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Maine Home Garden News — March 2014


March Is the Month to . . .

By Richard Brzozowski, Agriculturist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu

  • Build additional raised bed gardens for 2014. Rough sawn hemlock (2” X 10”) can be purchased at a local lumberyard. A bed measuring 4 feet wide and 10 feet long will cost approximately $25 in material and fasteners. To fill such a bed you will need about 1.25 cubic yard of top soil/compost, which costs about $25.
  • Plan your vegetable garden for 2014. Sketch your plan on paper or use free garden-planning tools online. Create a list of seeds (types and amounts) and transplant needs.
  • Research season extension techniques that are appropriate for your situation. Compile a “to do” list for season extension for 2014.
  • Visit your favorite year-round garden center to see and learn about new products. It’s a great time to pick up seed.
  • Start thinking about and identifying possible sources of organic matter for your garden soil. Organic matter in the soil improves water holding capacity, nutrient holding capacity, and over-all soil health.
  • Consider using cover crops this year to promote soil conservation and soil health. Review the USDA’s cover crop chart for some possible ideas.
  • Attend a flower show in your area. These shows are great place to learn, interact with others, gather information, and see new products.
  • Inspect trees on your property and repair trees that are damaged. The winter can be hard on plant life. Hire professionals to perform the repairs if needed. They are experienced and equipped to address dangerous situations. For more information, see Bulletin #2169, Pruning Woody Landscape Plants.
  • Start seeds around mid March. For more information, see Bulletin #2751, Starting Seeds at Home.
  • Repot houseplants that are showing signs of restricted root growth.
  • Take cuttings of houseplants such as geraniums and impatiens for your summer garden.
  • Do you realize how much goodness comes from your garden? Fresh fruits and vegetables are great for your health! Make it a point this growing season to learn about good nutrition and the roles that fruits and vegetables play in your diet. Download our Vegetables and Fruits for Health fact sheets for free!
  • Support the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Program by purchasing sets of one or more of the following: blueberry plants, asparagus crowns or strawberry plants. With your purchase, you are provided with “how to” videos and supporting information for a successful gardening experience. For more information see “Grow It Right!” Benefit Plant Sale.

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Peas in the Home Garden

By Kathryn Hopkins, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Somerset County, khopkins@maine.edu

As March and April roll around, gardeners begin to anticipate the first new garden crops of the year. Peas are a favorite of many gardeners and many have a favorite variety. But, what does a new gardener do when he or she opens a seed catalog and tries to decide between field peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas and shell peas?

Field peas (Pisum sativum) have been cultivated for thousands of years and are also known as dry peas, white peas or soup peas. They are harvested when they are mature and dry. Sometimes they are used as livestock feed. They have a vining habit like other peas and are grown similarly.

Sugar or snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon) are edible-podded peas with round pods. They resemble shell peas but have pods that are less fibrous and tough, making both the peas and the pods tender and edible. Snap peas are usually a good variety to grow if you want to harvest pea shoots or tendrils for early spring stir fries or salads. Plant some extra peas to harvest for pea shoots.

Snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) are edible-podded peas with flat pods that are picked and eaten before the pods begin to fill out. Both snap peas and snow peas are known as “mange-tout” which is French for “eat all”.

Shell peas have tough inedible pods that are harvested and eaten when the peas inside the pod fill out and mature. The pods are not eaten. Shell peas have short, medium and long season varieties and planting some of each or planting one variety every two weeks throughout the spring can help extend your pea harvest season.

All peas are cool season crops and are best planted in Maine in the early spring (as soon as the ground is workable) for a spring and early summer harvest. They can also be planted in the midsummer for a fall harvest. Peas tolerate cold temperatures but should be planted when the soil temperature reaches 450 Fahrenheit in the spring.  This usually happens in early, mid or late April in Maine. Peas grow best in a well-drained soil and set the most fruit in a full sun location. As members of the legume family they can fix nitrogen in root nodules that are formed with rhizobium bacteria. You may want to buy a rhizobium inoculant for peas to dust your seeds at planting time. This will ensure that the bacteria will be available to your crop. When the peas and rhizobium fix nitrogen, it will be available for the next vegetable that you plant after you the pea season ends if you cut the peas down at the soil level and leave the roots in the ground.

Some newer varieties of peas are short-vined bush varieties and are advertised as needing no staking but most peas benefit from some kind of trellis or support system. A trellis system of sticks, bamboo or lumber and chicken wire will support the peas, reduce fungal diseases and make the peas easier to keep picked. Regular picking helps extend the harvest season by keeping the plant blossoming and developing new peas. Peas mature from the bottom of the plant up and should be harvested when the pods are shiny.  When the pods turn a dull color, they are mature and can rapidly become overripe and starchy rather than sweet.

Peas have few pest and disease problems but can be bothered by fungal diseases in cold, wet weather. Choose resistant varieties to avoid disease problems. Weevils, aphids and thrips can also bother peas. Scout carefully and control these pests before they become a problem.

Planting peas is usually a fast start to the new gardening season. Nothing tastes as good as the first peas of spring. They are tasty plain and used in many delicious recipes. If you are looking for a good stir-fry recipe, you can find one on our factsheet: Bulletin #4256, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Peas.

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Plan to Keep It Covered!

By Rick Kersbergen, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Waldo County, richard.kersbergen@maine.edu

Soil quality is a great discussion topic as we wait for the snow to melt and our gardens to reappear from their winter cover of white. While snow covering is not what this article is about, protecting soil from rain, wind, and erosion is critical to a healthy garden. This is especially true as we seem to have increasingly severe weather events and stronger, heavier rainfall periods. When water from rainfall events runs off the garden instead of infiltrating, you lose valuable nutrients and soil organic matter. We also run the risk of polluting nearby-water sources.

So what steps can you plan for your garden to keep your soil protected?

1) If you had a cover crop (winter rye for example), consider trampling it down in areas where you will not be planting, such as walkways in the garden. If you trample it down after it heads out, it will senesce and die, leaving a nice mulch to cover the soil and provide some good weed control.

2) If you used an oat cover crop last fall, it will be a dead mat of material in your garden. Instead of tilling it up, think about what early crops you may be able to seed into the mulch or transplant into the residue instead of tilling it in.

3) Grow some more cover! If the snow melts and you have areas that will not be planted until late May or early June, consider growing an early spring cover crop. Oats are a great option. I buy “whole feed oats” from a livestock feed dealer as they are more reasonably priced compared to “seed” oats. The early growth that the oats put on will protect the soil, provide some nice “green” manure when you till it in, and also potentially give you some weed seed inhibition or “allelopathy” when you do plant your main crop.

4) Consider using more mulches around your plants. We usually consider mulching a “weed control” strategy, but I tend to look at it as a soil protector, providing some great sheltered habitat for beneficial soil microorganisms that will thrive right at the soil/mulch interface. The mulch protects against damaging rains, and also buffers the soil from extreme temperature swings — also a benefit to the soil microorganisms. Of course, everything is not perfect, and you need to be on the lookout for pests such as slugs that enjoy the mulches as well!

5) Even though it is not very visually attractive, and doesn’t add organic matter, think about the use of plastic mulches for some of your crops. These mulches are normally thought of as weed control techniques as are organic mulches, but they do help to protect your soil resources as well. This is especially true if you add organic mulches between the rows of plastic.

I always try to demonstrate how mulches can protect and enhance soil quality by asking gardeners to keep a very small part of their garden heavily mulched with some hay or straw. Near the end of the garden season, lift the mulch and examine the soil carefully. You will find some beautiful “drakes crumb cake” soil structure and lots of evidence of earthworm activity — signs of a biologically healthy soil.

Although the garden season is still just a thought in our minds, and we have a few more weeks to really get excited, now is the time to plan how you will add winter cover crops into the garden in the fall. Having seed ready and a plan to sow some cover crops as soon as you get some harvested bare space in the garden will facilitate and increase the probability that you will be conserving the ever-improving soil in your garden.

