Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May Garden Talks 2010

Hello again,

The purpose of this post is to relay a few "quick hit" garden tips to you through the month of May. 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 through May 2010!

Click here for our April Garden Talks 2010 as we covered some nice gardening ground!

*Tuesday, May 25--While doing some deliveries today, I noticed several lawns cut very very short. Folks it is dry out there and cutting lawns short is a solid way to scorch the lawn. Also lawns cut very short make for a better home for weeds. Grow your grass a little longer, shade out some weeds and keep that scorching sun away from the ground near the roots of your lawn!

*Monday, May 24--Good gardening tip by Sally Ashton at www.twitter.com/muddyfingernail. Do not add meat or dairy products to your compost heap. They do not decompose very readily. For kitchen scraps I definitely stick to coffee grounds, banana peels and other fruit and veggie waste, egg shells and the like.

*Sunday, May 23--what a fantastic weekend and it was great to see so many familiar faces. The prevailing question was certainly: can I plant my garden and my flowers? Our answer is YES--in most cases and most places, it is time for it! My only hesitation is our small cuke and squash plants but otherwise we should be fine. My other warning is for HIGH winds. Don't believe any are forecast but high warm or cold winds could knock back some greenhouse only plants.

*Friday, May 21--Red tomato plastic mulch is a great tool to use around your tomato plants. The mulch will keep the ground warm and weeds down. Later on the reflection from the red mulch does help to ripen tomatoes a little faster!

*Thursday, May 20--KCB was in today and wants to remind everyone that chives are a great plant to have in your garden for three reasons: 1) They look great  (pretty purple flowers starting about now and continuing for a few weeks. 2) They are great with other foods 3)Deer do not like the scent of chives and thus chives serves as a natural deer repellent for the growing season.

*Wednesday, May 5--Spoke to a customer today who plants borage with her tomatoes. Borage is a big leafy herb and she claims it helps to deter the mean green Tomato Hornworm!. I have checked around other garden forums and some do refer to borage as a repellent. Interesting thought. Everyone agrees that borage helps to attract bees for pollinating with its blue flowers. These bees will pollinate tomatoes, cukes, zucchini and other vegetables meaning more production for sure! We do sell all natural Spinosad that is very effective against munching caterpillars and munching worms.

*Tuesday, May 4--It is time to plant some containers of red sails leaf lettuce--and soon we will be picking some. We loved our leaf lettuce last year but I will admit in later plantings we found that we preferred leaf lettuce planted in containers. Much less slugs and much less garden soil to wash out. We have busy schedules and we found this aspect of container grown lettuce to be a good fit for us. I will be using Bar Harbor Blend soil, Plant Booster Plus fertilizer by Organica (Garden Tone by Espoma also a great choice!
*Sunday, May 2--This week is a great time to sow carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce and dill directly into the garden. You can do this even if you already have some of these crops already started in your garden. A second sowing is a great way to extend your harvest--as are 3rd, 4th, 5th sowings as the season progresses. Skillin's Plug: We have a GREAT selection of lettuce and other greens as seedlings. They are the perfect size to plant and you will be able to harvest the leaf lettuces, mesclun mix and arugula seedlings that we have within the next few days! When I plant seeds or seedlings I always put a little bit of all natural Garden Tone by Espoma into the soil to help the roots grow a little faster and stronger!

Now is also the time to plant broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower. Got those seedlings too! My broccoli is going into the ground tonight after work!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 25, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tomato Growing Basics

Hello again!

This article is taken from www.life123.com/home-garden/vegetable-gardening-2/tomatoes/tomato-growing-basics.shtml. I found the article back in January but I have kept it at my fingertips to post now because it covers some really neat basics for any tomato gardener.

We have some tomato plants now and will have our full array of plants very shortly. We also recommend planting the tomatos with a nice organic garden food such as Tomato Tone or Garden Tone by Espoma. These foods work at improving the soil structure which will greatly improve the roots of your plants. Better roots means MORE tomatos!

