Thursday, June 14, 2012

Skillin's! Daily "Dirt" June 2012

Because every garden (and gardener) thrives on good "dirt"! We bring you quick topical tips for your garden in Skillin's Country....

(Check out The Daily "Dirt" for May 2012 for "loads" of recent and still relevant quick gardening tips and pointers)

Thursday, June 14, 2012 Vegetable Garden Tune Up; Make Room for More!

Great gardener Margaret of A Way to Garden has recently posted  a very good and timely post called Vegetable-Garden Tuneup; Make Room for More! Margaret is an early starter in her vegetable garden. I know many of us are really just getting started in Skillin's Country for this season. But others here have also started early and even if you are just getting started you will find some very helpful tips for what plants can easily be paired with others as well as a good chart and suggestions on Succession Planting in the vegetable garden. She also features a great series of steps about basic "best practices" for any vegetable garden. I may refocus on these steps at this blog in a couple more days. This post by Margaret is well worth reading--it is a keeper!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 Non Stop Begonias

We have some gorgeous non stop begonias in 3 packs right now. They are still available in many awesome colors. I have always recommended them as a shade plant (and most people do). But I was speaking to one of our customers, Mike D,  on Sunday about the nonstops. Mike D is a great gardener--he loves his tomatoes and grows them well! But in the past few years he has fallen for the non stop begonias as companion plants in his vegetable garden. I asked him where he planted them and he told me "everywhere". Well that means in the blazing hot sun as well. Mike D counters the heat of the sun by regularly giving the non stops deep waterings when he deep waters his tomatoes. So there you go!

Check out this piece from 2010 about Non Stop Begonias for more illustrations about this fabulous plant. (In that piece we refer to 4 packs. Beginning in 2011 we switched to 3 packs because we feel more room in the pack actually means for bigger plants and even more flowers.)

Monday, June 11, 2012 Peonies, A Classic and a Mike's Must Have

Anyone reading this blog loves flowers. After all, aren't flowers the reason we grow plants? (Except for vegetable plants and even then we need flowers!). We all have favorite flowers but in my mind some of the "classics" are roses, pansies, tulips, geraniums (like the classic pink Shoene Helena) and of course, the peony. These flowers are lovely; they catch my eye, they make me stop what I am doing and even hold my breath. Lovely. The Peony is one of those flowers and for that reason is a Mike's Must Have!

Peonies from My Garden in Skillin's Country. The Peony Flower is a Classic!

Check out this Primer on Peonies for some great info. Also good gardening friend Tom Atwell of the Portland Press Herald has just delivered a great article called Maine Gardener: Get Ready for an Explosion of Stunning Peonies. A great read!

Saturday, June 9, 2012  Cucumbers: Grow Them Up!

It IS a great time to plant cucumbers in the garden. They grow great in Skillin's Country. For many of us with small garden spaces I highly recommend "trellising" cucumbers or somehow growing your cukes off the ground. They grow very well as a vine crop and I think they will give you a better yield when their vines are more exposed to the sun and fresh air. Always plant your cukes with a good garden natural garden fertilizer like Garden Tone by Espoma. Also cukes don't like to get thirsty so make sure they get a good deep watering 2 to 3 times per week. My personal favorite is the pickling cucumber--you pick them when they are closer to the size of a pickle and their taste is so sweet!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 Baptisia, False Indigo, A Mike's Must Have

This plant--the Baptisia, False Indigo, is one of my absolute favorites for the perennial garden. It is a Mike's Must Have because it is tremendously hardy. We sell several varieties and they are all great but I recommend the Prairie Blue--I just love the blue flowers countered by the blue/gray foliage. The plant is striking. It will stand about 3' tall and about 2' wide. Again the blue flowers in June and the foliage make it a standout in your perennial garden at this time!

Baptisia False Indigo--Just Starting to Flower in My Garden (Alongside Some Peonies). What a Hardy Plant! Also Looking Real Good Considering all the Rain We Have Had!

