Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Gardening Tips! And tips for the Holiday Season!!

Hello again,

Here are some very timely tips for this early part of December:

Mulch perennials and roses. If not completed in November, spread a heavy layer of mulch over your plants after the ground freezes. This will protect them from winter thawing.” I have still not had a chance to mulch around my roses and perennials. I am waiting for the next cold snap to freeze that ground up ( I shouldn’t have to wait long!) and then I am going to mulch around my roses and perennials.

Mark driveways and walkways. Before the ground freezes, mark the areas that will need snow removed during the winter to protect the landscape and make plowing or snow blowing easier.” Great practical advice. We recommend using oak stakes and perhaps painting the tops of the stakes with a bright color. Though the ground might be frozen on the surface it is possible to get oak stakes into the ground.

Dig a hole for live holiday trees. Living trees are often a popular choice for holiday decorating. For the best chance of winter survival, these beautiful trees need to be planted outdoors as soon as possible, usually after five days of being inside. Dig the hole before the ground freezes and store the soil indoors so that it remains unfrozen and can be used to plant the tree.” Live Christmas trees are one of our favorite options this time of year. Several years ago my former neighbor and his family planted some marvelous spruce and fir trees along our property line that had been their live Christmas trees. They have moved away but the trees are still there and make a nice hedge along our property line. We do have a great selection of live trees left at this point. Again it is still be possible to get that hole dug. If not we can talk to you about keeping those trees cold in a sheltered spot in your yard or near your home.

Turn off all outside faucets. If your outdoor faucets are not self-draining, they should be turned off within the house to prevent freezing and cracking. Also, hoses should be drained and properly stored.” Again great advice!

Mark perennials and bulbs. Marking plants in the garden before they become snow covered helps for early spring spotting and identifying.” The next time I do this will be the first time but it is an absolutely super suggestion. You always think you will remember just where you planted those neat plants—guess what when the snow melts it is HARD to remember. Make it easy; mark those plants with a permanent marker and at least some of those wooden “tongue depressor” labels. We have some classy metal labels that work very well also!

Prepare plants for snow loads. Building small structures over brittle plants or wrapping with burlap will prevent winter damage and help keep plants healthy.” We have Maine made cedar A frames available for you at a great price that should do the job!

Plant pre-cooled bulbs for indoor spring forcing. After bulbs have received eight weeks of refrigeration, it is now time to put them into a loose potting mix in a dark, cool location for another six to eight weeks. Water only as needed for continued dampness.” This is the essence of “forcing” bulbs such as tulips, crocuses and daffodils. We also have hyacinth and paperwhite narcissus that can be forced by merely placing the bulbs in water. Winter color that is easy to come by!

Also: some popular questions and answers for this seasonal time of year:

Does Skillins Greenhouses mail order wreaths?
Yes, we have a State of Maine Wreath decorated for $38.99 that we can
ship anywhere in the continental United States.

We make all types of wreaths! Check out http://www.skillinsmainewreaths.com/ for this and other choices of wreath and great gift ideas.

Which type of cut tree lasts the longest?

They will all last through the season providing you give them a fresh cut (about 1 to 2 inches) before placing them into their stand and they are never allowed to run out of water. If you are going right home with your tree, we will be glad to cut the tree for you here at Skillin’s!

We have a great selection of all native grown Scotch Pine, Balsam Fir and Frasier Fir cut Christmas trees. We grow about half our trees right here in Falmouth ME. The remainder is contract grown for us by another multi-generation family in the Skowhegan ME area.

How should a cut tree be prepared?

When the tree arrives home and is ready to be put up, cut about 2" from the bottom of the trunk. Then place the tree straight into the stand and fill with water. Add a tree preservative into the water and every time you need to add water to the stand. Check the water level twice a day and always maintain the highest possible level. Giving your tree a plentiful supply of water is critical to achieving a long and healthy “indoor life” for the tree.

How many lights are needed to light a tree?

Mini lights require 50 lights per foot of tree height, and the larger lights require 15 lights per foot of tree.

How do you care for a poinsettia?

Place the poinsettia in a bright spot, keep it from draft, and water when soil is dry but not to a wilt. Do not allow poinsettias to sit in water; decorative foil on the container may hold water so remember to check this and remove any excess water. Poinsettias are not poisonous! And have I told you we grow our poinsettias right here in Maine?

How do you keep holly and mistletoe?

Keep holly cool and misted, replace as needed. Do not use fresh holly outdoors, as it will freeze. Mistletoe will remain fresh if kept cool; it will also dry nicely holding its leaves and berries. All parts of mistletoe are poisonous.

Thanks to Terry Skillin for these questions and answers!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 6, 2011