Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Skillin's October and November 2012 Classes

Hello again,

Here is the list of October and November Classes for Skillin's!

Our FREE classes will be held Saturdays at 10 AM (unless otherwise stated).

Call Brunswick 442-8111 (1-800-339-8111), Cumberland 829-5619 (1-800-348-8498), or Falmouth 781-3860 (1-800-244-3860) to register. You may also register by emailing us at, just specify the date, time, and location! These classes can sell out fast so sign up today!

Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% off coupon to be used for extra savings the day of the class!

Class goers who attend 4 classes in this series receive a $25 Skillin's Gift Certificate upon completion of this series!!


6-Bulb Planning and Planting  (10 AM)

Fall is the time to plant bulbs for Spring color and we have the best selection in Maine as well as easy to use supplies! Remember that tu-lips are better than none and that one of the first steps toward Spring is the planting of bulbs in the fall!

The 10 AM class in Falmouth is sold out. There is also a 2 PM class in Falmouth with openings!

13-Fresh Floral Arranging (10 AM and 2 PM)

We are all about color and fun here at Skillin’s! Or is it fun then color? No matter because everyone’s favorite class is back! We will show you how to make the coolest, most colorist, most funnest arrangement! Coupon for floral discount good for Nov 18 thru 21.

There is a $15 fee to cover materials. You get to take home a beautiful arrangement!!

(The 10/13 classes in Falmouth are sold out; there is a 10/14 encore class at 1 PM with limited openings) 
(10/13 10 AM class is sold out in Cumberland)

20- Beds to Rest  (10 AM)

Getting a good winters rest makes the Spring look brighter. Let us share with you how to get your perennials, roses and shrubs tucked away for winter.

Falmouth 10 AM Class is Sold Out. There is also a 2 PM class in Falmouth on 10/20.

27-Pumpkin Carving with Skillin’s (10 AM TO 4 PM)

Bring family and friends, purchase pumpkins for half price and let us help you carve the coolest, scariest, funniest and “ghouliest” pumpkins ever. Pumpkin carving is great family fun and we have some tricks and treats (yes refreshments for you!) up our sleeve!

No sign up necessary for this fun, fun event! Come anytime for carving between 10 AM and 4 PM. No attendance will be taken as this class will not count toward the gift certificate for attendance.


3-Holiday Fun Class (10 AM Wreaths, 1 PM Kissing Balls)

Let’s have some fun! At 10 AM we will show you how to make balsam wreaths. At 1 PM it will be balsam kissing balls. There is a $15 fee but you will have something fun to bring home!

The November 3 classes in Falmouth are sold out. The November 3 10 AM class in Cumberland is sold out.

Special encore class for balsam wreaths at Skillin's Falmouth on November 4 at 1 PM.

Special encore class for kissing balls at Skillin's Falmouth on November 7 at 5 PM.

Can't attend the Holiday Fun Class or want to see on your own time how to make great holiday wreaths? Check out this video produced at Skillin's Cumberland. Wendi of Skillin's Cumberland is just super and she shows us all how to make our own wreaths, garlands and door swags. Wendi is awesome and thanks to the miracles of video we can all attest to her talents. And she is a great teacher!

10-Holiday Arrangements Class (10 AM and 1 PM)

Get hands on experience. We will show you how to make boxwood trees for the holidays! There is a $20.00 fee for this class.

The 11/10 classes are sold out in Falmouth.

Special encore class at Falmouth on November 11 @ 1 PM

17 and 18-Holiday Open House (8 to 5 Sat Nov 17; 9 to 5 Sun Nov 18)

Lots to see and do at our Holiday Preview! You will regale when you see how much is on sale! Come one, come all you will have a ball! Even come both days for there will be much food to graze! And flowers and plants to see! Tee Hee! Tee Hee!

Check out Skillin’s own Garden Blog for regular gardening updates! We call it Skillin’s Garden Log and it can be found at!

