Posts Tagged ‘Maine Home Garden News’

Maine Home Garden News — April 2014

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014


April Is the Month to . . .

By Rick Kersbergen, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Waldo County

  • If you start your own seeds, make sure you use clean containers, especially if you re-use the containers from last year. Clean plant containers with one part bleach to nine parts water solution to prevent disease transmission from old containers.
  • Check your fruit trees and apply dormant oil before the fruit buds begin to swell.
  • Plan your seed-starting regime and develop a planting schedule so your seedlings will not be too big before they can go outside without a danger of frost. For more information, see Bulletin #2751, Starting Seeds At Home.
  • Inspect trees and shrubs in your landscape and prune out any damaged or dying branches. Use sharp pruning tools. Wear eye protection. See Bulletin #2169, Pruning Woody Landscape Plants for more information.
  • Prune blueberries or raspberries. Watch our “how to” videos for tips and techniques:
  • Get your rototiller and lawnmower serviced so they will be ready to go when spring arrives.
  • Get a soil test as soon as the ground thaws, if you didn’t do one last fall. Send soil samples to the University of Maine Analytical Lab. When you receive the soil test report, plan to amend the garden as recommended. The cost of a test is $15. Get your form online or visit your local Extension office for a form and mailer box. For more information about testing your soil, see  Bulletin #2286, Testing Your Soil,  or watch our video below.

  • Till only when soil is dry enough. Tilling wet soil will ruin the soil structure for the rest of the summer! If you make a tight ball with a handful of soil and it doesn’t fall apart when you open your fist, then it is too wet! Once you have tilled your garden, some of the first vegetables that can be planted include peas, lettuce, and spinach.
  • Plant some frost tolerant crops by seed or transplant as soon as the soil is workable. Some choices would be broccoli, cabbage by transplant, and endive, lettuce, pea, radish, spinach, and turnip by seed.
  • You can’t be a gardener in Maine without thinking about how to extend the garden season. Start now: see Bulletin #2752, Extending the Gardening Season.

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Selecting Your Garden Tools Depending on the Job at Hand

By Diana Hibbard, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County

garden toolsBuying the best tool you can afford makes a lot of sense. The initial cost may seem high, but quality is usually worth the investment. In general, look for tools that are forged (one piece) versus welded; avoid cast. Are you purchasing a tool for regular use? Is it comfortable to use? Does it fit your hand size? Is it strong enough for continuous use? Tools are crafted for specific jobs and should be used for that task to avoid breakage and personal injury.

A list of tools a gardener or homeowner might want to have on hand include:

  • A garden fork, spade, rake, hoe, trowel
  • A leaf rake (both traditional size and one that collapses to access leaves under shrubs)
  • You may also want bypass hand pruners and loppers.
  • A wheelbarrow for moving soil, mulch, plants or supplies around your property

There are many places, locally and online, where  you can purchase garden tools. If you are part of a community garden or could visit one this spring, see what other gardeners are using and recommending. I value tools that belonged to my grandfather. They are a special part of my gardening routine.

Once you have acquired your tools, make sure you maintain them properly so they will last and can be passed down to your grandchildren. Rinse and dry them after each use. At least once a year, clean with a wire brush and lubricate the metal parts with a biodegradable oil. Also, wipe the wooden handles with a penetrating oil like linseed oil to prevent splitting. Pay particular attention to the area where the metal and handle come together. In any case, avoid used engine oil even if your grandfather used to do it that way. Times have changed. Hopefully, we are more in tune with our environment.

It’s important to keep your tools out of the elements when they are not being used. Hanging your tools is the best way to keep them organized. There are lots of tool organizers you can buy at your hardware store, or you can drill 1/4-inch holes in the handles and hang them on a ten-penny finish nail driven into a handy 2×4. Your tool will be there waiting for your next gardening task. Most importantly, the cleaning of your garden tools can help keep disease, fungi, insect eggs, and weed seeds from being spread around your garden.

Hand pruners benefit from a quick soap and water wash with a nailbrush or scrubbing pad to prevent spreading disease. Dry well and add a drop or two of lubrication to only the pivot point. I like to use a drop of 3-in-One oil.

You may want to invest some time in sharpening your tools. A sharp tool is much safer to use and gets the job done much more quickly. If you don’t feel confident sharpening, there are professionals who can do this for you. Often the University of Maine Cooperative Extension will offer a class that shows the steps and takes the mystery out of keeping the edges of your favorite tools ready to do their very best work.

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Donation Gardens

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

Harvest for Hunger volunteers plant a donation gardenPlanning a garden to donate some or all of the harvest is a bit different than planning a garden for personal use. Here are some suggestions for your consideration when planning a garden with food donation as a purpose.

  • All donated produce should be of high quality, clean, not over-grown, blemished, damaged or diseased.
  • Ideally it is better to plan to donate rather than donating what you have left over. Very small quantities of produce are difficult to distribute to a large crowd.
  • Contact the organization(s) to which you plan to donate.
    • Note: If you need help in identifying organizations in your area, go to the Maine Harvest for Hunger website and click on Donate Produce. There you will find a link to food assistance programs by town. If by chance the organization is not listed please contact barbara.murphy@maine.edu.
    • Determine if the organization is able to use fresh produce, and if so what would they like you to grow.
    • Determine how much and how frequently they accept deliveries, for example, 10 pounds of beans every other Tuesday. Some food pantries are open on specific days of the week.
    • Determine how they would like the produce delivered (cleaned, bunched, bagged, loose).
  • Remember, some, (but not all), of the clientele may not be familiar with many different types of produce and the volunteers may not have the time to educate people on how to use an unfamiliar vegetable. So, stick with the tried and true. Our experience with the Maine Harvest for Hunger distribution lines has shown that heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs other than basil and dill, Asian greens, and non-standard colored beets and carrots are less preferred than standard varieties.
  • Weigh (or guesstimate) the produce before donating and report it to your local Maine Harvest for Hunger coordinator. Or, you can report it online at the Maine Harvest for Hunger Donate Produce web page.
  • Thank you for considering a donation garden this growing season. Fresh produce is always in demand and is much too valuable to go to waste.

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Planting in Jackman

By Brenda Seekins, Master Gardener Volunteer, Somerset County

seedlings on indoor growing racks

Photo by Joe Bergeron.

Joe Bergeron has a passion for food, preparing it and growing it. He firmly believes that people not only need to know how to prepare fresh food, but they need to know how to grow it. He and his partner Danielle Hale, both Master Gardener Volunteers, are doing their part in Jackman, working with school children and the community.

“This year, my third graders — last year’s second graders — they remembered a lot of what they learned last year. They know their stuff when it comes to planting and harvesting,” Joe said in a phone interview recently.

It didn’t start with teaching, but rather a website he started in 2011 to share his knowledge of food and particularly fresh food.

“I woke up one night with an idea and wrote 10 pages for a website (www.thelazyjway.com) over the next three days. It was everything from gardening to food. I’d never done it before.”

He’s still doing it and expanded to Facebook (www.facebook.com/thelazyjwaycom), but now it’s more about what’s happening with third and fourth graders at the Forest Hills Consolidated School (K-12) in Jackman.

The fourth grade classroom has a growing rack and the third grade wants one for next year. The school has a potatoes and onion garden; the children participate in a potato and pole bean planting project. There’s a garden growing in the library window and there have already been five separate harvests…and it’s all green and fresh!

“I’ve never taught before, but Danielle came home from a meeting talking about how bad the food was in the cafeteria (a lot of prepared foods) and I sort of fell into it,” he said.

Joe is teaching two classes how to plant, to harvest, and then how to use the food produced for healthy snacks and meals. Gardening topics and activities are incorporated into classroom instruction.

“We reached 20 families in the second year and we expect to reach 30 this year,” he said of the results of his now three-year project, teaching and coaching children about fresh foods and healthy living. He and Danielle as “Farmer Joe and Farmer Danielle” are part of the Let’s Go program sponsored by the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation. It’s a program under the label “5-2-1-0” (Five vegetable or fruits, two hours of recreational “screen time,” one hour of physical activity and “0” sugary drinks daily). There are over 1,000 sites statewide promoting a healthy lifestyle. The Jackman (Let’s Go with Farmer Joe) program was featured in the 5-2-1-0 Annual Report for 2013.

“But just 14 of those are in Somerset County,” Joe said. “I enjoy going to school and hearing the kids tell me what they’re doing at home with gardening.”

With Joe teaching, planting, and posting to the web, Danielle has taken on the school greenhouse project and growing food for the cafeteria, but she also is “planting the town” — literally taking on any available growing space that people will let her plant. The harvest from those gardens helps elderly residents and younger families in need of fresh food.

Joe is not “just a gardener” — he is a trained chef through Johnson and Wales University, a school known for culinary arts. Armed with his varied experience and Master Gardener training, Joe is hoping to reach a younger generation with the goodness and healthy habits born of homegrown food.

“Fortunately the culinary industry is catching on,” he said. “It’s basic economics. I don’t see it going any other way. You can’t continue to grow when you’re taking away the land with development. I firmly believe they (the children) are going to need this…to know how to grow their own food.”

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Food and Nutrition

Preparing for canningStoring and Preparing Homegrown Vegetables for Optimal Nutrition

By Kate Yerxa, MS, RD, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Many factors contribute to the vitamin and mineral content of homegrown vegetables. Soil health affects the nutrient profile of the vegetables. But just as important in maintaining the vitamin and mineral content, is the cooking and storage methods used for these vegetables.

Storage

The question about whether to wash or not wash vegetables before storing is a common question. You may worry that not washing will bring dirt into your kitchen, but it is actually best to not wash vegetables prior to storage, as washing may cause the vegetables to rot.

  • When storing without washing, rub or brush off any garden dirt with a paper towel or soft brush.
  • For vegetables that need refrigeration, they should be stored at 40°F or less.
  • If your refrigerator has a fruit and vegetable bin, use that, and be sure to store fresh produce away from raw meats, poultry or fish.
  • Store fresh produce in plastic bags or containers in the refrigerator so they don’t contaminate other foods.

