Monday, October 18, 2010

October Garden Talks 2010

The purpose of this post is to relay a few "quick hit" garden tips to you through the month of October. Some of these tips will be garden tasks I am doing myself, 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.

                                                     (photo found at

Check back to this post often as we will update it often as we roll through October 2010!

Here are our September Garden Talks 2010 .

October 18--Sorry folks meant to do some posting over the last couple of days but work duties have kept me from the keyboard! Let's review--Skillin's Country received about 3.5" of rain on Friday. Hopefully not too many lost power. This rain has really soaked our gardens and lawn areas and that is a good thing!

It will be VERY COLD tonight in all parts of Skillin's Country. I still have some container plantings I want to keep going so I am going to haul the frost blanket out. I will also spray some plants later tonight with water and then again early tomorrow AM. This may hold off (or in the case of the morning showering blow off) those nasty frost particles!

I talked with many customers yesterday about planting bulbs. We still have a great selection of bulbs here. One KEY is to plant those bulbs DEEP--usually 2 or 3 inches deeper than normal directions. Try going about 4 times as deep as the bulb is wide.

Deeper planting of bulbs is better for several reasons: 1) to better insulate bulbs from roller coaster soil temps. The deeper the bulb the more even the temperatures are.  Bulbs like it cool. 2) A deeper depth makes it more difficult for above ground rodents to tamper with the bulbs 3) A good depth also makes it easier to plant annual plantings "on top" of the bulbs in the Spring.

October 14--Here is a recent email question we received from customer Donna:

From customer Donna: Is fall the best time to prune lilacs? My bush isn't producing very well.

Answer: Lilacs can be pruned in the fall but it is not the best time to prune them. By now the lilacs have set much of the growth that will produce flowers for next year. SO, by pruning now you would probably not have any flowering this coming Spring.

The BEST time to prune lilacs is in early to mid June right after their normal flowering time of late May.

One suggestion would be to give your lilacs a good feeding of Plant Tone by Espoma right now and some handfuls of a good calcium based lime like Mira Cal by Jonathan Green. Both products will work slowly to improve the soil around the lilacs and this should help the lilacs produce better. I usually recommend two feedings of Plant Tone and one of Mira Cal yearly.

Also, we had a very dry summer—we have had some good rains lately but make sure your lilacs get a good deep watering weekly between now and when the ground freezes.

Finally, lilacs thrive in the sun. Are they in an area where it is shady? Perhaps that is the issue as well.

October 13--Gardening friend Margaret from checks in with some great garden tips quite often. Her web site is worth a visit. This garden tip from her "October Chores" caught my eye: "AS VEGETABLE PLANTS (and annual flowers) fade, pull them to get a start on garden cleanup. Before composting the remains, cut them up a bit with a pruning shears or shred, to speed decomposition. I sometimes just run piles of dry things over with the mower (nothing too woody or you’ll wreck your blade, of course)."

October 13--Here is a recent email question we received from customer Nancy. I thought I would pass the discussion along:

From customer Nancy: I have a question about soil. I have gardened for years and have always had great luck with vegetables. This summer, for some reason, I used Miracle Gro organic potting soil for tomatoes on my deck and Miracle Gro garden soil mixed with the soil in my garden for vegetables in the yard. Now, this was great for my flowers - I have never had so many healthy blossoms - but the plants didn't set much fruit at all. The only thing that grew well was beans. Was I missing some key element for the plants to set fruit?

Answer: For container plantings we recommend the all organic Bar Harbor Blend potting soil by Coast of Maine Organics (we sell this Maine based product right here at Skillin’s—good pricing!). This is a very well composted soil. We then recommend weekly or every other weekly liquid feedings with all natural Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer by Neptune’s Harvest. Yum Yum! This gives your veggie plants a good balance of nutrients with a great shot of calcium that is great for vegetable fruit.

October 12--Gardening friend Margaret from checks in with some great garden tips quite often. Her web site is worth a visit. This garden tip from her "October Chores" caught my eye: BE EXTRA-VIGILANT cleaning up under fruit trees, as fallen fruit and foliage allowed to overwinter invites added troubles next season. So will mummies (shriveled fruit hanging on the trees). Best to pick and remove (though I confess to leaving mine hanging for the birds, who adore it).

October 10--We survived the frost of last night pretty well along the coast but I have an idea deeper in Skillin's Country the cold was very likely more severe.

We received a couple of email gardening questions at and I thought I would pass the discussion along. Feel free to email us your gardening questions!

From customer Marty: "You recommended composting perennial beds this fall. Have lots of daffodil bulbs in them. Do I need to put on bulb fertilizer too or will the compost do for all especially when the bulbs are mixed in so much with the later plantings?"

Answer: I would put some scatter some Bulb Tone by Espoma all natural fertilizer (or its cousin Plant Tone) on top of the soil before I laid down the compost.

This fertilizer will be available in the Spring to help give those daffs a nice PUSH in the Spring.

From customer Lori: "I bought a passionflower vine this summer, and I'm wondering if it will winter over okay, or if I should try to bring it in? If I can leave it outside, is there anything I can do to protect it?"

Answer: I would definitely bring the plant indoors this winter. It will not overwinter out of doors.

When you bring it in, give it as much light as possible. It may well need a good haircut sometime over the winter to set it up for as nice shape as possible this coming Spring.

October 7--Well that rain we received overnight was great. About 1.5" of rain fell in Skillin's Country and our plants will use it well!

October 6--As the weather turns cooler and cooler in Skillin's Country we are at a point where it is good to cut back almost to the ground any perennials whose foliage has become unsightly. The seedheads and dried foliage of some perennials add interest during the winter months, while others just look messy. As the weather continues to cool more and more perennial foliage will turn less and less attractive so keep those pruners sharp and ready! This weekend looks to be a good time to get out in the garden for tasks like this. The eminent garden writer KCB posted a terrific article on putting garden Beds to Rest. Check it out!

October 1--Good gardening friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME recently sent out a great gardening email. One piece of advice focused on using Winter Rye as a cover crop and I liked what Hammon wrote. If you do rototill your garden in the Spring, we recommend winter rye as a winter cover crop or what the "old timers" like me call "green manure". Here is what Hammon wrote:

"Cover crops are grown to protect and/or enrich the soil rather than for short term economic gain. When turned into the soil, a cover crop is called a green manure, so the terms are reasonably interchangeable. Cover crops are an important part of a crop rotation plan to maintain soil health and reduce insect, weed, and disease pressure.

Cover crops protect the soil from wind and water erosion, and they can help alleviate compaction. With the exception of legumes, which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, cover crops don’t actually create nutrients, but they can conserve nutrients which may otherwise be lost through leaching. Some deep rooted crops can obtain nutrients from below the root zone of most vegetables. When these cover crops are turned under, the nutrients will be released to the upper zone of soil. Fast-growing cover crops are well-suited to suppressing weeds, by “smothering” them and starving them for light. Use high seeding rates if cover crops are grown for weed suppression.

Winter Rye is a common winter cover crop, sown after cash crops are harvested in the fall. It is very hardy, adapted to a wide range of conditions, and seed is inexpensive. The latest-sown cover crop, it produces a lot of biomass in the spring. This adds organic matter to the soil but may be difficult to incorporate prior to crop planting. Sow 60-120 lb/acre if drilled, 90-160 lb/acre if broadcast, from late summer to mid-October in most areas. Incorporate rye in early spring before it gets too rank for your equipment to handle."

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