Monday, August 30, 2010

August Garden Talks 2010

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

August 29--Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club answers many calls on his radio show on Sunday mornings. One caller yesterday inquired about whether or not it is time to pick winter squash (acorn, butternut, buttercup, etc.). It is too early, the winter squash is not fully ripened. Paul's tip is that the stem connecting the fruit to the plant vine should be brown, not green, when the winter squash is ready to be picked. This "browning" will often happen after a pretty good frost and of course frost season has not come close yet. So wait for the stem connecting the fruit to the plant vine to turn brown. This could be a few weeks yet and in the meantime your winter squash will only get bigger and better tasting as the plant continues to send nutrients to the fruit.

Paul also made the further point that any winter squash blossoms that have not borne any fruit will not bear fruit at this point of the season. So to divert more plant energy to the quality of the fruit that IS on the vine it is a great idea to pick off those flowers at this point.
August 26--What a drenching we got yesterday! Our friends to the south in Wells (the tropical part of Maine received over 4"). Officially the Portland Jetport received about 2.6". The Skillin Country Rain Gauge recorded "only" 1.5" which I do believe in that spot BUT it is clear parts of Skillin's Country received a great deal more than 1.5". This is very good news for our soil and plants! This should help us to keep our hoses rolled up and irrigation systems off for at least a couple of days. I will be back in touch soon about that!

I did water my Earth Boxes early today. If your Earth Boxes have the soil covered (per Earth Box directions) then all that rain did not reach the Earth Box soil. Water those Earth Boxes today!
August 25--Good gardening friend Paul Parent, long-time host of the Paul Parent Garden Club (, spoke about ornamental grasses on his Sunday morning radio show this past week. The subject was care and pruning of ornamental grasses this time of year. Paul made the point that while a few grasses can get trimmed (always try to keep a good shape and always prune out any dead or dying growth) most grasses should not get cut back until late winter. Most grasses provide some nice winter interest such as contrast against white snow and the soothing sound and sight of grass swaying in winter breezes.

It is mid day August 25 and we are in the midst of what appears to be a welcome, welcome soaking rain from the heavens of Skillin's Country! (I will give you official Skillin Rain Gauge Results when the storm subsides).

All this rain will soften the ground and make for easier weed pulling! As I just read, a weed pulled now may well save hundred weeds to be pulled later. SO, take the time and pull weeds from around shrubs, between perennials and annuals, and, of course, vegetables!
August 24--Well Monday's "Big Rain" did not materialize in Skillin's Country. The Skillin's Country Rain Gauge barely registered any rain. So...more rain is being forecast on Wednesday but folks it is dry out there. I have some annuals and vegetables that are pretty vulnerable so I gave them a good soaking this morning. For my remaining plants I will wait and see what tomorrow brings....

August 23--Great piece of gardening advice from our good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME. Plants Unlimited can be found at

"Once your peas and other early garden crops have stopped production, remove them from the garden. Getting these plants out of your way makes it easier for you to care for remaining vegetables and reduces the chance for diseases to get going on aging foliage. It also opens up space for planting cool crops. Plant another burst of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, beets, peas, spinach, swiss chard or radishes now. Just becasue your first crop has fizzled out it does not mean your fresh salads with dinner are over for the season. You still have plenty of time to harvest these delicious vegetables and enjoy more fresh produce."
Here at Skillin's we have fresh broccoli and lettuce seedlings for you that will speed your harvest date up by many days!

August 22--Great piece of gardening advice from our good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME. Plants Unlimited can be found at

"Many people have been in asking us how to rejuvenate their perennial gardens. Because of the hot summer we have had some plants have gone by and others are looking a bit weak. Here are some ideas to help your garden look its best.

Fill in the blank spots - We often see these blank spots, because all the plants we bought in spring were spring or early summer bloomers. Now we can go and pick some plants that will give us bloom in late summer and early autumn." Here at Skillin's we have perennials on sale for a Buy 3 Get 30% Off sale and many customers are taking advantage of those opportunities!

