Friday, September 7, 2012

September (early September) Garden Talks

Hello again,

My goodness! Where has August gone? Where has the summer gone? Ah well September in Skillin's Country is always beautiful and always an active time.

 We press on--enjoy your time as much as you can; smile as often as you think of it--isn't it wonderful we are made with the ability to smile and to laugh? Look for life's joys in the smallest of places and in the quietest of times. Joy is here; joy IS there.

It is a great time to Get in the Garden!

*Winds and fast changing early fall weather can leave us with all kinds of fallen leaves and branches. Spend some time with a rake and get the dead material picked up from your lawn and garden. Not only will your area look better so that will help you to feel better but dead leaves and stems serve as a great "harbor" or host for insects, mildews and other diseases. Clean up the mess and put this plant matter into your composter or compost heap.  Extend this thought to your gardening effort over the course of the next month or two as we pull any annuals or trim any perennials from our garden, a complete cleanup of leaves and branches that we cut or that are lying on the ground is important.

*It will soon be time to bring your houseplants back inside from the outside. NOW is a great time to treat these outdoor houseplants with Systemic Houseplant Granules by Bonide. These granules are easy to apply and provide plant protection for up to 8 weeks. Bonide changed their formula a few years back and we think this product is great at nipping all kinds of harmful little critters that can spread from plant to plant. The active ingredient in the granules works systemically within the plant and is very effective when a plant or leaf biting insect comes into touch with this product in the plant's system. At this point, the soomer you apply this product the more time it has to work to clean up any insects on your plant! Got houseplant questions? Come to our Thriving Houseplants class. See details on our classes HERE!

*I am not the best photographer in the world but I do want to show you quickly and easily how I carry my different garden products around my yard. (See the picture below).

We all need a good quality garden cart. (Yes, we have some at Skillin's!). I love a good garden cart because it features one of the best inventions ever--the wheel--and by using those wheels you can carry some heavy products around. I have over 100 pounds of products in that cart. It is easy to wheel and also the cart gets the products off the ground and allows me much less bending!

I had multiple goals (actually 2 which I will detail in a moment) that I wanted to achieve. The garden cart helps me to  consolidate my products, to easily wheel them around my yard and to not bend down so much while picking up bags.

In the cart, I have tall fescue Grass Seed (we sell Bonide's Heat and Drought mix, Seed Accelerator (compressed paper pellets that once wet gives the seed a nice cover), Espoma's Garden Tone and also Espoma's Holly Tone. So here are my aforementioned two afternoon goals:

  1) Get some grass seed and Seed Accelerator down on some thin spots. Bonide's Heat and Drought grass seed contains 3 very hardy blends of Tall Fescue and has a rich green look. The Tall Fescue roots grow very deep which means your lawn will look great with less water, show more insect and disease resistance, and endure the cold winter temperatures better.

I often overseed parts of my lawn that are getting a little thin. This is easily accomplished by scratching the soil, laying the seed down, scratching the seed in and covering the seed with compressed paper pellets such as Grass Seed Acclerator or Penn Mulch. These pellets expand and provide a nice thin cover to the seed. Water daily and you will have thick grass soon!

  2) My second goal this afternoon was to give my perennials, shrubs and evergreens (like rhododendrons) their second feeding of all natural fertilizers for the season. Some of my gardening peers discourage feeding of flowering plants at this point of the year. I take a different tact. I know I can be accused of trying to sell lots of fertilizer. But I garden naturally and my take for most flowering situations (perennials, shrubs, vegetable gardens) is that we ask a great deal of our plants and soils in a short amount of time. Therefore, my feeling and experience is that most flowering plants perform best with 2 gentle, spaced apart, feedings of all natural fertilizers. This would be something like Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Flower, Plant or Garden Tone by Espoma for most flowering plants and Holly Tone by Espoma for acid loving plants like evergreens, blueberries and blue hydrangeas. Directions should be followed.

My thought is that the feedings should be spaced apart. For example, Spring and late Summer; Early Summer and Fall, etc. I believe that these foods work with the biology of the soil and the plant's roots benefit first. The roots become bigger and stronger with better biology in the soil. Then the plant's performance becomes more vigorous over time. The plant can then better withstand our cold winters, wet springs and dry, hot summers with deeper and stronger roots.

Most of my plants have had their Spring and early summer feeding. Now it is time for the late summer and fall second feeding!

*Great gardening friend Tom Atwell of the Maine Sunday Telegram in 2012 wrote a great article for September gardening. I highly recommend you read this well timed and well written piece.

Some highlights from Tom Atwell's piece:

  **"September is the best time to do lawn work. Lawns grow best in cool, moist weather, and that is fall. If you want to put in a new lawn, get the work done before the end of the month."

