Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Color of Happiness

Color Me Happy

The Earth is Mother Nature’s coloring book. While all colors work in nature, it is the combining and subtleness of shades that make it pleasing to the eye.  Colors that harmonize or complement, we feel it. Our eye translates to our brain and feeds our soul. Color schemes are mood enhancers and can either soothe or excite.

What is your favorite color?  Most of us when asked can reveal at least one favorite color. Countless internet searches revealed blue as the favorite in ’17 countries’ one site boasted. So why such a favorite color is also used to describe the feeling of sadness? Second favorite is no surprise to be green. What do we think of when we think of blue and green? The sky and a well manicured lawn?  The ocean which can be both blue and green at once.  With so many blues and greens to choose from, in nature and created by man which is the favorite blue? The primary color blue or one of the varying shades to either side of the color wheel. Nevertheless, a color wheel is not necessary for most to understand, if not see the varying blue all around us. Some blues are warmer than others; such as turquoise or cyan. Cooler blues fade into violets & purples such as periwinkle.

Gardeners or any artist, yes we are artists, though with less control of our palette and canvas would answer, ‘it depends’.  Over the years our ‘favorite colors’ may change. Alternatively, we may have a one ‘favorite’ to wear, another for our walls, another for accessories. The term ‘pop of color’ is used from everything to donning a scarf, adding a pillow even in our landscapes. Perhaps more correctly, when it comes to decorating, whether our homescapes or landscapes, our mind drifts to a color scheme.  A few like to relax with the cool and some like it hot!

How do colors make you feel? The vibrant yellow of late blooming daffodils nestled amongst a bed of tulips of orange and red may make me smile. The combination pleases most of us especially after the dullness of a Maine winter. Yet there are a number of us who would not combine these colors in our home or on ourselves. I don’t even think I own anything orange and my reds migrate toward a cooler red. My d├ęcor is all sea foam greens and azure blues accentuated with a bolt of neon green. The garden I have created for myself offers blooms of white, blue, lavenders and purples punctuated with foliage of silver, blue greens and burgundies. Later in the season there is the addition of a warming gold.  August just wouldn’t be August without Susan and her black-eyed cousins. She is fashionably late yet doesn’t over shadow the glow of Becky, my favorite Shasta Daisy and the elegant White Swan Echinacea.

Want to know what colors work together before you head to your nursery?  Most paint stores sell their color swatch books for a nominal fee. Individual color swatches are free for the taking so you can fine tune your focus. Look up color wheel or color schemes on the internet and the options are as variable as colors available. Personally, while I have color wheel and swatches especially made for landscapers, each season brings new plant cultivars and varieties. Often I can be found carrying plants around the nursery yards to get the right mix and match of bloom and foliage colors. Don’t over look the subtle variations within each individual bloom or leaf. To serve as the color compliment or harmony.  The dark purple veining in the silvery leaf of ‘Amethyst Myst’ Heuchera works well with the dark foliage of the ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ Snakeroot.  It is no secret I look to foliage for consistent garden drama.

Whether totally revamping your landscape, adding subtle changes or considering experimenting with changing your color scheme in one bed or containers, when its all set, sit back and relax. If it is working you cannot help but smile…………

(Check back soon for KCB's next post: The Secret of Coloring)

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 28, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Has Arrived and Great Weather Along With It

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Very recently Paul sent out as part of his weekly newsletter a great post called "Spring Has Arrived and Great Weather Along With It." Paul went over some very timely yard and garden tips for just this early time of the season which can help all of us get our outdoor gardening off to a GREAT start!

Following are some excerpts from what Paul had to say:

"Spring is here, and that means it's time for you to get out of the house and back in the yard. The seed catalogs are everywhere, gardening magazines are now flooding the book stands, and the birds are returning to your yards--so let's get moving. Take advantage of the warmer than normal weather and let's clean up the yard, prepare the soil for planting and begin planting early spring flowers like pansies, violets and Johnny jump ups.

It's also time to work on the lawn and get rid of the moss growing there. If you're using the old fashioned powdered limestone, be sure to open up your spreader all the way to do the job properly. This will give you the proper rate of 50 pounds per 1000 sq. ft. of lawn for heavy moss...." At Skillin's we love the Fast Acting Lime by Encap. This calcium based lawn lends great minerals to your soil that will help your soil be better aerated over time. If the soil seems especially heavy and dense then come pick up some gypsum to put down on that part of the lawn. Also ask us to show you some all natural and safe lawn foods that when used consistently will bring natural aeration and a thicker grass to your lawn area!

If the moss is like a carpet, rake it up with your steel grading rake and dispose of it now and then add grass seed in those areas later to fill in the holes. If moss is visible, you can also purchase a moss killer and burn it out quickly without hurting the existing grass--but you will still need to add lime to sweeten the soil to prevent regrowth later so you won't have to look at the moss during the summer.

Apply Fast Acting Lime too at the recommended rate for all your flower and vegetable gardens. Shrubs like lilacs, clematis, and pink hydrangea love lime, so be sure to give them a bit extra to promote good foliage growth and flowers later. If you have shrubs and flowering trees that are not flowering well, give them a bit of lime to help sweeten the soil and make the fertilizer you will apply work better around the plants. Even rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel will improve their flower production with occasional applications of lime products.

