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Maine Home Garden News — August 2014


August Is the Month to . . .

By Tori Lee Jackson, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

  • Harvest, Harvest, Harvest! August is one of the most productive months in our gardens. Here are a few timely fact sheets to help you:

  • Savor those summer flavors year-round with safely preserved produce from your garden or a local farm. Check out these great titles from our Let’s Preserve series:

  • Plant crops for fall harvest. Spinach, lettuce, kale, and other cole crops do well with shorter day lengths. Fill in your empty spots by direct seeding greens and transplanting broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage now.

  • Think Spring! Divide your existing lilies and irises, and order bulbs to plant for next year.

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Native Perennials for Late Season Bee Gardens

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

In Maine, more than 250 species of bees work hard on our behalf. From early spring until hard frost in the fall, they gather nectar and pollen from flowers. In the process, they move pollen from one flower to another, enabling production of crops such as tomatoes, squashes, melons, blueberries, and apples. And of course, honey bees make the honey that we harvest for our own use.

Bee resources are in decline. Every year, we convert large amounts of land to roadways, parking lots, buildings, and other structures. Although we landscape most of these developed areas, we don’t always consider bees in our plant choices, and we almost never plant the same number of plants that we remove. In our development projects, we also reduce the number of sites where bees can nest: places like open soil, areas with native clump grasses, snag trees, and stands of hollow or pithy stems from the previous year’s plant growth; all of these places can provide nest sites for a variety of native bees.

As a gardener, there are several things you can do to support bees. You can eliminate or at least reduce insecticides in your landscape, and provide nest sites and shallow water resources. And, you can plant plants that provide food for bees.

Eight Great Native Perennials for Fall Bee Gardens

Most species of bees in our gardens are native. Why not plant native plants to support them? The following eight plants share these characteristics: they are native to Maine, they die back to the ground each fall, they support bees in late summer and fall by providing nectar and/or pollen, and they are becoming increasingly available at garden centers and nurseries.

Giant blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a Mint Family member that performs well in partial sun to full sun, and in moist to quite dry soils. It is a multi-stem plant that reaches 2-4 feet in height. Its small lavender/blue flowers develop in vertical clusters over a long season from June to September. These flowers attract honey bees, along with native bumble bees, leaf-cutter bees, and sweat bees. They also attract several flies, butterflies, skippers, and moths.

Bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii), a member of the Gentian Family, produces clusters of 1-inch long bottle-shaped blue flowers on top of 1-2 foot plants, in August and September. Plants are often sprawling, but their charming blue flowers make them favorites of many gardeners. Bottle gentian performs best in full or partial sun, and in moist soil. It does not do well in dry soils. Bumble bees visit this plant in good numbers, crawling down into the tubular flowers to feed.

Helenium autumnale as a wildflower has the unfortunate common name Sneezeweed. However, it has long been cultivated in perennial gardens, where it is known as Helen’s flower. This 3-5 foot member of the Sunflower Family is one of the showiest plants of the fall garden. Its broad, airy clusters of half-inch yellow/mahogany/red daisy-type flowers are reminiscent of pinwheels. They flower for weeks in autumn, are great cut flowers, and attract honey bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees, and leaf cutter bees. Helen’s flower performs best in full sun and moist soil. Many cultivated types have been introduced to the world of gardening, and some of them are more compact, making them an excellent choice for smaller gardens.

Everyone knows the common sunflower, but many other species of the genus Helianthus also deserve a place in the landscape. Giant sunflower (Helianthus giganteus) is a perennial plant that reaches 6-8 feet in height. Its major stem is unbranched, but a few smaller side stems usually develop as well. It’s a coarse-textured Aster Family plant for the moist meadow, as it can spread over time. Its yellow flowers develop in late summer, each 2-3 inches across, and are visited by both long-tongued bees like bumble bees, and short-tongued bees like miner bees.

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is often overlooked as a garden plant, and is overshadowed by its close relative, Beebalm (Monarda didyma). Wild bergamot is a Mint Family member, 2.5-4 feet tall, well branched, and vigorous. In moist, full-sun conditions, it can spread quickly, so is useful in a meadow planting. If grown in a perennial border, it must be reined in each spring, as it spreads by shallow rhizomes. For about one month from midsummer to early fall, its lavender or pink flowers develop in 1-3 inch wide clusters at tips of stems. Each flower is tubular and about an inch long, making it a good plant for “long-tongued bees” such as bumble bees, miner bees, cuckoo bees, and larger species of leaf-cutting bees. Butterflies also feed on these flowers.

Slender mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) is a Mint Family member whose slender stems reach 1-3 feet in height. Its foliage produces a sweet minty smell when touched, and in late summer its stems are topped by small flat heads of ¼-inch white flowers. Slender mountain mint “walks” across the garden, spreading by underground stems. It is useful in a wild area or a meadow planting, in full sun and dry well-drained soil. Its nectar attracts a wide range of bees, along with many flies.

Wild senna (Senna hebecarpa) is a native Legume Family plant that deserves consideration for large perennial borders or meadows with full sun and moist soil. It reaches 5-6 feet in height, with a strong stem that supports fine-textured compound gray-green leaves. It’s a striking plant all summer, and in August and September it produces clusters of 1-inch yellow flowers that attract large numbers of bumblebees.

The asters dominate the fall garden. Three native Maine species are commonly found in full-sun, moist-soil natural areas, have been hybridized to produce a variety of cultivars, perform well in the garden, and are widely available in garden centers and nurseries. Their generic name has changed from Aster to Symphyotrichum, but you’ll likely still find them listed as Aster in plant lists. The first, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, is New England Aster. Its hairy stems reach 4 feet in height and produce showy clusters of blue or purple flowers, each with 30 or more ray florets (the “petals” of many Aster Family flowers). New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii) is similar to New England aster, but its flowers generally have 15-25 ray florets. Hundreds of cultivars of this plant have been introduced to the gardening world, and are generally known as Michaelmas daisies. This species performs well in wetter soils. Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) is similar to the other two species, but has smooth (hairless) stems. Bumble bees, honey bees, leaf-cutter bees, and miner bees flock to asters every fall, producing a chorus of soft noise on warm fall afternoons.

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Cover Crops for the Home Gardener

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

As vegetables are harvested from your garden…perhaps the peas, or the first crop of broccoli, it is time to think about planting a cover crop that will take its place. August is the month to think about growing something to help your garden for the next season. A cover crop is grown for a variety of reasons…weed control, improving soil, protecting soil, growing your own nitrogen, etc. All these benefits can be accomplished by growing a cover crop, rather than leaving your soil bare or letting weeds take over!

It is important to realize that “nude” soil suffers from a variety of maladies. First, it is an opportunity for weeds to grow and proliferate, either by producing more seed or by spreading vegetatively. Bare soil also is prone to erosion in heavy rainfalls as well as increased leaching of valuable nutrients. Additionally, a bare soil is one that does not improve underground biological activity.

I also like to think of cover crops as solar collectors for our soil. The more biomass we can grow and add back to our soil, the more “Solar Gain” we can use to improve our garden for the future.