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Skowhegan History House Heirloom Gardens

By Patricia Horine, Master Gardener Volunteer, 2002

Skowhegan History House, located on historic Elm Street in Skowhegan, is housed in an 1839 restored brick cottage built by Aaron Spear. Following the 1908 death of its last resident, the cottage remained vacant until 1936 when it was purchased by Louise Coburn, niece of Maine Governor Abner Coburn (1863-64) and noted author of a two volume history, Skowhegan on the Kennebec. She restored the cottage, added a museum wing, and opened it as the Skowhegan History House Museum in 1937. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

No garden or landscape records date back to our early residents. Therefore, we don’t know what (or even if) ornamental, functional, or sentimental gardens were established. Most likely the in-town brick cottage with its wooden out-buildings was typical of an early Maine homestead with vegetable gardens, fruit trees, animals, and a shared well with a neighboring homestead.

The original SHH garden (ca. 1970s) employed a design element commonly used during in the 1800s. This design featured an enclosed front garden with its central axis aligned with the main house entrance, thus establishing balance and symmetry in the layout of the garden. This garden showcased attractive old-fashioned plant materials (Lilacs, Peonies, Iris, and Hostas) as well as plant materials dating from the late 1800s into the late 1900s.

For my Master Gardener Project in 2005 I chose to transform the existing History House gardens into Heirloom Gardens. My goal was to showcase old-fashioned plant materials typical to the mid-1800s period of the History House. As I researched plant materials appropriate to this time frame, I found that many of our common old-fashioned plants originally came to North America from other continents. The redesigned gardens featured about 25% of native plant materials with the other 75% primarily originating from Eurasia, the Far East, and even Africa.

The redesigned 2005 History House Heirloom Gardens kept the early American garden aesthetics of the front garden and added the element of a sweeping east-side Border Garden. Each garden area showcases examples of old-fashioned plant materials authentic to the 18th and 19th Century time period and creates a beneficial habitat for birds, pollinators, and other beneficial organisms.

An additional factor in the Heirloom Gardens design is year-round interest. Selected plant materials offer bloom times from early spring through late fall, provide pleasing foliage textures, and have striking profiles during winter months. Signage provides both botanical and common plant names for plants.

The front garden was redesigned again in 2010 to accommodate hardscape changes. The crumbling brick walkway was removed and its salvaged brick was used to reconstruct a straight pathway toward Elm Street. Granite fence posts, linked by black chain, replaced the deteriorating white picket fence. New wide granite steps replaced the old unsafe step system at the front entrance and new (ADA approved) wrought iron railings were installed.

Hosta plants were relocated to the front side border garden and additional heirloom plant materials were added. The Lupine was replaced with native Maine Lupine, which is blue in color. New professional signage, providing both botanical and common plant names, was installed. An Heirloom Garden Guide (located in the front garden Kiosk) now provides more information on each individual heirloom plant. The guide is organized alphabetically by a plant’s botanical name.

The History House Kiosk is surrounded by False Sunflowers and pink Hibiscus. These care-free and reliable native perennials attract butterflies and bees, and are long bloomers.  The False Sunflower is native from Ontario to Florida and Mississippi. The pink Hibiscus, also known as Mallow, Swamp Rose, Rose Mallow, or Wild Cotton, has an early American citation in Bartram, Philadelphia 1783.

The History House Heirloom Gardens contain forty-nine heirloom perennial or biannual plants and an increasing number of heirloom annual plant materials. Our gardens feature five of the most popular old-fashioned perennials found in the 1800s garden. These plants are Hollyhock, Day Lilies, Peonies, Hostas, and Phlox.

We are pleased to welcome visitors to the Skowhegan History House Museum & Research Center and its Heirloom Gardens. We are confident that you will treasure our truly unique and lovely collection of old-fashioned flowers.

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New Column: Food and Nutrition

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County

Introducing a new column! Since you like to garden, you’ll enjoy our new column on how to use, safely store, preserve, and enjoy your garden grown produce in easy-to-prepare recipes. This column will provide interesting facts, the latest information on food safety, food preservation, and links to additional UMaine Extension resources on food and nutrition.

Sprout Safety

With the arrival of spring, some gardeners like to get sprouting early with bean and other seeds sprouted at home. Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Sprouts are often served on salads, wraps, sandwiches, and Asian foods. Unlike other fresh produce, sprouts from seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. The warm and humid conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

Rinsing sprouts first will not remove bacteria. Home-grown sprouts also present a health risk if they are eaten raw or lightly cooked.

What can you do to reduce your risk of illness?

  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind (including onion, alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
  • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
  • When you’re eating out, ask that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you buy ready-made sandwich, salad, or Asian food, check to make sure raw sprouts have not been added.

For additional UMaine Extension resources on food safety with fruits and vegetables, check out the following resources:

Adapted from Food Facts, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, January 2012

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University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

Subscribe via RSS or let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications:

  1. Fill out our online form, or
  2. Contact Lois Elwell at lois.elwell@maine.edu or 1.800.287.1471 (in Maine).

You may also follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to hear about updates.

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2014

Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800.287.0274 or TDD 800.287.8957 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Image Description: seedlings

Image Description: peas

Image Description: Dead oat cover crop and pine needle much in the spring

Image Description: Plastic mulch with straw mulch between rows

Image Description: Heirloom garden at Skowhegan History House

Maine Home Garden News — August 2013


August is the month to . . .

By Diana Hibbard, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County, dhibbard@maine.edu, 207.781.6099

  • Keep weeds in your garden and other plantings under control. They are not only unsightly, but they steal moisture, sunshine, and space. Do not allow weeds to go to seed. One flowering weed can produce thousands of weed seeds.
  • Integrate compost into garden soils to improve soil organic matter, water holding capacity, and soil health.
  • Keep trees well watered going into the fall. An inch of water per week is ideal.
  • Pick or purchase blueberries for fresh eating or freezing. Frozen blueberries can be used in lots of ways and taste great in the winter.
  • Get ready to preserve your tomatoes. For more information, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #4085, Let’s Preserve Tomatoes.
  • Manage mosquitoes with an integrated approach.  To learn more, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #5110, Mosquito Management.

  • Build good garden soil by sowing cover crops. These “green manures” will be tilled or turned under in the spring to improve soil tilth and fertility.
  • Rejuvenate strawberry beds. For more information, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #2067, Growing Strawberries.
  • Harvest your garlic and save some of the larger heads for replanting this fall. For more information about growing garlic, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #2063, Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden.
  • Sow vegetable crops for fall such as chard, radishes, arugula, spinach, turnip, beets, and lettuce.
  • Divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.
  • Establish a new lawn or over-seed an existing lawn. The best time of the year to establish a lawn in Maine is between August 15 and Sept 15. Learn more in UMaine Extension Bulletin #2367, Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine.

  • Pick a site for bulb planting for this fall. Order bulbs to get the varieties that you want.
  • Prepare new beds for fall or spring planting by smothering grass or weeds with layers of newspaper or cardboard.
  • Repot houseplants for those plants that have filled their pots and seem to need space. 
  • Be on the lookout for the Spotted Wing Drosophila. This is a new pest that arrived in Maine in 2011. It is a concern for ripening raspberries, blueberries, day neutral strawberries, as well as other soft fruit. Learn more about Spotted Wing Drosophila.
  • Visit a Farmers Market for fresh local produce and support your local farmer. Visit Get Real, Get Maine! for a list of farmers markets around the state.
  • If you reside in southern Maine, consider buying tickets for the Backyard Locavore Tour, Saturday, August 10 in Cumberland County. This is a unique self-guided tour of multiple Cumberland County backyards. It provides an educational opportunity that is brought to you by University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Volunteers. Tickets now on sale.

For printed copies of bulletins listed in this article, contact your local UMaine Extension county office or call UMaine Extension Publications Distribution, 207.581.3792.