If you have blue hydrangea and blueberries, it is also time to add a soil conditioner called aluminum sulfate to make the soil more acidic. This is the opposite of what liming the soil does, as these plants prefer an acidic soil to grow in; this will increase the flowers on the blueberry for more berries and you'll have brighter flower colors on the hydrangea.

Right now is the best and MOST effective time to control crabgrass in your lawn, especially if you had crabgrass in your lawn last year. Each plant you had last year is able to produce up to 5000 seeds--so if you had a problem last year, it could be much worse this year. If you're controlling crabgrass with a traditional or organic product this year, remember to get it down early and be sure to water it in to dissolve the product to create the protective barrier on top of the soil to prevent seed germination. This first step will also fertilize the grass and help fill in the holes left in the lawn by the dead crabgrass plants from last year. Thick lawns do not have crabgrass problems so if you did not have crabgrass last year, feed your lawn to prevent problems this year.

Newly planted shrubs and trees from last year should now be fertilized now with Bio-Tone to continue the root development process so the plant can be ready for a possible hot and dry summer. Remember what this winter has been like--the summer could be a hot and dry one, so prepare now just in case. Established plants should be fertilized with the proper fertilizer also for evergreens use Holly-Tone by Espoma. If you have deciduous or leafless plants, use Espoma Plant-tone now. Feeding at this time of the year stimulates the plant to grow while there is a good supply of moisture in the ground; remember, "April Showers bring May flowers." While the sap is moving up the tree, your fertilizer applied now can also move up the tree or shrub more easily for a uniform growth; it won't just sit at the bottom of the plant.

Clean up your perennial flower beds now, fertilize, lime and apply your bark mulch or compost before the plants begin to grow. It will save you time and prevent you from damaging newly sprouting shoots. When Spring Training finishes--and your favorite baseball team begins to play baseball for real--is the right time to prune back your roses; not before--especially in the northern part of the country--but you can feed and lime them now.

Your fruit trees, berry plants, rosebushes, perennial beds and evergreen shrubs should now be sprayed with All Season Oil and Copper Fungicide to kill overwintering insects and disease spores on your plants. Be sure to clean around the plants and remove all of last year's foliage on the ground, as it does contain these problems; spray the structure the plants are growing on too. Entomologists are predicting a real bad year for insects this year due to the mild winter. The lack of real prolonged cold weather along with no frost in the ground could give us many problems with insects and disease in the coming weeks, so stay on top of problems as they develop in your garden.

Now is also the time to prune your deciduous non flowering plants like privet hedges, burning bush, barberry and privacy hedges--just to name a few. Also your non flowering evergreens like boxwood, holly, ilex, yews and junipers again just to name a few. While you're pruning your Canadian hemlock, check them over real well for small white growths that look like cotton on the underside of the needle, near the tips of the branches. If you see this, treat your plant "NOW" with systemic tree and shrub insecticide so the upward movement of the sap will take the product to the top of the tree and protect the entire plant for the entire year. If you have ash trees or large leaf trees on your property, look at the trunk of the tree for possible holes in them about the size of a pencil. Those could be a real problem that is easily controlled now--with the same product. Longhorn beetles or ash borers are a real problem all over New England now--and the warm winter did not help."

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 26, 2012

Envisioning Your Garden

Hello again,

I was traveling on Monday but doing some reading at the same time. I came across this great post at the Martha Stewart website. I am not a regular visitor to her website--this post was linked to I believe my Linked in account BUT the author here, Helen Yoest writes well about how to envision your space.

She writes practically about how to sketch what you have and with a little bit of feel for some scale in your sketches incorporate areas for your children, for sitting, etc. We LOVE to work with sketches here at Skillin's. So share your thoughts with us; we can very practically help to turn your dreams into achievable reality!

HERE is the post by Helen Yoest.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 27, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quick Pruning Hints-Roses and Burning Bush!

KCB is back with some quick pruning tips:

When to prune roses?  Now. An old-fashioned hint for our area; prune when the forsythia are just starting to bud. 

·         Cut back any dead or broken canes to the ground. See the pictures for an example.      

When to prune Butterfly Bush?  In about a week or 2 when the forsythia are in full bloom.

·         Cut back any dead or damaged branches to the ground. Other branches cut back to 1/3 of growth. Often I will leave the center branches slightly taller to emphasis the arching shape.

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 25, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Grow Carrots

Hello again,

Good gardener Margaret of A Way to Garden brings us a great post on How to Grow Carrots. There is some detail here and some good corrections of some misnomers, so if you want experienced guidance on how to grow carrots, read on!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
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 with any questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 20, 2012

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plants for a Pergola

Hello again,

Our gardening friends at Horticulture Magazine frequently send out some nice garden tips. And a quick post called Plants for a Pergola caught my eye today.

The native Trumpet Honeysuckle

The Horticulture folks talk about a couple of native vines that are less invasive than some of their non native counterparts: American Wisteria and the Trumpet Honeysuckle.

