Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August (late August) Garden Talks

Hello again,

What a wonderful gardening season it has been! Yes, it has been hot but my feeling is embrace the heat--I love it! We had some dry lawns and soils in the first part of July but since then rains have been pretty timely.

*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 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!

*I recently sowed another crop of red sails lettuce, broccoli and swiss chard in containers. It is not too late and we have a great selection of 2013 seeds available now from Botanical Interests!

*Now is a great time to divide and transplant peonies! (And iris as well). Plant both plants very shallow and start off the new divisions with some nice organic matter in the soil. I use Flower Tone by Espoma as a soil conditioner because of the beneficial microbes and bacteria the product contains.

*Paul Parent brings some great advice about Butterfly Bush. First of all it is a MUST in anyone's yard and garden. He gives great advice about trimming the Butterfly Bush:
"Butterfly bush is another plant that will bloom all summer and right up to frost if you keep removing the faded flowers from the plant. The first flowers made will grow up to 10 inches long before they fade, but if you remove them, the plant will make two new flowers to replace the one. Within a couple of weeks a flower bud will form on each side of the bud you removed and they will grow to 6 to 8 inches long. When they fade, remove those two faded flowers and 4 new flower buds will form in their place. They will be smaller 4 to 6 inches but there will be 4 of them to keep your plant colorful and attracting butterflies to your garden. Just keep removing the faded flowers and the plant will keep flowering."
Butterfly Bush--One of the Best Repeat Bloomers!
*Great gardener Margaret of A Way to Garden writes about gardening in August: "Think of it as spot cleaning, you know, when you dab at the ketchup on your shirt rather than wash the whole thing right then and there. That’s what August is for in the garden: spot cleaning.... But I can try to trick the eye ...with some targeted trimming, mulching and edging. The August chores that follow will make for greater personal visual enjoyment late summer and fall, reduce hiding places for pests and disease—and after all, it’s really just a headstart on fall cleanup, one spot at a time. [read more…] 
*Margaret goes on to make a great point about weeds: "Every weed pulled now is a hundred (a million?) you don’t have to deal with later. Don’t let them go to seed. Make a pass through each bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants. Too many to handle in a particular area? Smother them with cardboard and mulch, like this."
Click HERE for the full listing of August Garden Chores by Margaret of A Way to Garden.

*Rains will be more plentiful soon and along with the warm soil this means it is a great time to seed over gaps in the lawn as well as overseed thin areas. Click HERE for easy to do Skillin's Lawn Program.

*More tips soon!


Mike Skillin

Mike's Must Have Plants for Your Garden

Hello again,

As the 2012 gardening season progresses in Skillin's Country, I will often cite a favorite plant as "this is a Mike's Must Have plant for your garden!"

The following list is not intended to be a complete list of all plants you  have in your garden but IS intended to provide links to the Mike's Must Have Plants I have cited in print!

Check back often as I bring more Mike's Must Have Plants to the Skillin's Garden Log:

*It is late August and we have some awesome perennials that are in great color. And we think they should be planted in your garden! These are all favorites of mine and I highly recommend them:

**Cimicifuga or Bug Bane is a great shade plant. The foliage colors range from green to a deep purple; the colors always look awesome late in the season. Cimicifuga grows to be a big plant and makes for a great anchor or highlight plant for any shade garden! Oh yes, a Mike's Must Have for sure!
Cimicifuga Brunette

**Looking for height, hardiness, standout long lasting yellow flowers and a rich green foliage? Then you are looking for the gorgeous Helianthus Lemon Queen. Many gardeners have spent hours gazing at the beauty and stature of Lemon Queen--the Time is Now for you to join in! This is a clear Mike's Must Have!

Helianthus Lemon Queen--a True Beauty

**This is the classic time of year for the perennial Hibuscus. This plant is always a late starter but a very strong finisher. Gorgeous and large saucer shaped flowers with the most intriguing of colors await you!
Seeing may be believing but the bright colors will take a while to believe. A Mike's Must Have? Oh yes!

Perennial Hibuscus--Covered in Color--a great late summer and fall choice!

**Another great choice for the garden is the Ligularia. This is an absolute Mike's Must Have and here is why. This plant grows large in both shade and partial sun. The foliage ranges from a burgundy shade to a real dark earthy green. The flowers come out in late August and are a nice deep yellow. The plant is very hardy and reliable and makes for a great anchor plant. I give this plant my highest recommendation!

Ligularia--the Rocket!

And of course, some great plant choices featured earlier in the season:


*Baptisia, False Indigo



*Amsonia, the Blue Star Perennial

*Forsythia, long flowering yellow Shrub

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses

Why Aren't My Endless Summer Blue Hydrangeas Flowering?

