Thursday, April 29, 2010

April Garden Talks

Hello again,

The purpose of this post is to relay a few "quick hit" garden tips to you through the month of April. Some of these tips will be garden tasks I am doing myself (although I wish there were more of those. I am here at Skillin's so much, my own yard and garden falls quite behind this time of year!), some of these tips will be quick pieces of advice we are giving to customers, some will be quick links to good gardening advice we encounter on the internet.

Check back to this post often as we will update it often until we roll into May 2010!

*Thursday, April 29--Want a reliable perennial that makes an early appearance in the garden and comes with some great colors? Pick up some columbine--an old time favorite that Skillin's has available in many different colors! I highly recommend it as one of Mike's Must Haves.

*Thursday, April 29--Happy Birthday Mom! My mom Brenda's birthday is today. She has done so much for all of us. The support she (Dave Skillin's wife) and Sally Skillin (John Skillin's wife) gave to their husbands was critical to the success of Skillin's back in earlier days.

Weeds are growing out there folks and now is the time to get the cultivators out to keep those weeds scraped away. And if your beds are clean and you have put that Plant Tone or Plant Booster Plus around your perennials this is a great time to put Fundy Mix down between your plants. Love that Fundy Mix--an all natural compost and light mix of bark that will give sustenance to your soil AND help keep the weeds suppressed AND moisture in your soil. Fundy Mix for your perennial garden--even around shrubs and annuals!

*Tuesday, April 27--I spotted this article about radishes at "Muddy Fingernail"; one of my favorite garden Twitter sites.  Everybody knows radishes but not many of us grow radishes. They are easy and fast to grow in the vegetable garden. Like so many vegetables their taste FRESH out of the garden is so much fresher and much more vibrant than the veggie you buy at the store. "Radishes are colorful and easy to grow in most areas. They are a root crop and can be pink, black, red or white in color. They grow quickly and can be harvested in about twenty days. Their spicy, hot flavor add zing to salads or dips. Their leafy tops can also be added to salads. A good organic fertilizer (I recommend Garden Tone by Espoma) will help your plants grow better. The addition of a good organic fertilizer also improves the flavor and increases the "hotness" of your on here for more great tips about growing and using radishes!

*Monday, April 26--Joe K first posted this link at Skillin's Twitter and I think it is worth a mention here. The Maine Sunday Telegram in yesterday's paper printed a neat article about using plants as hedges. Click here for the article. I really found their opinion of a rugosa rose hedge to be right on. Such a hedge gives you a real diversity of looks and textures through the season. The look may not be for everyone for sure but worth a lot; if not that some other shrub roses perhaps or some evergreens. I am not a fence guy so using plants as hedges has alway interested me. I have a neighbor who we get along with great. A few years back she had some forsythia planted near our mutual property line and we have both really enjoyed the forsythia. Very yellow right around now and a nice green throughout the growing season. This is a backyard border and when the weather is cold and the leaves are gone, none of us are out much so the lack of leaves then is not a concern.

*Sunday, April 25--It is still too early to plant many annuals and tomatoes in the ground. But for sunny protected areas I would think seriously of planting up patio pots and setting out hanging plants. Also, a great time to plant broccoli, lettuces (we now have all of that including mesclun mix and arugula for the first time!) Back to the flowers: if we get frost, just bring the plants in OR cover them with a sheet!

*Sunday, April 25--Wow! I can't believe it has been 5 days already! Getting lots of questions from customers today who are seeing big white Japanese Beetle grubs as they dig in their gardens. NOW is a great time to put down Milky Spore Bacteria as a very effective long term Japanese Beetle control.