Sunday, June 3, 2012, Peach Leaf Curl

With this wet weather we are seeing many cases of diseases (spots) on plants and leaf curls. One example is Peach Leaf Curl which we have seen many examples of this past wet week. We will see more I am sure as the days pass this week. Peach Leaft Curl shows up as curled or even "humped" leaves on a peach tree. The air has been so moist that afflictions like this are quite understood. Tim, our Nursery Manager, recommends that we pick off any curled leaves on the peach tree. When the weather dries, spray the remaining healthier leaves with Copper Fungicide Spray (sold right here at Skillin's under the Bonide brand). This will help protect the remaining leaves for this time of year. Also keep your peach tree leaves raked off the ground. Keep the area clean--this leaves less of a "harbor" for fungus. In the fall and also in the early Spring use the Copper spray again on the plant as a dormant spray. These sprayings will go a long way toward protecting your peach in another year.

Lovely Example of Peach Leaf Curl

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sneaking Edibles in Among the Ornamentals

Hello again,

One of my gardening passions has always been to mix edible plants in with ornamentals or regular flowering plants. Ten years ago, I planted some "purple peppers" (aka the Lilac variety) with some bright yellow marigolds in a small sunny bed. I love pepper plants--they stand straight and are a rich green. The little marigolds worked well in between the pepper plants. And then when the purple peppers began to get prominent--well that was fun!

Ahead of my time? No, not really. Gardeners have been mixing edibles with ornamentals since the beginning of time I know. BUT, this "mixing" is definitely becoming more in vogue; there is no question about that!

Recently, Emily Dydo submitted a piece for called "Sneaking Edibles in Among the Ornamentals" that gives some good basic pointers for doing just that. This is not an incredibly detailed piece but it does point the way to a book that has some interest.

The post obviously has warmer climates in mind than Skillin's Country. I do question the suggestion about using berry bushes as a foundation planting (except for maybe a sunny back yard area). But there is some good "food for thought" in the article. I do love the idea of strawberry plants as a ground cover. I did this myself for a few years and I really liked it.

The point is, definitely try edibles with ornamentals. Practically, you will get more bee activity and that is great for pollination for vegetables. You will get some neat texture combinations and any good vegetable garden should have plenty of flowers! Why not after all?

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

What to Watch for in the Garden After All the Rain

Hello again,

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.

Recently Paul sent out a great post about what to do in the garden after all this rain. He brings us some great pointers:
"This (past) week brought us heavy rain, cool temperatures, and not much sunshine--a real plus if you just planted shrubs or trees on your property. But if you planted seeds in the garden, you may have to replant when the ground dries out this weekend. The southern part of New England received 3 inches of rain-- but the northern part broke records with 6 to 8 inches of rain early in the week. My gardens in Kennebunk, Maine won't have to be watered for many days, with the 7-plus inches that I received. The heavy rain also woke up thousands of weeds that were not there before the storm, so that means several hours of weeding ahead.

What to look for this week around your gardens:

New weeds in your gardens will have to be removed and the gardens will have to be cultivated--but wait until the ground dries out and the sun comes out again to help dry out the ground and the weeds you disturb. Keep out of the gardens or you will compact the soil around the plants and slow root development and plant growth. If you had standing water in your gardens, it's a sign of heavy soil or clay preventing proper drainage. Apply Garden Gypsum at the rate of 50 pounds per 500 to 1000 sq. ft. of garden to help open up the soil and improve drainage or use Soil Logic Liquid "Gypsum" according to directions. Apply gypsum products when the garden dries out over the weekend to prevent root rot problems.

With all that rain, you will have to fertilize again as most fertilizers have been washed out of the soil. Organic fertilizers or time-release plant foods should be OK but they will have to be reapplied in the next 3 to 4 weeks, late June as some of the power has been washed away. Liquid plant fertilizers and granular chemical plant foods like 10.10.10 or 5.10.5 have been washed out of the soil totally with all the rain and should be reapplied once the ground dries out next week. Lawn fertilizer has also lost some of its power and I would apply the summer fertilizer in late June this year--not middle to late July as in most summers.