So what should you grow as cover crops in your garden? Much depends on what you are trying to accomplish from the goals listed above. Since it is almost August as I write this, I will focus on those crops that you might want to plant for winter cover—plants that will grow late into the season, scavenge nutrients, provide biomass, and protect the soil during the winter and spring to come.

The traditional cover crop used for many years is cereal rye or often called winter rye. It is sown from now through late September, and produces a lot of great winter cover and scavenges some nitrogen left over from the garden season and holds it for next year. Winter rye survives the winter and grows aggressively next spring. While this is great for capturing solar radiation on both sides of the winter months, many gardeners find it difficult to kill in the spring since it can produce copious amounts of growth that are hard to deal with. Winter rye should be sown at 6-10 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. (higher if later in the season). Broadcasting the seed and raking it in is effective, but if you have a lawn roller, you will get better germination if you lightly roll the seed after raking.

Oats are an alternative winter cover crop. Like winter rye, it grows aggressively in the fall, but winter kills, so you are left with a deal mat of material in the spring. This dead mat provides good cover and may also serve as a “mulch” for some early garden crops. I use oats because they are cheap. I buy a 50 pound bag of “whole oats” that is commonly fed to horses as my seed source and increase the seeding rate to get an effective cover. Oats can also be sown from now through September.

Annual Ryegrass is another fast growing winter cover that winter kills. It can be seeded immediately after crops are removed from the garden and should be sown before mid September if possible to provide good cover. While usually reliable as a “winter killed” crop, there may be situations where annual ryegrass does survive and grow again in the spring. Annual rye is a fine seed, so seeding rates are much lower ~ 1 pound per 1,000 square feet if sown by broadcast and raked and rolled.

What about legumes? Legumes are often mixed with the above cover crops to help diversify the mix and also to “fix” nitrogen for next season. Some things to remember about the legumes you may want to add. It is important to inoculate the seed with the correct Rhizobia so you ensure nitrogen fixation. Some seeds come pre-inoculated, but more often you need to mix the inoculant with the seed yourself. Specific inoculant can be purchased online from seed companies or in garden centers.

What legumes might you add to the mix? Hairy Vetch is one used by many commercial vegetable producers. It can survive the winter in some circumstances and may be an issue for you when you want to till it in the spring, as it grows with a vine-like manner that has rototillers screaming as it wraps around the tines! Another one that has gained some more popularity lately is Crimson Clover, as it is low growing and more often than not, will winter kill. Both these legumes can be added in small amounts to the cereal grains listed above ~ .05-1 pound/1,000 sq ft.

There are more cover crops options that we are seeing many growers start to use. Brassica crops (radish, mustards etc.) also grow well in the fall and provide a lot of biomass to protect the soil and scavenge nutrients. Often these are now mixed with traditional cover crops to make a cover crop cocktail!

Maine Farm Days on August 20-21 in Clinton Maine (Misty Meadows Farm) will feature a demonstration plot of a variety of cover crops. Make a plan to visit the farm and look at some of the individual crops as well as some of the cover crop cocktails!

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Food and Nutrition

Tomatoes: Maine Foods for August

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Educator, Cumberland County, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, ksavoie@maine.edu

There is nothing like a Maine-grown tomato during summer! From mid-July to late September, Maine residents can enjoy the freshness and flavor of locally grown tomatoes picked at peak ripeness. Though technically a fruit, the tomato is treated as a vegetable. Originally tomatoes were yellow, but today most of those produced in the United States are red. In addition to the standard-sized, round tomatoes, there are other varieties, such as plum, pear-shaped, and cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and fiber, and are cholesterol free. Field- or vine-ripened tomatoes available in summer are higher in vitamin C than the greenhouse tomatoes that are available in fall and winter. Fresh tomatoes contain more vitamin C than cooked or canned. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an important carotenoid, which may help protect against prostate cancer and heart disease.

Using, Storing, and Preserving Tomatoes

Keep ripe tomatoes at room temperature; above 55 degrees is recommended. Do not refrigerate under-ripe fruit. Tomatoes will ripen better out of sunlight. Once tomatoes are red and slightly soft, they will keep a day or two at room temperature. Refrigerate only if you want to keep them longer. For recipes using fresh tomatoes, follow these links:

With tomato season upon us, it is important for home canners to know that to ensure the safety of whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, additional acid is needed whether you process them in a boiling water bath or pressure canner. To acidify tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint of tomatoes or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart of tomatoes. For more information, see Bulletin #4085, Let’s Preserve Tomatoes.

Freezing tomatoes is a simple and quick way to preserve them. View our video on freezing tomatoes.

If you are looking to amp up your intake of local foods, preserving is a skill to learn to help extend your access to local foods year round. Learn more about our hands-on food preservation workshops.

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

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Visit our Archives to see past issues.

Maine Home Garden Newswas 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.

Image Description: Helen's flower (Helenium autumnale)

Image Description: Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)

Image Description: winter rye

Image Description: oats

Image Description: hairy vetch

Image Description: crimson clover

Image Description: vine ripening tomatoes

Maine Home Garden News — July 2014


July Is the Month to . . .

By Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist, Ornamental Horticulture, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

In the vegetable garden:

  • Water thoroughly during dry spells.
  • Snap off the scapes of your garlic plants. Tender young scapes make a great addition to stir-fries, and can be used as a substitute for chopped garlic bulbs in sautés. They can be used alone or with other herbs in pesto. Scapes can also be used as cut flowers; a single garlic scape in a narrow vase presents a changing ornament, and a large bouquet of them can be breathtaking.
  • Watch your garlic for signs that it is ready to harvest toward the end of July. Check Bulletin #2063, Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden for more details.
  • Tomatoes produce strong growth in midsummer’s warmth. Don’t wait too long to sideshoot staked or trellised your tomato vines (indeterminate tomatoes).

  • When zucchini plants start to produce fruit, check them at least every two days and harvest the fruits when they’re young and tender.
  • Weed, thin, and water carrots and onions for best results. Carrots that “wrap around each other” are an indication of overcrowding. If you’ve had that problem in past seasons, don’t let the young roots enlarge too much before thinning them!
  • As your pea harvest ends at the end of the month, compost the plants and plant a second crop in its place. Spinach and lettuce have plenty of time to mature before fall’s frost. There’s still time to plant a row of beans in place of the peas. If you don’t want to plant another crop, replace the peas with a cover crop like buckwheat or oats.
  • Remove young weeds. Summer weeds can quickly overwhelm a vegetable garden. Galinsoga, lambsquarters, and redroot pigweed seem to mature almost overnight. Learn to recognize them as very young plants, when you can scuffle-hoe them easily and quickly. If left to mature, each of these weeds can produce many hundreds of seeds per plant, thereby becoming an even greater problem next year.