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August Blooming Native Perennials

By Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, marjorie.peronto@maine.edu

August brings the flowering of exuberant perennials rich in color and bold in texture.   In our garden border, a tapestry of goldenrods, sneezeweed and joe-pye weed all burst into bloom simultaneously.  This is a place where insects thrive, a natural insectary providing pollen and nectar during a time when these essential pollinator foods are scarce in the rest of the garden.

Goldenrods

There are 19 species of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) native to Maine, each unique in size, leaf shape, or the form in which it displays its golden flowers in late summer or early fall. Learning to identify each species, even in bloom, would be an ambitious project, a goal for my retirement years. At the moment I am more interested in the role of goldenrods in our gardens.

First, let me dispel the notion that goldenrods cause hay fever; their pollen is too heavy to be carried on the wind. The tiny green flowers of common ragweed, an inconspicuous plant flowering at the same time as some goldenrods, is the main cause of hay fever.

Goldenrod pollen is dispersed by pollinating insects, including native solitary bees and bumblebees, butterflies, wasps, and beetles. Even spiders have been shown to move goldenrod pollen around as they prey on insects. For gardeners interested in bolstering pollinator populations in their garden, goldenrods are hard to beat. Their late-season nectar and protein- rich pollen attract pollinators in higher numbers than any other plant species.

For sunny dry gardens, Maine gardeners should grow the tall goldenrod (S. altissima), a rare species that grows to seven feet tall, and two shorter species, gray goldenrod (S. nemoralis) and elm-leaved goldenrod (S. ulmifolia), growing to three and four feet, respectively. All three species flower in August with gray goldenrod and tall goldenrod continuing into September.

For wetter (though still well-drained) garden sites, use the blue-stemmed goldenrod (S. caesia) that grows four feet tall and smooth goldenrod (S. gigantea) that tops out at seven feet. Both flower in the fall.

During the first week of August, Maine roadsides and fields are filled with goldenrods growing side-by-side with a pollinator-attracting native shrub, meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia). The soft pink of meadowsweet’s small flowers, borne in terminal branched clusters, is a pleasing contrast to goldenrod’s bolder bright yellow. Planting both species together in the garden represents the essence of bringing nature home.

Sneezeweed

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) can reach six feet or more in height and just as wide when grown in rich, moist soils, its branched stems bearing huge masses of two-inch flowers in August and September. The common name has nothing to do with the plant’s pollen, but can be traced to the use of the dried and powdered leaves as a snuff to cure the common cold.

Sneezeweed is another example of a native North American plant that was not popular in gardens until European breeders worked with them. Now there are several varieties in flower colors of gold, orange, rust, and red. A mix of gold and red heleniums creates a bright and cheerful garden scene.

Sneezeweed can get wild and woolly. You may want to stake the taller varieties or, to keep the taller types blooming on shorter, bushier stems, cut them back hard around July 4. Deadhead the plants after the flowers fade.

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is a mammoth clump-forming perennial, reaching up to nine feet high in rich, moist soils. The species has loose clusters of small pink flowers, but many gardeners prefer the cultivar ‘Atropurpureum’ with violet purple flowers and dark burgundy stems. Everything about this plant is bold, including the lance-shaped, toothed leaves that form a dark green foil for early-blooming perennials. Flowering from early August through early autumn, joe-pye weed is one of the best butterfly- and bee-attracting plants.

Excerpted from The New England Gardener’s Year, A Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Upstate New York, by Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto, Extension Professor.

Photos by Reeser Manley.

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When is Hardneck Garlic Ready to Harvest?

By David Fuller, Extension Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, dfuller@maine.edu

Knowing when to harvest hardneck garlic can be a bit tricky since the bulb is below ground. Garlic harvested too soon will not be full size and will not store well. On the other hand, the outer protective wrappers on over mature garlic break down, leaving exposed cloves that are unattractive and may negatively impact storage.

Physical clues the garlic plant shows helps to determine when harvest time is just right. One indicator is the browning of the three lowermost leaves on the garlic plant. These leaves should be entirely brown. The leaves above will still be in various stages of green. Another plant sign is the flower stalk, or scape. The scape will have undergone all of its coiling and uncoiling and will just be standing straight up when the garlic is ready to harvest. Although leaving garlic scapes on your plants will reduce the size of your harvested bulbs, it is a good idea to leave a few as a harvest indicator. It’s also fun to watch the development of the umbel, which bears bulbils and often flower parts.

The harvest window for garlic is relatively short. Using the two indicators above will leave you with about 10-12 days to harvest your garlic at its best.

Remember to quickly dry your garlic crop so that it will be less prone to fungal disease and will store better as a result.

New garlic publication, Bulletin #2063 Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden, is available online and at your local UMaine Extension county office!

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Tomato Hornworms (and Other Pests) — Be On the Look Out!

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu

Tomato hornworms typically show up in August in Maine. You ought to inspect your plants daily to determine if you have these veracious pests. They start out as small green caterpillars but grow quickly to a size bigger than your thumb. Watch for damage to tomato leaves and green tomatoes. Entire leaves will be eaten and tomatoes will appear as if someone took a bite out of them. Look for the caterpillar’s frass (excrement) on leaves, stems and on the ground — dark green droppings about the size of a beet seed. July and early August are the best times to start control as the caterpillars are small. Handpicking works, but you can easily miss some as they are well camouflaged. If you wait too long to apply control measures, your plants will be denuded and several of your fruit will be damaged beyond use. Organic control for these caterpillars include spinosad and Bt. Synthetic products include Carbryl (Sevin) or Malathion.

For more information, see our web page about hornworms.

Also look out for…

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Redesign Your Home Landscape: Add a New Room!

By Dr. Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist, Ornamental Horticulture, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, lois.stack@maine.edu

We sometimes visit beautiful botanic gardens and private landscapes, where we have a sense of being in an open-air house. We enter through a “door” and pass through “rooms.” Our emotions and thoughts might change from one room to another; we might have a sense of calmness in a landscape room dominated by lush shrub and tree foliage, while we might have a sense of formality in a rose garden, and we might think about food while crossing a patio with a grill and picnic table. The rooms give definition to the landscape, and to our understanding of it.

One overall impression we often gain when touring a garden designed as a series of rooms is a sense of vastness. Landscapes that are one open space with different areas of activity seem like one big room, while landscapes that are divided into rooms that prevent us from completely seeing the other rooms make us feel like we’re exploring a much larger area than is actually the case.

Two gardens that are famous for being composed of a series of outdoor rooms are Hidcote Manor, located in Gloucestershire (southwest England), and Sissinghurst Castle Garden, located in Kent (southeast England). These gardens are inspirational for many reasons. They’re well designed and expertly maintained, and they present impressive collections of plants arranged in pleasing combinations. But more than that, they feel “lived-in” and comfortable, and they feel larger than they really are. Exploring them is somewhat like taking a tour of a beautiful house. These landscapes are divided into inviting “rooms” that are divided by “walls.” And, those spaces are driven by function. For example, Sissinghurst’s white garden is enclosed in a way that makes it feel like a room whose purpose is to enjoy a moonlit evening, when white-flowered plants come to life. Leaving the outdoor rooms near the castle and entering the orchard gives a feeling that the property goes on and on.

If you’d like to develop rooms in your landscape, here are five tips to help you get started:

1. Consider function before form. We use our landscapes in many ways. We dedicate space to store firewood, park vehicles, and grow food. Our walkways, entries and driveways allow us to enter and leave our property. Lawns accommodate recreation and create a sense of space. Patios and decks provide places to cook, dine, grow containerized plants, and simply relax. At the edges of these spaces, we provide wildlife habitat, and plant hedges or build fences for privacy.

Make a list of all the things you want your landscape to do for you before you start to think about how to arrange spaces or select plants. That way, you can think about what size space you’ll need for each function, whether each function is best achieved in full sun or shade, and whether each space belongs in the front yard or the back yard. Just as you would do if you were to design a house, you’ll be able to sketch where each “landscape room” would best be located.