Hello again,

Like many people's Endless Summer Blue Hydrangeas my blue beauties are not flowering nearly as prolifically as they did last year. Tim Bate in a recent note to a Skillin's customer gives some good reasons why:

A few things can impact flowering on those blue hydrangeas...

1. Prune in May only the branches and tips that are dead.  Fall pruning diminishes flower show. 

2. Bare ground winters can be hard on the flower buds, which wait patiently on the stems for spring.  When they are buried in snow they get extra protection. (We were definitely light on the snowfall this past winter)

3. Early warm springs followed by cold snaps fool the plant and flower buds.

Remember that nice warm stretch in March?  Well, that is likely responsible for the weak flower show this year.  The buds start to expand thinking the season has begun, opening too much and becoming vulnerable to the still brutal cold on the way.

4. Keep lawn fertilizers away from their roots.  Too much nitrogen causes great leaf growth, but at the expense of flowers.

These are the primary flower inhibiting scenarios.

I am sure you will see better displays in subsequent summers, and you may still see some blossoms later this year, as the Endless Summer variety flowers on new growth as well as second year branches.

Tim Bate
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August is the Time to Divide Perennials and Rebuild the Soil!

 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.

We are halfway through the month of August now and it is now time to divide our perennials that have finished flowering and have outgrown their place in your garden. Dividing perennials is not just a way of making new plants with our overgrown plants, it is a way to revive them, and a time to remove the older portions that have become weak or died back and could draw potential insect and disease problems to your garden. Plants like irises, daylilies, hostas, peonies, and more are best divided while the ground is still warm and we have good growing weather and time for them to get established before winter arrives.
Here is an example why you need to divide your plants. If 3 years ago you planted one German iris rhizome in your garden in the fall, it will have flowered the next spring and as the flowering faded, the mother plant will have made 2 new side shoots for the following year. This would double the amount of flowers but the mother plant gave all her energy to the new plants and died. The following spring you now have two plants that will flower and when they fade these two plants will repeat the process, making two new plants each, giving you four plants for the next spring and again more flowers. The two mother plants also die so you now have four new healthy plants in the spring with three dead plants attached to them.
Irises have a major pest called an iris borer; it is attracted to your garden to feed on your dead rhizomes. This pest can also feed on the healthy tissue of your new plants preventing flowering in the spring. During August dig up the plants, remove the dead portions, clean the remaining healthy rhizomes--and now you have 4 healthy plants that should be insect-free. This is also the time to condition the soil and rebuild the soil quality so the new plants can thrive in your garden. Natural products like composts and manures will provide improved growing conditions for the new plants.
If you have had problems with the iris borer, it is also time to treat the soil with Bonide Garden Eight granules which will kill and borers that remain in your soil. Fertilize them with Flower Tone by Espoma and your plants will be ready to thrive for the next 3 years without problems. Also when you plant, cover the rhizome with one inch of soil or less. Space iris plants on 18 in centers so they have room to grow. If you’re adding mulch over the planting bed add less over the iris plantings because they want to stay close to the surface of the soil.
Plants like daylilies and hostas should also be separated to make new plants to share with friends and family. These plants grow in the shape of a fan; when you separate them. Try to create new plants that contain 3 to 5 fans of foliage for faster plant development and to keep from losing the flowering for a year or two because the new plants are too small. Condition the soil like the iris and keep well-watered until the fall arrives. Remove all faded or yellowing foliage and clean the new plants to keep them healthy. All three plants need to have half of the existing foliage removed when divided, as this will help establish the plants faster. Divide daylilies and hostas every 3 to 5 years, depending on their size. Space plants of daylilies every 2 feet and 3 feet between rows to allow room for future growth. Hostas will vary, depending on the variety--from 2 to 3 feet between plants. Mulch 2 inches deep helps protect plants during winters with little snow cover or with very cold weather.
Peonies grow from a swollen root or tuber underground and at this time they have pointed buds on them known as "eyes." These are next year’s foliage and flower buds. Remove all the foliage from the plant, dig up the entire plant, and clean the soil from the twisted looking roots. What you want to do is to cut them into pieces that contain 3 to 5 of these "eyes," so they will be strong enough to flower the following spring. Dust the cut you made with a general purpose garden dust or garden sulfur and allow to dry for an hour or two before planting. This will prevent rotting of the tuber when put back into the ground.
Condition the soil like the other perennials we have talked about and plant shallow, like the German iris. The pointed buds should have less than an inch of soil over them when placed in the ground or the plant will not flower when planted too deep--maybe that is why your plants are not flowering very well now in your garden. The tuber should be about the depth of your finger knuckle and when you dig into the soil you should be able to feel it easily. Space your new plants every 2 feet and 3 feet between rows to give them room to grow for the future. Peonies are divided every 5 years and should also be mulched lightly--about one inch thick--to protect the plant during the winter and help hold moisture in the soil during the hot days of summer.
Bleeding hearts can also be divided at this time, and--like the peony--the roots are covered with pointed buds for next year. Make you cuts with a sharp knife that has been dipped in a bit of bleach to sterilize it before cutting the plant and during each cut. Make sure each piece you cut has 3 to 5 buds so the plant can grow quickly and flower for you next spring. Condition the soil before planting and cover the new roots with 2 inches of soil and 1 to 2 inches of mulch them for winter protection and summer heat. Space plants 2 to 3 feet between plants as they will grow large when mature and divide them every 5 years. Fertilize in the spring with an organic flower food like Flower Tone by Espoma to help get the plants off to a quick start.
When you divide in the late summer to early fall, you help to create a better plant, as it can establish itself in a warm soil before the cold weather arrives. Spring-divided perennials start up slower and if the weather is warm and early like it was this year, the plants begin to grow before you have time to divide them--possibly hurting them. Look over your garden; any perennial that has finished flowering can be divided at this time of the year. Always condition the soil and keep the plant well watered until October. Use Bio Tone by Espoma to speed up the rooting process. It is well worth the small investment and most garden centers have it available right now. Bio Tone is also great for all your Fall plantings of shrubs, trees, bulbs and hardy fall flowers like mums and fall flowering asters.