"Cut them back - Some plants may need to be rejuvenated in late summer. If some of your perennials have turned brown or become tattered, cut them back and then give them some water to encourage new growth. Many perennials respond favorably to this kind of treatment and if one or two don’t, then at least you have removed an eyesore from the garden. Those plants that don’t regrow now, will do so next spring from the root system." It is always good to cut back dead and dying growth. Also our plants need good deep waterings to compensate for the lack of rain this summer.

"Deadhead - Remove spent flowers to keep the garden tidy. You may not want to deadhead everything, especially if you are trying to get plants to naturalize or if you are trying to attract birds. Know what your purpose is and then deadhead select plants." I deadheaded my phlox the other day and I am getting some re bloom there. Pull out all the brown stalks from your past day lily flowers. Birds love coneflower seed heads but I have been selectively dead heading those and getting some decent rebloom. There are still plenty of seed heads for the birds. Actively prune back browned Butterfly Bush flowers, your bush will respond with many more flowers!

"Weed - Sometimes our late season gardens look bad because the weeds have gained a foothold. Get out and get the weeds out and the garden will begin to look better immediately. Also your perennials will grow better without the competition of the weeds. " Weeds compete for sunlight and moisture. Pull them!

Also I am spending some time getting a second application of organic fertilizer around my perennials. I have been using Flower Tone (Plant Tone is great as well) by Espoma. I try to apply organic granular foods twice per year around my perennials and shrubs. Remember the organics treat the soil and make the soil healthier which results in a consistent yield of nutrients as well as better soil structure for our plant's roots. Better soil means better and deeper roots which result in healthier and happier plants and flowers. Naturally. Consistently. Long Lasting!

August 21--I have been away from Skillin's Country on Special Assignment for the last few days. But that rain we received back on Sunday night and Monday morning is GONE. It is so dry out there; I am spending the day taking the garden hose from dry plant to dry plant and watering vulnerable plants slowly and deeply. The weather is not overally hot today so if you are seeing plants wilting that means they are dry and could use a good slow deep watering. Anything planted in 2010 needs a good soaking this weekend if they have not received one this past week.

The forecast indicates Skillin's Country will be receiving quite a bit of rain this Sunday night into Monday. Sounds great BUT I am still going to water deeply today. If we do get that rain in a day or two that will just help the plants even more this coming week!

August 17--Now is a great time to give many of your evergreen shrubs such as yews, junipers and hemlocks their summer trim or haircut. Most new growth has "hardened off" or transitioned from new green growth to dark mature growth. A good pruning keeps the shrubs closer to the shape you want and  is also good for the roots as pruning the terminal ends of plants is a good way to encourage good root growth in the long run.

While my evergreen shrubs are getting my attention (they normally get no attention); I also devote this time period to giving each evergreen a good feeding of Holly Tone by Espoma. Holly Tone is a granular organic fertilizer that works slowly but steadily to benefit the soil that the roots reside in. A better soil means better and deeper roots in the long run. These better roots help sustain the  plant through dry summers (like this one) and help the plants "green up" more quickly after cold winters (we do get cold  winters  in Skillin's Country).

Rhodys, azaleas, andromedas as well as the thin needled shrubs like yews, junipers and pines all could use a good feeding of Holly Tone right now.

But remember now is NOT the time to prune the broad leafed evergreens like rhodys, azaleas, and andromedas. NOW is the time to  prune yews, junipers, and small pines like mugho pines.

Contact us at or any of our stores (contact info at with any questions!

August 16--Rain has come to Skillin's Country--welcome, welcome rain. And a good rain to boot. I just checked the Skillin Country Rain Gauge and we received a half inch of rain both last night and this morning. It "feels like" a good quality deep rain as well because it rained "on and off". That means there were breaks in the rain allowing a good soak when rain started again. Too much rain at once can result in serious run off.

All 2010 plantings including containers will benefit from this rain. Have an Earth Box? Well, the small opening in the Earth Box does not let much rain in. I watered my Earth Boxes this morning (I have been watering them daily for a couple of weeks now) and each took quite a bit of water. But for the most part hoses and rain barrels can be not touched for a couple of days.

No more rain is forecast for the remainder of the week however. So in all likelihood good quality deep waterings will be needed on all 2010 plantings--including vegetables and containers--later on this week.