Check out the post for an idea about what to grow on a pergola, or arbor or trellis!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 8, 2012

Fruit Tree Care

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Fruit Tree Care (I have added a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"It is spring and now time to get outside and begin to work on the fruit trees. Start by cleaning them of any broken branches due to the snow and ice. Make a nice clean cut with pruners or a sharp saw. When removing branches from the tree, be sure to make the cuts at a slight angle so water will roll off the branch and not sit on it, causing rot. If you are removing a branch attached to the main trunk, cut the branch about a foot from the trunk first. That way if the branch should break it will not tear the bark of the tree. Once you remove the branch from the tree, use a sharp saw and cut the spur that remains as close as possible to the main trunk. The tree will heal itself much faster that way.

If you leave a spur 2 to 6 inches long on the trunk, it will rot and the decay will move into the main trunk, causing you problems later. When you make a flush cut on the trunk or branch, the tree can cover it over with a ring of callus in just a year or two. At this time of the year, the branches are full of flower buds so cut the tip branches 2 to 3 feet long and place them in a vase of water and they will flower in your home.

Remove any branches at the base of the tree, as these branches are "suckers," stealing energy from the tree. Look for any branches that crisscross and rub together. Remove the less important branch, or where they rub together the bark will wear off and create an entry point for insects or disease to enter the plant. Remove any branches that grow straight up without side shoots on them. These are "water sprouts" and will not produce fruit. A great book for the beginner or seasoned gardener is The Back Yard Orchardist by Stella Otto. All your questions on fruit tree care will be answered in this book.

The tree is cleaned and ready to grow, so let us work on insect and disease problems. At this time of the year, you can eliminate many disease problems if you can spray the trees with a copper fungicide spray or lime sulfate fungicide. When applied at this time of the year, these products will kill disease spores before they have a chance to get active--"preventive medicine."To control Insects before the eggs hatch use a horticultural oil or "all season oil." You can combine both of these products in the same sprayer and apply at the same time. Apply when temperatures are going to be above 40 degrees that day and there is no rain in the forecast. This spraying must be done before the flower buds open and the buds are still tightly closed.

Now you need an indicator on the tree to tell you when the bugs arrive so you can begin your bi-weekly spraying program. When I was in college at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, my Orchard Care class was chosen to help our professor with his idea that helped earned him his doctorate. Knowing when to start spraying the trees to control insects will make your spray program more effective and you will not have to waste pesticides applied too early.

This is what we did and you can do the same. Buy a 3 to 4 inch red plastic apple with a stem on it. Tie a piece of string 12 inches long to the stem of the apple and the other end to a branch at eye level on your tree. Coat the apple with a bit of Vaseline evenly on the surface. When the bugs arrive, they will stick to the apple and you can begin to spray the trees before they lay eggs all over the tree. Look for Bonide, Orchard Spray or Organic Labs, Organocide Fruit Tree Spray to control both disease and insects at the same time. Spray until 2 weeks before harvest. Fertilize with  Espoma Tree-Tone  twice yearly. When the fruit tree is in bloom, be sure not to spray!"

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 8, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spring 2012 Open House Specials

Special Savings!
Garden Center
Gloves 30% off
Fox Farm Soils and Fertilizers 20% off
Seed Starting Supplies 20% off
Gro Lights 20% off
Earth Boxes Save $10.00
Plant Containers and Saucers 20% off
All Spring Bulbs 20% off

Buy one get one free 8” Hanging Foliage plants Sku # 660091 $14.99
African Violets Save $2 reg 4.99 sale 2.99
4” Zonal Geraniums buy 3 receive 30% off
Herbs buy 3 receive 30% off
6” Orchids reg 36.99 sale 29.99 save $7

Spring Bonds 37.50
3” Heather $3.99 reg price, sale price $3.19 ea

Floral and Gift
Colonial Candle buy 1 box receive 10% off and  2 boxes receive 20% off
Vance Kitira Candles 20% Off
Jewelery 20% Off
Caspari 20% Off
Books 30% Off
Webkinz 20% Off
Door Mats and Rugs 20% Off
Fresh Market Bouquets 10.99
Carnation .79
Fresh cut Daffodil Bunches 3.99

KIDS free Carnation and coupon for their choice one packet of seeds

Door Prizes
Arrangement a month for 6 months
3 Perennials
2 Spring Bonds
4” Orchid
Herb Planter
1 hour Landscape Design Consultation
Earth Box, Bar Harbor Potting Soil & 3 Packets of Vegetable seeds
$500 Gift Certificate (1 Winner)
$250 Gift Certificate (2 Winners)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tips for a Fragrant Garden

Hello again,

The good folks at Horticulture Magazine recently sent out a nice post called Tips for a Fragrant Garden.

They list many plants that are easily obtained that will add a nice scent, a nice fragrance to your world at home. One of my favorite choices is Heliotrope Marine Blue. I highly recommend it!

The Heliotrope Marine Blue--vanilla scented and a nice shade of purple/blue. This plant is a container favorite of mine in the summer--I keep it near our busy front entrance at my home and really love the vanilla scent!

Here is the link to The Fragrant Garden.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
March 4, 2012