Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June Garden Talks 2010

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

June 23--Great gardening friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport sent out some great gardening advice the other day. Plants Unlimited can be found at 629 Commercial Street (US Route 1) in Rockport ME or at I highly recommend a visit!

Here is what Hammon has to say about Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes: "Blossom-end rot is a disorder of tomato, squash, pepper, and all other fruiting vegetables. You notice that a dry sunken decay has developed on the blossom end (opposite the stem) of many fruit, especially the first fruit of the season. This is not a pest, parasite or disease process but is a physiological problem caused by a low level of calcium in the fruit itself.

(image from Plants Unlimted)
Blossom-end rot usually begins as a small "water-soaked looking" area at the blossom end of the fruit while still green. As the lesion develops, it enlarges, becomes sunken and turns tan to dark brown to black and leathery. In severe cases, it may completely cover the lower half of the fruit, becoming flat or concave, often resulting in complete destruction of the infected fruit.

Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth. When a rapidly growing fruit is deprived of calcium, the tissues break down, leaving the characteristic lesion at the blossom end. Blossom-end rot develops when the fruit's demand for calcium exceeds the supply in the soil. This may result from low calcium levels in the soil, drought stress, excessive soil moisture, and/or fluctuations due to rain or overwatering . These conditions reduce the uptake and movement of calcium into the plant, or rapid, vegetative growth due to excessive nitrogen fertilization.

You can supply calcium by using lime, composted manure or bone meal. (I actually recommend feeding your tomatoes with Tomato or Garden Tone by Espoma--2 feedings and also watering the gently once per week with Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed food for best tomato performance.) Also, maintain uniform soil moisture by mulching and watering correctly, planting in well drained soil and not cultivating deeper than one inch within one foot of the plant. Also avoid the use of high nitrogen fertilizers."

June 22--While driving around doing some floral deliveries today, I noticed some lawns already taking on that scorched or brown look. Folks it is dry out there.

One of the basic tenets of good organic lawn care is to simply raise the level of your lawn mower. A slightly taller lawn shields the roots of the lawn from getting "fried" by the hot sun. Your lawn's roots stay more resilient when the grass is higher. Higher lawns also canopy sun loving weeds and can really prevent a lot of weeds from taking strong root. Also higher lawns make for good lawn clippings that should NOT be bagged. Leave the clipppings to decompose back through the lawn and into soil. This gets good organic matter back into the soil. If you apply a good organic lawn food a couple of times per year your soil should be healthy enough to decompose those grass clippings before they become nasty thatch. I general set your mower height to 2.5 to 3". I recommend making your last mowing of the year (in late fall) a close cropped mowing but not until then.

June 20--Joseph of Skillin's Falmouth notes that clematis are "heavy feeders" and perform best when their roots are cool yet receiving many nutrients. Of course the plant itself needs as much as you can give it; yet the roots like to remain cool. Joe recommends mulching or covering the roots with a nice compost (we sell many great choices here at Skillin's!). He feeds his clemati pretty regularly with all natural Fish and Seaweed liquid fertilizer from Neptune's Harvest (also sold right here at Skillin's!) and he says his clemati are doing just fan tab ulistic!

June 19--Customer Lauren started some veggies and flowers on her own and they came up great. She has since transferred them to containers and she told me that their color was pale and the plants were kind of spindly. Her plants are an assortment of sun loving plants and the plants are in the sun; she feels her potting soil is good quality with some added compost. But she has not fed the plants so I recommended her to try some weekly feedings of Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer. Her plants are hungry. Folks, time is ticking and our season is indeed short. Composted soil is essential but so isn't a good regular meal of natural fertilizer to get needed nutrients to your plants for best performance!

June 15--Customer Nancy wrote today asking about woodchuck prevention. Woodchucks can be very damaging to flowers and vegetables. Darn it! The damage they do can just break a gardener's heart! My heart has certainly been broken a few times. Here is what I wrote Nancy:

"Nancy, I have battled woodchucks with many methods over the years and most have not worked.