August 14--I WAS going to mow the lawn today. But it is so dry most of my lawn does not need a mowing and further I think mowing the lawn (even keeping it high like I do) would actually set my lawn back as I would risk burning the roots. So no lawn mowing for a few days.

BUT, I have spent most of the day deep watering many plants in my yard--all my 2010 plantings as well as some perennials planted in prior years that are showing signs of being quite dry. I am keeping the water going on pretty low output and just moving it from plant to plant between every half hour to hour.

I did turn up the volume for some annuals and my vegetables and I let the water fan out and cover a pretty good area. In no case do I leave the water on high enough for there to be "run off".

Deep waterings are critical right now for 2010 plantings and container plantings.

August 12--Sheliah Raymond checks in "Hello Mike! I don't know if you remember me telling you this past Spring that I was planting my first real veggie garden this year.

"Thanks to my Skillin's seedlings I am having great success! This picture was taken a while back of my 4 cucumber seedlings which have produced well over 500 cucumbers and are still going strong! At $1.99 a piece for the seedlings- that is a heck of a deal!

(gorgeous cucumber plants from Sheliah Raymond)

One note -I have had no pest problems on anything in my garden -not one bad bug! I
wonder if it's because I feed the birds about 10 feet from the garden.

Just a thought..."

Sheliah, great to hear from you! I don't know how much birds will stop garden insects but I think feeding the birds is always a great idea. Those ARE gorgeous plants and I agree with you--the $1.99 per 4" pot price is a great deal!

500 cukes! My word! What are you feeding these plants with! Hey I hope some of those cuke plants are "burpless"

August 10--Hammon Buck also gives good tips about mildew. Some plants are very mildewy with all the wet heavy air we have had. Powdery mildew, as its name suggests, resembles a white powdery mildew on leaf surfaces of plants. Leaves eventually turn yellow, then brown, then die. Although not fatal to plants, it makes plants unattractive and may weaken plants over several years. Annuals that may be infected most commonly include zinnias snapdragon, and verbena. Perennial flowers that may be infected commonly include delphinium, lungwort, and garden phlox. Choosing cultivars (cultivated varieties) resistant to this disease is one of the easiest methods of control.

                                               (powdery mildew pics from Plants Unlimted)

Unlike most such fungus diseases spread by microscopic structures called “spores”, this one actually is inhibited not promoted by rain and wet leaves. High humidity will favor this disease, so keeping plants spaced properly will promote air circulation and lower humidity around plants."

Seranade is an all natural fungicide that works very well against Powdery Mildew as does all natural Garden Sulfur. As a preventive, I suggest applying Vaccinate to vulnerable plants such as roses, phlox and vine crops. I have been using Vaccinate faithfully and my plants are clean and green!

August 9--Great piece of harvesting advice from our good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME. Plants Unlimited can be found at

" How do you know when to harvest a melon? When it's big? When its skin is colorful? When you thump it and hear a deep thud? If these methods sound too vague, don't worry. Harvest when the stem slips readily from the fruit. Pick it up - if the vine falls away, you are free to walk away with the melon.

(melon picture from Plants Unlimited)

When harvesting, make sure that the melon is cut from the vine instead of pulled. Pulling creates a cracking wound that pathogens can enter and quickly destroy the quality of the fruit, not to mention ruining the appearance of the fruit. Leave the stems on the melon for as long as possible, and treat for stem end rot after picking. Don't harvest your melons until they are fully ripe. Melons will get softer after they are picked from the vine but they will never get sweeter."

August 6--In surveying my yard I have already determined that my next day off will involve plenty of deep waterings for so many of my plants. Most of my containers are so chock full of grown plants that these containers need good deep waterings every other day or certainly every third day. For the first time I am growing vegetables in Earth Boxes (I highly recommend Earth Boxes for growing container vegetables! Check out! We love Earth Boxes and sell them right here at Skillin's!) My Earth Boxes need a good watering every other day for sure--soon to be daily I bet!