In the flower garden:

  • Deadhead perennials that have already flowered. Although this will not produce new flowers in most species, it will keep the garden looking good, and will prevent the plants from using energy to produce seed heads.
  • Deadhead annual flowers to promote production of new flowers. This is especially important for snapdragons, salvias, alyssum, dahlias, zinnias, and pansies, which tend to stop flowering if not deadheaded promptly.
  • Divide and replant bearded irises and peonies, if needed.
  • Cut back bulb foliage after it has completed its job. Daffodils, tulips, and other spring bulbs die back to the ground naturally, but you can remove this foliage when it starts to turn yellow, keeping your garden look well kept. Daffodil bulbs that produced few flowers this spring can be dug now, and replanted. Remove and discard the small bulb splits, and plant only the largest bulbs back into the garden. Rather than discarding the smaller ones, you can move them to a cut flower garden where they will mature and produce flowers in two or three years.
  • Order new bulbs for fall planting. There are some terrific newer daffodils with solid orange or pink coloration. Some are only carried by mail-order or internet companies, and orders should be placed in midsummer.

In the landscape:

  • Relax and enjoy! Fertilizing and pruning are done for the season. The lawn is growing a bit slower in the heat of summer and needs less frequent mowing. It’s time to grab a book and a glass of lemonade, lie in the hammock, and enjoy the summer.

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July Is a Big Month for Garlic

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

July is an important month in the growing of garlic because a number of things are going on. Scapes, the above-ground reproductive structure of hardneck garlic, should be well along in its growth stage. I always leave a few scapes on my plants because it’s fun to watch them emerge from the center of the plant, curl, then uncurl as the plant matures then finally bursting from its covering (spathe) to reveal flower parts and bulbils. But in general, scapes should be removed for better bulb production. Research done by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension showed that bulbs from plants whose scapes were not removed were up to 47% smaller.

Harvest scapes after they have emerged from the center of the plant by snapping them off below the whitish part that will become the umbel, which bears the flowers and bulbils. Young, tender scapes are great in stirfrys and to make pesto, but become woody in later stages of growth.

Most bulb growth is now just starting to take place with garlic. For that reason, it is important to keep your garlic planting weeded. Garlic, like other garden plants, will realize its potential with adequate water. One inch of irrigation per week is recommended in the absence of a like amount of rainfall.

The timing of garlic harvest is important. If harvested too early, bulbs will not have gained their maximum size and will not store well. Late harvests will leave garlic bulbs denuded of wrappers with cloves that appear soiled, though are entirely edible.

Garlic harvest is gauged by physiological plant cues. There are two good markers to tell you when it’s the best time to harvest your garlic. The first is by the number of dead, brown leaves on the bottom of the plant. There should be three dead leaves, counting from the bottom, going up. The lowermost leaf, which corresponds to the outermost wrapper on the bulb, may be practically gone.

The second harvest cue is the scape. The scape should be fully extended after coiling and uncoiling. In the Farmington area, these two harvest cues coincide with the end of July to about the first week in August.

After harvest, make sure to quickly dry your garlic crop. There are fungi that will degrade your crop if you don’t quickly tend to your crop after harvest. Hang plants in small bunches in a well-ventilated area like a garage. Better yet, make a drying rack out of two-by- fours with chicken wire for the bulbs to rest on. Store your garlic in a cool area with moderate humidity. I store garlic in my basement, which is about 60 degrees and 50% humidity and it usually lasts until May, depending on the variety.

Stay tuned to learn about the results of an ongoing UMaine Extension applied research project on garlic: is there any correlation between the size of the clove planted and the size of the bulb harvested?

For more information on garlic cultivation in Maine, please see Bulletin #2063, Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden.

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Community Garden at the Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope & Healing Grows!

By Tori Lee Jackson, Extension Educator in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

A community garden dedicated to wellness and healing for those touched by cancer is growing- in more ways than one. The Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope & Healing was founded in 2008 by actor and Lewiston native Patrick Dempsey and his sisters Mary and Alicia. Their mother, Amanda Dempsey, had been battling ovarian cancer for many years. Recognizing that it’s not only the patient who is impacted by a cancer diagnosis, the Dempsey’s wanted to create a place where families, friends, and caregivers could all be supported. While the center is partnered with Central Maine Medical Center, services are available to people no matter where they are receiving treatment. Patrick’s sister, Mary Dempsey, oversees the center, which offers 100 percent free education, support, and services to anyone impacted by cancer.

In 2013, Oncology Dietician Amanda Ettinger and Program Manager Mary Doyle contacted UMaine Extension about working on their indoor healing garden, located on the fifth floor of the old Knapp Shoe Factory building in Lewiston. The conversation about that garden quickly turned to another project, one where nutritious foods could be grown for their demonstration kitchen, and families could grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs for their own use. Project partner Cascades Fiber in Auburn donated land, watering equipment, and lots of time, and with the help of Master Gardener Volunteer Dennis Connelly, ground was broken for the Garden of Hope in 2013.

In the year since it was first established, the Garden of Hope has already doubled in size. All of the supplies, including lumber, seeds, seedlings, watering cans, hand tools, and buckets have been donated by area businesses. Cancer patients, employees, and family members are encouraged to visit the garden often, and are free to grow whatever they like in their own plots. Patients and their families are growing food for themselves and food to donate back to the Dempsey Center.

Dennis Connelly spends a lot of time at the garden, building raised bed frames, filling and maintaining the raised beds, and offering tips to the gardeners who tend their own plots there. At a showcase of local Master Gardener Volunteers Projects at the last MGV training for 2014 in Auburn, the passion Dennis has for this project was evident. He spoke eloquently about how much this project means to him, showed some fantastic photos from last year’s harvest, and recruited several new volunteers for 2014.

As a Master Gardener Volunteers program coordinator, it is projects like this one that really excite me. The Garden of Hope is a perfect example of how much of an impact volunteers can have in their communities, and in the lives of their friends and neighbors. Physical exercise, fresh air, healthy food, hands-on education, and friendship are exactly the kinds of benefits the Dempsey family had in mind when they created the Center. These also happen to be some of the goals of the Master Gardener Volunteers program. I am so proud that UMaine Extension is affiliated with this effort.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, I encourage you to find out about all of the free support available at the Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope & Healing. If you are a Master Gardener Volunteer interested in working on the Garden of Hope, please contact Mary Doyle at 330.7457.

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Four Season Garden Structures for the Maine Home Garden

By Frank S. Wertheim, Extension Educator, York County, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Four-season gardens in Maine have been around for many years now, originally and to this day still, popularized by Maine Farmer/Author Eliot Coleman. Over the years structures have been modified but the basic tenets remain the same: provide an unheated (though some commercial growers use supplemental heat) greenhouse structure, plant hardy greens and root crops in late summer, cover them with row covers for the winter, and harvest the benefits on the back side of the growing season.

Many gardeners make these into moveable structures so that when they are rotated to a new site after the winter season, the rains will leach any build up of soluble salts out of the soil. You can also then use the same structure in a second location for an early harvest of your spring garden of peas, lettuces, crucifers, root crops, etc., and then move it again in late spring to yet a 3rd location to get a jump on your tender crops such as tomatoes, melons, basil, etc. Does this sound too good to be true? Many Mainers are now using simple structures to garden year-round!