Want good Skillin’s gardening info and more timely Skillin’s event notification? Just email us at and say Sign Me Up for the Skillin’s email list. Or you may sign up at or at any Skillin’s location. We try to be good stewards of your Inbox and send you quality info written by us that you can use in your home and garden because we want to stay out of your Junk Mail!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caring for Winter Vegetables

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.

Paul recently sent out a great post about Caring for Winter Vegetables:

"Your winter vegetables are beginning to mature for harvest and storage this month. Because of the warmer than normal summer and the extra early spring this year, all vegetables, fruit, and berries are ahead of schedule. Here are a few ideas to improve this year's crop and next years as well. September can be very productive for both what you have in your garden today and what your garden can do next year.

If your onion foliage is beginning to fall over, it is time to pull them all up and give them time to dry in your garage while the weather is in your favor. Choose a day when the garden soil has dried out or stop watering for a couple of days. This will help the soil to come off the onions more easily and help them store better. Use a garden spade and loosen the soil around the onion plants before pulling them up from the foliage. The reason is that you want as much foliage as possible attached to the onion for when you dry out the plant for storage. As the foliage begins to dry out it will send energy from the foliage to the onion bulb for storage and this energy keeps the onion dormant longer, so never pull up the plant and remove the foliage until it has all turned brown. Also do not wash the onions; just rub off the loose soil, as watering the bulb can encourage disease during storage.

If you cut the foliage when it is still green it will create a soft spot where the foliage is attached to the bulb, and the spot never seals itself properly to keep out fungus and insects. Place the onions on the floor of your garage or even on a covered porch, as it will take several days to dry completely and onions should be in a single layer--not put into a pile on the floor. Also allow the roots to dry on the plant; don't pull them off, as they will dry up quickly and create a protective area on the onion to keep longer. When the foliage has all turned brown cut it from the bulb but leave an inch or two of brown dry foliage still attached to the bulb--they seem to keep better that way. Store them in your basement or garage where temperatures stay between 40 and 50 degrees all winter long. I put my onions in a wooden basket, check them weekly for possible rot development and remove anything that does not look good. Red onions do not keep as long as the white or yellow onions do, so eat or cook them first.

Potatoes are all finished growing if the foliage has lost its green color and has changed to yellow or brown. With a garden fork dig them up--but be careful not to get too close to the main stems of the plant. Use your hands when the soil has been loosened and dig them out yourself. It's like digging for buried treasure, so be sure to get every potato--even the small ones. Collect the potatoes and set them on the floor of your garage for a few days so they can dry properly, and any roots still on the potato will have time to dry up. Any potatoes that are damaged in this process should be eaten as soon as possible as they will not keep; they will quickly rot while in storage.

As with the onions do not wash potatoes; let them dry out of the sun and the skin will become thicker, helping to keep them better while in storage. Digging is best when the soil is dry, so do not water for 3 to 4 days before harvesting and the soil will come off the skin easier. Potatoes store best in a cool, dry basement or garage where temperatures stay from 40 to 50 degrees and never freeze. Those small potatoes you find in the garden are too small for baking or peeling but they are wonderful when washed and used for potato salads or a nice beef stew--with the skin attached, as small potatoes have a very thin and tender skin on them.

Winter squash is growing quickly now and September is the month they seem to put on most of their weight and size. This week, cut off the very end of every vine that has squash on it. This will stop foliage growth and new squash development that will not have enough time to mature. But fruit on the vines that have been pinched will continue to grow larger in size and flavor as cooler temperatures create less stress on the plant and more moisture and nutrition will move into the squash. Your squash is ready for harvest when the stem from the vine of the plant to the squash begins to turn brown and dry up; if the stem is still green it is still growing so leave it alone. Feeding your squash plant and foliage with a liquid feed can be very beneficial to the plant at this time of the year. Liquid feeds like Miracle-Gro or even Neptunes Harvest Fish and Seaweed blend are fast acting and will promote additional size to your squash and help thicken their skin for better keeping during the winter months. Watering weekly also helps promote larger sized squashes.