Two of my favorite flowering perennials--white upright phlox and purple coneflower--are profuse this year with flowers. I will be deadheading many largely spent blossoms on these plants and that will pave the way for much re blooming as all of my plants have tiny buds just waiting to produce more flowers. Deadheading such perennials is a great way to lengthen the flowering season!

August 5--Terry Skillin wants me to let you know that the sawfly larvae is quite prevalent and doing much chewing on woody plants as well as some perennials. As he termed it, "we are seeing it everywhere." We have a number of controls for the sawfly larvae ranging from all natural Horticultural Spray Oil which will work to smother the critters. Or consider Eight a permethrin product by the Bonide Co. Eight is best applied in the evening (to keep away from the bees) as either a dust or a spray. Or consider Systemic Insect Granules that can be applied around the base of chewed plants. This avoids spraying as upon a deep watering the plant will take in the active ingredients of these insect granules.

Sawfly larvae (picture from

Sawfly larvae are the larvae of primitive wasp like insects. They typically have more legs than caterpillars and they do a lot of chewing. Rose bushes, hibuscus and many other of our favorite plants can be chewed quickly!

August 4--Today is a hot windy day in Skillin's Country and our material is drying out quickly. Plants have been booming in growth and this means lots of roots that need more water than we are accustomed to giving. In particular flowers and vegetables in containers need good deep waterings every other day under these conditions. With this much watering, you should also supplement your flowers and vegetables with fast acting fertilizer and Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend is perfect for that job!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Taking Stock Again

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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website.

What a summer. Perhaps not a true record breaker but I did hear that the recent and much needed rainfall surpassed a record set in 1901.

I admit this writing is a reworking of some insights previously shared. Let’s call it another form of recycling. On the other hand, think of it as your favorite laundry detergent, much of the ingredients remain the same, just new and improved.

It is often during these dog days of summer our gardens appear to be out of control. This is the time of the year I suggest walking around the garden to see what is successful and what isn’t. The absence of rain or diligent deep watering has kept this season’s beds a little less vibrant and congested. Therefore, this season your focus will be on other conditions.

Additionally, I hear that we are in for another wave of heat. This means we have some work to do and soon. The key for this exercise is to prepare with preventative measures. Armed with Journal, pen and/or digital camera walk around your landscape.

So, how do your plants look? Stressed? Wilted? To get to the root of the problem, gently scratch an inch below the surface. Dry?! Where did the record rain run? What of your watering? I cannot stress enough the importance of a long slow trickle. I admit, standing with a hose may cool you off and is better than nothing, it doesn’t do the job. Sprinkles are better but still not enough. Soaker hoses. That is the ticket. No need to install expensive irrigation if you don’t have the funds. Soaker hoses can be snaked throughout your garden. Most quality hoses even withstand our Maine winters. Allow for 2-4 inches per week. To keep shrubs and foliage plants looking perky, a misting early in the day or at dusk is a true refresher.

I plead guilty when it comes to my personal garden. Hand watering early morning & early evening still left some plants less than happy. It pained me to cut back some of my Echinacea, yarrow and Veronica. Pain cured when the results were the perfect medicine for these rebloomers. Shasta daisies are sporting buds on dwarfed stems. Same for my Globe Thistle. Others such as Daylilies are set for an early rest. I carefully chose plants that would not be harmed by late season growth. August? Late Season?

It seemed as if this gardening season was jump started by a month with all blooms along for the ride. How often did we hear ‘isn’t it early for (fill in the blank) to be blooming?’ Shearing these particular perennials should keep blooms booming for weeks to come.

As I review the landscapes of my clients it is evident that shade perennials are suffering the most. The plants I love the best for shaded areas, heuchera, astilbe and Cimicifuga (now known as Actea aka snakeroot, black cohosh etc) are cloaked in capes of dry crinkled foliage where lush leaves once were. Plants that are used to shaded and slightly moist soil are hit the hardest. To offer solace I resorted to covering the area with a compost and mulch mixture. Coast of Maine’s Fundy Blend is a tonic in a bag. In taking stock I will stock this product at all times. It will join my perennial favorite, Coast of Maine’s Penobscot Blend. I also cannot forget to leave room for Worm Castings. Coast of Maine introduced their own bag of worm waste. I must thank them for housing it in a carry bag. This made life so much easier as I happily hand hauled it to all my container plantings. A perfect top dressing to improve the water retention.