At MOFGA’s Common Ground Fairgrounds in Unity Maine, there are several small home garden structures that have been built for demonstration. Most of them are made using hoop benders, a simple device sold by companies such as Johnny’s Select Seeds, and Hoopbenders.com. With these benders, and following the instructions that come with the bender, home gardeners have been bending their own hoops out of electrical conduit pipes. The pipes come in 10-foot lengths from local hardware or electrical supply stores and are relatively inexpensive.

The structures do need to be covered with a quality greenhouse grade plastic, which usually is rated to last a minimum of 4 years. The easiest and least expensive way to start if you are not well skilled or don’t have a lot of tools is to purchase a connector kit from the same companies which sell the benders.

Last year the York County Master Gardeners built a sample structure at the All Seasons Garden at Laudholm Farm in Wells in order to teach the public about building a small inexpensive structure that would stand up to the Maine Winter. One of the lessons we learned is that in an open field such as Laudholm Farm, it is very important to secure the structure well to the ground and make sure the plastic is well secured to the frame to prevent blowing and ripping of the plastic.

After helping with this project, I decided to give it a go on my own and built my own home structure. As you can see, it is important to make sure the frame will shed snow well. For this reason in both locations, we used a Gothic arch design to give the roof-line a little steeper slope to help shed snow. I also added a Univent (see photo below) to the peak of the roof to aide in ventilation in the warmer spring and summer seasons. The center section can also be totally removed in summer to ventilate more fully.

For planting schedules there are several books and articles on Gardening for a Four Season Harvest. I would recommend the book, a Four Season Harvest by Elliott Coleman. For more information contact Frank.Wertheim@maine.edu or call the York County office of UMaine Extension at 207.324.2814.

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Working to Reduce School Food Waste — A 4-H Project

Co-authored by Phil Jellen, UMaine Extension 4-H Sustainable Living Project Leader, and Caleb McGrath Holmquist, 4-H member in Cumberland County

Caleb, a 13 year old 4-H member from Gray, is leading his community to reduce food waste. As part of the requirements for a special 4-H outreach known as the Sustainable Living Project, he successfully conducted a service learning project at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School. Service learning is not so much community service as it is a way to learn standards through meaningful engagement in the community.

Initially, Caleb was in a group that noticed there was a lot food being thrown away at school. They decided to undertake the problem of food waste, and asked themselves “Is food being wasted at the school, and how can we reduce it?” But soon, the other group members abandoned the project, and Caleb was on his own to address the other questions and challenges the project would present. He would rise to the challenge, and as he discovered along the way, he was never alone because so many other people became invested in the project.

Caleb was granted permission to measure how much food was being thrown away in the cafeteria. He addressed the students, informed them of his project, and asked for their participation, which they gladly offered. Unfortunately, many students were away on a field trip, so Caleb returned another day to obtain a more representative measurement.

Caleb crunched the numbers, and moved forward in his research. He met with the school’s lunch program director to learn what they were already doing to reduce food waste, and what could be done. He investigated what was being done at neighboring schools to reduce food waste. He contacted local organizations that offer composting services. He considered the options, and moved forward.

He met with the Superintendent and the District’s Finance Director to ask their partnership in reducing food waste. Now, the fate of Caleb’s project lies in others’ hands, but that hasn’t stopped him or the cafeteria from working to reduce waste in the meantime. Actions include changes in the menu to offer more desirable items to students, a share table where students can freely exchange items they are required to receive but don’t necessarily want to eat, and a food pantry that serves the community each month offers timely perishables to its clients.

Caleb is still considering what more can be done. He plans to contact the administration to check on the progress of the motion, and to arrange to re-measure the cafeteria’s waste soon to compare with his initial findings. “But not during school break…because there won’t be very much waste,” Caleb says tongue in cheek.

4-H is a youth development program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, which celebrates 100 years in 2014. More information about 4-H in Maine, see http://umaine.edu/4h/.

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Food and Nutrition

Freezing Garden Vegetables

By Kate McCarty, Food Preservation Community Education Assistant, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, kate.mccarty@maine.edu

Freezing is a great, inexpensive way to preserve your fresh garden vegetables. But before you freeze your vegetables, a few steps need to be taken to improve the quality of your home frozen vegetables.

First, wash and prepare your vegetables. See June 2014′s Maine Home and Garden News or Bulletin #4336, Best Ways to Wash Fruit & Vegetables for instructions on how to wash fresh vegetables.

Next blanch your vegetables for the recommended amount of time (varies per vegetable) in boiling water. See Bulletin #4384, Freezing Vegetables for specific blanching times. Blanching helps to preserve your vegetables by killing enzymes that, over time, will affect the color, texture, and flavor of your frozen vegetables.

Tomatoes, onions, and peppers do not need to be blanched before being frozen. See How To Freeze Tomatoes YouTube video for simple ways to freeze tomatoes.

After blanching your vegetables, stop them from cooking by shocking them in an ice water bath. Fill a large bowl with ice water, and place your blanched vegetables in it for the same amount of time they were blanched.

Drain your vegetables well, and dry them off in a salad spinner or with clean kitchen towels. Excess water can cause vegetables to clump together and cause a loss of quality.

Pack dry vegetables into freezer-grade plastic containers, either in freezer-grade plastic ziptop bags or rigid-sided containers. Remove air as you seal the bag and leave 1/2-inch headspace in rigid containers. Using the right containers will help preserve the quality of your frozen vegetables.

Label and date containers and place in a freezer set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Use vegetables with in 6 to 8 months for best quality. Add frozen vegetables to soups, stews, and sauces; or reheat by steaming or boiling.

If you’d like to learn even more ways to preserve your garden’s yield, check out our schedule of hands-on food preservation classes.

For more information, see Bulletin #4384, Freezing Vegetables.

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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.

Image Description: Raised bed gardens

Image Description: swiss chard

Image Description: pipe fittings

Image Description: frame for greenhouse

Image Description: Biddeford Farmer, Brent Peters, and York County Master Gardener Volunteer, Allan Amioka, use hoop bender for a greenhouse frame.

Image Description: greenhouse in snow

Image Description: Greenhouse showing wax expanding “Univent” and removable center for increased spring and summer ventilation.

Image Description: 4-Her Caleb McGrath Holmquist

Maine Home Garden News — June 2014


June Is the Month to . . .

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

  • Remove rhubarb seed heads. Simply clip the shoots near the base with a sharp knife or scissors and remove them from the growing area.
  • Take precautionary measures for tender transplants if frost is in the forecast. The threat of frost has probably passed but you still need to keep an eye on the weather forecasts.
  • If you have not done so already, there is still time to plant your vegetable garden. If time and space are a premium for you, consider growing a few low maintenance or “goof proof” vegetables like summer squash or pole beans.
  • Try growing a specialty variety of potatoes, like colored-skin or fingerling-types. For more information about growing potatoes in the home garden and ways to prepare them see Bulletin #2077, Growing Potatoes in the Home Garden and Bulletin #4179, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Potatoes.
  • Compost! Compostable materials like grass clippings, leaves, and kitchen food scraps can be gathered and merely piled or a structure can be used. For more information on composting, see Bulletin #1143, Home Composting or check out our other many composting resources.

