Monday, January 24, 2011

January Indoor Garden Chores

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 "January Indoor Garden Chores" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"Let's begin by checking our house plants for hitchhikers. Such insects as aphids, whitefly, mealy bug, scale, and spider mites will begin to multiply with the increase of the length of the day and the heat from the house now.

Look on the tip of the plant first, as insects love new growth to feed on rather than the tough older growth .Insects on the new growth will be easy to spot, as they will make the new growth twist and become misshapen. Now, aphids are the most common problem and their skin color will be the same as the plant--great camouflage ability. You may also find them all clustered together on the tip, especially flowering plants like hibiscus and gardenias.

If plants are on a table, feel the table for a sticky feeling on the surface, or large houseplants will have a sticky floor under the plant. If you find this, clean the surface quickly or the sticky substance on the surface called "honeydew" will grow a black sooty mold that can stain carpeting and hurt wood floors. If this is the case, look on the stems of the plant for small bumps on the stem; these are scale insects, and you can usually rub them off with a soft soapy wet cloth.

If you should notice a type of webbing on the top of the plant you have spider mites. This is the toughest insect to control, so be sure to check other plants near it for possible infection. Any plant with mites should be quarantined from your other plants! Now, wash the plant with warm soapy water and soft cloth to remove webbing and as many adults as possible from the plant. I really recommend Bonide's Systemic Houseplant Granules to sprinkle on top of your plant's soil. This product is easy to apply--no spraying and works very thoroughly!

If you brush against the plant and small white flies fly from the underside of the foliage, you have white fly, an insect that can fly from plant to plant and room to room to slowly destroy your plant collection. If the day is nice, take the plant outside or in the garage briefly and try to knock off as many of the flying insects as possible. Anything that comes off will die from the cold and will not be able to continue to lay eggs on your other plants. For the whitefly Skillin's offers yellow sticky traps which are very effective against whitefly.

If you see what looks like pieces of cotton on the leaves or stems of the plant, you have an insect called mealy bug. This insect is not as common, but thrives where plants are clustered together or when you mist plants often to increase humidity around plants. If you see some on top of the plant look under the leaves and usually they will be covered. Wash off as many as possible with a soft, wet, and soapy cloth. I think mealybug needs a thorough dose of the Systemic Granules I discussed above followed up by a thorough spraying of All Seasons Spray Oil described below!

There is one more I forgot to mention and this one can be a real problem also. This insect is called a fungus gnat and resembles a small fruit fly, like the ones that come when you keep bananas too long on your kitchen counter. I have had great success controlling soil gnats with the Bonide Systemic Granules we describe above!
After you have washed the plant with soapy water, spray all plants with Bonide All Season Oil. All Season Oil can safely be used on herbs as well as all other house plants in your home. I love All Season Oil because there are no toxic fumes for you to breath with all the windows closed at this time of the year. This oil spray is better that all the other indoor sprays on the market today because it will kill the adults, young and eggs of the insect at the same time. Most other houseplant sprays only kill the adults; some kill the young but this product also kills the eggs of the insects before they get a chance to hatch and create new problems later.

Insects are killed by suffocation as the oil plugs up all the insect's pores and they cannot breathe--there are no chemicals in this plant spray. Because the insects are suffocated, the insects cannot build up immunity to the product like they can to chemical poisons.

The oil spray will also shine up your foliage, making your plants look bright and clean. When you apply the All Season Oil spray, apply to the underside of the foliage first and the stems of the plant. Be sure to turn the plant upside down for the best coverage as insects are more numerous on the underside of foliage and in the crotches of the leaves and stems. Spray the top of the foliage last and repeat in seven days. When spraying herbs, rinse foliage with warm water before eating and the product will wash off easily. Sunshine will destroy the oil product in just 7 to 10 days, but the bugs are now dead. It's time for a quick battle now to avoid war later. Don't wait--check your plants today!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Seeing Snow!

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.

Snow: A Temporary Covering of Many Good Things!

What do you see? Hours of shoveling? Hoping the snow blower doesn’t run out of gas? Another payment to the snow plow guy? Parking bans? I see a blanket of insulation; the perfect finishing touch for my late fall fertilizing. I see a final bow for the past gardening season and a prelude to the one to come.

I realize I am l lucky as I have off street parking. I currently have no place that I have to be when the weather outside is frightful. No children to find entertainment alternatives when schools and daycares are closed. It is easy to look at the lighter side of a heavy snow fall.