Pumpkins that have turned orange are finished growing and should be removed from the garden and kept in a cool place until the weather cools off this fall. Cut the stem of the pumpkin with a sharp knife or garden shears and be sure to leave a stem. Pumpkins without stems have a very short life span and rot very easily. Also, never carry the pumpkin by its stem, as most are not strong enough to hold the weight of the pumpkin--especially if it's a large one. Pumpkins and squash keep best in a cool and dry basement, crawl space, or garage where temperatures do not drop below freezing. Do not stack them on top of each other during storage, as they will become bruised and will not keep as long. Also do not wash them when you put them in storage as you will remove the protective covering on them--like your other winter vegetables--and increase chances of fungus problems on the skin.

Beets I leave in the garden until all the foliage has died and then pull them out of the ground. I let them dry on the garage floor for a few days and remove any foliage that remains before storing them in baskets that I keep in my basement on the floor. Beets keep until February in storage areas that stay 40 to 50 degrees and dry.

Carrots I dig up in November just before the ground freezes. I then cut off all the foliage about an inch above the orange carrot tuber and place the carrots in a wooden box standing up carrot to carrot. Buy a bag of sand box sand and pour it over the carrots filling in the spaces in-between them and cover them with an inch of sand. Keep in a cool basement 40 to 50 degrees with other vegetables and they will last most of the winter. When I lived in southern Massachusetts I would cover the row of carrots with bales of straw and that would keep the frost out of the ground so I could pull them up when I wanted during the winter. Cape Cod with its sandy soil is perfect for storage in the planting bed as long as you have a mild winter and the bed is open to the sunshine.

If you have a surplus of tomatoes and a freezer do this; you will have fresh tomatoes for sauce or soup all winter long. As the tomatoes ripen wash them well, fill a freezer bag with them and place them in your freezer. On a cold winter morning, pull out a couple bags of frozen tomatoes and place them in a pot of slow boiling water to crack the skin from the tomato. It will peel off very easily and you can then place the skinless tomatoes in a pot with low heat. In a couple hours they will be all soft and ready for soup. I mash them with hands or potato masher, then clean out the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator and use up whatever I have there. Add onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. and let it simmer all day long. With a few herbs and spices added to the pot, the entire house will soon smell great for supper. The last half hour I add a bit of rice or pasta to the mixture and supper is ready with nice crusty bread and a glass of wine. Let the snow fall!"
Thanks Paul Parent!
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 18, 2012

September (Late September) Garden Talks

Hello again,

I cannot believe we are approaching late September. The saying that time just keeps going faster is indeed so true!

Pumpkins Galore at Skillin's! Along with Corn Stalks, Mums and Pansies!!

Click HERE for mid September Garden Talks!

Now much more Garden Talks for you. We Know gardens:

*Fall to an avid gardener with grass and dirt stained knees and dirty hands can be difficult to adjust to. However, fall is a great time of year to actually improve your garden. One of the first steps you should take is to apply lime to your lawn and gardens. Generally at the end of the growing season the production effort leaves a garden with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0, so we advise adding lime at a rate of about 5 pound per 100 square feet to eventually raise the pH to about 6.5 to 7.0. This higher pH level will allow your plants to receive a wider range of nutrients. Generally, we should only lime our areas one time per year. Also your garden may well not need lime every year. If you have limed for 2 to 3 consecutive years pick up a simple pH tester at Skillin's. Check out that pH. If your soil registers at about 6.5 to 7.0, do not apply lime that year. The lime I recommend is either Fast Acting Lime by Encap—it is a calcium based lime that is better than most limes for at least two reasons: 1) Calcium is an excellent organic additive to your soil. It benefits your plants tremendously by helping to “keep free” the flow of beneficial nutrients to your plants roots. 2) Magnesium based lime can actually aid weeds as magnesium adds a natural soil compactor. Many of the plants we prefer don’t like growing in compact soils but unfavorable weeds like plantain, dandelions, crabgrass and ajuga don’t mind compact soils a bit!

*Gardening friend Margaret of A Way to Garden writes: "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." Late September and October can often bring some yellowing on the inside of the trees. This is not a huge concern for older trees; however, 2012 planted pines should receive good deep waterings once weekly between now and when the ground freezes. These waterings will make the pines healthier for next year and beyond. Also a light feeding of Hollytone by Espoma (sold right here at Skillin's) is not a bad idea for your evergreen trees if they have not been fed for awhile.