For more information about how to store vegetables, visit http://umaine.edu/gardening/home-gardening/vegetables/ and review the publication Storing Fresh Garden Produce.

Cooking

Eating fruits and vegetables is key in losing weight and preventing weight gain, and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases. There is conflicting information about whether fruits and vegetables should be eaten raw or cooked. But, there are some nutrients, like water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and folate), which can be destroyed during prolonged cooking. There are also some nutrients and phytochemicals that are more available when cooked, such as lycopene, a phytochemical from tomatoes.

Cooking methods that take less time and use less water tend to retain more water-soluble vitamins. These cooking methods include microwaving, steaming, sautéing and pressure-cooking.

No one cooking method should be considered the only way to prepare and cook vegetables; instead, use a variety of cooking methods to prepare meals, including eating vegetables raw.

Preserving

Produce not eaten right away should be preserved for later use. A researcher at the University of Georgia found that freezing specific vegetables and fruits after harvest preserved more vitamin A, C, and folate than storing in the refrigerator and eating after five days.1 The sooner you eat harvested vegetables, the less chance of vitamin loss. Freezing is an easy way to preserve vegetables. For more information about freezing vegetables, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #4384, Freezing Vegetables.

Home gardens are an excellent way to increase the availability of vegetables in your household. When you are planning your garden, remember that, in general, the more colorful the vegetables you plant, more vitamins and minerals they contain.

For recipes and more information about preparing Maine vegetables, check out UMaine Extension fact sheet series Vegetables and Fruits for Health.

Source:

1UGA study uses consumer behavior to determine whether fresh or frozen produce contain more nutrients. December 2013. Available at: http://www.caes.uga.edu/applications/gafaces/?public=viewStory&pk_id=4966.

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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

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.

Maine Home Garden News — March 2014

Saturday, March 1st, 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.seedlings
  • 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

peasAs 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.

Dead oat cover crop and pine needle much in the spring

Dead oat cover crop and pine needle much in the spring.

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!

Plastic mulch with straw mulch between rows

Plastic mulch with straw mulch between rows.

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.

Heirloom garden at Skowhegan History HouseFor 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.

Maine Home Garden News — October 2013

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013


October Is the Month to . . .

By Richard Brzozowski, Agriculturist, UMaine Extension Cumberland County, richard.brzozowski@maine.edu

  • Select and plant spring flowering bulbs now. Most spring flowering bulbs prefer light shade to full sun for best growth and flowering next spring. Chose sites that are well drained. If pests have been a problem in digging up bulbs, consider placing a layer of chicken wire flat onto the ground over the planted bulbs. Plant bulbs upright (points up).
  • Plant garlic. Just like spring flowering bulbs, plant garlic in October. Mark your row so as not to disturb this area next spring when tilling.
http://youtu.be/3FTht2DIJu8
  • Take soil samples from your garden or yard for testing. The resulting possible recommendations of nutrients, organic matter, and lime take time to break down. Limestone can take 3 to 6 months to react chemically in the soil to raise the soil pH. Don’t guess — soil test. Over-application of nutrients is not a good practice.
  • Clear the garden of those plants that are dead or dying back. Remove the cut stems and debris from the garden. Add a layer compost or manure and integrate it into the soil. Manure will likely add weed seeds when applied, so it is best to compost it first. Integrate the compost into the soil with a flat-tined pitchfork or rototiller. Before too deep into the month and depending on your location in the state, spread a cover crop onto your cultivated garden at the rate of 3-4 pounds per 1000 square feet. As the month progresses, increase the rate of sowing. Winter rye is a traditional winter cover crop. Whole oats can work, too, if conditions permit. The oats will germinate and grow nicely as long as the weather permits. The oats die at the first killing freeze and turns into a brown mat. It does the job of recycling nutrients and holding soil. Next spring, the dead mat of oat growth is easily tilled into the soil. If sowing winter rye, be prepared for some work in tilling it under in the spring. That task of working the winter rye into the soil may call for a rototiller.
  • Start or maintain your compost pile. There is typically plenty of organic matter in the fall to form a good size pile, since garden debris, leaves, annual flower debris, and cut stems of herbaceous perennials are all in good supply at this time of year.
http://youtu.be/Wb3msj5b4Do
  • Shade trees provide free organic matter every fall. You could add their fallen leaves to your compost pile. Or, you could run the lawnmower over the leaves to shred them. Shredded leaves can be used as a mulch in the perennial garden. Maple and ash leaves break down quickly compared to oak and beech leaves.
  • Review your garden journal for the past growing season and make notes for improvements or plans for next season.
  • Drain hoses and store them for the winter. It may also be a good time to check for leaks and to replace worn washers.
  • As the lawn mowing season wraps up, make your last mowing a bit shorter than normal. Fall is the best time to fertilize lawns especially for those who fertilize once each year. Lawn fertilizers can be organic or synthetic.  Choose the one that best fits your situation.
  • After the hard frost, service and store lawnmowers, rototillers and other small-engine garden equipment.
  • Collect garden seed. Marigolds, spider flower, calendula, California poppy, flowering tobacco, and nasturtium are all easy to collect. Dry and store over the winter.
  • If you are planning to expand your garden next year, start the process now. Cover new sites with a heavy layer of compost, straw, leaves or mulch. This layer should be deep enough to prevent light from hitting any plant growth underneath. Next spring, the soil will be easily tilled. A layer of black plastic can accomplish the same result.

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Maine Has Much to Celebrate During National Farm to School Month

By Kate Garland, Horticulturist, UMaine Extension Penobscot County, and Laura Budde, FoodCorps Maine Fellow

FoodCorps participants in gardenIf you’ve ever yanked a carrot out of the ground or prepared a meal with freshly harvested produce, you know how exciting and flavorful gardening and cooking can be. Many Maine youth are being exposed to gardening, nutrition education, and locally sourced food due to the support provided by FoodCorps service members in school districts throughout the state.

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy. Maine currently has 10 FoodCorps service members dedicating their next year to teaching kids about food and nutrition, building and tending school gardens, and sourcing local food for school cafeterias.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is beginning its third year as the Host Site for FoodCorps in Maine. Here are snapshots of just a few of the many great things last year’s FoodCorps service members supported:

  • Garrett Schenck Elementary School in Somerset County hosted a harvest dinner created mostly from food grown by third-graders with the support of former Service Member Laurie Magee.
  • Breaducation is a new term at Medomak Valley High School in Waldo County, thanks to Service Member Genna Cherichello, who worked with educator Neil Lash and MVHS students to install a new outdoor oven near their bountiful gardens. Harvest pizza anyone?
  • Zoe Hastings served closely with Food Service Director Stephanie Sally at RSU #34 in Penobscot County and area farmers to help bring more locally produced food into the cafeteria. Sally has been a wonderful partner and will surely continue to work hard to support local farmers while feeding youth healthful meals during the school day.
  • The two acres dedicated to school gardens and greenhouses at Roberts Farm in Norway are bustling with activity under the leadership of Service Member Dan Rennie. With the help of many students and volunteers over the past two years of service, Dan has raised chickens, developed a hydroponics system, made maple syrup, and has provided over 2,000 pounds of produce to local people facing food insecurity through Maine Harvest for Hunger. He is now working full time as the Roberts Farm Site Coordinator.
  • Walker Elementary students enjoyed hands-on learning in the raised bed gardens and greenhouse with service member Katie Morabito. Their horticultural skills earned them a blue ribbon at the Common Ground Fair.
  • Students prepared Thai bean wraps at Longley Elementary School in Lewiston under the guidance of Service Member Corbin Lichtinger. Fifth and sixth grade classes tasted and had the opportunity to vote whether this healthy alternative should be added to the school’s lunch menu.
  • Lily Joslin coordinated a weeklong cooking camp for youth at River View Comminity School in Gardiner. The camp culminated in an iron chef competition where the kids put their new knowledge to the test using produce grown in their school garden.
  • Laura Mailander regularly taught lessons about healthy food and gardening to over 15 classrooms in Portland public schools. Her students prepared recipes using local cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, winter squash, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, beets, and more! Laura was recently hired by Cultivating Community as their School and Community Garden Coordinator.
  • Molly Sauvain supported parents and teachers in creating a new school garden and prolific garden program at Buxton Community Elementary School from the ground up. Their initial Garden Build event included over 20 community members who now sustain the garden as an active garden committee.
  • FoodCorps Maine Fellow, Laura Budde, is spreading the word about the art, history, and science of seed saving by connecting seeds and educational resources from the Medomak Valley High School Heirloom Seed Project to schools throughout the state.

Service Site community partners making FoodCorps Maine a tremendous success include Rippling Waters Organic Farm, RSU #3, Oxford Hills Public Schools, Cultivating Community, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center, Washington County: One Community, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension county offices in Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Knox-Lincoln Counties.

A new crop of FoodCorps members started their 11 month service term on September 1st.  They will continue to support and expand FoodCorps programming at our 10 service sites throughout the state. There’s much excitement about the potential of this group. Follow them on Facebook!

FoodCorps MaineAdditional resources

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Science in the Garden: Using School Gardens and the Master Gardener Curriculum in High School

By Richard Kersbergen, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Waldo County, richard.kersbergen@maine.edu

green tomatoes on the vineThis past year, Islesboro Central School, under the guidance of teacher Ryan Martin, developed a class that integrated the Maine Master Gardener materials into an exciting high school class entitled “Horticultural Science 1.”

This novel approach included using the school gardens and high tunnel as part of the laboratory for the class. Using “ Canvas,” Ryan developed modules that students could work through at their own pace and used class time for working in the garden. This model worked well, as students start the class in September with harvesting food from the garden … often the opposite of what most garden classes would do, but since students do most of their academic work on their own, it went well.

