Thursday, December 9, 2010

More December Gardening Tips!

Hello again,

December is a busy month! Although the coming holidays seem to add considerably more to our plate, there are still some useful gardening chores that can be done. Last week we mentioned some helpful December gardening and holiday tips and following in this post are a few more that we did not cover.

*Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. It is great to give your plants a regular shower--many houseplant insect problems start from dusty plants. If you suspect you have a problem, separate this plant from your other plants and come see us to pick up Bonide's Systemic Houseplant Granules. These are fast acting granules that you sprinkle on top of the soil. Your waterings will integrate the plant's active ingredients into the plant's system for fast acting and thorough results.

*Start paperwhites in pebbles and water. Stagger them every few weeks for great winter color. We have 3 choices of such bulbs right here at Skillin's!

*Clear turf or weeds from the area right around the trunks of fruit trees and ornamentals before snow flies to reduce winter damage by rodents. Hardware cloth collars should be in place year-round as well.

*Be extra vigilant cleaning up under fruit trees, as fallen fruit and foliage allowed to overwinter invites added troubles next season.

*This cold weather means it is the absolute PERFECT time to mulch around your perennial beds, roses and other tender shrubs like Butterfly Bush. Use straw, fir boughs, compost, mulch or some combination to cover over these precious plants. Keep the frozen soil in place by covering ASAP. The freezing and thawing of your soil that can happen in Skillin's Country to unprotected plants is what causes cells in their root systems to be stressed and this is what causes our plants to perish!

Several of these tips were inspired by our friend Margaret at She is a good read and evidently a great gardener!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 9, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

7 Important Gardening Tips

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Rion Piccaro entitled The 7 Most Important Indoor Gardening Tips. I have added some comments in italics!

"If you enjoy gardening and would like to be growing all year round, but your climate doesn't permit you to grow outdoors in the winter months, you can always make an indoor garden. Whether you want to grow herbs, vegetables, fruits, or all of the above, you will find these indoor garden tips to be beneficial. There are plenty of grow guides and indoor garden tutorials online, so it is important that you do your research before you get started. Like with most project, it's wise to gather relevant information necessary for growing a successful indoor garden.

Top 7 indoor gardening tips:

Proper Light - Make sure you provide enough light to your plants. If they get too little light by intensity or time, they will become weaker and frail each day. Even if your home or office doesn't get enough sunlight, you can buy an indoor grow light. If adding a grow light is not an option, you can always choose a variety of plants that will grow well in low light environments.

Give Your Plants A Shower - No Kidding! You don't have to wash them every day, but it's a good thing to spray them down with fresh water regularly. The water will remove the dust and contaminants that may have landed on the leaves. Plants will absorb water through their leaves, so this is great for keeping your garden well hydrated. This is extremely important advice as so many insect problems start with dusty indoor plants and pots.

Soil Matters - Choose your soil wisely.... You can do no better than Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend; an all natural and locally produced soil that is just terrific!
Drainage Is Important - Always add holes to the bottom of your plant container! Sure, you can buy planters with holes already in the bottom, but if you want to use a plastic container for starting seedlings, you may want to make your own from plastic cups. Without proper soil drainage, the water will stay in the pot, which will cause the roots rot. Good drainage along with good quality soil allows for deep waterings of your roots--very healthy!

Water Is Life - The most important indoor gardening tips regard proper watering. Water is an essential part of a plant's growth. Some plants need to be watered more frequently than others, but they all need water to survive. Room temperature water is most recommended for best absorption. However, you shouldn't never over water, or that will not be good either, but if you have good soil drainage, it will be hard to over water the plants. They will usually tell you when they need water by their leaves drooping down. When the soil feels dry to the touch about three inches down it's time to water thoroughly.

Fertilize For Success - Soil nutrients are also important factors for a healthy garden. Over time water will flush out some of the soil's nutrients, so you will have to add more nutrients periodically. Many people choose to use organic fertilizer in their garden which can come in a solid or liquid form. Always follow the instruction on the package of fertilizer that you are using for proper usage and how often to use it. You can purchase an electronic device that will check the nutrient level in your soil. I recommend all natural Dynamite--a capsulated fertilizer that needs to be applied every 3 months. Or liquid applications of Fish and Seaweed fertilizer (can result in a slight, temporary odor).

Capture It - Take lots of pictures because you may decide to start your own indoor garden blog and help others who are doing their research. Another great thing that a picture provides is the ability to post in a forum and get help with garden problems that other may have solved. Sometimes a picture is the best method for showing a certain problem to someone online or offline at your local garden center.