*More great tips from Margaret of A Way to Garden:  "PARSLEY AND CHIVES can be potted up and brought indoors for offseason use, or freeze some (or give the plants some extra protection and keep harvesting from the garden). A few garlic cloves in a pot will yield a supply of chive-like (but spicier) garlic greens all winter for garnish." I think parsley makes an attractive house plant too! Nice and green!

DAYLILIES can be dug and divided as they complete their bloom cycle, right into fall, if needed.

PEONIES are best divided and transplanted in late August through September, if they need it. Remember with these fussy guys that “eyes” must not be buried more than an inch or two beneath the soil surface. Great advice--now is the time to re set those peonies!

MANY POPULAR ANNUALS can be overwintered as young plants if you take and root cuttings now rather than try to nurse along leggy older specimens. Geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, even impatiens (to name just a few common ones), if grown in good light indoors and kept pinched and bushy, will yield another generation of cuttings for next spring’s transplants. Probably best to expend this effort and space on things you really treasure—an unusual form of something, not the garden variety. Again great advice here. I love keeping geraniums through the winter. Margaret writes about keeping your annuals "pinched and bushy" and I agree totally!

REST AMARYLLIS BULBS by putting them in a dry, dark place where they will have no water at all for a couple of months. I put mine in a little-used closet.

Thanks Margaret and I highly recommend her Garden Website, A Way to Garden!

*Too many plants and too little space in your vegetable garden? Plan next years garden now and note how many plants you really should have in your plot. Make sure there is walkable space between rows of small plants and walkable space between each tomato plant and vine crop plant! Let us know if you have any questions about vegetable gardening! We Know vegetable gardening!!

*It is vital to thoroughly CLEAN your yard in the fall. However, just don't admire those newly cleaned wide open spaces in your garden. Fall is a great time for soil preparation! Get some Pro Gro by North Country Organics or Plant Tone by Espoma worked into the soil (especially if your soil has only had one natural feeding this year. Miracle Gro does not qualify as a natural feeding!)  As I often write, these fertilizers are the best and most long-term way to bring nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium naturally to your soil.

Then lay some compost as a top dressing in those open spaces and around your plants. If you have no compost, my favorite bagged compost for this job is Fundy Mix by Coast of Maine. Fundy mix is an excellent product to "top dress" around plant material as great organic matter and as a nice mulch or cover. For VERY wide open spaces that is a future home to more plants, actually work some of your compost material OR a great garden compost like Little River Blend Compost or Quoddy Blend by Coast of Maine. (Composted Manure by Jolly Gardener would also work well!)

*It is just a great time to plant trees and shrubs. We have new plants arriving all the time as well freshly dug Skillin grown pines and spruce. And all on sale: Deciduous trees are 40% off, freshly dug Skillin grown evergreens are 30% off and shrubs are buy 1 get 10%, buy 3 get 20%, and buy 5 get 30%, !!

Why is it a great time to plant? The soil is still warm, rains are more frequent and the cooler air temps make for great acclimation conditions for your plants. Plus with a great selection AND sale prices that means Fall is for Planting. WE KNOW shrubs and trees here at Skillin's!

*Continue to prune out and clean out dead growth in your perennial and annual gardens. By removing dead and brown growth you are preventing problems for next year. As good gardening friend Paul Parent reminds us, "Insects and disease know that cooler weather means the end of their life cycle, and to continue their future they must lay eggs on that dying foliage. Diseases make spores for next year also. If you clean the garden this fall, you will have fewer problems next year..."

*Store your harvest properly. Potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage and celery should be kept in a humid atmosphere at about 35-40 degrees. Squash and pumpkins should be stored in a dry area at 40-60 degrees. Onions and dry beans should be kept at 33 degrees in a dry area." Good storage habits make great tasting natural food.