  **"Expanding or renovating perennial and shrub gardens in the fall makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is financial. Garden centers generally lower their prices on plants in the fall, so you can get more plants for the money. (We are having a GREAT sale on shrubs, trees and perennials right NOW at Skillin's!)

In addition, the growing season is fresh in your mind. You know the areas where the garden was just a swath of green for a month during the summer. Buy some plants that will bloom during that period to give it a bit more interest.

You can also move plants. Sometimes you discover a shorter plant that is hidden by all of the plants around it. Or a plant that you put in the front of the border has grown taller than the label said it would, and is hiding the plants behind it. This is an ideal time to rearrange the garden to suit your preferences."

  **"Fall is also my favorite time for cutting back roses, especially rugosas. Put on leather gloves, a flannel shirt and a sweat shirt so your arms don't get scratched. Wade right in and really cut them back. And pull out the weedy plants while doing it.

One other hint: If a plant is not doing well or if you just don't like it, it is perfectly acceptable to dig it out and throw it away. Life is too short to put up with a bad plant."

Thanks again to Tom Atwell for the above 3 points and the great article I cited above!

*Good gardener Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden publishes some great gardening chores each month. Her September list of garden tasks is excellent as always and a couple of pointers really caught my eye.

  **From Margaret: "PEAK PLANTING AND DIVIDING time is upon us; make that work include some focus on the addition of fall and winter plants to the landscape.

Maybe something gold? Maybe something full of fruit?

AS YOU BEGIN to wind down and clean up, take notes of what worked and didn’t. Mark areas that would have been easier to maintain with a workhorse groundcover in place, for instance, or areas where more bulbs might fit. Last year at this time I made a walkabout and identified various shrubs whose days were numbered; just not enough bang for the buck (well, for the space they take up), or simply too big to fit where they grew anymore. Down and out they came early this spring."

  **More great Tree and Shrub advice from Margaret: " IF YOU’RE ON THE DRY SIDE, unlike me, be sure to water trees and shrubs now through hard frost, so that they enter dormancy in a well-hydrated state. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winterburn if not well watered before the cold and winds set in. (I totally agree with this advice and further recommend an application of all natural Wilt Pruf in mid November to your broad leafed evergreens like rhododendrons. Wilt Pruf really helps to reduce transpiration or moisture loss that high winter winds and dry winter air effect upon vulnerable broadleafed evergreens)

DON’T PANIC IF EVERGREENS start to show some browning or yellowing of needles this month and next. The oldest, innermost needles typically shed after a few years on the tree."

Thanks Margaret for the above 3 points!

*Want to try some Simple Roasted Tomatoes? Click HERE for a great post and recipe by our friends at the Gardener's Journal!

*Seeing many holes in your hosta? And in your broccoli and some of your annuals (my zinnias are getting punished) ? Well that is the work of slugs. The moisture we have received lately has made Skillin's Country a very hospitable environment for slugs and they love to make big holes in our plants. Spread some Slug Magic by Bonide (very safe to use around kids and pets) around your plants and your slugs will disappear rapidly.

*Paul Parent sends out some great email advice and I highly recommend you go to his website to sign up for his weekly emails.

Paul reminded us this past week that now is the best time to eliminate Japanese bamboo if it is plaguing your garden space. The Japanese bamboo is producing beautiful white flowers and soon will produce seed. By spraying the plant now you not only set the plant back BUT you sterilize seeds and that will hold the plant back from producing.

*Paul also has this to say about fall vegetable growing:

"Now is the time to plant your fall vegetable garden, so clean up those spaces where the crops are done producing and plants seeds for fresh vegetables during October. you have time now to plant green and yellow beans, peas, leaf lettuce of all types, radishes, Swiss chard, and spinach. In mid-September, fresh garlic bulbs will be available, so make room for them now and condition the soil before planting them. (I just planted some carrot seeds today in some available space. Also Skillin's has garlic bulbs available right now!)

Prepare the soil just like you do in the spring with compost, animal manure, or seaweed kelp. Your soil is warm and the seed will quickly germinate, so be sure to keep the soil moist at all times to help speed up germination. If you can use a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks, your plant will mature quickly and before long you will be eating fresh vegetables in early October. Fall vegetables have fewer insect and disease problems than those grown during the summer and cooler weather gives them more flavor. Extend your harvest to October, but you must plant now to give the plants time to grow. Enjoy!"

Thanks Paul!

We have 2013 certified Botanical Interest seeds available here at Skillin's as well as all natural fertlizers like Fish and Seaweed Blend by Neptune's Harvest to get the job done on a great Fall vegetable garden!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 7, 2012

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