These are just my personal top 7 indoor gardening tips that you should consider to have your own success in growing plants indoors. Use these tips, but don't stop there. Continue to research and try new things to improve your garden so that your plants will have success and you will gain a sense of accomplishment."

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 7, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Amaryllis (Post Holiday Care)

(picture from Paul Parent Garden Club)
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.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:

Attention: anyone who receives an amaryllis as a gift over the holidays...don't throw that bulb away the minute the flower stalk becomes withered and ugly! With a little coddling, you can enjoy the same beautiful blooms next year.

After the blossoms shrivel, cut the flower stem 1 inch above the base with a sharp knife. Continue to water and feed the remaining bulb regularly, and provide plenty of light. Amaryllis can be planted outdoors - pot and all - in partial shade and then into full sunlight during the summer.

For Christmas blooms next year, bring the plants into the garage in late September and place the pots on their sides. Cut off all water. This gives the plants a couple of months to rest before preparing to bloom again during the holidays.

In November, remove any dead leaves and replace the top couple of inches of potting soil. Resist the urge to pot up, as amaryllis like being jammed into a small space; there should only be about 1" between the bulb and the pot. Thoroughly water, place in a sunny window indoors and wait until growth emerges.

Once a flower bud becomes evident, continue watering when soil becomes dry, and make sure the plant is receiving plenty of sunlight. Water well during blooming, but put the plant in a less bright spot to help the flowers last longer. Then, when the flowers begin to fade, it's time to start the whole process over again.

If you're in USDA hardiness zone 7b or warmer, amaryllis can also be grown outdoors like any other flowering bulb, although many of the Dutch hybrid types will not do that well. Just make sure the soil is well-drained and rich in organic matter. Space bulbs about a foot apart and barely cover the bulb tops with soil. Select a sunny spot in the garden that receives some shade during the afternoon hours. Avoid placing the bulb where it will dry out excessively; a light layer of mulch will help retain moisture and keep the bulb from overheating in hot weather.
Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 4, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Beauty of Christmas Cactus

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 this article out called "The Beauty of Christmas Cactus" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

                                            (Picture from the Paul Parent Garden Club)

While the poinsettia remains the most popular of the holiday plants, a healthy Christmas cactus in full bloom is a great gift idea for that special gardener. It is easy to care for and can be grown indoors throughout the year. The flowers range in color from yellow, orange, red, salmon, pink, fuchsia and white to combinations of those colors. Its pendulous stems make it a great choice for hanging baskets.

We have a great selection of Christmas Cactus at Skillin's right now!

The "Christmas cactus" is a closely related species of forest cacti that grow as epiphytes between 3,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level in the Organ Mountains north of Rio de Janeiro in southeast Brazil, South America. Epiphytes need structural support from the trees where they live to survive, not nutrition, since they make their own food. Similar plants are orchids, ferns and mosses. That is why their slender stems weep over, filling your pot.

We typically think of cacti as being heat tolerant, but Christmas cactuses will keep their blossoms longer in cooler temperatures, 55 or cooler. It is important to keep plants in a well-lit location away from drafts of heater vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. Drafts and temperature extremes can cause the flower buds to drop from the plant before they have a chance to open. Over-watering turns the stems purple.

So, if you have a plant without flowers put it in the basement window for about a month and the flowers will soon appear. Christmas cactus, if put outside for the summer, will set flowers for you. As the weather changes in September the cactus will set flower buds all by itself. Cool temperatures, around 55 degrees F., are the trigger, along with short days. (I have great luck with a re flowering Christmas Cactus by keeping it on my shaded front steps until well into September) If it is in a room that the lights stay on until the 11:00 o’clock news, that could also inhibit flowering. The day never gets short enough to change from vegetative growth to flower bud production. Move it to a north-facing window.

The Christmas cactus is a tropical-type plant, not quite as drought tolerant as its desert relatives and, in fact, may drop flower buds if the soil gets too dry. Water thoroughly when the top inch or so of soil feels dry to the touch. The soil, should be kept evenly moist for best growth. I water about every 2 weeks.

Christmas cactuses will do best in bright indirect light. They do not need to be fertilized while in bloom, but most gardeners enjoy the challenge of keeping the plant after the holidays for re-bloom the following year. When they finish flowering, fertilize every 2 weeks with Miracle-Gro fertilizer, while the plants are actively growing. If taken care of properly, a single plant can last for many years, providing many seasons of enjoyment. If you repeat the cold process in the basement or cool room, it will flower again in February."

Thanks to the Paul Parent Garden Club!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
December 3, 2010