Monday, March 12, 2012

March (Mid March) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Mid March is here already! The Portland Flower Show is just past. What a great show--much hard work went into it and we saw many happy faces there!

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Pray Hardscapes/Skillin's booth won The Lyle Littlefield Commemorative Award for the garden that best introduces new or under-used woody plants. Also we won The Roger Luce Award for the garden that best utilizes new or underused herbaceous plants. Congrats also to our friends at Jaiden Landscaping for winning Best of Show! See more details about the Portland Flower Show right HERE!

Thanks to all the customers who visited Skillin's on their way to or from the Show. The Portland Flower Show really gets people "revved up" for the coming Spring gardening season. And as my uncle John Skillin used to say about this time of year  for us gardeners: "It is getting to be our time."

Speaking of "our time", our Skillin's Open Houses are coming fast now! This Friday, Saturday and Sunday March 16, 17 and 18 at Skillin's Falmouth and next Friday and Saturday, March 24 and 25 at Skillin's Brunswick and Cumberland! Click HERE for our Open House Specials! Come see our good friends, the Maine Orchid Society at Skillin's Falmouth on March 17 and March 18. Also we have a good series of classes those days and you can see all about them and more classes right HERE!

It is time to bring you all a few Gardening Tips. What mild weather we have been having in Skillin's Country. Some areas still have snow but much of the snow is gone. It really feels like an early Spring is upon us!

*For the most part it is still too early to walk much on the lawn or garden area because it is still quite wet. Walking too much on mushy soil will actually compact that soil and take some of the natural vitality away from the earth under your foot prints. So for now resist the urge to tread on wet soil! Soil that is dry enough to walk on will feel firm underneath or spring back quickly underfoot.

*Some of you may have started some seedlings already. Some plants (peppers, celery, greens of all types, perennials) can and should be started by now. Many vegetable crops (tomatos, vine crops like cukes, squashes, watermelons) should not be started for a few weeks yet. If you have started some seedlings, it will soon be time to do some "thinning" of seedlings. As contrary as it seems to be, thinning seedlings is important so the "survivors" can grow stronger with more room and more light! Our friends at Gardeners Supply recently gave some good thinning advice:

"Nobody likes to thin seedlings. It's fussy work, and always hard to decide which ones to save and which to toss. Here's and easier way: When the first true leaves appear, use a scissors to snip off the extra seedlings at the soil line. You'll be left with only as many seedlings as you need.

Don't seed too thickly. Two to three seeds per pot is sufficient.
Some gardeners carefully separate the seedlings and replant the extras in other pots. Thrifty, yes, but it's easy to damage the tiny plants. If you decide to transplant any of the seedlings, loosen them carefully from the soil, using a table knife. When handling the seedlings, grasp them by their leaves or roots; avoid holding the stems, which can be damaged easily.

If you're thinning a crop of lettuce seedlings, you can actually add the tiny thinnings to your next salad. "

*One outside job that can be done is to shovel any snow off your raised beds. Give the soil a better chance to warm up faster by getting that snow off! Let the soil dry out some. This weekend or next week if you have the chance sprinkle some good natural garden fertilizer on the beds (think Garden Tone by Espoma--sold right here at Skillin's!) and gently hoe the Garden Tone into the soil. You never know with some good sun you could easily be planting peas or spinach or other greens into those raised beds for a good early crop!

*If you can get to them now is a last window to prune your apple or other fruit trees. Also you could prune to shape some summer flowering shrubs like spirea, potentilla, rose bushes and butterfly bushes. Stay away from Spring flowering shrubs like lilacs, rhododendrons and forsythia. You will just be pruning off branches that will be blossoming in a few short weeks. Although you can prune forsythia and flowering crabs just a little bit for vases indoors. Cut a few branches of forsythia or flowering crabtrees, bring them indoors in a good sized vase and soon  you will  have flowers indoors!

*Resist uncovering any perennials right now! Most of my perennials are just covered a little by balsam fir tips I laid down in December. In a couple of spots the perennials are starting to grow underneath the balsam. Do not take off any mulch yet from your perennials. I am usually later than some but I do not uncover my perennials until late March (around March 25 at the earliest). The ground will slowly warm through the mulch and the mulch will protect the soil from freezing and thawing during the earliest days of Spring in Skillin's Country. In many cases I will pull only some of the mulch and then take the rest off in early April.

*This is a repeat from earlier in the month but do clean out the wet bird food from your bird feeders. Our plentiful moisture of the last few weeks left my feeders (no, wait my bird's feeders) with some wet food. Birds do not prefer wet food and uneaten wet food can mildew easily! Keep the food dry and our feathered friends will be happier (and more loyal if you know what I mean!)

*Don't forget your houseplants. There is more light in Skillin's Country and your plants will be growing more! So water thoroughly and slowly when you do water. Let lots of excess water gush out of the bottom of the pot and drain away. Then water again only when the soil is dry. Begin feeding your plants again--we have lots of great all natural options like Dynamite, Organica's Plant Tablets or Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer. (I recommend any of them!)

*We have loads of Spring flowering bulbs available for you and NOW is a great time to get tuberous begonias and dahlias started indoors. Use all natural Bar Harbor Blend by Coast of Maine, peat pots (so you can submerge them into larger pots or outdoor soil later) and place them in the sun. You will get WEEKS more flowering out of these gorgeous plants! We have the BEST bulb selection in Maine!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 12, 2012

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