In the process, you’ll find that some functions are best accomplished in dedicated spaces (parking, wood storage, vegetable garden), while other functions can be merged in “multipurpose rooms.” For example, a grass lawn could support recreation, provide a place to dine outdoors, give the landscape a sense of space, and provide lots of edges where you can observe birds.

2. Install a few high walls. Our indoor rooms are generally separated by walls that reach from ceiling to floor. Outdoors, high walls can interfere with air movement, produce shade that may be undesirable, and block views. Too many high walls can create a claustrophobic feeling. But a few high walls might be useful. You may want to block a view of the neighbor’s driveway by installing a tall hedge of native trees or shrubs that provide habitat for birds and other animals. Or, a tall hedge could form a backdrop to a perennial border that would be hidden from view from the back, creating a surprise for visitors as they round the corner. A fence can shield a landscape from the noise and dust of the road. Raspberries or blueberries would make a beautiful dual-purpose hedge around the home food garden.

3. Use low walls to delineate spaces while preserving the view. You might want to create a low wall to define the end of one space and the start of another, while retaining the ability to see from one of those spaces into the other. For example, a low railing or stone wall or bench might form the edge of a patio, yet allow parents on the patio to monitor their children’s play in the lawn beyond. Or, a series of raised beds can perform two functions at the edge of the vegetable garden: raised beds allow early planting of crops, and they also form a physical barrier to prevent weeds from creeping into the garden.

4. Consider movement among landscape rooms. In our houses, some rooms connect through doorways, while hallways can lead to other rooms. While sketching your landscape rooms, consider how you’ll visually and physically move among them. Remember to install walkways and paths where needed. And, remember that walkways can delineate landscape rooms. For example, public sidewalks support pedestrian movement, and also form the border between private lawns and public boulevard plantings.

5. Design transitions that create interest. Landscape rooms are popular because they add a sense of mystery to the landscape. You don’t have to build fences and plant hedges; just install a few transitions that suggest to visitors that they are leaving one room and entering another. A simple gate, or even a pair of gateposts placed between two shrubs, suggests passage through a door. Rounding the corner of a building forces the visitor to form a new impression of what’s ahead; this is typically how we sense that we are leaving the public landscape of the front of a house, and entering the private area of the backyard. A change of elevation, even if it’s just three steps up or down, gives the sense of leaving and entering. Winding pathways force the pedestrian to constantly shift views, and take more time in appreciating your gardening successes.

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Palermo Community Garden Offers a Hands-on Connection to Food

By Elizabeth Stanley, Community Education Assistant, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Knox-Lincoln Counties, elizabeth.stanley@maine.edu

Master Gardener Volunteer Connie Bellet and her husband, Phil White Hawk, are the people behind the Palermo Community garden, which is sponsored by the Living Communities Foundation. The gardens consist of thirty-two raised beds, which Phil built out of cedar. They produce over a hundred varieties of herbs, fruits, and vegetables from mid-April when they harvest parsnips, scallions, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, and Egyption onions, into November when there’s kale, carrots, and other root vegetables.

Right now, one in four children can’t tell where their next meal is coming from. And it’s not that we don’t have food — one of the problems is distribution. Though much of the Community Garden’s produce goes to the Palermo Food Pantry, people are also invited to come to the garden. Anyone may put in an hour or more of gardening time and then pick whatever they need for personal or family consumption. This model gives people the opportunity to “graze” on snap peas and crispy purple beans — a great introduction to colorful new taste sensations. They also learn first-hand how whole food is grown, cared for, and harvested. (Of course they’re also encouraged to give the Japanese beetles a bubble bath as they snack on juicy raspberries.)

Seed donations came from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Wintersown Educational Organization, who suggested this method for early seed-starting: the seeds are planted in their own personal milk-jug greenhouses and left outside to germinate in their own sweet time. This makes transplanting a big job, but it also makes an “instant garden.” The young plants got a head start on the weeds and insects. This was a great project for kids, with some adult supervision when cutting the jugs.

The garden is now scattered with annual and perennial flowers to keep the bees happy and to bring color and life to the tables of the Community Center, where there’s a movie and potluck dinner each month.

For more information about the Palermo Community Garden or about volunteering, please call Connie at 207.993.2294 or contact her at pwhitehawk@fairpoint.net.

Photos by Connie Bellet.

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University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

Subscribe via RSS or let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications:

  1. Fill out our online form, or
  2. Contact Lois Elwell at lois.elwell@maine.edu or 1.800.287.1471 (in Maine).

You may also follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to hear about updates.

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2013

Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800.287.0274 or TDD 800.287.8957 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Image Description: Gray Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed

Image Description: sneezweed

Image Description: garlic with three brown lower leaves

Image Description: Tobacco and Tomato Hornworms

Image Description: Japanese Beetle

Image Description: gated entrance to a garden

Image Description: rooftop gardens

Image Description: espaliered apple trees

Image Description: Harvesting parsnips

Image Description: Phil builds more raised beds.

Image Description: raised bed community garden

Maine Home Garden News — June 2013


June is the month to . . .

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu

  • If you have the time and space, consider planting more vegetables. Read the seed packet to determine number of days to harvest. Some short-term seeded crops include radishes, summer squash, green beans, cucumbers, turnips, and rutabagas.
  • Be aware of ticks. To learn more about ticks in Maine and how to identify them, see UMaine Extension fact sheet #5047, Ticks, or Maine Medical Center’s Lyme and Other Vector-borne Disease Information or Maine.gov’s Tick Identification.
  • Get ready for possible irrigation of your garden(s). There typically seems to be a dry time in each Maine summer. For more information on home garden irrigation, see Bulletin #2160, Trickle Irrigation: Using and Conserving Water in the Home Garden.
  • Evaluate your landscape. What plants are thriving? What plants are struggling? What issues or problems need to be addressed? Are there spaces in your landscape that can be improved?
  • Stake peonies to support and promote upright growth.
  • Make arrangements to visit a neighbor’s garden, a local community garden or a public garden for the purpose of learning something new about growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs or trees.
  • Be aware of pest pressures in your yard and garden. Make weekly observations of plants. Observe general plant growth, leaves, stems, and shoots. Look for damage, egg masses, insects, disease. Also be on the look out for beneficial insects.
  • If wildlife was a problem for your garden or trees in the past, consider protecting your plants with fencing or repellents. Watch for possible wildlife damage to your gardens and landscape. Determine the identity of the culprits. Learn their behavior, make a list of strategies to prevent damage, and create and follow a suitable plan.
  • Be steadfast in preventing and controlling garden weeds. Regular efforts make a big difference. Tilling, hand pulling, clipping, and mulching are sound weed control strategies.
  • Learn about the weeds that are troubling your plantings. See Michigan State University’s website for information on turf weeds. For general yard and garden weeds, see Rutger’s weed gallery.

Oh My Aching…

By Lani Carlson, Maine AgrAbility Coordinator, leilani.carlson@maine.edu

With the increased awareness of local foods and health benefits, home gardening has been become a popular activity. In turn, the number of gardening-related injuries has increased. These injuries can be attributed to increased strenuous activities over the weekend — the endearing term “weekend warrior” comes to mind.

Improper work practices while gardening may make it difficult for you to enjoy your favorite past time. Before you head out to the garden consider your most important tool — YOU! Stretching warms up your joints and muscles to make your gardening activity more enjoyable. Download the Farmer Daily Stretching Program from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension website for examples of stretching exercises.

You can also help prevent injury or undue stress while working in the garden by listening to your body. Respect pain — it’s a warning signal that something isn’t right. Be mindful of your posture while working; poor posture can lead to fatigue and strains. Avoid staying in one position too long by switching tasks routinely — bend, stretch and move around to avoid stiffness. Likewise, repetitive motion activities can lead to injuries or strains. Mix it up while working — weed, hoe, enjoy! Being safe also includes being aware of pinch points and cutting edges — wearing the appropriate protective gear while working, including sun protection. Beware of carrying loads that are too heavy, use assistive tools such as wheelbarrows, and proper lifting techniques.