This Saturday, August 25 we are holding a great class called Dividing, Relocating and Transplanting Perennials. Class time is 10 AM. We have openings still in Brunswick (442-8111) and Cumberland (829-5619)

Special Thanks to Paul Parent

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 21, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August (mid August) Garden Talks

Hello again,

Okay the first week of August is behind us. What does that mean? Summer is going TOO fast for one.

Secondly, it is time for some mid August Garden Talks. I will be updating this post over the next few days so check back every now and then when you can!

*From our friends at Gardener's Supply: Many of our popular back yard birds eat troublesome garden insects. Click HERE for a quick article about some of these popular birds and the pesky plant insects and other troublemakers that our feathered friends help to control! We sell many great bird feeders and top quality bird food to attract many birds to your yard!
Chickadees Help in the Garden by Eating Garden Insect Pests!

*Begin digging potatoes after the tops have died down. Many other crops are ready for harvest. Many, many vegetable crops should be starting to produce bountifully now. I have not been to Aroostock County lately (but I will be soon)and I do know it will soon be“new potato” season up there! (8/09/2011)

* Cornstalks are particularly rich material for the compost bin, a result of the nutritious soil they grow in. So after the crop is harvested  pull the stalks up and chop them into the composter—a shredding machine is the simpler but noisier alternative—to decompose and enrich your supply of brown gold. If the compost bin is full, use hedge clippers to chop the stalks into 6” pieces, then bury them as you spade the ground over for another crop. (From Jim "Crockett's Victory Garden"). 

*Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a weekly garden e newsletter which I urge you to subscribe to. Paul makes many good points about August garden tasks. I sum up quite a few right here:

PP:"Broccoli will continue to form 1 to 3 inch florets of flowers that I think are better tasting than the big first head of flowers you picked in June. Pick often and store these small florets in a storage bag in the refrigerator until there is enough to eat for the family.... The more you pick, the more the plant will produce for you, as long as you water regularly and feed every week or two .... Broccoli will continue to produce for you right until early October if you water and feed the plants." I recommend feeding with Fish and Seaweed Food by Neptune's Harvest.

PP:"Pepper plants will continue to grow if you remove the mature peppers as they ripen from the plant. When the color is right, cut the pepper from the plant--never twist it off or you could damage the branch it is growing on, preventing future pepper production. Like every other vegetable, water and fertilizer applied regularly will mean extra vegetables at the end of the season."

PP:"August is a great month for tomatoes, so keep picking as they ripen and the plant will keep producing right up until frost. Mid-August pinch the tips off all the branches to stop the plant from growing larger.

This pinching will send the energy to the green tomatoes and help them grow larger and ripen faster. August is usually hot and dry, so be sure to water the plants regularly or you will begin to notice that the top of the tomatoes will begin to crack due to water stress in the plant.

If your tomatoes start to ripen too fast for you and you can't use them all right now, here is what I do with them. Wash them well under the faucet with cold water to clean them, and then place them in a freezer bag to go into your freezer until the cold days of winter come. All I do is take the tomatoes out of the freezer and drop them into a pot of slow boiling water to crack the skin of the tomato and remove it. You now have a wonderful base for fresh tomato soup, so just add vegetables and a bit of pasta to slow cook for those cold days. Your kitchen will smell wonderful and your family will love it."

