email us at! We look forward to seeing you soon at Skillin's!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 1, 2009