Ergonomically designed tools are becoming more popular and are widely available. These tools are designed to keep the body in neutral positions to minimize stress on joints while maximizing power with less energy. Ergonomic tools are generally made with large, soft handles to allow you to get a better grip on the tool while reducing vibration and slipping. The tool should also have a depression or ridge on the top of the tool for your thumb to rest against. This will assist in keeping your wrist in a neutral position as you work. Spring loaded or power assist tools will make your job easier and faster while longer handles on tools will allow you to reduce back strain and increase leverage, which requires less strength.

Also consider the weight of the garden tool; most are designed for men, but some are designed especially for women. Lightweight or telescoping tools can extend your reach and reduce strain on your back or awkward reaching positions. Tools can be adapted at home with the addition of PVC piping to lengthen the tool, and additional handle or “D-grip” for a two-handed grip or adding foam insulation to pad the tool. Adapting your tools or garden space to allow you to work upright will reduce back strain and muscle fatigue.

If you are one of the many affected by arthritis, gardening can be an excellent therapy to help maintain flexibility, increased range of motion, and increase your quality of life. The Arthritis Foundation has excellent resources available. Employing safe gardening work practices with a focus on basic ergonomics may help you continue to enjoy gardening the whole season long.

Links to other websites are provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any content on the linked sites. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.


Tree Fruit Thinning

By Dr. Renae Moran, Extension Tree Fruit Specialist, rmoran@mane.edu

June is an active time in an orchard. Blossoms that have been pollinated are now developing into fruitlets and are rapidly growing in size. At this time of year, the amount of fruit that will continue to develop is evident and provides us with an opportunity to determine if fruit thinning is needed. Last year, as a result of the freeze during bloom in many parts of Maine, few fruit occurred. This lack of fruit leads to an abundance of flowers in the following spring, a phenomenon known as biennial bearing. Many orchards can expect an abundance of fruit this year.

Fruit trees that bear many fruit are said to “carry a heavy crop,” a condition that will slow the growth of the tree, and in the case of peach, will limit its ability to develop winter hardiness this fall. Other consequences of a heavy crop are small fruit that ripen more slowly, and limbs that break off from too much weight. Fruit thinning is a method to reduce the number of fruit on a tree and to counteract the negative effect of a heavy crop. In most cases, it is done by hand. June is the best time for hand thinning of fruit, but it can be done any time during the summer.

The number of fruit to remove depends on the type of fruit and how many fruit the tree currently bears. Apples, pears, and plums bear fruit in clusters whereas peaches and apricots bear fruit singly. Where fruit occur in clusters, they can be thinned so that only one remains within each cluster. They can be further thinned so that each fruit is spaced 6 to 8 inches apart along the branches for apple and pear, and 4 to 6 inches in the case of plums. Peaches should be thinned so that fruit are spaced 6 to 8 inches apart and apricots spaced 4 inches apart. This may entail removing a large number of fruit, but will encourage better fruit growth and ripening in the fruit that remain on the tree, and prevent some insect damage that occurs later in summer. After fruit thinning is complete, fruit can be cleaned up from beneath the tree to reduce the incidence of disease and insect predation.


C is for Cutworm

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu

There are several different types of cutworms. They can be categorized as surface, climbing, army or subterranean. Because of their many similarities, it is difficult to tell one species of cutworm from another. In New England, many cutworms have one generation per year. Some can produce two or more generations. Most of the damage by cutworms is noticed in the spring and early summer. Cutworm caterpillars kill or set back plants by feeding on the roots or stems. Cutworms seem to favor corn, peppers, tomatoes, cole crops, and beans. The larvae are nocturnal, hiding underground during the day.

Cutworms overwinter in the late larval or pupal stage. The moths may appear soon after the spring temperatures begin to rise. The moths harbor in weedy areas, especially if mustard or quackgrass is present. The moths fly at night and lay their eggs in the soil.

Once the garden is planted, the young larvae feed on small roots until they are half grown. They are more likely to cut off plants at ground level as they grow. The thick-bodied larvae are normally dark in color and will curl up in to a “C” when disturbed.

Try a nighttime stroll in the garden to find these pests. A flashlight covered with red transparent wrap will be helpful in spotting nocturnal pests. The red light does not warn them of your coming.

Non Chemical Control Strategies for Cutworms:

  • Protect seedlings with a collar made from cardboard or plastic. Paper cups, yogurt cups, 1/2-gallon milk cartons or jugs work nicely for this purpose.
  • Trap the cutworms with a bait of cornmeal or bran meal. The cutworms will die of overeating as the meal swells within them.
  • Place a toothpick, small stick or nail upright beside the stem of each seedling. The cutworm will be unable to wrap it self around the plant.
  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth or wood ashes around the base of the plant. The sharpness and dryness of these materials create a barrier that cutworms don’t like to cross.
  • Cutworm resistant varieties are available for some beans.
  • Encourage natural predators such as birds or bats.

Other Controls:

  • Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) can be effective on some species of cutworms. The smaller the worm, the more effective the Bt.
  • Insecticide dusts (Sevin or spinosad) applied around the base of the plant may be effective.

Always read and follow the label directions when using pesticides. For more information, see UMaine Extension fact sheet #5015, Cutworms.


University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

Subscribe via RSS or let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications:

  1. Fill out our online form, or
  2. Contact Lois Elwell at lois.elwell@maine.edu or 1.800.287.1471 (in Maine).

You may also follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to hear about updates.

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2013

Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800.287.0274 or TDD 800.287.8957 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Image Description: man weeding his vegetable garden; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA

Image Description: gardeners planting seeds; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA

Image Description: peach shoot

Image Description: fruit cluster

Image Description: Cutworm. Photo by Charles Armstrong.

Maine Home Garden News — March 2013


March is the month to . . .

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu.

  • Prune your fruit trees. For instructions, see Growing Fruit Trees in Maine — Pruning.
  • Evaluate your perennials. Inspecting for breakage, heaving, mouse or vole damage, or winter damage. Do what you can to prune off dead material and broken branches.
  • Considering using a cold frame for some plantings this spring. For more information on extending the season, see Bulletin #2752, Extending the Gardening Season.
  • Start planning your gardens for 2013. Consider needed changes, garden expansions, garden contractions, moving or transplanting (vegetables, fruits, flowers, etc.).
  • Consider keeping a gardening journal for the 2013 growing season. Write at regular intervals what is happening in your yard and gardens. Keep track of rainfall, temperatures, appearance of blossoms, wildlife sightings, storm events, etc. Relatively inexpensive devices are available to help you monitor these items.
  • If you start seeds, make an inventory of your supplies and a list of needed supplies. Pour through your seed catalog to determine timing. Refrain from starting seeds too early. Make a plan and stick to it. For more information, see Bulletin #2751, Starting Seeds at Home.

  • Visit your local garden center to peruse new products. Think back to the performance of your garden(s) last year. What were the major problems and issues? Prepare for similar problems and issues this year.
  • Consider joining a local garden club. Do some research on local clubs by asking friends, garden center personnel or your local librarian.
  • Get ready for April and the possibility of planting some frost tolerant crops (seeds or transplants) as soon as the soil is workable.
  • Consider buying blueberries or asparagus to support the development of the Maine Master Gardener Program statewide. For more information, see “Grow It Right!” benefit plant sale.
  • Visit a local maple sugarhouse. For a sugarhouse near you, see the Maine Maple Producers Association website.

Columnar Fruit Trees

By Dr. Renae Moran, Extension Tree Fruit Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, rmoran@maine.edu

Fruit trees naturally come in a variety of shapes and growth habits. Some have a wide canopy with a spreading growth habit while others grow in a more upright fashion and have a narrow canopy. Columnar or pillar trees are an extremely upright orientation and many short side branches that grow about one inch in length each year. This growth habit is desirable for its unusual shape and where a narrow space is available for planting. Because this trait is innate rather than being induced by a rootstock, it cannot be transferred by grafting. Several dessert type varieties of apple exist with the columnar habit, but have not been found for dessert type pear, plum, apricot or cherry. However, there are ornamental plum and cherry trees with the columnar habit, but they lack the same fruit quality as dessert plums.

