Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March (Late March) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Late March is almost here! Skillin's Country is a busy, busy place. We have just finished a fun, fabulous, fragrant, fresh and fantastic Spring 2012 Open House at Skillin's Falmouth. Thanks so much for coming everybody!

This coming weekend brings our Spring Open Houses to Brunswick and Cumberland. I will be at both and hope to see you there! Click HERE for our Open House Specials!

We have had some very very nice weather in Skillin's Country for sure. Many plants are up ahead of schedule for sure. It seems like good gardening is upon us but I still think we have some cool weather ahead of us so do proceed with caution.

*It will soon be time to prune roses, butterfly bushes, and other summering flowering shrubs. Click HERE for a great primer on pruning that we posted previously in a prior year. (Seriously, a very good gardening article!).

*Okay so we shouldn't do any raking or much traversing over the wet ground yet. Dry areas can be raked. If you still have not done so here are more than a couple of pre season suggestions to do:

1. Clean and reorganize your garden storage area.
2. Get your lawn mower re serviced. Remember to sharpen or have sharpened your lawn mower blade for better cutting of your lawn.
3. Got old tools. Condition those handles with some linseed oil.
4. Start doing some stretching and some good deep knee bends to get the gardening body limbered up. Some good warm up for the season exercises are found at this post by KCB.

*Find your hoses, get them ready to hook up. Test them for leaks and to see if the washers need to be repaired.

*If you have not done so, make that sketch of your vegetable garden and flower garden. Better yet, try to figure out ways to plant flowers and vegetables together! Marigolds make great companions for vegetables as marigolds help to deter pests.

*Did you have woodchucks last year eat some of your plants (I had a pesky wood chuck bother my plants). Come see us and pick up a Mole Mover tube. Insert that tube into the ground near the woodchucks den and drive the woodchuck away. These tubes work!

*I live on a busy road that is heavily sanded and salted. The grass strip near the road is one of the earliest to dry and my wife and I have been out there with a broom and a rake getting all the sand off that strip. Once that is accomplished I will spread some all  natural Gypsum pellets over the area to absorb some of the salts in the ground. Gypsum also helps to aerate that soil that is compacted by the salt. The area rebounds pretty quickly with this treatment and also I am thankful that several years ago I re seeded that strip with deep rooting Black Beauty Tall Fescue Grass Seed by Jonathan Green (sold right here at Skillin's!) Black Beauty's deep roots enable that grass to thicken and "green up"quickly in the Spring.

*If you do have a hot, sunny spot: in the next few days you should be able to plant some cool loving vegetables like peas, swiss chard, carrots and others. I have a south eastern spot in front of my roses that by mid summer gets crazy hot. But in the next few days I am going to plant some pea seeds there and hope to get some early peas. They better come early because I want to have some basil and other hot weather lovers in place in that same spot by late June. We will see....

*It has been warm and most gardeners are pulling that mulch off their perennials and roses. I have pulled some; I still  have more to go. I am usually lagging on pulling the mulch off I want to make sure the temperatures are not going to crash down. Everything seems fine at this point!

*If your yard is not too boggy in a few days, get out there and pick up and remove all the dead branches from the ground. Put the roof rake away and maybe even the snow shovels!

*Clean up all dead growth on your perennials if and when your ground drys a little at the surface. Still stay away from wet spots in the garden; too much treading on this will compress the soil. In most cases the soil should be fine to tread on!

Good friend Hammon Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport ME sends out some great gardening tips. Here are some of this week's tips which I think really hit the spot!

*From Plants Unlimited: "Wait until the grass is dry – not spongy (to rake your lawn). Working on lawns that are too wet compacts the soil, reducing the air in the soil – not the effect you are striving for.
Raking the lawn is a true test of how out of shape you are after the winter!
As soon as the snow has retreated and your lawn is dry, rake the old debris, sand, twigs and other foreign matter off. This will help remove thatch and debris that might restrain grass growth as well as aerate the lawn. Air and light will also trigger lush growth. All of this helps to get your lawn greening and growing."

*From Plants Unlimited:  "Start seeds of cole crops, including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower indoors under lights. You'll have transplant-sized plants in about 6 weeks, ready for planting outdoors a few weeks before the average last spring frost date.
Although April is the month to sow seeds of many flowers, some take longer to mature and so should be sown this month.  Flowers you may sow early in March include dusty miller, geranium, heliotrope, impatiens, osteospermum, petunia, mealycup sage, torenia, verbena, and annual vinca.  Flowers you may sow the middle to end of March include ageratum, coleus, dianthus, ornamental millet, African marigold, ornamental pepper, annual phlox, rudbeckia, scarlet sage, and thunbergia.
To get a jump on the herb gardening season, start seeds of basil, parsley, sage, and thyme indoors. Start seeds in flats filled with moistened seed-starting mix. Once the seeds germinate, place the plants under grow lights for 14 hours a day (timers make this easy) and keep soil moist." 

Click HERE for a great Skillin's post called the "ABCs of Seed Starting!"

* From Plants Unlimited: "Apply Dormant Oil on Fruit Trees. Keep an eye on your fruit trees and the ground around them. When the snow has melted on the ground around each tree and before the tree's buds swell and turn plump, clean old leaves and debris from around the tree. Then, spray the trees with an insecticidal oil. Dormant oil is a highly refined petroleum oil used primarily to control scale insects and the overwintering eggs of red spider mites and aphids. It is diluted with water prior to spraying. The oil coating suffocates these pests as well as their eggs. Insects cannot become resistant to it.

Dormant oil should be applied to fruit trees in early spring while they are dormant but just prior to bud swell. A dormant oil spray one week before bud break is most effective. The entire tree should be covered with a layer of the oil and spray the ground immediately around the trunk to kill any overwintering insects or diseases that may have overwintered on plant debris or grass."

* From Plants Unlimited:  Plant a Rain Garden!
What is a rain garden? A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. The garden should be positioned near a runoff source like a downspout, driveway or sump pump to capture rainwater runoff and stop the water from reaching the sewer system. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%.

"Why plant a rain garden?" It helps keep clean, fresh rainwater out of the sewer system and you are doing your part to reduce pollution and preserve our water systems.Native plants are recommended for rain gardens because they generally do not require fertilizer and are more tolerant of one’s local climate, soil, and water conditions, and attract local wildlife such as native birds. The plants — a selection of wetland edge vegetation, such as wildflowers, sedges, rushes, ferns, shrubs and small trees — take up excess water flowing into the rain garden. Water filters through soil layers before entering the groundwater system.

Contact us at skillins@maine.rr.com with any questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 20, 2012

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