PP:"Your onions will be ready as soon as the greens begin to flop over. Pull them out of the garden and let them dry out in the sunshine until the roots are all dried up and the stems begin to wither away. Cut the stems to one inch of the onion bulb and continue to dry until all the green that remains turns brown and store in your basement for the winter. If you should start to notice onions making flowers on top of the plant, pick those plants and use as soon as possible, as the plant is trying to make seed; it's all done growing and will not keep well over the winter."

PP:"Your cabbages are growing bigger every day now, so begin to pick them and use them while they are not too large. How much coleslaw can you eat at a time? Smaller is better, but cabbage will keep for several weeks in a cool basement or garage in the fall season."

PP:"When the weather begins to get cold, the Brussels sprouts will taste better so do not pick those until we have had a couple good frosts on the plant. If the plant freezes solid, do not worry, as the small sprouts will have even more flavor. I eat most of mine during October, November December! I dig them out of the snow and all I need is a bit of butter, salt and pepper and forget the beef--I'm happy."

PP:"Now is the time to plant fresh seed in your garden for fall vegetables. The following vegetables will have plenty of time to mature if you plant in the next couple of weeks: peas, beans, radishes, spinach, leaf lettuce, and Swiss chard. So fill in those empty spots where you have finished harvesting in the garden now with fall vegetables." I have just planted new crops of lettuce, broccoli and swiss chard and they should do real well through the fall!
Thanks Paul! 

 *Tomato plants are bearing fruit and will be doing plenty of "giving" over the next few weeks. One common problem with tomatoes is the cracking of fruit. Tomatoes often start to crack during warm, rainy periods (I tend to "crack" during cold, icy periods but really this is not about me!)--especially if this weather comes after a dry spell. Folks, we have had the dry spell and are embarking on a warm, rain period. The tomatoes simply expand too fast. They are most likely to crack when they have reached full size and are beginning to turn color. The best way to avoid the problem is to keep the moisture supply as steady and your watering as deep as possible during the entire gardening season.

Jet Star Tomato--Always Delicious, Always Plentiful, Always Sold at Skillin's!

So, we did get some rain Saturday night the 6th and spotty rain is being forecast over the next few days in Skillin's Country. Don't be fooled: your tomato plants need good deep waterings at the base of the plant SEVERAL times per week. This keeps a nice steady supply of water and nutrients going through your plant and keeps it on an even keep through the hot and dry and warm and wet time periods.

Several tomato varieties that we typically sell are more crack resistant than others. Some of these include Early Girl, Better Boy, Jet Star, and Sungold.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 9, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Early August Garden Quick Hits

KCB is back with some very timely garden tips for Early August!

 Some things that crossed my mind while working for my clients:

Debris Happens:
·         Don’t save your raking for the fall.  With the rain followed by strong winds a lot of leaves fall. As these collect under your plants it makes the perfect hiding place for snails and slugs. A small hand or spring rake works well.  I also took the time to gently pull away any of the browned foliage from Daylilies.

Try to remember for September:
·         Soon it will be time to divide & transplant so take stock now.  Take a picture of areas that are overcrowded or need rearranging.  As the foliage and flowers fade so will our memories.  The picture will serve as a reminder for this not only season but also next spring when planning.

Deadhead (Click HERE for the timeless post: Grateful Deadheading!)

Japanese Beetles:
·         If you are one of the brave souls that are hand picking these pests and placing them in soapy water look closely before condemning them to die.  Look for white spots on the top of their head or directly behind their head. If so marked then this beetle gets a reprieve.  These are the eggs of a parasitic fly.  I won’t go into detail as to what happens next, I just know that it will help deplete the surplus population of this perennial pest.

Keep it clean:
·         This is the time of year that the diseases of our gardens thrive. In most cases affected foliage can be cut away then plant can be treated with a fungicide. Before you begin your attack have handy alcohol wipes or a mild bleach solution.  Why?  To wipe your pruners, shears, scissors or other tools of the trade.  While a disease of fungus may not be transferred from one plant to another, why take a chance.  As a precaution I begin each day by treating my tools and end each day the same.  Also do not compost any questionable foliage or plants.

·         Another photo opportunity.  Take a picture of your plants that may have powdery mildew, rust spots etc.  Next spring use these pictures to proactively treat plants.  Additionally, it will reveal plants that may need dividing to avoid reoccurrence. Lack of good air flow is one cause for powdery mildew. Less crowding will allow for existing plants to thrive.

Haven’t touched your garden journal since May?  Haven’t started? I’ve included some things of note to note in your journal. Even if you don’t want to write, it’s a place to paste your picture and why you took one. On the other hand, you can simply print off this page and call it a day!

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
August 6, 2012