Apple trees with the columnar growth habit remain within an area of about four feet, but can grow to a height of about 10 feet. Since the trait is not transferred by grafting, commonly available varieties such as Cortland do not exist with this growth habit. If you desire a particular variety, but also want a small tree, select one that has been grafted to a dwarfing stock such as M.27 or M.9. To keep columnar trees small, plant trees with the varietal graft union about three inches above the soil.

Like apple, peach trees come in different shapes ranging from the standard or spreading habit to the more atypical columnar growth habit. The columnar or “skinny” peach needs five to six feet in width. An intermediate or “upright” type has a canopy spread that is somewhat wider than the columnar, and requires more space, eight to ten feet. Columnar and upright peaches can grow to be tall, 12 to 15 feet, so if you prefer a shorter tree, standard varieties are easier to train to a short stature than columnar trees. Few varieties of columnar peach exist since this trait was only recently introduced into dessert peaches by traditional breeding with an ornamental peach.

True columnar plum and cherry varieties are not yet available. However, some varieties have an upright growth habit with a narrow width. The Vanier plum is one variety with a narrow canopy and showy bloom, as well. Plum and sweet cherry trees can be quite large when fully grown requiring up to 20 feet of space. Where a smaller tree size is desired, select plum trees that are grafted to the semidwarfing rootstock, Krymsk 1, which can dwarf plum trees by 30%. Sweet cherry trees are also available in dwarf and semidwarf sizes. Tart cherry trees are naturally low in vigor and don’t often exceed a space of 15 feet, but upright and columnar growth habits are uncommon in tart cherry.

Columnar fruit trees require full sun and the same care requirements as apple trees in general. In Maine, it is recommended that columnar trees be planted outdoors in the ground instead of in pots or other containers in order to protect the root system from subfreezing temperatures that occur in winter. The roots of fruit trees generally die when the soil temperature drops below 23 ºF, which occurs easily when trees are planted in containers. Because columnar trees lack strong branching, they do not lend themselves to training to a particular shape such as the fan in the case of stone fruit and espalier in the case of apple and pear.

Pros of Columnar Fruit Trees

  • Can be grown in small spaces because of its upright form.
  • Columnar form may fit nicely into the existing landscape.
  • Because of the narrow tree size, managing the tree and picking fruit is relatively easy.

Cons of Columnar Fruit Trees

  • Because leafing is typically dense, thorough spraying of foliage can be difficult.
  • Tree height can be taller than with standard growth habits.

Spotted Wing Drosophila: An Interview with Jim Dill, Pest Management Specialist

I have heard stories about a terrible fly that destroyed blueberry and raspberry fruit of farmers and gardeners last year in Maine. Can you tell me more about that pest?

Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) or SWD is an invasive fruit fly, native to Asia. SWD was first reported on the west coast of the United States in 2008 and has rapidly spread to many of the country’s fruit producing regions, including Maine. In September of 2011, SWD was detected for the first time in Maine with a total of 9 flies being captured in 5 southern Maine traps. In 2012, the first flies were caught in mid-July. By September, between 1,200 and 1,500 flies per trap were being captured in southern Maine with hundreds of flies found in traps as far north as Orono and east to Washington County. SWD are roughly the same size and have the same general appearance as your everyday fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), with the exception of a dark spot near the tip of each wing on SWD males (SWD females do not have spots). Unlike the everyday fruit fly, which typically lay eggs in damaged or overripe fruit; female SWD have a serrated ovipositor allowing them to penetrate and lay eggs in ripening fruit. Each female can lay hundreds of eggs and they can go from egg to adult in under 14 days, making SWD an exceptionally prolific pest. In Maine, populations grow throughout mid to late summer, peaking in early fall.

What is so bad about the fly?

SWD lay their eggs in ripening, marketable fruit, infesting the crop with small, white larvae. One berry can have dozens of fly larvae developing inside. The ability to infest ripening fruit, in conjunction with SWD’s late population buildup make late summer small fruits and fall raspberries quite susceptible. Infested fruit may look fine when harvested, but within 24 hours at room temperature the fruit can be reduced to mush. As a non-native species, SWD in Maine has no natural controls. Currently growers need to spray for the pest approximately every 3 days with either conventional or organic insecticides.

Does the fly affect other plants (fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc.)?

SWD has a wide variety of cultivated small fruit hosts, with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and day-neutral strawberries being of particular concern. It can also be a pest in other small fruit crops including grapes, cherries, peaches, and tomatoes (especially the yellow cherry type). It does not appear to attack cranberries or apples (unless apples are overripe). In addition to the multiple cultivated fruit hosts, SWD can also infest wild fruit crops including choke cherries, elderberries, and honeysuckle berries, to name a few.

How do I know if the fly is affecting my small fruit?

Early infestations of SWD can be hard to detect in the field, especially in firmer berries like blueberries. Infested fruit will be soft, prone to collapse, and have little to no shelf-life. In some instances tiny pin-prick sized holes can be seen in infested fruit as the result of egg laying and larval breathing, though they are not always visible and can be extremely difficult to notice.

Do you expect the fly to be just as bad in 2013?

We are anticipating SWD to remain a persistent threat to small fruit crops, as it was in 2012. However, this year’s low winter temperatures with periods of little to no snow cover, as well as periods with large temperature fluctuations may limit the fly’s overwintering capability. This remains to be seen.

What should I do to determine if the fly is present and damaging? When do I start looking for the fly?

SWD has been found in all of our trapping locations in southern, central, and eastern Maine and seems to be widespread in much of the state. We will continue monitoring for SWD in these locations and will be expanding our monitoring efforts north of Orono in 2013. Contact your local Extension staff to find out when, where, and if the flies are being captured in the area of interest to you. In 2012, SWD first began showing up in traps in mid-July, so you should start looking for signs of this pest by the first of July, if not sooner. The use of traps is an important component of monitoring for SWD. Unfortunately, we don’t have commercial or easy to use traps available to the backyard gardener or commercial grower. We are currently researching effective trapping techniques to aid in the identification and monitoring of this emerging pest.

What can I use to control the SWD (organic and synthetic)?

Multiple synthetic insecticides have been shown to effectively control SWD, including malathion (a low toxicity organophosphate), diazinon (also an organophosphate), spinetoram (a spinosyn), as well as a variety of pyrethroids (bifenthrin, fenpropathrin, beta-cyfluthrin, zeta-cypermethrin). Spinosad is an effective organic option.

Is there a link for more information about the SWD?

We are currently researching SWD’s movement and habits in Maine in order to provide the public with pertinent management information, but do not have a fact sheet at this time. We do have two videos regarding SWD:

How to Identify Spotted Wing Drosophila Damage

Defending Against Spotted Wing Drosophila


A Cumberland County Master Gardener Project: Lois Murphy Kindness Garden, Falmouth

Katy Gannon-Janelle, Master Gardener from class of 2006, saw a need at the Falmouth Middle School and made it her personal Master Gardener project. The Lois Murphy Kindness Garden began its function as a therapy garden long before it was actually built. Lois was a kind and wonderful guidance counselor at the school who died of cancer, leaving her colleagues and coworkers grief- stricken. Within weeks the school principal had begun to discuss the idea of a statue dedicated to Lois’s memory, to be placed in the school’s courtyard. Lois had been known for her love of flamingos, so that was the form it would take.

It did not take long for Katy and the staff at the school to determine that the statue could not stand alone on the grass, but would need a surrounding garden for context. The planning of that garden over the first year after Lois’s passing was to serve as a form of therapy for those who knew and loved her. It was very easy to recruit volunteers. Her former coworkers were the most ready. They needed a project to get their hands, and in some cases money, into. It was a way to deal with the loss.