  • Visit your favorite garden center to see and learn about the latest plant materials and gardening tools and other related products.
  • Learn more about ticks and Lyme Disease. See Bulletin #2357, Lyme Disease or visit UMaine Extension’s Tick ID Lab website.
  • Prepare for any gardening problems you faced last growing season. Was it an insect, disease, weed or a species of wildlife? Perform some detective work before this same pest shows up this season. UMaine Extension has an insect and plant disease diagnostic lab with personnel who specialize in identifying and solving problems. For more information, see the Insect and Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab website.
  • Establish a lawn. Establishing a lawn successfully takes some planning. For information and “how to” videos, see Bulletin #2367, Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine.

  • Visit the gardens of others. The options include public gardens, organized garden tours, and the gardens of your friends or neighbors. When visiting, snap photos and take notes of things you find interesting. The 6th annual Backyard Locavore Day on August 9th is a unique educational event held in Cumberland County. Learn more or register to attend.
  • Remove Eastern Tent Caterpillar nests from fruit and landscape trees. Tent caterpillars typically set up camp in crotches of main branches. You can remove nests easily with a gloved hand or stick. No pesticides are necessary if you place the nest into a plastic bag and step on the bag several times to kill the caterpillars. Smaller nests are easier to remove than larger nests. Watch for any re-infestation as the season progresses. For more information, see Fact Sheet #5022, Forest and Eastern Tent Caterpillars.

  • Watch for first signs of slugs (slime trails) and any damage caused by these mollusks. Slugs are a perennial pest in the gardens when the weather is wet. Iron phosphate is an effective natural control. Read and follow the label directions. For more information, see Fact Sheet 5036, Slugs.

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The Old and Now New Methods of Pest Control in the Garden

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

In May, gardening is still a joy — both weeds and garden pests aren’t yet an issue and the garden still looks clean and full of possibilities. At least half the month is black fly free; life doesn’t get much better than that!

From June on, however, the story can be quite different. The warmer day and soil temperatures spur both plant and pest growth. Before you surrender your cucumbers to squash bugs or broccoli to cabbage worms, here is a suggestion that may help you protect your plants long enough to actually get to harvest.

Floating Row Cover — This spun-polyester material (like thick tissue or interfacing) is readily available and comes in different weights. All weights of cover act like a greenhouse and raise the temperature under the cover, increasing plant growth. Heavier weights provide more frost protection; while lighter weights protect from light frosts, they are especially good as a barrier to flying pests. I use the lightweight type on almost all of my crops so that plants get established more quickly, or, in the case of a slow germinating crop like carrots, the intensity of rain is diminished before it hits the ground and dislodges the seed. Even more important than these benefits, I use row cover to keep many of the most prolific pests at bay. For example, the broccoli and cabbage that are currently in the ground have been covered since planting. I have wire hoops every five feet down the row to support the fabric that is weighted down with used, plastic wood pellet bags filled with sand. Since neither broccoli nor cabbage need to be pollinated, the cover can stay on the whole season, thus preventing the imported cabbage butterfly from laying eggs on the crop. This is the dreaded pest that produces the green caterpillars that blend in so masterfully with the veins on the leaves that it is hard to detect them until you notice copious amounts of frass (poop) or that part of the plant is missing.

Floating row cover is also helpful in minimizing squash and cucumber beetle damage while the seedlings are young. Once again, cover the crops at planting. However, since all members of the squash family of plants require pollination (although types that don’t need pollination are starting to appear on the market), the cover needs to be removed once flowers appear on some plants. After that, it is up to you to provide control. The cover just allows the seedlings enough time to get up and established.

So, what to do once the covers have to be removed? Nothing is foolproof, so I try to keep an arsenal of tools available. First off, the electrified tennis rackets. Yes, you laugh, but these cheap bug zappers are delightfully efficient at frying squash bugs, Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, as well as mosquitoes! I have found early in the morning, while it is still cool, is the best time to hover over the plants and swing wildly. I must admit it is very satisfying to hear the bugs being zapped.

Finally, after row cover and tennis rackets, I use a hand vacuum. For small bugs such as cucumber beetles, a strong vacuum works wonders. The type I have has an attachment that focuses the suction to a smaller area — perfect for sticking down squash blossoms!

So, in addition to scouting for eggs (continuously look under leaves), I use all of the above techniques to help me have a successful harvest. I would like to say that as a result my gardens are pest free, but what fun would that be?

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What You May Like to Know About Honey Bees

By Ana Bonstedt, Home Horticulture Coordinator at UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

The honey bee has the largest worldwide distribution of all bee species. Honey bees survive and perpetuate in a unit called a colony. There are three different types of individuals in the colony: one queen, thousands of workers, and hundreds of drones. The colony is a fascinating community where each type has a special function.

The Queen Bee

The queen is the only sexually mature female in the colony and therefore the mother of all workers and most of the drones. Born from a fertilized egg, she is the result of a heavily royal jelly diet, which is a secretion produced by worker bees during the 15 days of their adult life and is used in the nutrition of larvae. A queen bee lives an average of three years and only leaves the hive for her mating flights, which usually take place between the sixth and tenth day after birth. Her only function is to lay eggs, which amount to approximately 2,000 per day. Attendant workers who surround the queen feed her and collect her waste. Additionally, the workers distribute her pheromone to inhibit the workers from starting queen cells and keep the colony together.

The Worker Bee

Worker bees are infertile females born from fertilized eggs and fed with a combination of royal jelly, pollen, and honey. The life span of a worker bee is 50 days, but during the winter they can live longer. The worker bees perform different tasks during their lifetime: through specialized glands located in the abdomen, they produce wax, which will be used to form the honeycomb, they suck nectar from flowers for energy, and they carry water when the hive is in danger of overheating. They also collect pollen for proteins and collect propolis, which is a resinous mixture from tree buds, sap flows or other botanical sources for sanitizing and to seal the cracks of the hive. Worker bees protect the colony against intruders even sacrificing themselves to achieve their goal.

The Drones

Drones are males born from infertile eggs. Their life span is about 3 months and their main purpose is to fertilize a new queen. The stronger drones will join with the queen in a special mating flight. After copulation, the drone dies because his reproductive organ and abdominal tissues, which are connected, are ripped from his body when he separates from the queen.

Drones do not collect nectar or pollen, but they help control the hive temperature by producing heat through shivering, or exhaust heat by moving air with their wings. They distribute the food among the workers, but when food is limited the worker bees force the drones out, letting them to die of cold and hunger outside the hive.

For more information about bees, see Bulletin #7153, Understanding Native Bees, the Great Pollinators: Enhancing Their Habitat in Maine.

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Environmentally Sound Gardening Tips

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

Everything that you do in your garden can influence the environment. Be a sound gardener by following these tips:

  • Incorporate organic matter in the soil every year. Organic matter conditions the soil. It aids in holding water, holding nutrients, and encourages life underground (earth worms). Organic matter sources include farm manures, compost, seaweed, peat moss, leaves, grass clippings, etc.
  • Use mulch. Mulch conserves moisture, controls weeds, keeps fruit and vegetables clean, provides a nice pathway for the gardener, and can be tilled under (if organic).
  • Have the soil tested every 2-3 years. Soil testing provides you with the information to make wise gardening decisions regarding fertilizers, lime, and organic matter.