As I stare out my window I become hypnotized by the white stream of flurries. In my pseudo trance I look beyond the haze. Poking through the shrouded earth I spy the normally flat flower heads of Autumn Joy sedum peaked with frosty precipitation. Hungry chickadees pluck seeds from the Echinacea allowed to withstand the elements. The billowy bygone blossoms of the mighty Joe Pye play host to crimson cardinals and their less vibrant mates.

The current state of the crispy vines that once supported azure Morning Glory Blooms offers less drama. I search within to recall how my garden looked during its late August grandeur. Now all I see is snow. SNOW! I decide to venture out-of-doors to take a closer look.

Once outside I touch the crispy tangled web of the Morning Glory. Black specks fall. I seek Mother Nature’s assistance to see that these seeds survive to self-sow. Another part of the yard plays host to a Hawthorne that I refer to as ‘mine’. A white caplet of snow renders the bright red berries elegant in their simplicity.

KCB's Hawthornes!

I am content among the fallen snow. I am warmed by all the possibilities that I see beyond the white. I am envious of the hyacinth, crocus, and the alliums bulbs below. Safe in the earth--they are allowed to sleep. No deadlines, no rent or bills of any kind to pay, they rest. All this I see in the snow.

Take another look out your window. Perhaps take a walk. Now what is it you see when you see snow?

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
January 21, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keeping Houseplants Healthy in Winter

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 "Keeping Houseplants Healthy in Winter" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

Keeping your houseplants healthy during winter months may seem difficult. Light from windows is reduced, days are shorter and humidity may be lower due to heating. But by making a few changes, you can help keep your houseplants healthy.

Keeping things light

In winter, your plants receive sunlight for less time and in less intensity. Houseplants native to rainforests that are used to lower light will be fine with that, but most plants need more light. Try to move your plants near a brighter window (S/SW exposure) to get them more sunlight.

If you have no brighter windows (due to shade trees or apartment living), you might want to consider the purchase of plant lamps that are designed to provide the full spectrum light your plants need. They can be mounted under shelves, over plants or on specially-designed plant stands. Leave them on about eight hours a day, and they'll give your plants the light they need. Consider using the newer LED lamps. They are a bit more expensive, but they use less energy and are more efficient for producing the part of the spectrum that is needed by plants. In short, you aren't wasting your energy (and money) producing excess heat or light in spectra that your plants don't need.


Most plants do not do well when subjected to rapid fluctuations in temperature. Keep them away from hot air sources and cold drafts alike. Run ceiling fans on low if the house is closed up. Fans break up stagnant air; that's healthier for both you and your plants.


Some symptoms of low humidity are brown leaf tips and wilting. Low humidity makes your plants work harder to get moisture from the air and soil, as well as keep what they have inside.

One way to give your plants some extra humidity is to put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a tray and fill the tray with just enough water to cover the bottom of the tray (below the top of the pebbles). Place potted plants in the tray. (Refill the pebbles with water as needed)
Other Tips

Fertilizing should be done less often for most plants in winter. (I often recommend all natural "Dynamite" fertilizer granules that you can put down every 3 months of the year. This gives your plant a gentle dose of all natural nutrients--great for your soil!)

Give your plants a good washing. Dirt, dust, grease, and other particles can settle on leaves. Dirty leaves can't absorb as much sunlight as clean ones. Gently wipe clean the leaves with a soft sponge or cloth dipped in plain tepid water. Sturdier plants can even be given a quick shower in the bathroom with tepid water. (This is awesome advice. Even in the best of homes our plants get dusty and mites and other insects LOVE to make their homes in that dust. Give the "bad bugs" less of a chance!)

Get Growing Indoors

Hello again,

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seed Company, a family owned business based in Colorado, frequently pass along some great gardening advice.

The following article tells how and why we should get growing certain crops NOW in our indoor gardens so as to have some timely harvests of fresh, natural food earlier than usual in Skillin's Country. Before I go any further I need to point out that we will be having a class on this very topic on Feb 5 here at Skillin's. The class is called Indoor Gardening and more details can be found HERE. The intent of the class is to show how to grow edibles indoors. Many of our Skillin's staff people are doing this. They are loving the results but also finding that their "gardening desires"--normally largely on hold this time of year--are being better met by growing herbs, greens and other vegetables.

I need to attend this class as I have not yet endeavored to grow and food crops indoors. It does sound very rewarding.