*Tuesday, April 20--I spent some early morning time spreading generous amounts of Plant Booster Plus fertilizer by Organica around a good amount of my perennials and rose bushes. I know I sound like a broken record but I recommend two feedings per year around most garden plants--Spring and fall, summer and fall; something like that! Two feedings spread of natural foods really keep a good steady dose of nutrients and beneficial microbes coming into the soil. This makes for a better soil structure and better biological activity in your soil. AND this means stronger deeper roots for your plants. Better summer growth, better winter survival. Plant Tone by Espoma also works very well around perennials and deciduous shrubs. Use Plant Tone's first cousin, Holly Tone by Espoma for your evergreens (rhodys, azaleas, junipers--you know evergreens are plants that keep their foliage over the winter).

*Monday, April 19--I spoke to a customer by phone today about garden rototilling. I am not necessarily a huge fan of rototilling the garden. Click here for a Garden Log post about No Till Gardening. In any event, she is going to get her garden rototilled but her garden is quite full of weeds. Does she need to get rid of the weeds prior to or will the rototillling get rid of the weeds? My experience is that the rototilling will NOT get rid of the weeds and that rototilling can spread even more weed seed and roots. SO, get rid of us many weeds as possible before you rototill. DO NOT rototill a wet garden: the sure result will be clumps and clumps of soil. Also click here for a Garden Log post about using newspaper as garden mulch. Laying down newspaper on weeds and grass and then covering the newspaper with compost is a great way to kill weeds, increase worm population ( a very good thing) AND add organic matter to the soil.

*Monday, April 19--I spoke to a customer by phone yesterday who asked if this was a good time to move her blueberry plants. I told her it is a good time--probably for a couple more weeks. Blueberries have a shallow root system and because of that are quite easy to move. Always put some Hollytone by Espoma in the hole first--Hollytone increases the acidity of the soil for blueberries and the Biotone contained in Hollytone will lend some nice microbial activity to the soil around the roots. Blueberries are the best!

*Sunday, April 18-Click here for a great article by Tom Atwell, the "Maine Gardener" in today's Maine Sunday Telegram.  Tom is a great writer and a super gardener. He is a real asset in our gardening community. Check him out each Sunday for some great gardening tips. I especially like his tip about space saving for carrots and radishes.

Tom also writes about spraying for devouring worms like cabbage worm with bacillus thuringiensis (BT) an all natural but very effective antidote against these pests. Jeff Skillin is a big advocate of the effectiveness of BT against these pests. He sprays our crops like cabbages and broccoli with a brand of BT called Thuricide and thus we sell plants with no problems in that area. You may want to spray your plants too. BT is all natural and effective.

*Sunday, April 18--We are having a nice day (not forecast by the weather folks). If you have not done so yet, get out there and give your lawn a good vigourous raking before it gets too tall! There is no better "green" thing to do for your lawn then to give it a good raking at the beginning of each gardening year. It is the best way to pull out old dying grass and give sun and air to the remaining lawn so it can better thicken! Got lawn questions. Click here for our Skillin's Lawn Program!

*Saturday, April 17--Finished applying Lawn Booster by Organica to my lawn. Lawn Booster (sold right here at Skillin's is a corn gluten product--all natural- that can help prevent overwhelming weed seeds like crabgrass, dandelions and others from germinating in the lawn. Corn gluten is a great organic source of nutrients including nitrogn that really help the grass "green up" and stay greener longer. I highly recommend applying Lawn Booster twice per year--now before the forsythia blossoms drop and then again around Labor Day (early to mid September).

*Saturday, April 17--Planted seed potatoes in some new Potato Bags using Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine Organics. I use the Potato Bags because much of my property lies on ledge and potatoes need some good depth. Grab some seed potatoes from Skillin's, slice portions in about 3 to 4 eyes, plant about 6" deep in some good well drained soil. Plant with a healthy dose of Garden Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. Once the plants germinate I will feed often with Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest until they flower. The all natural ingredients really help all vegetable plants! As the plants grow a few inches add more soil around the stems so they can send out more roots! Better plants! More potatoes!

Let us know at if you have any garden questions OR leave a comment at this post.

*Also for great garden happenings check this blog (A Garden in Maine) frequently!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 2010

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