*Begin placing your poinsettias in darkness for 16 hours each day. The reduction in light will cause the bracts to "bloom" in time for the holidays.” The best way to do this is to place a large bag over your poinsettias at about 5 or 6 PM and then remove the bag the next morning. Keep this routine going daily until the end of October.

*Your Christmas cactus should rest in a cool, dim room with little water. Bring it back out Nov. 15 for holiday bloom. One of the most gorgeous flowering plants around! We will have some young Christmas cactus available in November; these plants can grow to be quite old!

*Plant fall and winter crops. Lettuce, radish, swiss chard and spinach can all be planted now in a hoop house or cold frame for fresh produce in the colder months. Many gardeners have cold frames that they use in the Spring to grow tender plants. These cold frames can be used now for vegetables!

Red Sails and other Lettuces Can Still be Seeded in a Cold Frame!

*Bulb planning and planting time is upon us and we have an awesome Bulb Planning and Planting class scheduled for Saturday, October 6 in Brunswick, Cumberland or Falmouth. We still have openings at Brunswick and Cumberland. The class is FREE and We Know bulbs! Contact us at and just specify the location to sign up.

Here are 2 links to our Skillin's Garden Log that talk about popular bulbs for you to consider and plant: Hyacinths and Daffodils, Narcissus and Jonquils.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 18, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September (mid September) Garden Talks

Hello again,

It is nearly mid September. We have some good gardening tips for you. Check back often as we will add to this post on a regular basis until late September.

Click HERE for early September Garden Talks!

*Pruning Raspberries

Now is the perfect time to prune raspberries and to prepare for next year. Click HERE for a link that illustrates well proper raspberry care.

*Decorating Tip!

Last year Sally in Falmouth placed some pumpkins in the midst of some established plantings at the Falmouth store and it created quite a stir! We will be doing this again when our pumpkins arrive! (Any day now!)

I took these pics and they are not great. This beautiful planting is actually fairly loaded with pumpkins and looks great! Bored with pumpkins on the porch? Place some pumpkins in your plantings--you will be pleased!

Check back soon for more Garden Talks!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 11, 2012

Gardening Can Be for the Birds!

Hello again,

Great gardener Margaret of A Way to Garden recently published a great post on 11 ways to attract and keep a wide variety of birds in your garden.

I love to watch the birds, to feed the birds and to have a variety of happy feathered friends as part of my yard. I am no expert at identifying birds. But I love supporting them AND having them as part of my environment.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 11, 2012

Thriving Houseplants

Hello again,

The following post by Melissa Madigan of Skillin's Falmouth is an excellent primer on how to care for your houseplants in the transitional season of fall. This post will be used as the basis for our upcoming Thriving Houseplants class to be held on Saturday, September 22 at all Skillin's locations:

Brunswick 10 AM, Cumberland 10 AM and Falmouth 10 AM and 2 PM. (The Falmouth 10 AM class is sold out)

Contact us at about signing up for this class!

Fall is here and it’s time to bring our houseplants in for the winter, so lets do a health check on them.

How are they doing? Is there leaf drop, yellowing of leaves, bugs? How’s the watering going? Have you treated them with systemic insect control before bringing then back into the house?

When caring for our plants thru the fall and winter there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

When you place your plant in the home you need to take into consideration  the following: 

                   1- window location - N,S,E,W
                   2- window treatment - curtain, insulated, sheer, open, shut...
                   3- is there an overhang? Large trees near by?
                   4- plant location in relation to the window - below the sill, in the window, beside the window, a few feet away from the window....
                   5- how much sun is it getting and for how long?

Signs of light underexposure:
          When plants look spindly, long and lanky, it is usually an indication that they are not getting enough light. Try trimming the plant a bit - it will make it become fuller and place it in an area with more light. 

            It is good to know your plants temperature requirements - most plants do not like it below 58ยบ F. Watch for cold drafts from windows and doors, and keep plants from touching cold windows. 

By the same token do not put them too near a heat source - esp. a wood stove. Do not allow heat to blow directly on the plant as it will cause plant cell damage.

