Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September Garden Chores

Hello again,

I found these helpful garden tips at http://awaytogarden.com/my-september-garden-chores when I was noodling around BloominKrazy one of the sites we follow at www.twitter.com/skillins. 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 http://gardenmaine.blogspot.com/) 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. (http://www.jonathangreen.com/blackbeauty.php) 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 (http://organicatechnologies.com/consumer4stepnaturallawn.asp) 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 info@skillins.com! We look forward to seeing you soon at Skillin's!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 1, 2009

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