  • Do not over work the soil. Over cultivation can destroy soil structure. Do not work wet or frozen soil. Raised bed gardens can be a method for early gardens if wet soil is a problem.
  • Maintain a proper soil pH. Improper soil pH can “lock up” nutrients. Aim for a pH of 6.5 – 7.0
  • Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Water only those plants that need it. Overhead sprinklers tend to waste water, wet the leaves, and cause disease problems.
  • Keep soil covered in every season. The soil is a precious resource. Prevent soil erosion with crops, winter cover crops or mulch in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.
  • Plant on the contour. Don’t allow water to take away the topsoil. Plant across the incline to catch any soil that moves downhill. Plant vegetative buffer strips to capture excessive nutrients and eroding soil.
  • Use pesticides only when needed. Identify the pest that bugging your plants. Make a wise decision on timing, prevention, and control. Ask for advice if needed.
  • Choose the least toxic control for the target pest. All pesticides are poisons (organic and synthetic). Select the pesticide that is meant for the pest and the plant you are trying to protect. Read the label before purchasing or using the product.
  • Avoid over use of fertilizer. Too much fertilizer means pollution of the environment. Apply only those nutrients in the right amounts and at the best time for good garden yields.
  • Compost to recycle nutrients. Composting is a great gardening practice that will recycle nutrients and benefit the soil. Composting also reduces the waste stream.
  • Select crops / plants for your area. Use those plants that are suited for your specific area (hardiness zone and season length). Know what those plants need for growth, productivity, and survival.
  • Use plants that naturally repel pests. Find out what pests are common for the crops you are growing. Use trap crops and companion plants to help keep pest populations low.

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Brae Maple Farm Project Embodies Gardening’s Social Benefits

By Carol Gardner, Master Gardener Volunteer, Lincoln County

Some people are drawn to the solitude of gardening. But as a social activity, gardening can be equally rewarding. Maybe the only thing more gratifying than growing one’s own food is working with others to grow food for those in need.

Now in its 16th year, Brae Maple Farm’s Master Gardener Volunteer project embodies the social benefits of gardening. At the farm, volunteers grow between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds of fresh produce for local food pantries each year. But there’s an educational mission, too: members cultivate experimental and demonstration gardens of all sorts and share what they’ve learned.

Over the years, the volunteers have cultivated traditional row crops; raised beds; a three sisters garden, a Native America method of planting corn, beans and squash together; edible weeds; and a lasagna garden, which features a layered composting approach to creating new soil. They’ve experimented with rain barrel irrigation. They’ve carried out an experiment for the University of Maine to find the best means of staking tomato plants, and they’ve performed trials for Johnny’s Selected Seeds to discover the best basil cultivars. They’ve held tastings for the public with up to 50 varieties of tomatoes and peppers. On a recent spring day, they held a class to teach new Master Gardeners how to build arbors and trellises using twigs and saplings. And each year on Open Farm Day, they entertain and educate as many as 450 visitors to Brae Maple Farm.

A love of gardening and a desire to help others attracted many of the members. But camaraderie has kept them together. “The people keep me with it,” says Pat Gibbons, a founding member who led the group for 15 years. That sentiment is echoed by members and observers.

Andrea and Allan Smith host the project at their property, Brae Maple Farm in Union, Maine. The Smiths stay busy with their own operation, growing MOFGA-certified organic vegetables, herbs, and dried flowers, raising cattle, and selling crafts. Still, says Andrea, who purchased the property with her husband Allan in 1981, “Hosting the Master Gardener Volunteers is the best thing we’ve done since we’ve had the farm. It’s a nice group. It gives us a chance to give back, and having them here makes me stop and smell the roses.”

In 1998, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator approached the Smiths and asked if the Master Gardener Volunteer program could use a small part of their farm. The Smiths agreed, and soon after, both Andrea and Allan took the training themselves, which consists of 40 classroom hours in growing fruits and vegetables; basic botany, soil health, composting, and integrated pest management, delivered by Extension educators and specialists.

Today, Brae Maple Farm’s Master Gardener Project counts more than 20 participants. According to UMaine Extension Professor Mark Hutchinson, “Brae Maple is the longest ongoing Master Gardener Volunteer project in Knox and Lincoln Counties.”

The group meets at Brae Maple every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. from the end of April through the first frost. And after they complete their chores, they share snacks prepared by one or two of the members.

Liz Stanley, Horticulture Program Coordinator for Knox-Lincoln and Waldo Extension, provides support to the group, and understands the social ties that knit them together. “The success of the Brae Maple Master Gardeners’ group is that they plan carefully at the end and beginning of each season—and they make it a celebration.” A recent planning breakfast featured an amazing spread of dishes prepared by the members themselves: sticky buns, blueberry pancakes, fruit salads, chipped beef, muffins, biscuits, and a dozen other items. But it also demonstrated the volunteers’ willingness to get things done, and to share ideas. One member showed off a box she had designed and constructed for taking the group’s produce to food pantries. Another showed a solitary bee house she had made for attracting pollinators to the garden. Two members offered to bring their cultivators for opening day. Others volunteered to map out plans for the project’s garden beds.

The Brae Maple project supports Maine Harvest for Hunger, which facilitates donations of freshly grown produce to food-insecure families and individuals throughout Maine. Their produce is donated to three local food pantries: Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry and St. Bernard’s Parish Hall Soup Kitchen in Rockland, and the Mid-Coast Hospitality House, a homeless shelter in Rockport. “We focus not only on the best ways of growing vegetables and fruit,” says volunteer Peter Marckoon, who delivers the produce, “but also on how to use them. So the food we donate to pantries is often accompanied by recipes and ideas on how to use it.”

A lifelong gardener, Jamie Doubleday is one of the newer members of the Brae Maple group, drawn in by the mission: “Our mission is a good one: feeding people. There’s nothing more basic than that.” But she adds that the sociability of those involved makes it stimulating and fun. “This is a great group of people. We work together in summer, but we also get together through the winter to eat, talk, and make crafts.”

Gibbons, one of three original members still with the group, believes that sharing ideas has been a large part of the program’s success and longevity: “People have answers for each other when it comes to gardening problems. We benefit from one another’s knowledge.”

Eliza Bailey, the group’s co-chair, has been with the Brae Maple Project for two years. “The group started as a demonstration project for aspiring gardeners,” she said. “And we still offer ideas. This year, we’re planting beds using three different types of mulch so that people can see what might work best for them.” But she adds that the group members benefit equally: “the amount of learning that goes on among us every week is amazing.”

Individuals and garden groups throughout Maine can grow food for the hungry. To find out more about Maine Harvest for Hunger and how you can help, go to UMaine Extension’s website: https://umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger/. For information on becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer, visit http://umaine.edu/gardening/master-gardeners/. Brae Maple Farm and its Master Gardener Volunteer Project will host visitors on Open Farm Day on Sunday, July 27. It is located at 233 North Union Road, Union, ME 04862.