Gardeners are cursed with selective memory. We will forget the effects of a drought during the rains of next spring. Weather happens in patterns. Several Mays and last June had many a gardener prone to webbed hands. Did we ever think we’d experience a hot arid summer again? Take stock for the future. Be prepared. Purchase that soaker hose, grab a bag of organic compost & mulch blend. And don’t forget the worm’s contribution!

However, don’t stop now. Step back; look at your landscape with the eye of a visitor. What is it that you see? How would you react if seeing it for the first time? Look for empty pockets, or crowding. Is there evidence of, mildew or fungus? How about pest damage? What about color, too much, not enough? If you do just not ‘love’ something, jot it down.

August may not be the best time to divide, move, and/or transplant. The weather is too hot, often too dry, though now you know how to water, and will unduly stress plants and the humans that love them. I’m not saying it cannot be done, however if at all possible wait until late fall, or early spring as may be appropriate. Who am I kidding? We will do what we will. If something is being choked and/or not able to be seen, then by all means, cut back or move what ever is in the way. A plants life just may be at stake. (If you do transplant now, just water, water, water!)
Not up to doing this now? Prefer to wait? Congratulations! However, you’re not getting off that easy.

Love everything in your garden? Pleased with the results? Do not put that camera or journal away. Record the pleasures.

In any case, you’ve worked hard. Pour yourself another glass of Ice Tea and relax…………..

KCB for the Skillin's Garden Log
August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Begonias are Just Non Stop Color!

Hello again,

Great gardening friend Sheliah Raymond checks in with some great Non Stop Begonia pics. These double or ruffled begonias are called "Non-Stops" because once they start flowering for a season, they just NEVER stop. They are a true "no-brainer" for a shady spot in the garden.

Sheliah was kind enough to send us all these pics.

(The lovely Apple Blossom!)

Sheliah writes: "Here is why I think the begonia flats at Skillin's are the best deal ever! This red begonia is just one of the four plants in the flat. It is in near total shade and has bloomed like this all summer. You may remember that I was trying to pick a color -but decided to to get one of each -I am so glad I did! It's just to hard to pick a favorite!"

I do remember Sheliah's visit--each visit is quite memorable by the way!

Here you see yellow non stops planted with white impatiens in a shady spot. Yellow was easily the most popular color with the Non Stops this year.

Thanks Sheliah for the note and the great pictures. I absolutely think the Non Stop Four Packs are a great deal and any gardener with a shady location should plant Non Stops as either a ground bedding plant or container plant in 2011!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 12, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gardening in Skillin's Country! You Give More! You Get More!

The following article was sent out over this past weekend to our awesome Skillin's Email List--we would love to have you on our list where you can receive Garden Tips, Class Notices and other Skillin's News! Please sign up for our list at if you have not done so!

Hello again!

Well now the great summer of 2010 continues! I sure hope you are enjoying this great weather. Woo Hoo!

Before I go on (and in some people's opinion on and on and on!) let me tell you this! If you read nothing else in this piece, read this: Water your plants deeply! This gorgeous summer is a DRY summer; this gorgeous summer has enabled our flower and vegetable plants to grow to heights and expanses we have not seen for ages. These prosperous, productive plants have loads of thirsty roots that need deep waterings OFTEN. So make sure to give your containers, your annuals, your vegetables, your 2010 planted perennials, shrubs and trees, and any other plants in hot vulnerable places a good deep soaking soon. (Details abound in our Moisture Meter section)

It is good to being sending you a gardening email and we believe you will find some helpful information here. ANYTIME you want more frequent and timely gardening advice, just check out our Skillin's Garden Log found at!

Also follow Skillin's at We "tweet" all types of quick Skillin's news and announcements. Chances are when something goes on sale, or we get excited about a particular plant or flower, we "tweet" about it first! Also we send out frequent short and sweet audios and videos right here from Skillin's--and pictures of our colorful flowering plants as well! We send out Twitter "tweets" all the time so check out often!