Your biggest challenge will be cleaning up the flowers in your annual and perennial gardens. Plants like petunias and geraniums have lost all their flowers due to the weather and they should be pinched off the plant to prevent gray mold from spreading to the new flower buds. Also pick off all the yellow leaves, if possible, to prevent future disease problems. When the sunny weather returns, spray all your plants with Serenade organic fungicide or Bonide Copper spray to destroy disease spores on the plants.

The timing of the storm was devastating to peonies, poppies, lupine, iris, and many more perennials, as they were in full bloom at the time. You wait a year for the flowers to develop and with one storm the flowers are destroyed ,so cut back the plant and clean them up so the plant can make new foliage and work on developing flower buds for next year. Plants that were flattened by the rain should also be staked up so the foliage can stay disease-free. Also...slugs and snails will become more numerous now so apply bait around plants that slugs love to feed on like hostas, lettuce, spinach, kale, marigolds, and dahlias. (We HIGHLY recommend Slug Magic by Bonide. The sluges and snails are chomping on a huge variety of plants at night. Today I saw lupine leaves that were barely recognizable but the shredded remains were clear signs of slug feasting. Slug Magic is not toxic but is very effective at "filling up" slugs so they leave your garden!)

The rose chafer beetle has arrived also and is quickly chewing the foliage of many trees, shrubs, and flowers. Look for a small silver-gray hard shell insect, less than a 1/2 inch long, usually found in groups on the foliage and flowers chewing away. Use Eight Garden Spray or Beetle Killer as soon as possible, as they are also mating at this time of the year. The rain has washed off all non-systemic products you have applied to your plants before the storm; systemic products like Tree and Shrub insecticide should be still active on your plants.

Check your 'Annabelle' hydrangea also, as a caterpillar type insect called a leaf roller is actively stitching several leaves together near the tip of the plant. Once the leaves are stitched together, the caterpillar will eat the flower buds of the plant--but all you have to do is pull the leaves apart to free the flower bud and kill the caterpillar. No spraying is needed and once you free the leaves, this insect is finished for the year.

Another insect you will begin to notice with all the rain is called the spittle bug; it is a hard-shelled beetle type of insect that lives in a cluster of bubbles that look like spit on the foliage of your plants. This insect is sucking energy from your plants and blowing bubbles with some of the liquid as a form of camouflage from predators. A good rose spray will control this insect in your flower garden and stop the damage.

If you have fruit trees or berry plants, be sure to reapply your fruit tree spray as they have been cleaned of their protection by the rain. Make sure your spray has a fungicide included to prevent leaf spot and black spot fungus or your leaves will become infected. Also if you have flowering crabapples trees be sure to treat the foliage with a good fungicide like Serenade or Garden Copper or they will be infected with this same problem that will spot the foliage and cause them to turn yellow and fall from the plant during July. This spraying is very important right now and should not be skipped!

On the positive side, this rain also did a lot of good for our gardens; when the sun does come back out, you will notice a lot of new growth on all your plants. This time of the year, our plants are very actively growing--and we are so busy planting we do not notice it. The extra moisture will help push additional new growth on your trees, shrubs and garden plants--and the summer-flowering shrubs will be benefited, with additional flower buds on them along with the new growth. The extra moisture will help establish your new plants faster in your gardens and your established trees and shrubs that have already flowered will have an easier time making flower buds for next year. Fertilizer applied to them right now will go a long way to increase next spring's flowers.

Look at your roses and perennials, as they will have grown very quickly with all the moisture, so expect extra flowers from them in the weeks to come. Your ground cover plants will also benefit from the extra moisture, as the underground runners have been stimulated and will produce extra new growth to thicken up the plants in the garden. Your spring flowering bulbs that have finished flowering like tulips and daffodils should be better next year, as they can now go dormant for the year with the extra moisture they so needed.