Food and Nutrition

Washing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

By Kate Yerxa, MS, RD, Statewide Nutrition and Physical Activity Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, kate.yerxa@maine.edu

Fruits and vegetables are key parts of a healthful diet. To make sure you are not putting yourself at risk for food-borne illness, it is important wash all fruits and vegetables well before cutting, peeling, cooking or eating.

Washing fresh produce requires more effort than simply spraying lightly with tap water. Below are the steps you should take to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables.

  1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water before and after preparing food.
  2. Start with a clean counter, clean knife, and cutting board.
  3. Use drinkable, cold water to wash fruits and vegetables.
  4. Soaking fresh fruits and vegetables in water for one to two minutes can help to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
    • For produce with a thick skin, use a vegetable brush to help scrub away dirt.
    • For fragile produce, like berries, use a colander and spray with water.
  5. After washing, dry with clean paper towel. This can remove more bacteria.

For leafy greens, wash greens by separating leaves and soaking them in a bowl of cool water for a few minutes. Drain the greens using a strainer or colander and repeat this process. Once the leafy greens are drained, dry with a clean towel or salad spinner. Salad spinners should be thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water after every use.

For more information, see Bulletin #4336, Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables.

For information about storing fresh garden produce, visit the resources available at http://umaine.edu/gardening/home-gardening/vegetables/.

Information in this article adapted from University of Maine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #4336, Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables.

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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.

Image Description: rhubarb gone to seed

Image Description: Eastern Tent Caterpillar nest in tree

Image Description: seedlings protected by floating row covers; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: Honey bee on a dandelion

Image Description: Brae Maple volunteer Linda Redmond (left) teaches new master gardeners how to build fences from twigs and saplings.

Image Description: Fence building at Brae Maple Farm.

Image Description: Members of the Brae Maple Farm Master Gardener Project at a recent planning meeting.

Maine Home Garden News — May 2014


May Is the Month to . . .

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

  • May in Maine typically means ticks. If you work outdoors, you are at risk for tick bites. For information about ticks, see Bulletin #5047, Ticks or visit the UMaine Extension Tick ID Lab website. To obtain a form to submit a tick for identification ($10 per tick), visit your local UMaine Extension county office or see Submitting Your Tick for Identification. To learn more about ticks and Lyme disease, see Lyme and Other Vector-borne Disease Information from Maine Medical Center.
  • “Harden off” purchased or self-grown seedlings by gradually acclimating them to winds, fluctuating temperatures, and other outdoor conditions.
  • Plant cold crop seedlings (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) and onions. May is also a typical time to sow carrots, brussels sprouts, lettuce, leeks, beets, celery, early sweet corn, dill, peas, radish, spinach, turnip, parsley or parsnips. Plant potatoes in May, too.
  • Plant vine crops like cucumbers, summer squash, and winter squash, as well as warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, in late May. After transplanting your seedlings, watch for frost threats and be ready to cover tender plants if needed.
  • Make sure your lawn mower is ready to use: sharpen mower blade(s), check for adequate oil and change oil if needed, add a new spark plug, and ensure that all safety features are functioning properly and the wheels are in good working order. Lawn mowers take a beating. Make sure yours is safe and running smoothly.
  • Inventory your personal protective equipment (PPE) and replace items as needed. Gardeners should use basic PPE such as safety glasses or goggles, work gloves, nitrile gloves for pesticide handling, dusk masks, and ear protection. An injury could put you on the “side-line” and keep you from gardening.
  • Assess your perennial beds for proper weed management. Remove any weeds. Freshen mulch as needed.
  • Consider using a phosphorous-rich “starter solution” as a fertilizer when setting out seedlings. Phosphorous (even though it is present) may not be available to plants in Maine’s cold spring soil. By adding a fertilizer with a high phosphorous value (the middle number in fertilizer analysis N-P-K), you will promote the rooting of new seedlings. Fertilizers such as 10-20-10 or 15-30-15 provide readily available phosphorous.
  • Remove caterpillar nests from small trees and shrubs with a gloved hand or clip off the stem supporting the nest with shears. Dispose of the sticky nest in the trash, bury it in your compost pile, or submerge the nest in soapy water. Removal of the nests will considerably reduce the caterpillars that defoliate your trees. Do not use flame (torches) to destroy the nest. This is very risky and will likely damage the tree.

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Pruning Your Forsythia

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

Forsythias are easy to grow, but do require some maintenance. Pruning is the most important chore. Forsythias have a naturally graceful arching growth habit, but they can be their own worst enemy. Left unpruned, they will become too large, wild, and unruly. A neglected forsythia can overwhelm neighboring plants and surroundings, and become unhealthy. By doing some maintenance pruning each year, you help keep the plant in bounds, assure good light penetration and air circulation, and reduce the likelihood of disease.

When to Prune Your Forsythia

Shrubs that bloom in the early spring, such as forsythia and lilac, are usually pruned just after they finish blooming.

Forsythias start developing next year’s flower buds in early to mid-summer. They carry these buds through the fall and winter, to burst open the following spring. If we prune forsythia in the late winter while it is still dormant, we remove branches that have pre-formed flower buds, reducing the upcoming spring flower display.

When the shrub is overgrown, has gangly branches or has been neglected for years, its flower display is not what it could be. In this case, it might be worth it to prune it when dormant and sacrifice a year of blooms. Pruning while the plant is dormant is easier, because you can clearly see how the branches grow in relation to one another.

How to Prune Forsythia

1. When pruning a mature forsythia, each year start by selectively removing one-fourth of the oldest stems at ground level. These stems will have the largest basal diameter. As stems get thicker with age, they rub against one another in the interior of the shrub, causing wounds that weaken them. The oldest, thickest stems are also the tallest, so by removing these, you bring the height of the shrub down without changing the shrub’s natural form.

Use a pair of loppers or a small, fine-toothed hand saw for removing large stems. If you cannot get to the base of a large stem because the area is too congested, prune it back as close to the ground as you can. In some cases, however, you might purposefully choose to leave a foot or more of old stem behind. This will result in new shoots emerging from unseen buds embedded within that stem.

2. Next, thin out congested branches in the canopy. “Thinning” is done by cutting a branch back to its point of origin on a main stem. This method is the least conspicuous of all types of pruning, and maintains the plant’s natural growth habit.

While thinning, identify and remove

  1. any dead, damaged or diseased branches
  2. branches that are growing inward, towards the center of the plant
  3. branches that are crossing or rubbing other branches
  4. some of the tallest vigorously upright shoots

Thinning the canopy should be done with hand pruners or loppers, depending on branch diameter. Make each cut at the point where a branch originates from another stem and do not leave a stub.

Resist the urge to shear off the top of the plant with hedge clippers. Shearing may be faster, but branches will respond by putting out excessive, dense brushy growth at the stem tips.

When you are finished, you will have a shrub with stems of various ages that are growing upward and outward, revealing the natural, fountain like form of the plant.

You should be able to toss a football easily through the shrub.

The open habit will allow light and air into the center of the shrub, stimulating sturdy new shoots to emerge from the crown and remaining stems, which will give you flowers in future years.