Modules included: plant structure, physiology, and growth; taxonomy and nomenclature; soils; plant propagation; entomology; Integrated Pest Management; and plant pathology. Additional sections on hydroponics, tree fruits, vegetables, herbs, and small fruits were also included. Ryan used the National Council for Agriculture Education (NCAE) as a guide for Standards and Competencies.

At the end of the year, University of Maine Cooperative Extension was asked to be an outside evaluator of student competencies. Using questions and concepts from the Master Gardener Program, Rick Kersbergen and Vina Lindley from the UMaine Extension Waldo County office, along with Jenn Brown from the Waldo County Executive Committee, went to Islesboro to administer both a written and oral (hands-on) exam to the students. After the exam, students (and examiners) enjoyed a soils layer chocolate cake!

This fall, building on the success of Ryan’s program, the Waldo County Executive Committee invited high school teachers from throughout the state to come for a day to visit Islesboro and learn what makes the program so appealing. In early September, 18 educators from throughout the state took a beautiful ferry ride out to Islesboro to visit Ryan and his students. We toured the gardens and met with the students, Ryan, and the food service director at Islesboro Central School. A rich discussion followed with some great information sharing of successes and failures in managing school gardens and techniques to meet high school science and math standards.

For more information about Ryan’s program and school garden programs for high school curriculum, contact Vina Lindley in the Waldo County Extension Office at 1.800.287.1426 or vina.lindley@maine.edu.

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Master Gardeners Plan Skowhegan Rain Garden

By Brenda Seekins, Somerset County Master Gardener Volunteer from Hartland

rain garden plantsThe “rain garden” planned recently by the Somerset Master Gardener Volunteers in Skowhegan is on hold.

The project is officially the Hybrid Bioretention Cell Vegetated Underdrain Soil Filter planned in conjunction with the Whitten Brook restoration, in the works for three years now. Master Gardeners were asked to participate this summer as plans for construction drew nearer. The MGVs were tapped to do the planning, choosing local, native plants and participate in the planting. Lack of the appropriate materials to construct the base essentially put the planting on hold, possibly until spring, since the site won’t be ready in time to plant or transplant many of the selected species.

The project began with a special session on the purpose and planning of rain gardens. The University of Maine has an excellent bulletin (#2702) on Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape that served as a primer on the concept of rain gardens. Rain gardens are often promoted in sensitive shoreland areas to protect water quality in lakes, streams, and rivers by reducing the amount of polluted runoff reaching the water.

That is the case with Whitten Brook, a natural and historic stream that was once a prime trout fishery in the heart of Skowhegan, contributing to the Kennebec River Watershed. It originates in an undeveloped forested area including a 5.5 acre conservation area, northwest of Coburn Avenue, and covering a watershed area for 304 acres of which 29 percent contains urban and residential development areas. With past conservation efforts, a watershed management plan by the town, the involvement of the Somerset Woods Trusts (regional land trust), Whitten Brook was designated as a Non-Point Source Impaired Water with High Restoration Potential, qualifying for grant funds to complete the work. The primary objective is to reduce the impervious cover (i.e., pavement) within the total watershed, land that promotes runoff and does not allow for natural filtration of the drainage. A rain garden is a small, but important, component of the plan to be located near a former corn processing facility on Russell Road to correct a poorly-designed catch basin and reduce the NPS pollution from the town’s conservation area. In addition, the site will serve as a demonstration project of how a rain garden can contribute to the reduction of polluted runoff and resulting effects on the river and local fishery. The garden will be designed to encourage runoff into the groundwater and not into Whitten Brook.

Approximately seven to eight Master Gardeners met at the UMaine Extension Somerset County office this summer to begin the planning process, an effort that provided its own “teachable moments.” Discussing how to plan a one-acre rain garden, one member of the group, Gail Watson, an Extension employee, shared her experience with garden planning for an “ever—blooming” garden based on The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color by Lee Schneller.

Master Gardener Volunteers laid out their rain garden plan with colored sticky notesIt may look like a quilt or a colorful calendar, but it’s a plan for a rain garden … a big one. Armed with a large sheet of graph paper, the MGVs laid out their plan with colored sticky notes. Color-coding indicates the time of bloom for the designated plants. A code of dots on each paper indicates the height of the designated plant, nearly 30 different native plants. The plants selected were chosen based on their availability as donations from the MGVs personal gardens and through the UMaine Extension Somerset County office. As part of a demonstration project, there was a strong emphasis on choosing only native or locally-viable plants. A list of plants, their proper scientific names, as well as explanatory data on each plant and its characteristics will eventually be available as part of the demonstration project. The completed project is intended to blend into the conservation experience for visitors to the site.

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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.

Maine Home Garden News — September 2013

Sunday, September 1st, 2013


September Is the Month to . . .

By Kate Garland, Horticulturist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, katherine.garland@maine.edu

  • Preserve tomatoes and other fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Find safe recommendations for the best way to preserve and/or prepare fresh produce on our food and health website or by calling your local UMaine Extension county office. TIP: If you don’t have a bountiful garden, consider a bulk purchase from your local farmer. Purchasing food when it’s in season can sometimes save you a lot of money.

  • Keep up with the weeds. This is the time of year when many weed species set seed . . . many seeds! Overwhelmed? Avoid big contributions to your soil seed bank by focusing first on removing the weeds that are about to drop their seeds.
  • Enjoy agricultural fairs. Find a fair near you. Consider submitting your prized produce or flowers into one of local fair contests. Here’s a link to the Common Ground Fair Exhibition Hall rules.
  • Save seeds to plant next year. Learn how to enjoy a time-honored gardening tradition by reading An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener by UMaine Extension Vegetable Specialist Mark Hutton.
  • row covers; photo by Edwin RemsbergExtend your season. Don’t let the cool nights cause your gardening season come to a close. Season extension strategies can be as simple as putting row cover over your plants when evening temperatures are expected to be cool. If you are using plastics to extend your season, be sure to ventilate or completely remove the plastic during the day to avoid overheating your plants. Short season crops such as lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, and various greens (pea shoots are my favorite) can still be directly seeded in the soil for a sweet fall harvest.
  • Plant! Fall is a prime time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Many perennials can be divided and transplanted this time of year too.
  • It’s also time to plant cover crops in your vegetable garden. The many benefits of cover crops can include: increased organic matter, improved fertility, and erosion control.
  • Take photos of your gardens. Many of us strive to take good gardening notes throughout the season, but it doesn’t always happen. With digital cameras, we now have a way to easily keep track of what, where, and when we planted. Photos also help us remember what was successful and what failed to thrive. Don’t forget to take pictures of plant labels too. We often think we’ll remember, but the details of the gardening season often slip our minds by the time the seed catalogs arrive in January.
  • Rejuvenate and/or re-establish your lawn. Find helpful information and videos in the following three UMaine bulletins: Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine, Maintaining a Home Lawn in Maine, and Steps to a Low-Input, Healthy Lawn.

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So You’ve Had a Bad Gardening Year

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

The growing season of 2013 has not been a typical one. Weeks of cool temperatures, a stretch of really hot weather, too much rain, disease, and other problems probably put a damper on your hopes for a “bumper crop” of produce. Here is a list of actions from which you can choose in an effort to eek out something from the season:

  1. Think like your grandparents. Don’t give up. 
  2. Some of the plants in your garden can still produce delicious fresh foods. Continue to carefully tend your garden by weeding, thinning, watering, and managing pests. Harvest what you can. Finish the season well. Be aware of possible frosts and protect the tender plants that remain.
  3. rows of lettuce plants; photo by Edwin RemsbergConsider planting a fall garden of greens. You may need to construct a cold frame or temporary hoop house to “buy” some extra weeks of growing to allow your newly seeded crops a chance to produce. There are several crops that can produce edibles within 30-45 days. Consider radishes, beets, spinach, mesclun, lettuce, etc.
  4. Build the soil for next year’s garden. Use the coming weeks to till new areas; amend areas with compost or farm manures; have a soil test done to determine soil pH and the possible need for lime.
  5. Consider expanding your garden for next year. This is a great time to build some new raised beds; build or gather containers for next year’s use; clear brushes; level land; stockpile manure, and stockpile compost.
  6. Learn more about the diseases or insects that affected your garden. Your local UMaine Extension county office or Cooperative Extension’s Insect and Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab located at the University of Maine are two good sources of support to identify pests (diseases, insects) and for possible pest management strategies.
  7. If your garden was a complete failure, you can purchase easy-to-store vegetables and fruits from local Maine farmers such as potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, beets, carrots, winter squash, apples, etc.  To find farmers near you, visit www.getrealmaine.com. You can search the site by county or product. Read the article about root cellaring (below) and find a space in your home that is suitable for low cost storage.
  8. Mother and son shopping at a local farm; photo by Edwin RemsbergBuy local produce to preserve by canning or freezing. If you need information about food preservation, contact your local UMaine Extension county office. A handy, 375-page book on food preservation from the University of Georgia titled “So Easy to Preserve” is available from UMaine Extension’s publication catalog.
  9. Learn from the situation. Make a list of things you could have done to minimize the impact of the past “growing” season. Plan to implement these tips next year.

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Winter Storage of Some Vegetables

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

Root cellars were used commonly by our parents and grandparents. It was a low-tech way of effectively keeping vegetables in the fresh form for months. Some of the vegetables grown in the garden can be effectively stored over the winter under cool, dark and moist conditions. You may be in a position to store certain foods this way even for this winter. It is relatively inexpensive as it takes very little energy. The primary cost of a root cellar or suitable storage compartment is its construction.