Here is what the folks at Botanical Interests have to say:

What to Start Early Indoors

As soon as the calendar rolls over to a new year, gardeners start dreaming of spring planting. While winter may have you in its chilly grip outside, you can still nourish your green thumb indoors, because there's plenty you can do inside now to get ready for your 2011 garden.

Vegetable and herb varieties to start early include those that are slow growers, biennial or perennial, or cold tolerant. You might also consider starting more varieties indoors if you need to get a head start on a very short growing season.

If your mouth waters at the mention of succulent homegrown celery, remember that it needs a good 12-16 week growing period indoors before your average last frost date. And, don't think artichokes can only be grown by those lucky southern California gardeners! If you start them indoors, 12 weeks before your average last frost date, you can get chokes the first year in many parts of the country. For salad lovers, don't forget that endive and escarole should be started 10-12 weeks before your average last frost if you want to grow them to mature size. Eggplant, bunching onions, and bulbing onions seeds need to be planted indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. A couple of weeks later, you'll want to get leeks and peppers started, as well as chamomile, lavender, lovage, and rosemary.

Some key pointers for starting vegetable and herb seeds indoors include: use clean containers with drainage holes, use a high quality seed starting mix, use fluorescent lights hung 1"-2" above the seedlings that are turned on for 14 or more hours each day, and make sure your seedlings never dry out. A small rotating fan a few feet away can also provide air circulation and strengthen stems.

Spring in January? It will feel like it once you smell that fresh soil and see those first green seedlings emerge! With a little advance planning now, you'll have a fantastic start towards a bounty of spring and summer eatin'.

For a complete list of indoor planting dates for vegetables and herbs, see our Indoor Spring Sowing Guide for Vegetables & Herbs.

Get a Head Start On Celery

Start indoors now for summer success!

Celery is one of those special garden treasures that tastes exquisite when it's picked in your own garden. Anyone who's had the experience hopes to repeat it year after year. Growing your own also keeps it safe from the pesticides often used in its commercial production.

For most gardeners, growing celery successfully includes starting it indoors early. Celery seeds will germinate and produce tiny plantlets in as soon as 7 days, but it can take up to 30. The young plants are slow to reach a transplantable size, so it is advisable to start them indoors now. You will experience the most success if you follow a few tips:

Germination is quickest at 70-75°F in consistently moist, light soil.

Celery's tiny seeds like some light to hasten germination. Cover the seeds lightly with soil, cover with clear plastic wrap, and place in a well-lit area.

When the tiny plants appear, remove the plastic and provide consistent moisture and light.

Before you know it, you'll be enjoying the flavor homegrown celery in everything, from soups, roasts and snacks, to your favorite drink.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Clean Air Houseplants

Hello again,

The cold of winter keeps us indoors more than other times of year and quite often more than we would like!

Following is an excerpt from that discusses how effective many popular houseplants can be. The list concludes with a "Top 15" list. We may not always have the exact matches at Skillin's but we have plants from all the families listed and any plants in those families will show the same clean air attributes.

Here is the excerpt:

"In the late 1980s, a study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) resulted in excellent news for homeowners and office workers everywhere. The study concluded that common houseplants such as bamboo palms and spider plants not only make indoor spaces more attractive, they also help to purify the air!

The study was conducted by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Anne Johnson, and Keith Bounds in 1989. While it was originally intended to find ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations, the study proved to have implications on Earth as well.

Newer homes and buildings, designed for energy efficiency, are often tightly sealed to avoid energy loss from heating and air conditioning systems. Moreover, synthetic building materials used in modern construction have been found to produce potential pollutants that remain trapped in these unventilated buildings.

The trapped pollutants result in what is often called the Sick Building Syndrome. With our ultra modern homes and offices that are virtually sealed off from the outside environment, this study is just as important now as when it was first published.

While it’s a well known fact that plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, the NASA/ALCA study showed that many houseplants also remove harmful elements such as trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air.

NASA and ALCA spent two years testing 19 different common houseplants for their ability to remove these common pollutants from the air. Of the 19 plants they studied, 17 are considered true houseplants, and two, gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums, are more commonly used indoors as seasonal decorations.

The advantage that houseplants have over other plants is that they are adapted to tropical areas where they grow beneath dense tropical canopies and must survive in areas of low light. These plants are thus ultra-efficient at capturing light, which also means that they must be very efficient in processing the gasses necessary for photosynthesis. Because of this fact, they have greater potential to absorb other gases, including potentially harmful ones.