The method that absolutely did work for me is a battery operated tube now called the Mole Mover (old name Go-Pher It). The Mole Mover is powered by 3 C batteries and emits a long beep every 28 seconds. The key is to know approximately (within 30 feet) where the woodchucks den is. Woodchucks typically live under sheds, decks, porches, croppings of stone, “other sides” of berms, someplace with a feel of shelter or protection.

They love to be in their dens so it is key to stick this tube as near (again within 30 feet) of their den as you can. After about a week of hearing this consistent beep every 28 seconds they and their family typically leave your area. If you are not sure of where they live, keep an eye on where they run to when you startle them. They typically waddle straight for the den.

Other customers have their methods—fox urine, human hair in panty hose are two favorites. They may work for a time but I have found at the worst moment when the fox urine may be depleted or the hair scent is not there that they strike.

The tubes worked and are still working for me and for many other customers. I hope they work for you…let me know if you have any more gardening questions!"

We love your gardening questions! Just shoot us a comment here at this post or email us at!

June 14-I recently mentioned these gardening tips in our Garden Talks Newsletter. Sign up for our newsletter at!

*Slugs are out in abundance; living under larged leafed plants by day and chomping and tearing on fresh plants by night. Slugs can eat incredible amounts; your leaves will look torn. Slugs can easily be controlled by all natural Slug Magic (safe for pets and wildlife) sold right here at Skillin's.

*In most cases now is the time to prune your lilacs and rhodys that have just flowered. The window is not open for long as soon they will be forming growth that will contain next year's flowers. So get those shrubs in shape!

*Now is a great time to put all organic Kelp Booster by Organica on your lawn if you gave your lawn a nice boost earlier this Spring with a nice natural food like Espoma's No Phos Lawn Food. Kelp Booster is a nice all natural supplement that will really benefit your lawn (and even your garden's) soil. If you have not applied any natural lawn food yet to your lawn get on over here and pick up some no phos Espoma Lawn Food.

*The air has been wet and heavy which means fallen leaves from our plants can easily host mold and mildew. These blights can move onto live growth. The first and best step against disease on your plants is to prune off any dead and dying growth--also to keep the area around our plants clean of fallen growth. I have been using a relatively new all natural product called Vaccinate on my rose bushes, upright phlox and lilacs. Vaccinate works naturally to help plants build up resistance to disease. So far my roses, phlox and lilacs which can get mildewy and diseased look great.

*Weeds are growing like crazy! Keep tall weeds from crowding your plants--these weeds can compete for moisture, nutrients, and air circulation. Small weeds should be controlled as well; hopefully with a garden hoe or cultivator.

*Many veggies like peas, beans, lettuces, broccoli, radishes and carrots can be grown in multiple crops or stages through the gardening year. We have fresh plants and seeds coming in all the time. Let us help you keep fresh waves of garden products coming to your garden! You can easily keep harvesting all these veggies and more well into the fall.

June 13-We are Just Getting Started! Friends, our soil is just warming up...plants that have started slowly because of cold soil temps are about to JUMP. If you want to grow more veggies and more flowers our selection is top shelf; in most cases FRESH second and third crops that are well established, well grown and well on their way to a timely harvest in a happy garden like yours! This goes for ground gardens as well as container gardens!

Planting veggies? Great! Plant some flowers too! Vegetables are a blast but flowers look great, some deter pests, and all of them help to pollinate vegetable plants. We have got veggies and flowers and today, this week, and/or this coming weekend and beyond is the perfect time to plant!

Annual flowers are a great bargain. We offer 6 or 9 packs for just $3.99. And annual flowers are "the plant that keeps on giving" by flowering well into the fall!

Our good gardening friend, Tom Atwell writes a great article in Sunday's Maine Telegram about how you can still enjoy late-planted vegetables. Great reading that I highly recommend!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 2010

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