There are alternatives to the traditional root cellar. Rather than dig or build a dugout unit underground, you could use a part of your home or outbuilding. All you really need is adequate space that is unheated (an area that is protected from freezing) as well as having an exchange of air through a screened vent or small fan. Most winter storage produce stores best at temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees F. The space could be a back unheated room (like an unused bedroom), a cellar, hallway, breezeway, shed, garage or a barn. Select a space that is convenient for access. Select a part of the space that can be insulated to keep it from freezing and have a way for air to exchange. You need not use the entire cellar or garage. Consider building a small, insulated chest, closet or room within the larger space. An old non-working freezer might make a suitable “root cellar-type storage space,” especially if you are able to install a small vent in the side or bottom.

carrots; photo by Edwin RemsbergThe vegetables that can be stored with minimum effort include winter squash, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, beets, carrots, and onions. Sort and store the vegetables in separate shallow boxes or burlap or netted onion bags. Identify and set aside any vegetables with blemishes, nicks or spots. Consume blemished vegetables first.

If you do not currently have a supply of some of the vegetables listed, there are vegetable farmers in your county or adjacent counties who probably will have produce for sale. For instance, you will be able to purchase bulk quantities of potatoes and rutabagas at reasonable prices.

Some varieties of apples are considered “good keepers.” However, it is best not to store apples with potatoes and other vegetables because apples give off an ethylene gas that can shorten the storage life of other produce. Potatoes begin to sprout when ethylene gas is present. Store apples in a separate unit or provide a good ventilation system to remove the gas. Pears, plums and melons also give off ethylene.

Keep the space dark. Attach a thermometer to the inside of the storage area and check it on a regular basis (daily or two or three times weekly). Consider obtaining an instrument that measures the relative humidity (hygrometer). With a hygrometer (costing from $5 to $15) and a thermometer, you could easily monitor the conditions inside the unit with a glance. Keep items off the ground by storing atop pallets or shelving.

Keep the space moist as humidity is important so that vegetables won’t shrivel and become punky. Moisture can be provided with a shallow pan of water or bucket of water kept in the same room/area. Water will evaporate over time and fresh water will need to be added to the containers. Be aware that mice and insects may find your storage area welcoming. Set some mousetraps and check the traps on a regular basis. Remove any insects or worms by hand. Do not use poisons or pesticides inside a root cellar.

Keep a record or note your root cellar’s performance. Make the necessary changes or corrections for this or the next storage season. Contact the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County at 1.800.287.1471 in Maine) or justine.denny@maine.edu for a complete list of storage requirements for all types of vegetables. The list will note the best temperature and humidity for vegetables.

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Root Cellar Project — York County

By Frank Wertheim, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension York County, frank.wertheim@maine.edu

There are currently over 1500 trained Master Gardener Volunteers in Maine. Learn more about the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Program.

Master Gardener Volunteers in York County this past spring re-established a root cellar originally built by the Shakers in their Village in Alfred, Maine back in 1935. Today York County Shelters and their Food Pantry utilize the site. The abandoned root cellar was made in a cavernous underground berm and is approximately 50 feet long by 40 feet wide.

York County Master Gardeners have long had a relationship with the shelter and food pantry as partners in our Maine Harvest for Hunger program. Each of the past 10 years we Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have donated thousand of pounds of fresh produce, locally grown and gleaned from York County farms, to the food pantry for their rising number of food-insecure residents who access the food.

The root cellar caught the eye of UMaine Extension York County Staff and Master Gardeners, and we felt it would be great to get it back into working order to increase the amount of food that can be stored for giving to pantry participants. It is a big, cool underground structure that has just been sitting unused. We approached the food pantry and they loved the idea of re-claiming the root cellar.

This winter our current 2013 York County Master Gardener Class decided to make it a class project. We visited the site, sought community donations of materials, and organized a workday to clean out the cellar, build shelves, and get it ready for food storage. Tom Cahoun led the class effort to design and acquire building materials. We set a workday for May 29. A group of 12 Master Gardener volunteers constructed 200 square feet of storage shelving in a 3-hour time span.

The food pantry is already storing tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes in the root cellar and our goal is to fill the shelves this fall with keepers such as carrots, potatoes, and winter squash. It’s been great to see this old root cellar restored to benefit the local community!

 
York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar
York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar

 York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar. Photos by Frank Wertheim.

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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.

Maine Home Garden News — August 2013

Thursday, August 1st, 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.

Gray Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed

Gray goldenrod, shown here blooming with joe-pye weed, grows best in sunny gardens. Once established, it can withstand periods of summer drought.

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.

sneezweed

Planted together, gold and red heleniums make a bold statement in the summer border.

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.

garlic with three brown lower leaves

Proper harvest stage with three brown lower leaves. Photo by David Fuller.

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

Tobacco and Tomato HornwormsTomato 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.

Japanese Beetle

Japanese Beetle

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

gated entrance to a garden

This low gate and the statue beyond entice the visitor to enter the next garden room.

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:

rooftop gardens

Outdoor rooms can be very formal, as seen in this rooftop garden.

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.

espaliered apple trees

Espaliered apple trees form a thematically perfect wall at the edge of the garden.

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

Harvesting parsnips

Connie harvests parsnips

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.

Phil builds more raised beds.

Phil builds more raised beds.

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.

raised bed community garden

Summer in the garden

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.

Maine Home Garden News — July 2013

Monday, July 1st, 2013

July is the month to . . .

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

  • Got slugs? With such a wet June, you now might be experiencing slug problems in your yard and garden. Learn more about slugs and snails and their control from Maine.gov’s Got Pests? website.
  • Keep weeds under control.
    • In perennial beds consider techniques such as hand pulling, mulching, and clipping.
    • In vegetable gardens consider techniques such as hand pulling, hoeing, mechanical cultivation, mulching, and clipping.
    • In some instances, herbicides may be an option for effective weed control. There are synthetic and organic herbicides for use in gardens and yards. Read and follow the label directions. Consider the pros and cons in herbicide use for your situation.
  • It’s not too late to plant items for a fall vegetable garden. For more information, see Bulletin #2190, Vegetable Varieties for Maine Gardens.
  • farmer selling produce at farmers marketVisit your local farmers market. Local farm products and crops are becoming more available as the season progresses. Search the Farmers’ Market Directory for a farmers’ market near you.
  • Visit the gardens of others this month as a way to gain knowledge in new plant materials and growing techniques. Look for organized garden tours offered by garden clubs and civic organizations in your region. A partial list of garden tours in Maine is available at the Maine Garden Journal’s website.
  • Visit a local farm to Pick-Your-Own strawberries. You can find farms by county or by product at Get Real, Get Maine!

  • Make regular observations of your garden, looking for good plant health and the threats to plants such as possible pests, plant damage, leaf color, and lack of fruitfulness.
  • If wildlife is a problem in your garden, contact the state office of the USDA Wildlife Services in Augusta for control options and advice. There is a new contact for Wildlife Services in Maine. She is Robin Dyer, State Director/Certified Wildlife Biologist ®, USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services, 79 Leighton Road, Suite 12, Augusta, ME 04330, 207.629.5181. Robin.A.Dyer@aphis.usda.gov. eXtension.org (a national informational system for Cooperative Extension) has a entire section that addresses information on wildlife damage management. For more information and to seek management strategies for species specific, see eXtension’s Wildlife Damage Management.
  • Have you got your resupply of firewood yet? The state of Maine has an informative site that might prove useful to you. For more information, see Maine.gov’s Heating With Firewood.
  • Locate a soup kitchen or food pantry in your community for possible donations from your garden or for volunteer work. Maine Harvest for Hunger, an outreach of UMaine Extension, can help you find sites near you.


Don’t Try This at Home: Six Common Ways that People Unknowingly Damage or Kill Trees

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

Don’t drive or park on the lawn near a tree(s). Tree roots like all other plant parts need air. When cars, trucks or other vehicles compact the soil beneath the base of a tree, soil pore space is reduced. The natural pore space of soil allows for water and air to be a part of the soil. Use alternate places to park your vehicles. Minimize vehicular traffic on lawns.

Don’t use excessive mulch. Mulch is often touted as the answer to all the gardener’s problems. It will control weeds, keep the soil temperature warm or cool, hold moisture, etc.  However, mulch should be used wisely and in moderation. Never cover the natural flare of the tree trunk with mulch piled high against the trunk. Mulch will hold moisture against the tree trunk and be a harbor for boring insect pests. Feather the mulch in a light layer near the tree base.

Don’t weed whack at the tree base or scrape the tree trunk with your lawnmower. Many folks like a neat lawn with sharp edges and no unsightly weeds near tree bases. But often times little is considered when tackling those weeds. When using a line-trimmer or lawn mower, don’t allow the machine or its parts to damage the tree’s bark. The lifeline of the tree is cut when the layer just beneath the bark is damaged or cut. Take the time to weed with a hand clipper near the base of trees.

Don’t add an excessive amount of topsoil or fill around the base of trees. More than 90% of the roots of trees exist in the top foot of soil. These roots need air and water to live, grow and thrive. By adding more fill or soil, the ability of the tree to use air and water near the surface is restricted. Tree trunks have a natural flare at ground level. Make sure that this flare is evident on the trees in your yard.

Don’t keep tree trunks wrapped. The wrap on tree trunk is used to protect trees at the nursery or in transit. These wraps should be removed to allow the trunk to be exposed to air and light. Insects and disease organisms thrive in a place that is warm, moist, and protected from natural enemies. The wrap provides this “safe harbor.” Remove it immediately after planting a tree. Mouse guards such as hardware cloth or plastic spiral wraps can be used from late fall until early spring to protect tree trunks by preventing mouse damage under the snow line. A hardware cloth formed in a wide cylinder can be kept on the tree year round if enough space is proved between the tree and the guard. Don’t allow the hardware cloth to touch the tree and constrict the tree’s growth. Change or widen the hardware cloth cylinder as the tree ages.

Don’t keep guide wires on newly planted trees. People usually forget to remove the guide wires from a newly planted tree. Over time the wire and the tree grow together and cause severe damage or death to the plant. If planted properly, guide wires are not usually needed to help a tree stand upright.

Trees are important to our landscape and our environment. Learn all you can about properly caring for the trees in your yard, neighborhood, and community. To learn more about the adaptability of native trees and shrubs to the stresses of urban and residential landscapes in Maine, see Native Trees and Shrubs for Maine Landscapes.