Here is the article:

"Always remember that tomatoes are a subtropical plant, although careful breeding has produced some varieties that tolerate shorter days and cooler temperatures. Early tomatoes need everything you can do to keep them warm: row-cover tunnels, black or red plastic mulch, and/or Wall-o'-Water enclosures. The seeds like warm soil, too.

There are two types of tomato: determinate, and indeterminate. Determinate plants will grow to a certain height (usually two or three feet), and stop; they produce almost all their fruit at once. Indeterminate types grow very tall, often as high as six or eight feet, and sometimes more if they have support; they produce fruit constantly through the season. At any one time, indeterminates will have fruit at all stages of development and ripeness.

Tomatoes like rich soil and will grow happily in straight undiluted compost. Go easy with the manure, though, because too much nitrogen (from manure) will get you huge plants and very few tomatoes. Always mix a cup or more of bonemeal into the planting hole, because tomatoes need calcium and that's the organic way to give it to them. A foliar spray (wetting the leaves) of fish-seaweed fertilizer solution gives transplants a welcome boost.

Tomatoes are vulnerable to several diseases and insects, including (but not limited to!) verticillium wilt, two races of fusarium wilt, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus, and alternaria blight. Look for tomato varieties that are resistant to these diseases, abbreviated respectively as V, F, N, T, and A. (V = verticillium, and so on.) Disease resistance is usually shown after the name, for example "LaRoma II VFFNA" which means that it is resistant (but not immune) to verticillium wilt, both races of fusarium wilt, nematodes, and alternaria blight.

Healthy plants will survive longer than weak ones, but if your tomato plants get a disease, here's what to do: Remove the plant promptly, roots, soil and all, put it into a large garbage bag, and take it to the dump. Do not add the plant to a compost heap, and do not leave it lying around. These diseases are easily spread! Keep smokers away from your plants, because they carry tobacco mosaic virus on their hands and clothing. (This advice probably better refers to late blight--we have several articles about late blight tagged at this post. Mildews, black spots in the center, or yellowing of leaves does not call for such extreme steps. We have several all natural products like "Serenade" that deal effectively with mildews, etc.)

There is a spectacularly large caterpillar, called the tomato hornworm, that will eat leaves and fruit if you let it, and grow into a hawk moth. They're hard to spot, despite their size, but they will scatter piles of dark green poop (about the size of rice grains) that give them away. Find, pick, drop and stomp is the best solution. Some small insects, such as whitefly, can be a nuisance (and disease carriers) but sprays of horticultural soap solution get rid of them fairly easily. We have several solutions for these situations.

Water deeply, regularly, and at root level. Mature plants need about two quarts a day, ideally at around 65F. Avoid wetting the leaves, which encourages diseases. Allowing plants to dry out between waterings stresses them and results in weak plants that succumb easily to insects or diseases. It also causes tomatoes to split, which attracts fruit flies. Some fish-seaweed fertilizer can be mixed in with the irrigation water, at half the recommended strength. "

As always let us know at Skillin's (skillins@maine.rr.com) if you have any tomato or other gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 15, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Climbing Roses Add Grace and Interest to the Garden!

Hello again,

Valerie Knotts is a rose gardening expert and author who enjoys teaching others how to plant and grow beautiful roses. She recently published the following article about Climbing Roses; the article can be found at www.ezinearticles.com.

Climbing roses are about as traditional as it gets in the garden and the beauty of their flowers can be just overwhelming. Ms. Knotts writes very clearly and I think you will enjoy this piece:

"Climbing roses are vigorous and easy to grow, and no rose garden would be complete without them. Climbers are often called pillars, ramblers, trailing roses, and ever-blooming roses depending on how they grow and are not considered true vines. They are simple to grow, and they add ornamental grace and interest to your garden or landscape.