After conducting the study, NASA and ALCA came up with a list of the most effective plants for treating indoor air pollution.

The recommended plants can be found below. Note that all the plants in the list are easily available from your local nursery.

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium', heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana', cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig', Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii', Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa', peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

For an average home of under 2,000 square feet, the study recommends using at least fifteen samples of a good variety of these common houseplants to help improve air quality. They also recommend that the plants be grown in six inch containers or larger.

Check out the entire link at It is a good clean read!

Update: At about the same time we were publishing this post, gardening friend Paul Parent sent out an article about Clean Air Houseplants in his weekly gardening email. I recommend you sign up for his weekly email at! Here is an excerpt of what Paul had to say about Clean Air Houseplants:

"NASA has done extensive research on the efficacy of plants at absorbing contaminants in the air, while converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. We're going to take a look at some of the plants that provide indoor pollution relief. By incorporating these plants into your home, you will be improving the quality of the air that you breathe. These plants can also be easily moved outdoors; imagine a spring afternoon on your front porch, surrounded by the very plants that offered so much pleasure inside throughout the colder months.

Philodendrons were determined by NASA to be among the best house plants for removing toxins from the air. They love temps from 60 to 72 degrees, and do not require a lot of light. Occasionally treat them to a "bath" of soapy water to remove dust and control insects. When the temps turn warm, bring them outdoors, placing them in shade, of course always ensuring that their feet rest in rich, moist soil containing a good supply of organic matter. Well-rooted plants should receive diluted applications of a liquid fertilizer every week or two.

Ferns, which in the language of flowers mean sincerity, magic, fascination, confidence, and shelter, have a lot in common with dinosaurs. They co-existed in the Mesozoic era, and even predate dinosaurs. Dating back 300 million years, they are among the world's oldest living things. Perennials, they can be either evergreen or deciduous. They dislike strong sunlight, high wind, and dryness at the root zone. They range in size from the wall-rue at 2" to the tree ferns of New Zealand that reach heights of 30', so astute gardeners will be able to find the perfect fern for their needs.

Consider incorporating Boston ferns in your clean-air indoor garden; they are full and lush and work equally well in pots or hanging baskets. As the maiden-hair fern thrives on high humidity, it's the perfect choice for placement in a bathroom. Just remember to keep your ferns in indirect light, whether inside or out, and place their containers in pebble-filled trays, adding water into the tray until it just covers the pebbles; do not over-water.

In the language of flowers, the spider plant represents an offer of elopement. An amazingly easy-to-care-for plant, it takes a lot of effort to kill the "airplane plant." It has proven quite effective in the absorption of chemicals that include formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and carbon monoxide. It likes medium to bright light, isn't fussy about excess humidity, and prefers cool to average temps, while tolerating warmer conditions.

Another indoor plant that does equally well outside when the weather warms up, it's perfect for a hanging basket. This fast-grower sends out "babies", or spiderettes which are plantlets on long stalks. To propagate set the plantlet, while still attached to the mother plant, on the surface of a pot filled with a soilless potting medium, using a bent paper clip to hold it in place. Once it begins to root, sever it from the mother plant. If plantlets on your spider have already begun to develop roots, simply sever and pot them in soil. One mother plant can lead to many other plants!

Golden pothos, aka devil's ivy, is practically impossible to kill. It will grow under nearly any conditions, either as a climber when trained around a wooden stake, or in a hanging basket. You have probably seen it trailing along the perimeter of office cubicles, where it thrives with only fluorescent lighting. Another of our favorite air purifiers, it removes formaldehyde from the atmosphere, and sets the standard for neglect-tolerant plants. In fact, about the only thing that will kill a pothos is over-watering; a shallow root system makes it susceptible to root rot. This in a way is somewhat ironic, as your home can sport a plethora of pothos by simply placing clippings in water, and in about a week roots will begin to form. When a plant is fully rooted, pop into a pot of loose, well-draining soil, and keep it evenly moist.

We've started you out with some of the most reliable houseplants that will not only provide you with healthier air, but are also easily moved outside during warm weather. Now it's up to you to exploit these easy-to-grow beauties so that you may find yourself forever surrounded by a garden. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 7, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January February 2011 Classes and Events

Hello again,

And Happy New Year to all of you in Skillin's Country.

Here are Skillin’s January and February 2011 Classes and Events!