The process of planting a garden within a courtyard was not an easy one. Katy headed up the project putting together a finished design and the Master Gardener Volunteers began the task of amending the soil with literally truckloads of loam and compost, which they wheel barrowed in through the halls of the school. Twenty Master Gardeners from Cumberland County embraced the project and supported Katy in construction, planting trees and adding perennials and annuals. A strict planting list was distributed to all involved, so as to tamp down enthusiasm to just dig and divide anything and everything folks could get their hands on. The garden had a strict plan, and color focus in the flamingo shades, of course.

On the one-year anniversary of Lois’s death, the garden was opened in a touching ceremony attended by students, faculty, parents, Master Gardeners, and Lois’s own family and friends. The space continues its role as a therapy center in the school. It is an oasis of quiet and beauty offered to a student population not often given credit for appreciating such things, but clearly doing so. Art classes and science classes use the space for curriculum. Students are rewarded for good behavior with the invitation to bring a friend and lunch out there amidst the blooms. The guidance department overlooks the space, meeting sometimes with new students and their families in this wonderful courtyard.

Volunteers from St. Mary’s Garden Club, the faculty and staff at the school, and Falmouth Middle School students of the Green Team maintain the space today along with Master Gardeners throughout the gardening year and on scheduled workdays in the spring. “We all feel the presence of another pair of hands nurturing there. Pansies, Lois’s favorite flower, self sows, multiplies, and blooms for a longer season than seems climactically possible. We all have our theories,” says Katy.

This project welcomes new volunteers. Call the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County Office at 207.781.6099 or 800.287.1471 (in Maine) if you are interested.


University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

Subscribe via RSS or let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications:

  1. Fill out our online form, or
  2. Contact Lois Elwell at lois.elwell@maine.edu or 1.800.287.1471 (in Maine).

You may also follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to hear about updates.

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2013

Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800.287.0274 or TDD 800.287.8957 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Image Description: blueberries

Image Description: asparagus

Image Description: columnar apple tree in winter

Image Description: SWD male and female

Image Description: SWD emerging from raspberries

Image Description: SWD larvae on blackberry

Image Description: SWD on fruit

Image Description: Flamingo sculpture in the Lois Murphy Kindness Garden

Image Description: Volunteers working in the Lois Murphy Kindness Garden

Image Description: Dedication plaque in the Lois Murphy Kindness Garden

Maine Home Garden News — August 2012


August is the month to . . .

By Diana Hibbard, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County, dhibbard@maine.edu.

  • August is: asters, goldenrod, corn, squash, tomatoes and the 2nd cutting of hay
  • August is: early apples, peaches and peas
  • AUGUST BEGINS THE HARVEST!
  • Pick up news gardening ideas and tips by visiting public gardens or parks in your area. Garden clubs and groups often arrange tours of some of their best gardens.
  • Harvest your garlic saving the best heads for replanting in October. Wait for the bottom 2 or 3 leaves to turn yellow. Watch our video below or see Growing Garlic from University of Vermont Extension

  • Dig your potatoes. New potatoes are delicious. Further tips for growing potatoes in your garden next year can be found in Bulletin #2077, Growing Potatoes in the Home Garden.
  • Water newly planted shrubs and trees. It is essential they have enough moisture going into the winter. See Bulletin #2366, Selecting, Planting and Caring for Trees and Shrubs.
  • As areas in your garden become empty, amend your vegetable garden soil by sowing cover crops. These green manures will be turned under to improve the soil tilth and fertility.
  • Sow another crop of peas, collards, kale, and brussel sprouts. Extend the season with successive plantings. See all the ways you can get your garden going earlier in the spring and later into the fall in Bulletin #2752, Extending the Gardening Season.
  • Fertilize peonies. Peonies prefer full sun. Wait until frost damages the foliage before cutting down. Peonies do not need to be divided often, but if you need to move them fall is the best time. Don’t plant them too deep to assure a good bloom.
  • Check out the Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Maine. The success of perennial plants depends on many factors, including temperature, light levels, light duration, and soil, water, oxygen and nutrients. Bulletin #2242, Plant Hardiness Zone Map of Maine.
  • Pay attention to your lawn. This is the best time of year to plant and reseed. Bulletin #2367, Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine.

  • Try a “low-mow” grass to decrease your mowing. For more information, see Bulletin #2166, Steps to a Low-Input, Healthy Garden.
  • Pick tomatoes and make spaghetti sauce and salsa and all your favorite dishes. Keep the plants healthy by watering regularly in the early morning and continue to fertilize every 2 weeks. Cut the tops off your indeterminate tomatoes sending energy to help the fruit mature and grow larger. Bulletin #4085, Let’s Preserve Tomatoes.

  • Buy fall mums. They can add color to those empty spots in the perennial garden. Or pot them up for your deck or front porch.
  • Feed the hungry! Sign up for Maine Harvest for Hunger and donate your excess produce. See Bulletin #4303, A Donors Guide to Vegetable Harvest.
  • Sign up for the 4th Annual Backyard Locavore Day in Cumberland County scheduled for August 11th (Rain date: August 12th). This educational event, provided by University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers, will showcase sustainable ways to increase self-sufficiency to meet your own food needs. Demonstrations will focus on backyard gardening techniques, food preservation methods, and more.

Master Gardener Volunteer Outreach — Gardening at the Veterans’ Home

By Barbara Murphy, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Oxford County, barbara.murphy@maine.edu.

As a Master Gardener Volunteer program coordinator, it is my job to connect Master Gardener Volunteers with thoughtful, worthwhile projects that utilize their gardening skills. Finding activities with the right mix of education, outreach, fun, and volunteer satisfaction can be quite challenging, especially in rural Oxford County. So, when an opportunity came to create a vegetable garden at the local, residential Veterans’ Home, it seemed like something to explore further.

Four years ago I was contacted by the activities director at the VA home to answer some questions that a resident had about blueberries. As it turned out, I knew the resident, Norm, when he grew prolific blueberries in Bethel. The director of the Veterans Home had given Norm permission to plant a dozen blueberries on the property and he was eager to get going. Once the blueberry plants were in and established, Norm then focused on creating a vegetable garden on the extensive grounds, one where able residents could participate or at least enjoy from their windows or as they stroll along the garden path.

To get the process rolling, I met with the director, the head of grounds and landscaping, the activities director, and kitchen manager to listen to their concerns about maintenance, cost, and participation. It was agreed to start small, 10’ x 20’, and that the VA would pay for costs of soil amendments and seeds, and provide access to water. Master Gardener Volunteers would plan, plant, maintain, and harvest the garden, and bring the harvest to the kitchen. Residents of the facility were encouraged to participate (some even attended planning meetings) as much as their physical abilities allowed.

Since 2010, the Oxford County Master Gardeners have been tending the Veterans’ Home garden. Lots of different crops have been tried, but now the focus is on residents’ favorites such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, winter squash, beets, onions, and zucchini. To accommodate all of the vegetables, the garden was enlarged to 10’ x 30’ last year. Initially our hope was that residents would participate in the garden work, but few have the ability to work on a ground-level garden. However, there are plenty of raised beds, whiskey barrels, and wheelchair accessible garden beds around the facility to keep all who are interested up to their elbows in soil. Lack of physical participation does not mean that the residents are not interested in what is happening at the garden. What is magical about the Master Gardener garden is the opportunity it provides for residents, their families, and visitors to talk with the volunteers while they garden, to reminisce about their gardening experiences or to offer an opinion about what should be done next. Recent comments show that the garden is appreciated. One resident told a gardener, “I’m so glad you’ve continued with the garden; I walk by it every day to see how it’s doing.” Another man said, “I never gardened at home, but my wife always had a nice big garden. This makes it seem more like home for me.”