Yes, it was wet--and yes, it will mean extra work for us in the days to come but the extra rain was very beneficial to our garden at this time of the year. Now...if we could only schedule 2 to 3 inches of rain during July and August, we could have gardens and lawns like we have never had before. Always look on the BRIGHT side--the season is still young and we have a lot of enjoyment ahead of us this year!

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 11, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Buddleia--Butterfly Bush

 Hello again,

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.

Recently Paul sent out a great post about the beautiful Butterfly Bush (Buddliea). He brings us some great pointers:

This summer, when you sit on your patio or deck, would you love to have a flowering shrub to look at that will bloom all summer long and attract butterflies and hummingbirds? Impossible you say, but there is such a shrub--the butterfly bush. If you have a sunny spot in your yard that is a bit protected from the winter winds, you're ready to plant. The butterfly bush will grow from five to ten feet tall and just as wide. You can prune to direct the size of the plant in your yard or just let it grow. This beautiful flowering shrub will grow in almost every yard. It adapts to your needs in the landscaping you planned for your yard. Use the plant in a perennial border, plant several in a row for a privacy hedge or place one on the corner of your deck to bring nature closer to you, as the butterflies will feed on its nectar all summer long. Did I tell you it is also fragrant and the plant will flower from June to first frost?

The butterfly bush is an old fashioned shrub once cherished for tranquility in the garden. The new cultivars have brought it back into style today and if you like flowering shrubs, this is the plant for your garden. The butterfly bush will grow with long arching branches much like the forsythia shrub does. The branches are slender and create a mounding look to the plant. The leaves are long and slender--4 to 8 inches long, and the color varies from gray-green to dark green in color, with a soft and silvery and soft underside. The leaves, which hold onto the plant well into the fall, do not have any fall color change.

The fragrant flowers develop in June and resemble miniature lilacs. The first flower can be as long as 10 inches long and last on the plant for 3 to 4 weeks. When they fade, prune them off and two side shoots will develop with blooms 6 to 8 inches long. Prune them off again when they fade and now the same branch will make 4 flowers 4 to 6 inches long. The more you clean the plant the more it will flower. Butterfly bush flowers come from white, pink, lavender, red and purple.

Butterfly bush will come in a pot, instead of dug from the ground, as the plants do not transplant well. When you plant it, do not try to move it around your yard; plant it and leave it alone. Plants do best in a well-drained soil that you can keep moist or a rich loam type soil. Plant the Butterfly Bush with compost and organic fertilizers. Water two times a week until established; it will take 2 to 3 months for the plant to be well rooted. When it gets hot, the plant will grow fast and requires more water. Once established, in the second year the plant will tolerate heat and drought conditions. If the plant can get a little shade at the end of the day, I have noticed more butterflies on the plant. 

In the spring, cut the plant in half to encourage new growth, unless you want it to grow large for privacy hedges. All plants will require spring pruning to remove dead branches and cleaning of the plant after winter. Never prune this plant in the fall. Fertilize in spring only--never in the fall--or it will not begin to harden off the growth and prepare for the winter. The butterfly bush also will not tolerate wet soils or road salt so keep plants away from the side of the road. The best place to plant it is where you spend your summer relaxing. It is also a great plant to put near the vegetable garden, as the flowers will attract honey bees all season long. Having more bees near the garden means better pollination and more vegetables to harvest. The flowers come on long stems and make a great cut flower for the kitchen table, lasting a week or two. Plant one or two this spring and find out why the plant is called the butterfly bush--you will think that the plant is moving in your yard. Enjoy.

Thanks Paul!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
June 6, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Don't Shrug the Shrubs!

KCB is back this week. She is busy putting the Finishing Touches on many a landscape and she has a few great things she would like us to know!