Birds and Bees Basics for Home Gardeners

By Kate Garland, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, katherine.garland@mane.edu

A number of gardening questions are related to floral biology. Understanding the requirements necessary for plants to produce fruit and seed can greatly help gardeners improve fruit production and successfully save seed.

Flower anatomy basics

reproductive parts of a flower

Figure 1.

Flowers come in many shapes and sizes. Regardless of their form, typically their primary purpose is for sexual reproduction. Figure 1 shows the main anatomical features of a perfect flower (meaning it has both male and female reproductive parts). For fruit and seed production, we’re most interested in the reproductive parts. The female parts (stigma, style, ovary, and ovule) are collectively called the pistil. Male parts (anther, filament, and pollen) are collectively referred to as the stamen. Some flowers have both pistil and stamen (Figure 2), while some flowers have only one or the other. Squash is an example of a plant that has both sex flowers housed on the same plant (moniecious). Some species are dioecous, such as winterberry, where entire plants only bear either male or female flowers (not both). To have fruit on such species, you must have a male and female plant present. The fruit will only develop on the female plant. A male winterberry plant can provide enough pollen for multiple female plants and does not need to be directly beside the female plant for pollination to occur. Pollinator insects can travel quite a distance to transfer pollen from one plant to another. However, the closer the plants are to one another, the more likely pollination will occur.

Pollination vs. Fertilization

Figure 2. Pea flower with keel and wing petals removed. The stigma is covered with yellow pollen grains and a few of the filaments are missing anthers. Note the immature ‘pea pod’ (ovary) at the base of the style. Fertilized ovules within the ovary develop into the seeds. (Click on the image to view an enlargement.)

Figure 2. Pea flower with keel and wing petals removed. The stigma is covered with yellow pollen grains and a few of the filaments are missing anthers. Note the immature ‘pea pod’ (ovary) at the base of the style. Fertilized ovules within the ovary develop into the seeds. (Click on the image to view an enlargement.)

Pollination is simply the transfer of pollen to the female part of a flower. The term fertilization refers to when the pollen grain successfully germinates down the style into the ovary to transfer genetic material into the ovule. It’s important to recognize the difference between the two terms. Pollination does not always lead to fertilization. For example, some species, such as apples and blueberries, have flowers that are adapted to not readily accept their own pollen even though their flowers have both male and female parts. The key with such species is to select different varieties that bloom at the same time. Oftentimes, gardeners can still have fruit if they only plant one apple or blueberry plant because other varieties exist in neighboring landscapes. For more info on pollination requirements of different types of fruit trees, visit our Growing Fruit Trees in Maine website.

Commonly asked questions related to floral biology:

My cucumber flowers are dropping off before they develop fruit. Why is this happening?

Plants within the cucurbit family (ex: squash, pumpkin, cucumber, melon, zucchini) have separate male and female flowers on the same plant (moneicious). Without both male and female flowers present, the female flowers will not get pollinated and therefore will not develop fruit. On young plants usually male flowers appear first and female flowers will develop shortly after.

I plant a single row of corn in my garden every year and the kernels never develop. What is happening?

Corn has particularly interesting flowers. It’s a moniecious plant with male flowers located at the top (tassle) and the female flowers are located in the husk. For the female flowers, the tip of the silk is the stigma, the length of the silk is the style, and each flower has a single ovule (the kernel). Each ovary requires its own pollen grain in order to be fertilized. Pollen is transferred to the stigma via gravity and/or wind. If corn is planted in a row and wind blows across the row, the pollen will not reach the female flowers to fertilize them. This is why corn should be planted in blocks.

Will I get weird hybrid pumpkins/squash fruits if I plant them beside each other in my garden?

No. The main concern with planting these two different crops close to each other would be if you were interested in saving their seed to plant for next season. The problem is that some members within the cucurbit family are able to be fertilized by one another’s pollen, but the characteristics of the fruit the first year will not be altered by this cross. For example, when pollen from a male pumpkin flower fertilizes a squash flower, the fruit itself will still look like a squash. However, the resulting hybrid seed will have genes from both “parent” plants. When that “daughter” seed is planted, the plant will have traits from both the squash and pumpkin. Another way to look at this question is to think of a female basset hound mating with a male yellow lab. The basset hound will not change color or get taller after mating with the lab, but the resulting progeny will have characteristics of both parents.

With that said, you can still save seed from your cucurbit crops even if you have different types beside each other. The trick is to pollinate the female flowers yourself (using male flowers from the same plant) before insect pollinators get a chance to access the flower. Then, enclose the pollinated flower to prevent unwanted pollen from reaching the stigma. For more information, check out our seed saving bulletin.

Homework

The next time you are out in the garden, take a close look at some of your flowers with a magnifying glass or hand lens. Sacrifice a tomato flower to see if you can identify the reproductive parts. You’ll never look at your garden the same way again.


Don’t Yuck My Yum … Food Corps Success in Maine

By Brenda Seekins, Master Gardener Volunteer, Somerset County, Maine

Laurie Magee

Laurie Magee, Food Corps Service Member in Somerset County, Maine, displays numerous drawings the children in her food-related classes have made for her.

Contrary to popular myth, children love vegetables … especially when they have an opportunity to grow their own.

That is one of the common truths that emerged from Laurie Magee’s first, and only year, with the Foods Corps, a program sponsored in Maine by the University’s Cooperative Extension, and nationally through the Food Project, John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The program this year ran in 10 states with plans for expansion in future years.

For the past year, Magee visited schools throughout Somerset County, Maine, introducing children to healthy food, where it comes from, and how to make the most of it.

Children have an adventurous nature, she learned, and are almost always eager to try new things … yes, even vegetables, and perhaps most especially vegetables they get to plant and grow themselves.

In the program’s first year in Maine, Magee was chosen, from among the 1,000 candidates that apply annually across the nation, to be the Service member serving Somerset County, out of 10 serving the entire state. A 30-year-plus resident of Anson, Magee joined more than 80 “volunteers” from across the country who introduce children to healthy foods. A Master Gardener herself, Magee has been reaping the benefits of a garden since her childhood in New York City where her mother raised a garden in Greenwich Village.

The Food Corps program is based on three “pillars”: knowledge, engagement, and access.

Through knowledge, she is charged with teaching children about real food, how to eat healthy, and where food comes from. Through access, the service corps member tries to insure access to healthy foods, through the school garden or working with school food directors using healthy foods in the school lunch programs. Incorporating the use of local foods and farmers into the local food service plan is another key element in the program.

It’s a celebration of what’s healthy, what’s available, and what can be produced, Magee said. Her programs through the schools have found her working with all ages in school gardens, gardening clubs, incorporating good food habits into lunches and snacks, working with teachers and kitchen staff and local growers. The programs have produced gardens, plays, specialty lunches, and working towards a unique harvest lunch annually that will incorporate Maine-grown products.

Being it’s the first year of the program, Magee has spent a great deal of time opening doors and making contacts to insure subsequent years, and another service member, can also be successful. Her efforts enabled her to work with nine schools regularly while visiting or helping others with specialty projects. These included working with the agriculturally-based Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a school garden at the Cornville Elementary School, creating a garden with first and third graders at the Garrett-Schenck School in Anson; with kindergarten and first grade in Solon; the Garden Club at Bloomfield Elementary where the children presented a play and a meal for parents; and a special needs class at the Carrabec Community School. Other programs included container gardens at Carrabec High School; an introduction to gardening at Forest Hills in Jackman where the school recently earned a grant to grow its on produce; and with the Cooking Matters program at Hartland Elementary, working with an AmeriCorps volunteer.

The program is intended to encourage new leaders in food training, start or restart school garden programs … “to set roots” for the Food Corps to continue in Somerset County.

“It’s a beginning,” Magee said, “We’re beginning to build a partnership in the communities. The children are very enthusiastic. They love to plant and 98% of them love to try something new. They learned to say, and believe, ‘Don’t Yuck my Yum’ as a common answer to any non-believers in the vegetable-eaters among them. It became pretty apparent that you need to start nutrition education when they are young.”

“It was an awesome opportunity for me. I feel fortunate to be selected and I’ll miss it, but it’s time to find something new for myself.”FoodCorps Maine

Food Corps Service Members are selected to serve one year in their position supported with a stipend and benefits. The program is supported through Kelloggs, Annies, and New Balance, as well as other local and national grant funding.


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.

Maine Home Garden News — June 2013

Saturday, June 1st, 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.
  • man weeding his vegetable garden; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDABe 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

gardeners planting seeds; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDAWith 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

peach shootJune 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.

fruit clusterThe 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

Cutworm. Photo by Charles Armstrong.

Cutworm. Photo by Charles Armstrong.

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.

Maine Home Garden News — May 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

May is the month to . . .

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

  • Consider making plans to visit the Coastal Botanical Garden. Free admission for Maine residents on Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, 2013.
  • Put some thought into planning your home vegetable garden. Garden planning is fun, and the time spent planning pays off.
  • Watch and prepare for frosts by monitoring the weather reports and forecasts. Protect sensitive crops with covers.
  • Wait to set out tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants until the threat of frost has passed.
  • Learn about mulch and using colored plastic mulches in your vegetable garden. For more information, see Mulch: Using Colored Plastic Mulches in the Vegetable Garden (PDF) from UMass Extension.
  • Freshen mulch in perennial beds. Edge the turf as needed. For mulch selection, see Mulches from University of Rhode Island Extension.
  • If you have not already done so, evaluate your lawn to determine its needs for the growing season. Rake dead grass and leaves from the turf. Fill in holes and level heaves and damage done by snowplows.
  • Consider having your soil tested for lawns, fields, and gardens. A soil test is the only way to accurately determine nutrient levels, pH, and organic matter percentage. If you guess what you soil needs, you are gardening by the “seat of your pants” and are likely wasting time, money, and nutrients. Following a $15 soil test, results can save lots down the road and help make this growing season productive.