TIP: If your house is usually pretty chilly then  place your plants on a heat mat (like the ones you would use for starting seeds). Plants whose roots are warm can withstand 10 to 20 degree cooler air temperatures.

Watering requirements will probably change as the days get colder, so you should observe your plants and check for their need of water before giving them a drink, not every plant will react the same way to the changes in environment and temperature. You may find mold growing on the sill because the plant may be staying too wet. You may see gnats flying around because they are attracted to the wet soil. Once you dry out the soil both those problems should go away.
Your best bet is to follow the 4 rules of

            Rule #1 - Water regularly - it is imperative that potting soil not go completely dry at any point in a plants life cycle. Allowing your soil to get bone dry increases the odds of soil compaction, thereby reducing the odds of water retention.To avoid this you should check you plants for water every other day - you can do this simply by inserting your finger into the pot. The soil should feel moist (not overly wet) about 2 inches down.
            Rule #2 - Timing is everything! Plants’ watering needs will change with the seasons so there is no steadfast rule on how often you should be watering. Seasons will often dictate your approach - plants will need more water in summer (when it is hot and soil dries out faster) than in fall and winter (when the days are shorter and cool). What kind of heat and how warm you keep your house will also affect your watering schedule.
            Rule #3 - Water Deeply - be sure to add enough water so that some water seeps out of the drainage holes. This will ensure a full watering so that roots in the bottom of the container can take up water. This is not to say you should allow your plants to sit in water for more than 30 mins! Toss out the remaining water in the catch tray.
            Rule #4 - DO NOT OVERWATER! - overwatering plants water logs the soil and prohibits oxygen from flowing freely to the roots of plants. Plants need oxygen to survive. In a short period of time water logging leads to decay and rot. Not good. To ensure that you do not overwater your plants check for dryness first. You also need to make sure your plant has proper drainage and that water can flow thru the container. 

And remember plants dry out much more slowly in cooler temperatures.

TIP: if your plants have do a LOT of growing over the summer and are very rootbound repot it just before you are going to bring it in for the fall/winter - if there is still room for the roots keep them as is in their smaller pots (now is not the time to repot) they are getting ready for winter and are no longer being stimulated by heat and sun to grow - they are simply just sitting tight to get thru the winter (much like we do!)

When overwatered, plants will look like this:
            Leaves will loose their glossy sheen or become light green or yellow in color
            The plant may wilt and the soil may have a foul odor. Root rot, mold on soil                   and leaf drop are indicators of overwatering.
            The solution is to:
            Discard any mushy roots or wilted leaves and repot the plant using fresh potting soil. Remove any excess water in the pot’s saucer. If the plant is very large, use a turkey baster to remove the water.

When under watered, plants will look like this:
            Leaves tend to be small and pale in color, fall off or are wilted. The entire plant may be stunted. Sides of leaves or tips may dry and get brittle. Check to see if it is pot bound. (when removed from the pot you see lots of roots and little soil)

       The solution is to:
            Submerge the complete plant in lukewarm water and let it absorb water, usually for 15-30 minutes. Or water diligently so that the soil in the pot becomes moist throughout the pot.

Signs a plant needs repotting: 
            1- dries out fast
            2- all the water runs thru it when watering
            3- new growth is small

BUT - you should always take the plant out of its pot and give a visual on the roots as the following could also cause the above:
            1- the plant got too dry and the soil pulled away from the side of the pot
            2- the plant hasn’t had a deep drink or thorough watering in a long time

Rules of Repotting
Pot size:
        Never put a plant in too large a container! The new pot should have a diameter and depth no more than 2 inches greater than the old pot. In an oversize pot, the ratio of soil to roots will be too great for the roots to absorb overabundant moister held in the soil (this is also known as pot shock). The resultant root rot can be a serious threat to the health of the plant. If you want to move a newly purchased plant to a  different container, choose a pot of the same size or only slightly larger.

          Always plant into clean containers. You can wash previously used pots in soapy water with a bit of bleach added; soak them for an hour do so, scrub, and rinse well to remove any soap film. You may need to work on clay pots with a stiff-bristled brush or plastic scrubber to remove built-up salt residues from fertilizers and minerals in water.

