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!

1 comment:

Less is More said...

hi there .thanks for the tips you shared on you post . id learned a lot and enjoy reading it . id notice you dont tackle about wind spinners and other garden accessories i know this may help to make a garden attractive . well anyways thank you again nice post.