Plant your climbing roses 12 to 15 inches away from the solid wall allowing four to five feet between each climber. The reason for this is that the soil near a building is usually shallow due to the foundation. Roses climbing on a trellis or fence may be planted closer. If you are planning to espalier on a trellis or fence, they can be trained to cover six to eight feet. Since these roses lack support structures you can loosely attach the plant to a trellis or wind it through the frame. Besides a trellis you can grow roses on arbors, sheds and most any suitable structure. Roses trained to grow laterally rather than vertically frequently produce more blooms. Vertically trained roses produce short spurs along their main stem or canes on which blooms are produced. The steps for growing climbing roses are not much different than those for growing other types of roses. Sunlight is important to roses and they need six to seven hours of direct unfiltered sunlight daily. Although climbers are said to do well in part shade they still need four to five hours of direct sunlight each day.

Consider the height or length of climbing roses when planning to use them in your garden. Some species can reach from seven to thirty feet in growth. Will the structure you plan to use support the roses? Another consideration is the climate of the area and the variety of the roses you plan to use in your garden. Some varieties are spring bloomers while other bloom throughout the growing season. These are often called everbloomers.

A major advantage between growing climbing roses and other types of roses is that they require very little pruning. Normally you won't need to prune them during the first two years of growth. If you prune these roses every year they will produce fewer blooms. Some climbers only bloom on the second year or older wood. Trim the light wood and remove only the dead and injured wood in early spring. When everblooming climbers have finished blooming, only remove the flowers and none of the foliage. Reblooming occurs from the top leaves just below the flower clusters. Some owners can get away with pruning their climbing roses every three or four years. Even then, pruning consists of only removing small canes and old or less vigorous canes at the base of the plant. Vigorous young canes are encouraged to grow and to become long and flexible. Owners will have an easier time training these canes through and onto structures.

Remember to have patience when growing climbing roses, as it may take a little while for them to get established. But, once established, their colors, beauty and fragrance will be worth the wait."

We have a good selection of all types of roses right now in our nurseries; so come and check some out!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 7, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bush and Pole Beans

(above image from Paul Parent Garden Club)

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Bush and Pole Beans (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"If I were to give you a plate with two piles of string beans--the first a pile of fresh picked beans from your garden and the second from a can, which pile of string beans would you eat? I think that most of you would choose the fresh picked beans, so why not consider growing them in your garden this year? Beans are easy to grow, taste delicious and are good for you to boot. Let us begin with the bush bean, as it requires less room, less work and is great for beginners. Bush beans are called determinate because they only grow to a certain height, flower, make fruit and stop growing. You pick those tasty beans and throw the plant on your compost pile--the crop is finished. For a couple of weeks you have a great harvest and it is over, so if you like bush beans, plant only a few feet of rows now, skip a week or two and then plant another section of beans. I plant May 1, May 15, May 30 and June 15 and June 30. This gives me fresh beans until mid to late September. (If you have the space in your garden, this is great advice for consistent bean yield. The May 1 planting could work this year in Skillin's Country but some years that is probably a little too early!)

Beans will not germinate well if the soil is cold, and you are not doing them a favor. Cold soil will slow down the germination, making the row have many skips where the seed did not germinate. Also if the soil is cold you have a better chance of disease developing on the seedlings, and your production will be lower. Bush beans love full sun and a well-drained soil that contains compost, peat moss, or animal manure. Beans are a unique plant as they have the capability of making their own Nitrogen fertilizer from a bacteria nodule that lives on its roots. The bean is a member of the legume family, like peas.

When you purchase your bean seeds at the garden center ask for bean inoculate powder. Place the bean seeds in a bag with a bit of inoculate powder and shake until the bean seeds are coated with the black powder and then plant. Using this bean inoculate will more than double the production of your bean crop! Plant beans 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart, rows should be 3 feet apart. Starting the seed indoors for a jump on the season is not recommended, so plant directly in the garden when the soil is 60 degrees.

Unlike the bush type, pole beans need support to grow on for the best crop. This vine plant is indeterminate and keeps growing all season long, but without support, it will not produce any beans. Build a trellis with string or netting for them to grow on 6 to 8 feet tall. You can also use a tall pole with strings running down the pole from the top to the ground like a pyramid to grow on. Anchor the string to the ground with stakes and the beans will grow by wrapping around the string or netting and will climb to the top easily. Plant the seeds in groups of 4 to 6 seeds at every string at the base of the pole or if using netting, every 3 to 4 inches apart along the netting. Pole beans are the king of production and produce more beans per plant than the bush type. Pole beans are sweeter, tenderer and I think better tasting. Pole beans tend to stay tender on the vine longer than the bush. Pole beans freeze very well and keep better than the bush type in the freezer.