Also Skillin's has just started a Facebook page! I am new at the Facebook but you can find us at "Skillins" at Become a "Skillins" fan and drop us a line if you are one of the 100 million people registered at Facebook.

Skillin's Moisture Meter

Well since our last Skillin's Moisture Meter we have received some rain but not nearly enough for our new outdoor plantings and plants in outdoor containers.

New outdoor plantings (of vegetables, annuals, perennials, and certainly shrubs and trees) require 1 inch of water per week optimally spread out over at least two deep waterings per week. A "deep watering" is defined as a slow soaking of your plant's roots.

(More detail about "deep waterings": A soaking rain which brings a half inch of rain or more qualifies as a deep watering. In lieu of rain a deep watering can be accomplished by letting water run slowly out of a watering can or the end of your hose into each plant's root system or by having a soaker hose at work for several hours twice a week. In "non soaker hose situations", pause on your watering if the water starts to run off; let the water soak in and then begin to water again. Repeat this process several times and move onto the next plant. For larger trees and shrubs (and if you do not have a soaker hose) merely set a hose against the tree or shrub for 1 to 2 hours and let the water almost trickle into the ground and down into the plant's root system. Again if there is runoff, pause and let the water soak in. )

This Week's Moisture Meter Readings:

Quality rain (0).

Deep waterings required by you: (2).

If you have met the quality watering requirement for this past week, congratulations! If not, pay careful attention this coming week and beyond and make sure that your new plants get those required quality waterings!

Let us know if you have any watering questions!

Garden Talks!!!

The title for this Email is "Gardening: Give More, Get More". For weeks, I proclaimed to any customer or co-worker who would listen (and probably many who did not) that this gardening season would be "the best gardening season--EVER!!!". And I think I was right about this one.

*We have established this has been an intensely good garden season, with "intense" being the operative word here. Our plants have worked hard for us and we still have plenty of time left in the season. Give more, get more! By that I mean, be extra caring about giving your annuals and vegetables (especially in containers) good deep waterings several times per week. Also your 2010 planted perennials, shrubs and trees need frequent deep waterings as well.

*If you have not recently applied a good natural feeding to your shrubs, trees or perennials now is a great time to do just that. As I just wrote our plants have been working hard for us. To Get More from them we need to Give More--a good nutritious may be just what your plants need! We recommend Flower Tone or Plant Tone by Espoma for "deciduous" plants (those plants that drop their leaves in the winter) and Holly Tone by Espoma for acid loving plants (evergreens such as rhodys, azaleas, junipers, pines and more; also blueberries and blue hollies).

Do your container plants need a pick me up--or are your vegetables on the fade a little bit? Do you want more blossoms on your cukes, squashes or tomatoes. We definitely recommend all natural Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest.

Natural fertilizers are very giving; they are non burning and very good at consistently building a great soil. A better soil means better roots, better roots means a stronger plant that will thrive! We are all about "Green Gardens" here at Skillin's!

I fielded many gardening questions this past week and almost all questions involved the fading or wilted plants and the answer "your plant needs some good deep waterings and a good feeding".Give More, Get More.

*From our gardening friend Margaret at " Daylilies can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed. We have a great selection of daylillies--some varieties still in bloom. Now is a great time to add them to your garden!

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.

* Crabgrass is starting to show in many lawns. Now is the time to kill off the crabgrass before it "tassles" in September and casts millions of seeds for next year's plants. Come see us and we can show you some thoughtful ways to knock the crabgrass back.

The whole point of good natural lawn care is to make your lawn the aggressor not weeds. Click Skillin's Lawn Care Program for an easy to do, sensible lawn care program by Skillin's! We will show YOU how to maintain a good quality lawn--safe for kids and pets and without a huge investment of time or dollars!

*Lots of tomatoes; what an awesome season! But our plethora of fine fruit is very vulnerable to Tomato Blossom End Rot as the intense heat can prevent the tomato fruit from taking up enough Calcium to come to ripeness in prime condition. Click HERE and we tell how to easily conquer that disappointing and dastardly dilemma so you can have loads of luscious and lovely tomatoes.

