Friday, October 26, 2012

Skillin's Daily "Dirt" October 2012

Hello again,

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

Friday, October 26, 2012 Late October Garden Slideshow

Another day and another link to the A Way to Garden website. In this link, Margaret Roach brings a late October garden slideshow. I often give this time of year more disdain than anything else but some aspects can be fairly striking. Today I will let her pictures do the talking!

Thursday, October 25, 2012 Garden Prep with Cardboard

Happy 50th birthday to my brother Mark Skillin--can't believe we have both made it our 50's!

Today's post is a quick link to the A Way to Garden website--one of my absolute favorite gardening websites. Specifically I refer to her post about "Garden Prep, with Cardboard".

Fall is a great time to turn a weedy bed from weeds to a cleaner bed. Or to take some lawn area and make a new bed. Grab some cardboard and let it get to work! Read how here!

Sunday, October 21, 2012 Cutting Back Perennials

I had a great phone conversation today with a customer about which perennials to trim this time of year. We started the conversation talking about coneflowers (echinacea). Should I trim them back to the ground now? I have some coneflower that still looks good (flowers are long gone but the foliage is still pretty green). Some coneflower foliage is pretty brown (aka dead and dying). What I do is trim back all the "dead and dying" to the ground. Foliage that looks good I keep because the old flower heads do contain seeds that the birds appreciate. We also talked about Black Eyed Susans. Like the coneflower I am keeping them around for the birds for another week or two.

Many perennials like peonies can be trimmed. That growth is all dead and dying. Some foliage like my Amsonia still looks good--I have not cut that back yet and won't for awhile. My artemisia (silver mound) was looking good until recently. Now some of it has gotten brown and black. Next day off: that goes too.

In conclusion, if the perennial foliage is dead and dying cut it back to the ground. If there is still some merit for keeping more green foliage and you want to keep it for awhile go right ahead!

Thursday, October 18, 2012 Watering Houseplants

Just a little blurb on properly watering houseplants. Most of us water our plants often enough but quite often we don't give them enough water when we do water. Therefore, the top third or half of the pot gets watered but perhaps not the bottom of the root system.

If you can bring your houseplant to a sink or a tub when the soil is dry to the touch. Let the water run slowly into soil of the plant from the watering can or from a faucet. When I can I let the water pool on top of the soil up to the brim of the pot. I will re fill the pot 4 or 5 times (by this time the water is POURING out of the bottom of the pot). Let the excess water drain out of the pot completely and put the plant back in its place.

Now you know the plant has had enough water!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 A Man and His Bird Feeder

This morning I was at the front (sales) counter at Skillin's Falmouth. Standing and waiting to get checked out was a customer I will call Ralph (not his real name). Ralph and his wife are frequent Friends of Skillin's. I have enjoyed getting to know them a little bit over the years.

This morning Ralph was buying sunflower kernels for his birds. Ralph likes to converse a little and will occasionally "bust" a little smile but he is direct and to the point. Ralph doesn't waste words.

With a smile,  I asked Ralph how he was doing. Ralph was by himself--unusual. He replied: "My wife just went into the hospital with cancer. The doctors tell us she is not going to make it out".

Oh my.

Neither Ralph or I said anything. We just looked at each other with tears rimming in our eyes.

"It came on so fast" he said. "My son is with her right now...I just came in because I have to take care of my birds. I can't let them go hungry while I am with her".

"Ralph" I gulped. "You are doing the right thing. It is good you are taking care of them--they need you; like I know you care for her. I am so sorry but I am glad to see you".

I carried the sunflower kernels out to the car for Ralph. He told me again his son was his mother. That's good I said.

"As soon as I feed my birds, I will be going in."

"Say hello to her Ralph. And please get some rest". We teared up again.

"I will Mike; see you again".

You will Ralph, you will.

I am sure someone saw Ralph driving home or to the hospital. Or in between filling his bird feeder. And no one would think a thing. How routine does all that appear!

Yet we are all carrying something. Sometimes it is a heavy load but everyone is carrying something. I need to remember that more. A lot more. How much better would this world be if we all remembered that just a little more?

Who can know what a man filling his bird feeder  is carrying inside? But Someone does and while you are afraid, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Monday,  October 15, 2012 Daffodils, Narcissus and Jonquils

Now is just a great time to plant Fall Bulbs. I still swoon at tulips--don't get me wrong. But my absolute "fave" are the daffodils! Whites, yellows and creams. So bright in the Spring! And so reliable: deer and other eating pests don't like daffodils. And hardy: they have a MUCH longer life than tulips.

Skillin's has the best selection of Fall Bulbs in Maine; there are so many types to pick from. But DO NOT forget the daffodils!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 Don't Pass on the Drumstick Allium for Your Garden!

The folks at Horticulture Magazine recently sent out a great recommendation for one of my favorite bulbs--the Drumstick Allium. I love all alliums--including the giant Allium Globemaster (a very popular bulb sold right here at Skillin's). The drumstick allium is smaller than other alliums but has a great color and a garlic type flower. It flowers later than most bulbs yet still early enough in Skillin's Country so that it "shows" really well. We have some "drumsticks" available here. NOW is a great time plant fall bulbs and when you do, "don't pass on the drumsticks!"

The Drumstick Allium

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 Inner Conifer Needles Turning Brown or Yellow

Driving and running around Skillin's Country it is easy to notice that white pines and other conifers are showing quite a bit of inner needle loss. This is the time of year conifers shed their inner needles and if the trees are near stressful areas like roadsides the needle loss can be sudden and seem severe. But in most cases this is perfectly natural-a way the trees have been designed to shed old growth. And pine needles make a great mulch and moderate amounts can be smartly added to compost (along with some lime).

If on closer inspection you see the browning is more at the outer tips, then it could be other issues. If you ARE more interested take a read of this post by Margaret of A Way to Garden.

Monday, October 8, 2012 12 Trees and Shrubs for Fall Color

Great gardener Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden maintains a fabulous website. I highly recommend that you check it out! Margaret recently posted a terrific article called "Trees and Shrubs for Fall Color". All the plants listed will thrive in Skillin's Country. These plants may not be in stock at this point at Skillin's but we will offer them all in 2013 if we don't have now. Call us at 781-3860 (800-244-3860) or write us at if you would like to check availability on any of the plants. Enjoy the post!

Sunday, October 7, 2012 Morning Glories: What a Heavenly Blue Flower!

I just snapped this photo the other day of these Heavenly Blue Morning Glories. They are JUST starting to flower now and I hope that I can get a few more weeks of color--we shall see about that!!

I planted them late (about the third week of June). Had I done so in late May I would have had some good color before now but better late than never! If you have never grown these--you MUST!!! I planted 3 small pots of them under a 6' trellis that I simply leaned up against my house in a sunny spot. A 5 minute job that served as a great gardening move! I did get plenty of Flower Tone by Espoma in the ground at the time of planting and then used liberal amounts of Neptune Harvest's Fish and Seaweed liquid food for the first few weeks.

Mike Skillin
October 2012

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