  • Consider adding a rain garden to your landscape. For more information, see Bulletin #2702, Landscapes for Maine: Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape.
  • Visit your local garden center to view new products and plants.
  • Early this month, remove any mulch you placed over small fruit plants as winter protection.
  • tarnished plant bugScout your berry plants for insects that feed on flowers and developing fruit, such as tarnished plant bug.
  • Protect blueberries from mummy berry disease by spraying appropriate fungicide before bloom and/or applying 2 inches of mulch under plants to bury overwintering “mummies” that will shoot fungal spores that infect new growth.
  • Protect berry blossoms from frost. Cover plants with fabric or mulch on evenings when frost is predicted.
  • Fertilize raspberries and blueberries. Apply about 2 lbs. actual nitrogen (N); phosphate (P2O5); and potash (K2O) per 1000 square feet (or 500 feet of row), e.g. 20 lbs. of 10-10-10. For organic substitutes use compost or rock powders.
  • Learn about woodchucks and their life cycle as your strategize to keep them out of your garden this summer. For more information, see Woodchucks by extension.org and Woodchuck — Marmota monax from maine.gov.

The Buzz About Bee Gardens

By Dr. Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist, Ornamental Horticulture; Dr. Francis A. Drummond, Professor of Entomology; and Dr. Alison C. Dibble, Botanist and Pollination Ecologist, University of Maine

As a gardener, you’ve probably observed many bees in your landscape. In Maine we see European honey bees, which are kept by farmers and backyard gardeners, and more than 250 species of native bees such as bumble bees and solitary bees. Some native bees are as small as the width of your pinky fingernail! Except for honey bees, most bees do not sting; they are so intent on their work that they hardly notice a gardener’s presence. Bees are in trouble in many parts of the world due to loss of habitat, pests, disease, and vulnerability to chemicals. Without bees, we would have poor harvests of blueberries, squashes, apples, cucumbers, cranberries, melons, and many other crops. Colony Collapse Disorder, a complex of problems that results in failure of honey bee colonies, has led to heightened awareness of the importance of native bees to our own gardens and to plants across the landscape.

You can establish a bee garden to support honey bees and wild native bees. Many plants that are visited by bees are easy to grow, add beauty to the garden, and produce food for people. You probably already have some bee plants in your garden, but you might want to add more. You’ll find many at local garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries.

What Do Bees Need?

Like other wildlife, bees need three things: food, water, and habitat. An environment free of pesticides will help assure a healthy bee community.

Food: The best bee gardens provide bee-visited flowers that offer pollen and nectar in succession from early April to late October. Native plants are preferred but there are many excellent introduced garden plants that are not invasive and help support the bee community by providing pollen and nectar. If you are not sure which plants are invasive, check the resources below.

Bees need pollen mixed with nectar to feed their young, and winged adults need nectar to fuel their flight. Leafcutting bees need soft foliage such as young maple leaves to line their nest tunnels.

In spring, pollen- and nectar-producing trees include maples, shadbush, apple, cherry, plum, and willow. Spring perennials that support bees are bugloss, pigsqueak, crocus, snowdrops, lungwort, and viola. Woodland wildflowers include trailing arbutus, wintergreen, mountain cranberry, and wild oats. Bumble bees visit lady slipper orchids.

Midseason shrubs such as roses, shrubby cinquefoil, and spireas provide forage for bees, as do perennials like milkweed, anise hyssop, poppies, coneflower, and blazing star. Midseason herbs like borage, mint, and oregano attract bees to their flowers, as does the annual French marigold.

Sweat bee on Cosmos

Sweat bee on Cosmos ‘Sea Shells.’ Photo by Alison C. Dibble.

Late season bee plants include an important native shrub, summersweet, and perennials such as asters, goldenrods, bottle gentian, and yellow coneflower. Annual sunflowers, pink cosmos, and butter-and-eggs are also visited by bees.

Water: Bees, like all living organisms, need water. If your garden isn’t near a natural pond, you could float a piece of wood in a birdbath to provide a landing platform for bees that visit your garden.

Habitat: Avoid using synthetic pesticides in your home garden. Even some preparations thought suitable for organic gardening might be toxic to bees, so read about all products you consider, and follow the label directions carefully if you must use them.

Leafcutter bee box

Leafcutter bees lay eggs in south-facing bee boxes. A local carpenter might help you develop a clever and unique design for your garden. Photo by Alison C. Dibble.

Habitat is important for nesting. Apart from hives for honey bee colonies (not covered here), other bees nest near the sites where they forage for nectar and pollen. Many leafcutting bees and mason bees nest in holes made in trees by wood boring beetles, or in the pith of raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, and other woody plant twigs. For such bees, nest blocks can be mounted about four feet above the ground, facing south (see resources below). Bumble bees may nest in old rodent burrows, or in felled trees. Solitary ground-nesting bees and sand bees dig tunnels in the soil to form nests where they lay their eggs.

Plant cover is also important for bee reproduction. Yews, for example, can be important mating areas for many sand bees and sweat bees.

So, what would your bee-friendly garden look like? In addition to your existing ornamental and food garden that provides beauty and food for people, there would be numerous flowering plants intended as forage for bees. The garden would be (mostly) pesticide-free. Habitat features could include a water source such as a bird bath or small pond with a chunk of wood floating in it, a nest block for leafcutter bees, a dead tree nearby, an area of mowed lawn that has patches of exposed soil for soil-nesting solitary bees, and a “weedy” margin with cane fruits, elderberry, native asters, and goldenrods, and other native vegetation that can be cut back every few years.

There’s Much More to Learn

Space in every garden is limited. Some garden plants provide color but are not much visited by bees — daylilies are an example based on our casual observations. We initiated a project in 2012 to assess many shrubs, perennial and annual flowers, and herbs for their relative attractiveness to bees. In the first season we found that borage — especially white-flowered borage — was favored by many species of bees. Yellow-flowered French marigold with single flowers attracted more than three times as many bumble bees as a similar French marigold with double flowers. Poppies were visited by honey bees, but not by bumble bees. Mealycup sage was favored by bumble bees, but did not attract orange-banded bumble bees. Milkweed attracted bees of many kinds, while sunflowers attracted mostly bumble bees. We’ll continue this project in 2013 and beyond. If you’d like more information about this project, contact Lois Stack at lois.stack@maine.edu.

Give bee gardening a try. If you provide food, water, and nest habitat for bees, you’ll find that many interesting butterflies, flies, beetles, and other pollinators will come to your garden as well. Then, all you need to further your own enjoyment is — a camera!

For more information:

Learn how to build bee blocks: UMaine Extension Factsheet #301, Field Conservation Management of Native Leafcutting and Mason Osmia Bees

Read about Maine’s native bees: UMaine Extension Factsheet #630, Wild Bee Conservation for Wild Blueberry Fields

Consult lists of bee forage plants for North America:

Learn about Maine invasive plants from UMaine Extension factsheets.


Managing Japanese Knotweed

By Tori Lee Jackson, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties, tori.jackson@maine.edu

As perennial plants begin springing from the ground all around us this month, we are reminded that not only do we have peonies and irises to look forward to, but also some unwelcome invaders in our landscapes.

Bamboo shoot

Bamboo shoots (Click on the image to view an enlargement)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum), also known as Mexican bamboo, is a particularly hardy invasive herbaceous plant that has begun emerging from the soil in the past few weeks. Whether this plant was intentionally brought into your yard, or it made its way there with no help from you, this is a good time to be thinking about management strategies for the coming growing season.

Native to eastern Asia, Japanese knotweed is capable of forming a dense thicket very quickly, shading out all other plants. It is usually found in areas where the soil has been disturbed, such as roadsides and near wetlands. The long, oval-shaped leaves and round, hollow stems are a few easy ways to identify this plant. Small greenish white flowers bloom late in August and September, producing dark brown seeds. The primary mode of reproduction, however, is vegetative with new growth emerging from its extensive rhizomes (underground stems). A new plant can be grown from a very small piece of rhizome tissue, making rototilling or digging poor strategies for managing this species.

If you are dealing with Japanese knotweed on your property for the first time, it is important to remove it completely before it becomes established. Existing stands can be managed by cutting the telltale round stems multiple times (at least three) over the season, gradually depleting the underground resources. An alternative is to apply glyphosate directly to the freshly cut stems. This systemic herbicide will kill parts of the plant below the ground. Glyphosate can also be applied directly to the leaves of mature plants, but it is most effective when the plant is in bloom. That is typically late summer when the plant is putting down food (carbohydrates in their roots) for the winter.  Multiple applications may be necessary. Read and follow all directions when applying a pesticide (including herbicides).

Another technique that could be effective when done in early spring or summer when growth is just starting, is to mow and clip off growth then cover with a heavy mulch. A landscape fabric or even old carpet can be placed on the newly cut knotweed plants before mulching to improve effectiveness. Controlling knotweed is difficult and will take a lot of work. Don’t give up trying to control this invasive species.

For photos and further information, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #2511, Japanese Knotweed/Mexican Bamboo.


What’s In That Compost? Gardeners Be Aware!

By Martha Stein, Cumberland County Master Gardener Volunteer, class of 2008

Background

compost; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDAFarmers and gardeners have been using compost for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to boost organic matter and nutrients for growing fruits and vegetables. While gardeners of years past might not have known the exact science of WHY certain types and quantities of compost helped achieve better yields, over time they learned to rely on sources of organic waste that were readily available.

While today’s gardeners may have more resources available — soil tests, disease and pest resistant varieties of plants, etc. — we are facing new challenges. Whether we are battling squash beetles, dealing with too much (or too little) rain or strategizing how to get a few strawberries before the resident chipmunk family eats them, we gardeners don’t give up. We soil test, and use row covers, fences, and whatever it takes so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor — that fresh off the vine tomato, or a family favorite heirloom squash, or Maine blueberries that have just been plucked from the bush. Today, we are faced with another challenge: several residual herbicides in finished compost that can cause stunted, weak plants and significantly reduced vegetable production.