“I don’t know about you, but my knees are sore and my back is feeling a pang or two.  I’ve done lots of planting this past week.  The rain has erased some of my concern for proper watering still I watered each plant before going on to the next.  So now what?  Patience!  There may be some blank spaces. Nevertheless, if you placed properly the gaps will soon fill in. Don’t forget to take pictures as things progress. Once a week at this time of the year is not too often. Some of the gardens I attend to have considerably changed over the past 2 weeks.  Just the other day, at the site of white & purple lollipops (Alliums) I could not help but smile.  I think it’s the constant changing that may keep me hooked most of all.

Step back, take a critical look.  While waiting for the bountiful blooms there can still be color; have you chosen plants with vibrant foliage?  Still not too late. Adding Heuchera can paint a palette of Rainbow proportions before one bud protrudes.  Sedum for the sun, Fulda’s Glow, cauticola Lidakense, Dragon’s Blood & the Variegatum stand-out sans blooms.  However don’t discount the blooms of this buxom bunch. So many choices, it could make your head spin. Stick to a couple, purchase in odd number lots, all will be fine. Still, I want more. It’s always the way. Therefore, this season I am going beyond the herbaceous for the wonderful woody. I’m looking to shrubs to fill my needs.  A woody plant is one of the best ways to incorporate multi season interest of sum & substance.  With so many options I have some tried and true favorites I’d like to share.

I never weary of WeigelaVariegated, the new Rainbow Sensation with foliage of yellows, pale pinks and creams, and /or Wine & Roses fill larger gaps.   For smaller spaces look to the Midnight Wine, My Monet, or the new My Monet ‘Sunset’. These take up no more space than a large perennial. All sparkle on their own and the prolific blooms of May & June add to the excitement. Pruning will produce sporadic blooms throughout the summer.  Feeling a little less than angelic?  Check out the ‘Little Devil’ Ninebark. Pair with Magic Carpet Spirea for a show stopping look.  Neon Greens, Deep Plums offer a ‘no thought’ coupling.  The Smoking Cousins of Golden Spirit and Grace Smoke Bush create stop in your tracks autumn color; in the mean time, the pair offer summer fun of the aforementioned Neon & Purple foliage.  Don’t fret if your bushes don’t smoke in the first couple of seasons. Even the shrub families have their age limits before that first puff is produced, often into their 3rd year.  Want something a little less flashy? Consider what I call, ‘The little Black Dress of the landscape’. The quiet elegance of the Black Lace Sambucas Elderberry.  Pale pink blossoms of June act as lace accents against the dark ebony plum foliage while the blackish berries can be harvested in the fall for your own enjoyment.  On the other hand, leave them for your feathered friends. Want to lighten up a shady corner?  Ivory Halo or Silver & Gold Dogwood will do the trick.  If you don’t head south for the winter you will be able to take advantage of their colorful stems of red or gold against a carpet of snow. Want more fire in the winter, than the Arctic Fire is the dogwood shrub for you.

Is your backyard becoming wetter as more trees are felled for development? Then the Hakuro-nishikiDappled Willow will create a back drop that neighbors will envy. No true blooms as the foliage steal the show.  Cream, white and the palest of pink on tiny leaves sway gently in the slightest of breezes. .  The more the merrier as in sweeps of plantings; it is a party of epic proportions.  A tree form is also available. Use this as a punctuation point in an otherwise ordinary landscape.

A Hedge of Dappled Willow--They Look Great as a Hedge or "by the Single"

Over the years I am including more of these woody wonders as accents in my perennial beds.  When asked why by clients and peers alike I shrug as I answer ‘why not’?  Shouldn’t a mixed bed be truly mixed?

Note:  This is just a small example of the exciting shrubs available.  Once established they often need minimal care. Perfect for the person who is, um, maturing, or those with a growing family with less time to spend gardening.  Try it and next time you won’t be shrugging the shrub.

 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

June 1, 2012