Water the bean plants regularly and keep the soil moist (never wet though, or disease could be a problem). Avoid overhead watering with a sprinkler if possible. Fertilize with organic fertilizer like Garden Tone by Espoma every 4 weeks or use Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Food every 2 weeks. Keep beans away from onions, beets, radishes and the cabbage family. Plant beans in a different part of the garden each year for the best crop. Pick when beans are young and the seed has not developed in the pod yet. Enjoy!"

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 2, 1010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How to Grow Your Own Pumpkin

Hello again!

I found this great article with solid tips on pumpkin growing at

This site has lots of good posts this is one that stood out. We have everything here at Skillin's that you need to grow some great pumpkins! Plants, seeds and supplies! Here is the article:

"Growing your own pumpkin for Halloween is a rewarding adventure! The end result is a Jack O Lantern that you had a hand in from start to finish! While most varieties of pumpkins are fairly hardy, there are pointers that can help you produce a giant pumpkin sure to impress your family and friends when Halloween rolls around. Here is what you need to know about growing pumpkins for Halloween:

Starting the seeds. In order to have fully matured pumpkins in time for Halloween it’s important to start your seeds at the right time. Keep in mind that the earliest pumpkin starts are for Giant Pumpkins that require 150 days or more of growing time. Giant pumpkin growers time their starts for maximum growth in order to produce a world record fruit in time for the fall weigh offs which run from early to mid October. You should note that there is plenty of flexibility on the start date for other varieties. These can be timed to mature from September to October, and can be started indoors or out. Even though fully mature pumpkins are hardy, new growers should be aware that pumpkins are tender annuals. Frost will kill them, and cold weather will stunt their growth. You should keep this in mind when starting your plants. Recommended “ideal” starting dates for your pumpkin plants are as follows:

Giant Pumpkins: Start indoors from April 25 to May 15th Set outdoors after the first true leaves form. Provide cold and frost protection.

Jack-O-Lanterns / Field Pumpkins: Direct sow into the garden from May 15th to June 15th. Start indoors up to two weeks prior to setting outdoors Provide cold and frost protection.

Miniature Pumpkins: Direct sow into the garden from May 25th to July 1st. Start indoors up to two weeks prior to setting outdoors.

How many pumpkins will you get? One pumpkin plant will normally produce three to five pumpkins. Miniature varieties can produce as many as a dozen or so. There will usually be several more female fruit, but some of them will not develop for a number of reasons. If you are growing pumpkins for size and weight, eventually you will select one pumpkin and remove the rest from the vine. By doing this, you allow the plant to direct all of it’s energy into growing just that one pumpkin. It should be noted that a small number of growers keep a second fruit on the vine as an “insurance policy” in case disaster strikes the first fruit. You should understand however that this does not preclude the possibility that you can grow enormous pumpkins if you keep more than one on the vine.

Adding weight to your pumpkin. If you so choose you can turn your everyday pumpkin into a giant pumpkin. To produce the largest pumpkins you will need to fuel their growth. Of special note is that in August, you also need to be diligent and guard against insects and plant disease, especially powdery mildew. Here are some additional tips for adding weight to your pumpkins:

Keep your patch well watered. This is a great way to get your child involved. Turn over a small amount of soil and see if it is moist several inches down.

Adding a layer of compost feeds the plant and helps to retain soil moisture. It can also help to keep weeds down.

Keep in mind that big pumpkins have big appetites. Fertilize regularly to get the best results. To really bump up the weight on your pumpkin switch to a fertilizer high in potassium.

Cover the pumpkin vines with garden soil. This will promote secondary root growth, and results in much bigger pumpkins."

Let us know at Skillin's (skillins@maine.rr.com) if you have any gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 1, 2010