*Good gardening friend and Skillin's associate David K posts a terrific garden blog called A Garden in Maine. I highly recommend you check his blog frequently as David is a wonderful local Maine home gardener who explores all the time, grows a great variety of plants in his home garden AND he loves to pass on what he learns!

Got gardening questions??? Call us at any of the phone numbers listed below or email us at!

Thanks for being a friend and a customer!

Mike Skillin

Our store locations and contact information are as follows:

Skillin's Greenhouses, Brunswick, 422 Bath Road, Brunswick ME 04011 442-8111, 800-339-8111

Skillin's Greenhouses, Cumberland, 201 Gray Road, Cumberland ME 04021 829-5619, 800-348-8498

Skillin's Greenhouses, Falmouth, 89 Foreside Road, Falmouth ME 04105 781-3860, 800-244-3860


Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 8, 2010

Ripening Green Tomatoes

Hello again,

I have picked a few Black Prince tomatoes while they are still green. I am doing this because it seems I have a worm or some creature poking holes in any near ripe tomatoes on this particular plant. I have some nice looking tomatoes coming along and I am dying to eat the Balck Prince tomatoes when they are ripe.

Here are some easy methods to ripen green tomatoes. Any of these methods are also helpful as the season gets colder to speed up the ripening process. Read the entire article at

"There are several different ways to ripen tomatos or ripening tomatoes in house, however if you are a novice gardener, you should follow simple guidelines for the first few times.

Mason jars - place one large banana in a wide mouth mason jar. Add up to four medium or six small green tomatoes in the jar. Bananas speed up the ripening process of tomato. Make sure the lid is on tight. Place the jar on the countertop next to the stove. Check once or twice a day to make sure that the banana has not turned rotten. If this happens, replace the banana with a fresh one until the tomatoes have ripened.

Cardboard box – To get good ripen tomatoes,take a medium sized cardboard box and line it with newspaper. Place the green tomatoes in a single layer on the bottom of the box. If you have several tomatoes that need to be ripened, you can layer them in the cardboard box. Make sure you place newspaper between the layers. Store in a cool place until ripened.

Plastic bags – plastic bags can be used in the same way as the cardboard box, however it is necessary to put holes in the bag for air circulation. It is important that you do not put too many tomatoes in the bag, three or four at most.
Paper bags – this method is great way to ripen green tomatoes if you only have a few tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a paper bag and a banana. Store it opened and store in a warm place.

When you use any of these methods, you will find that your tomatoes will ripen in less than two weeks. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 8, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Maine's Favorite Florist

Hello again,

This past week Annie, Sally and Sue of Skillin's Falmouth collaborated to produce some gorgeous floral creations for a wedding event held on the coast of Skillin's Country.

We were honored to be part of someone's life celebration (we love weddings!) and we are always available in Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth to help celebrate and honor any events of life.

Take a look at this awesome work!

And there is more!

What a way to decorate!

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Become Unstumped or the Woe of the Woodchip

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 honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website.

It seems we Mainers have a love/hate relationship w/our trees. We love them, especially the grand old Pines, Oaks, or Birches, when they are healthy. We hate them when storms such as the infamous ‘Ice Storm of 1998’, ‘Patriot’s Day Storm of 2007’ and various wind storms leave them week, damaged or completely felled. This past February Cumberland County was given another blow.

Everywhere I go, I hear the buzz of chain saws, and/or the roar of stump grinders. It seems every gust of wind wreaks more havoc. It is rumored that many of the trees that continue to break, snap and even uproot received their first hit during that devastating ’98 Ice Storm. Those who are lucky, say good-by to the tree without saying good-bye to roof, auto or worse. With all serious damages repaired; the tree may have been cut, and removed without a trace. That is, except for one element. The Stump?

In some situations, the stump will be left to the slow process of decaying naturally. Nice for the edge of woodland setting, even perfect when moss finds a home on the stump’s remains. Not recommended if you want out with the past, in with the new. Say you want to take advantage of the newly acquired sunny location and install a new bed flaunting flora and loosing the lawn. You may consider installing a fine tree specimen to pay homage to the one that stood before. For those who love to mow, you feel glee at not having to duck under branches. In these cases you are stumped with what to do with the stump. It must go.