Compost has many benefits, and gardeners are encouraged to use compost to improve soil. The purpose of this article is to help gardeners learn from our own recent experience.

Auxinic Herbicides Persist in Compost

While there are many herbicides sold for a wide variety of uses, one that recently has caused problems in communities throughout the country is aminopryalid, trade names: Forefront, Opensight, and Capstone, etc. This herbicide is approved for use in corn, hay, and other grain crops to control broadleaf weeds. The problem occurs when livestock owners feed the treated crops (or forage crops the farmer purchased from other sources) to their animals, and/or use the treated crops for bedding, and then compost the animal manure and bedding even though the herbicide label clearly states that these materials are not to be composted. Aminopryalid and some other auxinic herbicides, clopyralid (trade names: Millenium, Stinger, Hornet, Confront, etc.)(plant growth inhibitors) do not break down in animal waste nor do they break down sufficiently during the composting process. For gardens and farms accidentally tainted with problem compost, it is important to understand how to address the problem.

Addressing the Problem

Of course, the best thing you can do is avoid compost with residual herbicides present. Just like everything else you are put into your garden, do your research on compost and hay. If you are obtaining composted manure or hay from a local farm, ask about herbicide practices and food/bedding sources. If you are given a brand name, please check with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (207.287.7594) to determine if the product contains aminopyralid or one of the other persistent herbicides. If you get a satisfactory answer, you are probably fine. A good practice is to add compost to the garden in the fall. That way, if a small amount of residual herbicide is present, it could break down sufficiently by spring. But you can even take the additional step of testing compost by planting a mix of soil and compost with peas following the methodology suggested by the Washington State Cooperative Extension.

Here in Maine, our food pantry community garden that was mistakenly given herbicide tainted compost in 2012 is working to address the problem. After many of our crops, those which are similar to broadleaf weeds (tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc.) failed to thrive and several soil tests were taken, we asked to see the results of the compost test. There, we discovered a single line item in the compost test: “Auxinic Effects” … Moderate to Severe. After much research and conversations with staff at the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, we at least learned that our produce was safe to eat, so we donated it to our food pantry.

In 2013 we will plant the garden with an early crop of peas as described in the Washington State article. This test will help us understand how much active herbicide remains in our garden. We will not compost plant material until we are confident the herbicide is gone. And, when future soil test results recommend we add compost, we will do so, but with caution.

Our research indicates that the garden soil should be completely back to “normal” within three years. We are encouraged because by early fall, some of our sick looking plants actually started to grow and fruit. String beans started to produce fairly well towards the end of the summer/early fall and other plants which were yellow and stunted, became lusher and green (although it was too late for them to fruit).

The purpose of this article is to help other gardeners avoid a painful lesson. We spent quite a bit of time and money on research, soil testing, and replanting before we finally discovered the culprit. Community members who joined us as first time gardeners became very frustrated and some gave up for the season.

The biggest heartbreak is that our 2012 contribution to our local food pantry was reduced by nearly 75% from the previous year. We are proud to be part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Harvest for Hunger program, which encourages gardeners to contribute their produce to food pantries, and we are very aware of our neighbors who are struggling to put healthy food on their tables during these difficult economic times.

Gardening is a lifelong journey, with something new to learn each year. And much of master gardener volunteering is about sharing experiences and educating others. Despite the frustrations we encountered in our 2012 garden, we are committed to telling our story so others can learn from our travails.

Sources for information regarding auxinic herbicides:


Master Gardener Volunteer to Bring Gardening to Waterville School

In each issue of Maine Home Garden News, we include a Master Garden Project profile. There are over 1500 trained Master Gardener Volunteers in Maine. Learn more about the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Program.

By Brenda Seekins

Children in the George J. Mitchell School in Waterville will be growing this year in more ways than one. With the volunteerism of retired teacher Kathleen Ribbons, who is working toward her Master Gardener certification, working with school staff, children will experience firsthand … growing flowers and vegetables, and growing through their gardening and learning experience.

“I can’t stay away,” Ribbons says of her return to the school after 36 years of teaching. With a busy schedule of substituting for former co-workers, she was already visiting the school almost daily, leaving her constantly exposed to overgrown and dying gardens all around the large, multi-winged school for kindergarten through third grade. Beginning 15 years ago, the school was surrounded by colorful gardens started by Ribbons and a group of teachers and volunteer parents.

Cathy Ribbons

Cathy Ribbons, Master Gardener in training, takes a photo of one of several gardens at the George J. Mitchell School in Waterville she will work with this year. (Photo by Brenda Seekins)

An avid gardener and armed with new training as a Master Gardener Volunteer, Ribbons’ current plans are enthusiastic, and apparently somewhat daunting to some of the current staff.

“They (some teachers) were concerned I was looking to add to their already stressed and stretched schedule,” she said of the plans. “I’m here as a resource to provide support for their lessons.”

An experienced teacher, Ribbons is building on elements in the current science and social studies curriculum and planning for the new science and social studies element still in the planning stages with Maine’s State Common Core of Learning. Children will have the opportunity to incorporate language arts, math, science, and social studies themes into their garden theme, however the staff may choose.

“There’s authentic writing in planning and seeking donations for our program,” she said, pointing out social studies in the choice of plants and their place in history; reading comprehension and application in their understanding of the planning and ultimately the harvest. While most of the gardens will be ornamental, one section will build on history incorporating vegetables and the fall harvest.

Using funds through the Master Gardener Development Fund ($350) and gardens she originally helped develop as a teacher, Ribbons will revamp the currently abandoned gardens to be productive again. Children and staff will help reclaim the gardens, dividing the existing perennials left from the previous effort, and transplanting them as needed. The project begins in earnest in May as the children and staff make the most of the waning days of the school year.
Besides clearing the garden spaces, compost will need to be applied, possibly with a lesson in how compost is made and the environmental benefit it carries in recycling and as a resource to the new plants.

The younger children will begin with their initial exposure to the garden experience through favorite stories and live examples of plants and planting. In subsequent years, their experience will incorporate more hands-on participation, building on their academic skills, and hopefully, the beginnings of a lifelong enjoyment, understanding of the gardens as well as an ownership of public gardens and appreciation for what they offer.

“Fantastic,” is Principal Allan Martin’s summation of Ribbons’ project. “This is all relevant to our kids and ties into their curriculum. It will be a great experience and much appreciated here.”

To learn more about Master Gardener Volunteer training, grant programs or how to help your school develop a similar program, contact your local UMaine Extension county office.


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.

Maine Home Garden News — April 2013

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April is the month to . . .

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

We’ve all been waiting for April and there is so much to do with cleanup, pruning, seed starting, division, transplanting, fertilizing, houseplant care…. Yikes! I find that making a list and prioritizing the tasks helps me to get things done.

  • Force branches for indoor blooms while you’re waiting for gardening season to get into full swing. Apple and cherry are good choices for forcing. The closer to bloom time, the better your success. Gather branches and hammer the stem-ends for better water uptake. Soak the entire branches overnight in a bathtub and then place in a vase or bucket of water and wait for the show.
  • Give houseplants a little attention. Houseplants are “waking up” with the longer days and brighter light. A haircut (cutting back), some fresh soil, some 1/2-strength organic fertilizer and a shower are all things that will usually make your houseplants happy.
  • Get outside and clean out your birdhouses. Soon you will see your feathered friends gathering materials for egg laying. These resources have great tips in attracting birds to your yard: UMaine Extension’s Bird house Basics, Cornell University’s All about birds guide, and Maine Audubon.
  • Hopefully, you have ordered your seeds and have a plan for your vegetable and flower garden. Are you trying some new techniques this year? Find appropriate varieties of vegetables for Maine in Vegetable Varieties for Maine Gardens.
  • Start a garden journal. It will be a great resource in future years. You can add photos and lots of information that tracks temperature and planting dates. You will learn from both your successes and failures.
  • Gather your cannas, dahlias, and begonias, and other tender bulbs that you dug last fall.
    • Pot them up in gallon size pots.
    • Water well and keep moist.
    • Store in a lighted area that doesn’t freeze.
    • Transplant outside after the last frost.
  • Your pruners are sharpened and hopefully you have completed your winter pruning. You can now prune your roses as the buds begin to break, removing dead or damaged canes. Keep in mind, opening up the center of the bush will allow for better air circulation and a healthier plant. For general pruning and more information on pruning roses see Pruning Woody Landscape Plants.
  • Have you done a soil test lately? Your vegetable garden should be tested every 2-3 years to check for optimal conditions. How did your lawn look last year? Staying off that lawn while it is wet and soggy will help avoid compaction. When it is dry, you can dethatch and over seed, then add any nutrients that were indicated in your soil test results. For more information, see Testing Your Soil.
  • Did you get your mower serviced last fall? If not, have it tuned up and be sure the blade is sharp so you cut the grass cleanly and not tear it which encourages disease. Over seed in both spring and fall; it also helps to keep weeds at bay. For more information, see Maintaining a Home Lawn in Maine.

  • Pansies and violas are in garden centers, ready to give you some spring color. Put them around your entrances or in containers. They will be a welcome reminder of things to come.
  • Are you starting some new beds this year? Do you have perennials to divide and no place to go with them? Consider creating a new garden by laying down cardboard or newspapers covered by mulch to smoother weeds or turf.
  • It’s time to get into your vegetable and flowerbeds ready. Do not work wet soils. Wait until it can be worked. As you prepare your beds, remember you can kill self-sowing annuals and biennials if you disturb the soil too roughly. So be patient. There are free plants that want to volunteer in your garden. Top dress with an organic fertilizer followed by some finished compost. Avoid mulching until the soil is warm.
  • Plant some frost tolerant crops by seed or transplant as soon as the soil is workable. Some choices would be broccoli, cabbage by transplant, and endive, lettuce, pea, radish, spinach, and turnip by seed.