If you are thinking about starting a gardening project at a veterans’ center, here are some things we learned:

  • Meet with the leadership at the veterans’ center regularly while the plans are being put together.
  • Make sure there is a long-term maintenance plan in place. Who will be tending the garden three, five, and ten years from now?
  • Make the garden as accessible as possible — wide rows and beds and, if finances allow, raised beds.
  • Don’t be discouraged if no one actively participates in the garden. Over time we have learned that people enjoy the garden in many ways — showing it to friends and family, keeping track of how much is being grown, talking to the gardeners, enjoying the harvest in a meal.
  • Put a sign in the garden letting everyone know that the garden is there for all to enjoy and snack on.

Our small garden is not a burden to maintain, it provides a worthwhile volunteer experience, and gives pleasure to the residents of the facility — a definite win for everyone.


On the Trail of the Anonymous Ambersnail

By Craig Anthony, Home Horticulture Coordinator, UMaine Extension, Piscataquis County, craig.anthony@maine.edu.

I first became aware of an unidentified ambersnail this past June, when I awoke each morning to find that my eggplant seedlings disappearing one by one. A warrant was issued for the usual suspects to be brought in for questioning, but none quite fitting the description were found in my garden’s jurisdiction. Then, one sunny morning, I came across a likely suspect innocently seeking refuge on the shady side of one of the container plants.

When I arrived at work that day, I came across twenty to thirty members of the same suspicious gang resting beside the raised bed demonstration garden at the UMaine Extension Piscataquis County office. My supervisor mentioned that she had never seen these snails in the garden before this summer. Again, there were tell-tale signs of vandalism in the garden, yet all of the suspects were relaxing peacefully under the shade of the Mountain Ash tree in their daylily hammocks.

I soon learned that there had been sightings of suspects all over the state — Downeast and all over central Maine. Clay Kirby, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Insect Diagnostician, reported that, “I have been seeing this snail all over the place for the past several years. I’ve seen it in the boonies along the Machias river years ago and in my back yard. It’s got a soft shell. It is probably an ambersnail.”

I had my first ID on the perp, but exactly which ambersnail was it? It has done so well at remaining ordinary that ascertaining its true identity remained a mystery. It became apparent that a thorough investigation was necessary to create a more comprehensive profile of the garden marauder, so we did not, in fact, implicate an innocent garden denizen.

An inquiry to Jeanie L. McGowan, Director of the Nylander Museum of Natural History in Caribou, ME, revealed:

“Yes, it looks like one of the Succinea species to me also. And I agree we are seeing large numbers of these in many areas in Maine. I’ve gotten calls from Downeast and I see them all over central Maine. Unfortunately we’ve never found anyone who can identify which species we’re seeing and whether they are native or introduced. In our collections there is mention of the following specimens that may be your find:

  • Succinea ovalis Gld. Aroostook County, ME.
  • Succinea obliqua Say. Woodland. Common everywhere
  • Succinea avara Say. Common in wet places on lake shores

Nylander documents NYW-0028 (1895) and NYW-0031 (1900)

Fellow malacologist Scott Martin added: There have been six species of Succineid land snails reported from Maine, but probably 2-3 are questionable. Your snail pictures mostly look yellowish-gold to me, which I would ascribe to the common Novisuccinea ovalis, or oval ambersnail, which has been reported from all 16 of Maine’s counties. Catinella vermeta is usually brownish, while Oxyloma retusa is longer and often more inflated at the opening. Technically, you’re supposed to do dissections of the reproductive parts to verify the ID of succineids, but this can be problematic even for the experts, as the reproductive system does not necessarily look the same throughout the year (and the sex might even change).

The plot thickened when Ken Hotopp, conservation biologist with Appalachian Biology of Bethel, ME, observed: “You are right that it is a type of ambersnail, Family Succineidae. The snail looks like Succinea putris, an introduced European species. There is one native species that size — Novisuccinea ovalis — but it tends to have whorls that are little more “inflated” so it’s less sleek-looking. S. putris tends to become abundant in summertime in parks, gardens, nurseries, and agricultural areas, sometimes along river floodplains. It gets introduced on plants, shrubs, and probably mulch and landscaping materials.

So for now, it remains an open case until further evidence comes in, but I would have to agree that the suspect is most likely Succinea putris. We had recently purchased bark mulch for the office garden and it had been very wet early this summer, which may account for its sudden appearance at the office garden, but not necessarily for the other sightings.

As for control, the damage was minimal and the snails have all but disappeared in the hotter weather. Some management ideas were generated, but untested, including using slug controls such as iron phosphate baits, mowing or creating barriers of crushed stone or other materials that will slow them down on their way to the garden, or even a “prescribed burn” if the snails are in a limited area.

Clearly, more research is necessary to learn more about this particular ambersnail, why we are seeing such an abundance of them now, and how best to manage their numbers in the future. This writer requests more information from individuals who have encountered this species of ambersnail for a possible follow-up article.


From Lawn to Garden: South Portland Resident Donates Lawn to Hunger Relief

By Don Morrison, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, Cumberland County, DMorrison@waysidemaine.org.

Last April, South Portland resident Liberty Bryer had a lush green grassy lawn, the American homeowner’s dream. And then she decided to do something about it. Working with staff and volunteers from Wayside Food Programs in Portland, and Cumberland County Master Gardeners, Bryer tore up the lawn and planted a garden. Where the lovely, though unproductive, lawn once was, now lies a tangle of overflowing tomato plants, tripods of creeping, climbing pole beans, towering sunflowers, and bushy herbs. The produce grown in the garden is being harvested by volunteers and used in Wayside’s hunger relief efforts at its free community meals and mobile food pantries.

Bryer approached Wayside volunteer coordinator Carly Milkowski after learning about a similar garden project in Cumberland that had fallen through due to the sale of the land. Having recently bought a home in South Portland after moving to Maine from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bryer was looking for something productive to do with her land, which gets full sun and seemed like a perfect place to garden.

“We literally tore up Liberty’s entire lawn,” says Milkowski. “It felt a little crazy at first, trying to kill the grass by laying down cardboard, and then crawling around digging out clumps of sod. I don’t know what the neighbors thought at that point, but they were all willing to lend a hand or some tools, and now we have this beautiful garden and food coming out of it that’s been grown with a lot of love to help the community. It’s been an amazing experience.”

The garden project has been made possible by generous donations of time, tools, and seeds by Town and Country Federal Credit Union, Tammaro Landscaping, and Broadway Gardens. Volunteers from Learning Work’s Youth Building Alternatives help out on a weekly basis, weeding, turning compost, and keeping the Japanese beetle population under control. Many other community volunteers have also donated their time.

# # #

Wayside is currently in its 25th year of increasing access to nutritious food for people in southern Maine. Wayside’s hunger relief efforts include five free community meals sites, four mobile food pantries, a kids’ healthy snacks program, family summer meals and two community gardens. Through its Food Rescue Program, Wayside recovered 1.8 million pounds of food in 2010. The rescued food is distributed to more than 60 agencies throughout Cumberland County, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. For more information please visit us at www.waysidemaine.org or www.facebook.com/waysidefoodprograms.


4th Annual Backyard Locavore Day

Saturday, August 11, 2012, 10 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Rain date: Sunday, August 12, 2012

This educational event, provided by University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers, will showcase sustainable ways to increase self-sufficiency to meet your own food needs. Demonstrations will focus on backyard gardening techniques, food preservation methods, and more.


University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

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Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2012
Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Land Grant University of the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the U.S.D.A. provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800-287-0274 or TDD 800-287-8957 (in Maine), or 207-581-3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Image Description: Master Gardener Volunteer works in the vegetable garden; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: snail

Image Description: tangle of overflowing tomato plants, tripods of creeping, climbing pole beans, towering sunflowers, and bushy herbs

Image Description: lawn turned into garden

Image Description: backyard garden


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Cooperative Extension: Garden & Yard
5741 Libby Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3188, 800.287.0274 (in Maine) or 800.287.8957 (TDD)E-mail: extension@maine.edu
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