          Containers with a drain hole in the bottom are generally the best to use, because good drainage forestalls root rot. It’s not necessary to place a broken shard in the bottom of the pot, but if it’s your habit to do so, there’s no harm in it. It is harmful however, to line the bottom of your pots with a layer of gravel. This takes up precious root space and in fact slows down drainage by forcing the soil to hold water longer.

          Water the root ball and the soil mix at least an hour before you begin. While they drain, soak any clay pots you’ll be using in a tub of water. Dry porous containers draw moisture away from the soil at an unpredictable rate; presoaking them retards this water loss. Moisten your new soil mix if it’s too dry.
Feeding your plants - generally you will back off feeding your houseplants in the late fall and winter as most plants enter their dormant period at this time. There are however a few exceptions to that rule. Plants like the Christmas cactus, Poinsettia, Cyclamen, and Primrose to name a few will be entering their bloom period and will need plenty of food to maintain their blooms. 

            Nitrogen - as a rule, leafy green growth is supported by nitrogen (N). All plants need this. Nitrogen should be added to plant pots every six to eight weeks. This can be done in a number do ways: Bat Guano - this potent fertilizer also has a fair amount of phosphorus making it a good choice for fruiting plants.
 Fish meal - is made up of ground-up fish and smells fishy! It will release slowly into you plants and is great for potted houseplants, herbs and veggies! 

            Phosphorus (P) - promotes healthy fruiting and flowering plants. Some good sources of Phosphorus: Bone Meal or Fish Bone Meal - a by-product from a slaughterhouse or fish bones. Bones have a high calcium content, and some nitrogen as well.

            Potassium (K) - encourages strong plant growth. When plants lack potassium, photosynthesis slows down and may weaken the stems. An easy source of potassium is kelp meal (dried and ground up seaweed - can be found in fertilizer such as Neputne’s Fish and Seaweed Emulsion.

Thanks to Melissa Madigan!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 11, 2012

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September: A Time of Change in the Garden

 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.

Paul recently sent out some great material relating to September Garden Tasks!

"We have now lost over 2 hours of daylight every day, and the way we garden must change in the days to come. If we are going to solve problems around our yard we must act fast, and some of the traditional ways we have been gardening need to change also. The fall season is a wonderful time to get back into the garden after all of the heat of summer. This is a season of planting fall flowers; our shrubs and trees will soon be changing the color of their foliage, changing the landscape around us, and we will be planning for next spring by planting Dutch flower bulbs. This is also the best time of the year to repair or even plant a new lawn from seed around the house. So here is a check list of things for you to do in your yard during my favorite time of the year, the season known as fall.

Let's start with the lawn, because we want our lawn to be "the best on the street" and fall is the best time to make it happen. Begin by walking on your lawn and examining it closely so you know what you have to do. Do you have broad leaf weeds, crabgrass, or insect problems? If so, here is what you have to do. Broadleaf weeds can now be controlled with a product like Weed Beater by Bonide now that the 85 degree days are behind us. If you're still experiencing hot weather, wait or the products could hurt your good grass. 

Remember not to cut your lawn for at least 3 to 4 days before applying the product and the same after you have applied it, so the product has a large leaf surface from the weed to absorb the product for better results. Tough weeds like clover, creeping Charley, and ajuga should get a second application 7 to 10 days later to destroy these very strong lawn weeds. Keep the kids and pets off the grass until it has dried completely. No rain or irrigation for 24 hours after you apply the product so it has time to get into the plant and kill it.

Crabgrass is a big problem right now and no weed killer will kill the plant as it is mature and making seed for next year. What you HAVE to do is let the grass grow a bit taller than normal so the crabgrass plant can develop long stems that hold the seed heads. Each crabgrass plant can make 500 plus seeds and when you mow the grass consider bagging the grass clippings as they are full of seeds for next year. If you do not have a mower with a bag attachment borrow your neighbor's lawn mower or you will spread the seed all over your lawn making it a worse problem for next spring. If you're beginning to notice a red coloration in your lawn, you have crabgrass growing in it and it is making seeds, so bag it up and dispose of the clippings with the trash; do not put your clippings in your compost pile, as composting will not kill these seeds.