Asparagus

By Mark Hutton, Ph.D. Vegetable Specialist Associate Professor Vegetable Crops, University of Maine, Highmoor Farm, Monmouth, 207.933.2100

Asparagus spears poking up in the garden

Photo by David Handley

Asparagus is the vegetable that lets us know spring has arrived. Once soil temperatures reach 50°F asparagus buds begin enlarging to produce the spears we eagerly anticipate. Here in Maine, it is one of the most popular early spring vegetables, appearing in our gardens and farmer’s markets in early May. Asparagus is a perennial crop, originating in Asia Minor and now grown throughout the world. It has been cultivated for more than 2000 years for culinary and medicinal uses and can be eaten raw or cooked, and is used fresh, frozen or canned.

Most commonly we think of asparagus as being green; however, “blanched” or white asparagus is created by keeping the emerging spears in the dark, preventing the development of chlorophyll. The white asparagus has a much more delicate flavor in addition to being more tender compared to green asparagus. Purple asparagus is also available in some farmer’s markets and as a variety to grow at home. Purple asparagus is generally thought to be sweeter than the green varieties. The purple color comes from the pigment anthocyanin, which masks the green chlorophyll. Be forewarned, if you steam or cook purple asparagus in water the result will be green spears. Anthocyanin is a water soluble pigment that is washed out. If you grill, roast or pan sear purple asparagus, it will retain more of its color.

asparagus spearsAre asparagus or blueberries in your future? UMaine Extension is offering asparagus crowns and blueberry plants for purchase.

High-bush blueberry plant pack, consists of three young plants, two varieties per pack, for $35.95 (Blueray, Patriot, Northland or Jersey*) and/or Asparagus crowns, consisting of ten (Jersey Supreme) for $15.00.

Money raised will assist Master Gardener Volunteer projects and provide scholarships to those who cannot afford the Master Gardener course fee. For more information,  visit the “Grow It Right!” Benefit Plant Sale.

The asparagus plant is composed of modified stems, called ferns, as well as a fleshy crown and an extensive root system. The spear — the portion of the plant that we eat — is an immature fern. The ferns are the photosynthetically active portion of the plant, which collect light and produce energy. The crown is a swollen underground stem or rhizome with two types of roots that are continually replaced: fleshy and fibrous. Asparagus should be planted in well-drained, fertile soil. The area around newly planted crowns should be kept weed free since asparagus does not compete well with weeds. Newly established planting should not be harvested in the establishment year or the following year in order to build and strengthen the crown.

Asparagus is harvested by snapping or cutting the asparagus just below the soil surface when the spears are approximately 6-8” tall. If you have only a small planting of asparagus, spears can harvest and stored until you have a sufficient quantity. Harvested spears should be stored upright at 35 to 40°F, with high humidity. When held under proper conditions, spears can keep for 10 to 14 days. Storage temperatures warmer than 40°F allow spears to continue growing, reducing sugars, and increasing toughness (fiber).

For more detailed information on growing asparagus, please see UMaine Extension’s Growing Asparagus in Maine.


Fiddleheads

By David Fuller, Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Farmington, 207.778.4650

fiddleheads

Photo by David Fuller

Fiddleheads are an iconic spring green that are a welcome addition to the diet after a long Maine winter. Fiddleheads are the emerging tightly-coiled frond of the ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, and are found primarily along river and stream floodplains. A frequent question is: how do you tell which fern is the right one? This is an important question since research has shown that the bracken fern is carcinogenic. Three distinguishing characteristics of ostrich ferns are:

  • The fiddleheads, or crosiers, when starting to emerge from the crown have a brown, parchment-like covering that falls off as the frond elongates.
  • The inner part of the stem of the fiddlehead will have a deep, u-shaped groove.
  • The ostrich fern stem is smooth, not hairy or scaly.

If a fern doesn’t have all three of these characteristics, it’s not an ostrich fern.

fiddleheads

Photo by David Fuller

Research done by the University of Maine has shown that fiddleheads must be picked in moderation or the fern may die. Recommendations for a sustainable harvest are to pick no more than one half of the emerged fiddleheads from a crown, with no subsequent harvesting of later emerging fiddleheads in one growing season. Fiddleheads may be picked by just snapping them off below the coiled head, including the tasty stem, or may be cut with a knife, but if using a knife, take care not to cut into adjacent fiddleheads to be left.

Make sure to properly cook fiddleheads. Foodborne illness symptoms have been reported by people eating under-cooked fiddleheads. Details on proper cooking can be found in UMaine Extension’s Facts on Fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads are a valuable non-timber forest product that are increasing in popularity in part due to the local food movement. Because of their popularity, some fiddlehead grounds are now closed to picking due to over harvesting. Make sure you have landowner permission to harvest on other’s land, and share this information with those who do pick, so we can continue to enjoy this longstanding Maine tradition.

For more information on fiddleheads and for recipe and cooking instructions, see Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads.


Gardening For Community and Youth Development

In each issue of Maine Home Garden news, we include a Master Garden Project profile. There are over 1500 trained Master Gardener Volunteers in Maine. Learn more about the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers Program.

A profile of two Master Gardener Projects in Somerset County

By Kathryn Hopkins, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, khopkins@maine.edu

Background: Somerset County is the second poorest county in Maine with 18.6% of the population living below the poverty line.1 Children in the upper Kennebec Valley of Somerset County have few opportunities for low cost, supervised summer activities or camp experiences. In addition, communities in the Upper Kennebec Valley need fresh fruits and vegetables for their food cupboards or pantries because of the persistently high poverty rate. In Somerset County, 45.9% of children are eligible for free or reduced lunch and 37.3% receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. This exceeds the state average of 26.7% and is the highest of any county in Maine.2 In addition, Somerset County has the highest poverty rate in Maine among seniors at 14.1%.

The goals of these gardening efforts were to use Extension research-based information and garden curricula to educate youth about gardening, increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income county residents, and develop youth’s community leadership skills.

Teaching Methods and Activities

To address the needs of youth and seniors, gardening activities were presented in informal settings with the help of Master Gardeners, community volunteers, 4-H program members, and Senior Companion Volunteers. A Master Gardener Volunteer and school staff member in Bingham, Maine, set up a gardening/recycling/leadership development program for two-week periods in the summers of 2009 and 2010. The program was called “Hutopolis” and engaged children in container gardening, square foot gardening, recycling, composting, and building with recycled materials. Local businesses contributed free recycled building materials and children designed and built their own “huts.” They planted and grew gardens, which they continued to care for after the two-week experience ended. Vegetables were used by their families and donated to the Bingham Food Cupboard.

assorted vegetablesIn a second gardening effort, the Havin’ Fun 4-H Club, Somerset County Master Gardener Volunteers, and the Somerset County Senior Companion Program started a square foot gardening project at the Somerset County Extension Office in the summer of 2011 and expanded it in 2012. Two Somerset County Master Gardeners taught the club how to successfully garden and properly harvest vegetables. 4-H members replicated their square food garden at home and enjoyed the vegetables with their families. In addition, the Somerset County Senior Companion Program Volunteers received the vegetables raised by the youth and distributed the vegetables to low-income seniors in Somerset County.

Results and Impacts

The Hutopolis project incorporated experiential life skills science education: constructing a shelter, growing food, and re-using materials. Through this hands-on experience, the children acquired a deeper understanding of why community is important, diversity, and other cultural perspectives. In the words of a participating Master Gardener Volunteer, “The kids learned how to build, plant, and to work with one another, brainstorm, communicate, listen, and develop teamwork. It was awesome to watch the kids take ownership. They had something significant to do, something to care about, and opportunities to learn. I am happy to have shared in a piece of learning with them.”

Participants in Hutopolis returned throughout the summer to harvest, take home, and share their garden produce. They grew cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, corn stalks, and flowers. Green tomatoes were picked and taken home to ripen before the first frost.

The Havin’ Fun 4-H Club gardened in four small raised bed gardens. They harvested and weighed the produce weekly. The total after the final harvest was 278 pounds of food from 64 square feet. At $2.50 per pound, the food was valued at $695 and was distributed to low-income seniors. The 4-H youth learned the basic science of gardening skills by learning weed identification, season extension, and harvesting skills. They learned about the value of food and the needs of people in their midst who are food insecure. They also learned that they could be valuable and contributing members of their community by meeting with a few of the Senior Companions and hearing about the difference they made in the lives of seniors.

Here is a collection of quotes from Senior Companion Program vegetable recipients. “Those vegetables would have been very expensive! I wouldn’t have bought them. I received potatoes, beets, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and pumpkins. I cooked and froze some of the vegetables in plastic bags so I could have meals in the winter. I also made pumpkin bread and pies. The small zucchini added to beaten eggs, flour, and butter, and then fried make like an omelet, and are very good. I also shared some of the vegetables with other seniors too. I hope to do more canning next year if I can get more vegetables! Please tell the 4-H thank you for the fresh produce.”


1 Poverty in Maine. Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, University of Maine. (http://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu/?q=poverty_in_Maine accessed February 13, 2012)

2 Children receiving Food Supplement Benefits 2011. Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation. (http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/Rankings.aspx?state=ME&ind=1565 accessed March 13, 2012)


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.

Maine Home Garden News — March 2013

Friday, March 1st, 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.
    blueberriesasparagus
  • 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

columnar apple tree in winterFruit 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?

SWD male and female

SWD male (left) and female (right). Click on the image to view an enlargement.

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 emerging from raspberries

SWD emerging from raspberries. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

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?

SWD larvae on blackberry

SWD larvae on a blackberry. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

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 on fruit

SWD on fruit. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

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

Flamingo sculpture in the Lois Murphy Kindness GardenKaty 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.

Volunteers working in the Lois Murphy Kindness GardenThe 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.

Dedication plaque in the Lois Murphy Kindness GardenOn 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.