Now, allow me to back up, leave the tree work to the professional; an arborist. Ask that the trunk be cut back as close to the ground as possible. Next step is to grind that stump. Again, best left to the services of a professional. Once removed you can begin to plan then plant.

Ready to go! What is this you see? The stump is gone but in its wake is left another dilemma. Mounds of chips and dust. Stumped again?

There are many ways of dealing with what remains of the once mighty oak, maple or birch, some people incorporate the dust by turning it in to the top layer of soil, and others will simply spread the minute chips and dust as a base for new loam. Of course, any planting is going to include a recipe of blending organic seashell compost, such as Coast of Maine Penobscot Blend, with the existing soil. A third element bagged top soil or screened loam can be included in the mix. Especially if the level of the bed is to be raised or a considerable divot was left behind. Want to go one further, use layers of newspapers as the bed foundation. . Good hole, good mix, good watering should be good to go?

Still, no! Having such projects ahead of me I wanted to do some further research. What I discovered brought to light that wood chips and or dust mixed in w/the soil will rob the soil of nitrogen.

Make sure a fertilizer rich in nitrogen is incorporated into the mix. Look for a fertilizer with the first number; the ‘N’ of the N-P-K trio as the highest. Espoma Tree-tone is a good choice. Blood meal can also be used as it is nitrogen based only. As with any fertilizer or soil amendment follow the manufactures use and handling instructions as stated on the package.

Fresh wood shavings require microbial action from the soil along with a sufficient amount of nitrogen within the soil to "breakdown" or "decompose". During the process nitrogen is taken from the soil and away from your trees and plants. It can also be said for over applying bark mulch. I’ll deal with this subject in the spring……….

In situations where the soil hasn’t been tested or you are going to great expense, not to mention time, to recreate the landscape, begin with a soil test. Obtain a kit from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. or from the Maine Soil Testing Lab—call (207) 581-3591.

Once all is prepped and planted make sure you take the time to sit back and enjoy. The new landscape may have allowed room for a sitting area. Why not a traditional Adirondack chair? And for some whimsy, a section of tree or stump as a place to rest your foot.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomato Blossom End Rot

Hello again,

What a great gardening season! Bumper crops of fruits, veggies and flowers everywhere!

However, we have had more than a few customers ask us about Blossom End Rot appearing on their tomatoes. Good gardening friend Margaret of wrote recently about Blossom End Rot and I like how she described it:

"’s generally a thumb’s-up tomato year so far. But with multiple hot, dry spells here (even though I have been watering!), I keep worrying about the dreaded blossom end rot. And here it comes—though hopefully not to stay.

Blossom end rot, which (just as it sounds) is a rotting of the fruit that begins as a watery spot on the blossom end, also affects peppers and eggplants. It’s a physiologic disorder—not something caused by a virus or fungus or bacteria, like so many other tomato ailments, but rather by physical stressors that prevent the fruit from taking up enough Calcium to come to ripeness in prime condition.
(Tomato Blossom End Rot)

The watery spot transitions to a dry, sunken lesion (it looks as good as it sounds, above, served up on a non-silver spoon).

Why the deficiency of Calcium, though? What did I do wrong? Various factors can bring it about, including soil that suddenly goes dry (as in a fierce heatwave--we have had much in terms of heatwaves), excessive fluctuations in soil moisture (it has been dry and easy to not consisently and thoroughly water as we should have--especially container vegetable plantings), over-application of high-Nitrogen fertilizers (not guilty!), root-system damage, or the excess of other soil salts (frequent Miracle Gro applications can leave excess soil salts), among other causes."

So what we can do as there is lots of fruiting time left. To ensure great quality tomatoes, eggplants and peppers water your plants at least twice weekly if they are in the ground. Plan on watering container vegetable plantings at least 4 to 5 times per week for the remainder of the gardening season. Our veggie plants have really grown and they have lots of hungry roots and the soil dries quickly now in containers. FEED your plants weekly with a good natural dose of Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest. The calcium found in this product will help quickly to stave off Blossom End Rot and bring you better quality fruit!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 3, 2010