Insects are still active in your lawn and if you're beginning to notice birds digging in your lawn, or irregular shaped dead patches in the lawn, it could be Japanese beetle grubs damage. This will soon be followed by skunks or raccoons digging up your lawn in large patches--just like a farmer tills his fields. It is too late for the traditional products like Season Long Grub Control or Grub-X, because the season is coming to an end and they will not work with the cooler weather ahead of us now. (At Skillin’s we recommend applying the all natural Milky Spore bacteria for best long-term grub control).

This is the best time of the year and MOST EFFECTIVE time to kill Japanese bamboo--while it is in flower. The plant is now full of upright broom-like white flower clusters. When this happens all the reserve energy normally stored in the roots is on the top of the plant making flowers that will in the weeks to come become new seeds for even more Japanese bamboo plants for your yard. Because all the energy is out of the roots, the weed killers you apply can travel from the foliage directly to the roots and can kill 75% or more of the existing plant. Use Kleen Up by Bonide now; repeat in a week to 10 days and watch the plant slowly turn brown and DIE! Applying these products during the growing season is not effective--only now! This spraying of the plant will also make the seeds sterile and they will not germinate, so if you're going to do only one thing in the garden this week let it be this. Do not cut it down until late October or in the spring.

In the rose garden I want you to STOP fertilizing your plants for the year! This will cause the plant to prepare itself for the winter months and build strong and thick tissue instead of new succulent growth. Your plants will continue to flower if you water regularly with 3 to 5 gallons of water per week and cut back the faded flowers to just above the third set of leaf that has 5 segments to it. By October build a mound of bark mulch 12 to 15 inches high and just as wide to insulate the graft on all your grafted roses for added winter protection. The only roses you do not have to do this to are your Rosa Rugosa or beach roses.

What your roses will need is a good spraying now--and again in 2 to 3 weeks--to control insect and disease with products like Bayer Advanced Insect, Disease and Mite control or Bonide Rose RX 3 in 1 spray. Once the foliage drops from the plant, be sure to remove it and keep your rose bed clean of infected foliage to prevent problem next year. Your rose bush will continue to flower as long as the weather stays mild; it is not uncommon to have roses in bloom well into November if cared for properly.

Fall is also the best time to kill moss growing in your lawn and garden. Most garden centers have moss killers that you can apply now and the grass growing around it will fill in the space in the weeks to come. Now that the moss is dead you should still add limestone, wood ash from your stoves, fire pits, or Fast Acting Lime to reduce the acidity level in your soil, which will help prevent future growth of new moss plants where you just killed them. As you clean up your garden, be sure to add lime, wood ash, or Magic-Cal to keep the soil sweet and productive. Your vegetable garden will become more productive; lilacs love a sweet soil and the plant can make more fragrant flowers. Also clematis vines love lime for the same reason--so start creating a better environment for your plants to grow.

Newly planted shrubs and trees should also be fertilized with an organic plant food for slow feeding of the plant until the ground freezes. Chemical fertilizers like 10.10.10 could force new growth if we have a mild and moist fall, while organic fertilizers feed slowly and most of this fertilizer is stored in the roots of the plant to help keep it strong during the winter and a give a quick start-up when spring weather arrives. Use Plant-Tone for deciduous plants and Holly-Tone for all evergreens. After you cut back your perennials for the season, you can also apply organic plant foods to help keep them strong for the cold weather ahead, do not use the stronger chemicals for the same reason.

Any tree you planted this year that is over 6 feet tall should also be staked with a tree support kit to prevent wind damage during the winter months. If you planted fruit frees, be sure to wrap the trunk of the plant from the ground up to the first branch with Hardware cloth to prevent mouse, rabbit and other animal damage during the winter. Push the wire into the ground a couple of inches and leave an inch of space between the wire and the trunk of the tree to prevent animals from eating the bark of the plant when the snow gets deep."

Thanks Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
September 6, 2012