Brunswick 442-8111  or  1-800-339-8111 

Cumberland 829-5619  or  1-800-348-8498 

Falmouth 781-3860   or   1-800-244-3860

Our FREE classes will be held Saturdays at all three locations (unless otherwise stated) at 10 AM. Space is limited so reserve today for the classes of your choice! Just give us a call at any of the above numbers or drop us a note at Class participants receive a special Skillin’s 10% discount coupon for use on the weekend of your class.



8th –Fresh Flower Arranging! (10 AM & 2 PM)

We’ve got the flowers, have you got the time? Create your own colorful fresh floral masterpiece to brighten your home. This limited space class is our most popular Skillin’s class. It is no wonder; we are consistently voted as Maine’s Favorite Florist. $15.00 fee

Note: Falmouth is sold out for this class, there are openings in Brunswick and Cumberland!

15th -Growing Healthy Houseplants– (10 AM) (Also 2 PM in Falmouth)

Time to learn how to make your houseplants green and clean! We kick off another exciting series of classes by talking indoor gardening. Houseplants bring cleaner healthier air to the home and office, indoor dish gardens can be fun—even without loads of sun! We will show some of the tricks of the trade and maybe a few family secrets! Come one, come all! We’ll help you Plant for the Planet by giving all class goers a free 4” potted plant of your choice. Free

29th -Orchids and Their Care (10 AM)

Special guest instruction from the Maine Orchid Society! Orchids are one of the most rewarding houseplants you could ever have. Let us show you how to easily care for them in your home. Special note for Cumberland class goers: In this location we will be discussing how to grow Native Orchids. This is a great class and one that we REALLY hope you can make! Free

Note: Falmouth class is sold out for January 29; we do have openings for Brunswick and Cumberland (Native Orchid care being taught in Cumberland).

1-Spring Bonds Go On Sale!

2011 is the 21st year of selling our pre-season SPRING BONDS. When you purchase a $50 bond you pay only $37.50!!! This 25% off coupon can be used anytime after April 1 for almost all regularly priced items. Supplies are limited so buy your SPRING BONDS before they run out! Purchase your bonds at any Skillin’s location OR!

5th-Indoor Gardening (10 AM Brunswick and Cumberland, 2 PM Falmouth)

Let us show you how to garden indoors and to raise edibles! Herbs, micro greens and other fresh edibles can be grown just great in YOUR home. What a healthy and productive pursuit! Free

5th-Landscape Design Principles (10 AM Falmouth, 2 PM Brunswick and Cumberland)

Join Chad (5th generation) Skillin as he discusses landscape design principles. Chad is Skillin’s Landscape Designer and has great experience with landscaping and practical landscape designs. Let Chad educate you on some good solid landscape design practices as well as giving you some informal help with your yard design. This is also a great opportunity to schedule time with Chad to visit your yard and create an effective plan for your yard. We will have guest instruction for our Cumberland class. Free

14th-Valentine’s Day at Skillin’s! We are Maine’s Favorite Florist. For generations we have carried the message of love to so many. Make the call—we will deliver. Or come in and see us—we will give you the “can’t miss” message to take home!

19th -Windowsill Gardening (10 AM) (ALSO a 2 PM CLASS in Falmouth!)

The sun is getting warmer and the days longer. We have the containers and the color. Let us show you how easy it is to bring it all to your home or apartment! We will also show you how to grow some great herbs to spice up your life! Free

26th—The Edible Landscape (10 AM Falmouth, 2 PM Brunswick & Cumberland)

A good landscape makes perfect sense—and what is more sensible and useful than an edible landscape! Let us show you how to grow berries that are blue and red, cherries that are sweet and apples and pears that can’t be beat! Bring a bib; you will be drooling over the possibilities! Free

26th—The Garden Journal (9 AM Cumberland, Noon Falmouth, 3 PM Brunswick)

Gardening seasons are behind us and more lie just ahead. Learn some neat ways to record what we have done and what we have dreamed; Let’s plan on what we will do and on what we want to see! Join celebrity writer and gardener KCB of Skillin’s Garden Log fame and let’s learn together about how to be impulsively organized. It’s time! Free

Special Four Part Hands on Landscape Design Class


February 8, 15, 22, March 1 5:00PM (Tuesdays)

February 10, 17, 24, March 3 10:00 AM (Thursdays)


March 8, 15, 22, 29 5:00PM

What a great chance to get a jump start on plotting how to landscape your home the right way! Class fee is $40 to cover materials—you will have a great landscape plan at the finish; this is a class that you will learn from; fun will be had but homework will be required! You will be drawing your own landscape design plan!