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Three Ways to Manage Invasive Plants in Your Landscape

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

Weeds have always challenged home gardeners. Many Maine gardeners struggle to manage quackgrass in garden beds, galinsoga in vegetable gardens, bishop’s goutweed in shrub borders, and ground ivy in shady lawns. We identify these weeds, eradicate them, and if we follow up with good management practices we can get ahead of them.

In the past few decades, more and more Maine gardeners have struggled with more serious weeds – plants that not only compete against our garden and landscape plants, but also threaten native plants in wild areas.

In wild areas, these plants cause many disruptions, specific to biological potential of the plants themselves and to the characteristics of the wild sites.

Here are just two examples.

  • Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) seeds are deposited in wooded areas by birds. The resulting seedlings can remain small in the understory, but when a storm or other event opens up a spot in the woods and increases the light level, Asiatic bittersweet takes advantage by quickly growing upward to envelop the trees above it. This reduces tree vigor by preventing them from receiving full light for photosynthesis, but it also adds weight to the trees and over time twines around the trees’ branches and girdles them, sometimes killing them.
  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) seeds are eaten and transported by birds and other small animals. Barberry seeds germinate readily in either sunny or shaded sites, so the plants grow at woodland edges and also deeper in the forest. Deer that graze in these sites eat nonthorny native plants in preference to the sharp-thorny barberry stems, thereby reducing the competition that might keep the barberry in check. There are places in Maine forests where solid stands of Japanese barberry now form large impenetrable thickets. In addition to outcompeting native plants, Japanese barberry’s arching thorny stems leaf out early in the season and provide cover for small mammals like white-footed mouse, which carries blacklegged ticks, the vectors of Lyme disease and other serious diseases. That makes this invasive plant a threat not only to our wild areas, but also to human health.

There are some actions you can take to get ahead of invasive plants in your landscape. As a bonus, your actions will reduce the likelihood that seeds from those plants will generate new plants the can invade wild areas.

Action 1: Don’t buy invasive plants.

Learn which plants are invasive in your area, and avoid them in the marketplace. Several plants that are known to be invasive in Maine wild areas can be purchased either at local businesses or on the internet. Find alternatives! For example, instead of planting burningbush for its red fall foliage, why not plant redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)? It has elegant pink and white flowers in spring, and beautiful fall foliage. Try red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), a 6’-10’ shrub with red fall color. Instead of the red fall foliage of burningbush, why not plant Maine’s native winterberry (Ilex verticillata) with its bright red fall fruits? Another very choice shrub valued for its fall foliage is fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii and Fothergilla major). Its unusual white flowers attract everyone’s attention in spring, and its tutti-frutti fall color is unsurpassed.

Action 2: Rogue out mature invasive plants from your landscape.

You may never have seen seedlings pop up under an invasive plant that has long been in your landscape. For example, it’s common for purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) to be perfectly well behaved in a perennial border. But its seeds are carried by water to wetlands, where it has become a very serious threat to habitat that is critical to water fowl. You might remove the fruits from an invasive plant in your yard, before its seeds are mature, and falsely think you’ve solved the problem. But if that plant has been visited by pollinators who have carried its pollen to other plants that do produce seeds, then your plant is part of the invasion process.

Of course, after you’re removed a mature invasive plant, you’ll want to plant something in its place. Digging out big plants is a process that brings many seeds to the surface, where they are much more likely to germinate and grow. Select a replacement plant, install it, water well and mulch.

Action 3: Remove plants that are invading your landscape when you first see them, before they have a chance to reproduce and make the problem worse.

In my yard, I have learned that two invasive species account for nearly all of the new invasive plants I see: sweet autumn olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Over time, I have learned where they show up most frequently: under landscape plants that produce fruits that attract birds, and under plants whose low growth hides young seedlings until they are well established. I concentrate my scouting efforts on those places.

This photo (right) shows common buckthorn seedlings under a crabapple in my yard. Birds ate buckthorn fruits at a woodland edge, carried the seeds into the yard in their digestive tracts, perched on the crabapple to eat some fruits, and deposited the invasive plant seeds that grew into these plants. At this young stage, these seedlings are easy to rogue out. Their root systems are small, and pulling them does not greatly disturb the soil or the roots of the crabapple. If I left the plants to grow for just a season or two, they would be much more difficult to remove.

Not sure which plants are invasive in Maine?

UMaine Extension offers fact sheets about many of Maine’s invasive plants. Visit our Publications Catalog and look for Maine Invasive Plants to learn which plants are invading Maine, how to identify them, what makes them invasive, and how to manage them.

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The Seed — What a Remarkable Package!

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

Everyone is familiar with the story of John Chapman or “Johnny Appleseed” and how he took seeds from a cider press in Pennsylvania, washed them of the pomace and transported them by canoe to later sow in the wilderness across the country. There are numerous stories and accounts of people in history who brought, spread, and used seeds to benefit others as well as to benefit animals. Seeds have played an important role in history.

Have you ever stopped to wonder about these tiny packages of energy? Within a seed is an embryonic plant, the beginning of a new generation.

Seeds are borne from two distinct plant classes: Gymnosperms (meaning naked seeds) and Angiosperms (vessels for seeds). Conifers or cone bearing plants such as pine and hemlock are Gymnosperms, as are cycads or palm like plants. The seeds from Angiosperms are most common to home gardeners because that is typically what we buy, handle, and sow in our gardens to produce flowers, vegetables or herbs. They are flowering plants.

Seeds come in all shapes and sizes depending on the species. Some seeds stay viable for a mere few hours (such as the willow) while others may remain viable for up to 300 years (Oriental Lotus). What a remarkable package!

What triggers a seed to germinate? Adequate moisture, oxygen, and a suitable temperature must exist for germination. Some seeds require light in addition to these conditions to germinate. The process starts by water moving through the seed coat or coats into the embryo. The moisture causes swelling of the seed. The seed coat ruptures and growth begins. Where does the seed get its energy for growth? Foodstuffs stored in the endosperm or in the cotyledon (first leaves) provide the energy for the first growth before sunlight and photosynthesis takes over.

When you start your seeds this spring or sow seeds in your gardens, make the connection to the people and plants that came before us. By gardening, you are playing a part in the continuance of life. Wow! Have you ever reflected on that before?

To learn more about seeds, saving seeds, and sowing seeds, inquire at your local library, search the Internet, or see our Bulletin #2750, An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener. A great historical reference on seeds is the 1961 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture: Seeds (PDF).

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Garden Clubs Project at Long Creek in South Portland

By Nini McManamy, Cumberland County Master Gardener Class of 2003

Sometimes life takes you to places you didn’t know you wanted to go. When I was a kid, just the sight of the brick hill at the former Boys Training School, later Maine Youth Center and now Long Creek Development Center in South Portland, was enough to scare me into behaving myself. I was nervous just driving by. But three years ago, while working at South Maine Community College (SMCC), my dean asked me to teach a college study skills course there, and I said yes. I fell in love with the place. Today, I volunteer two days a week with the Garden Clubs in winter and summer.

As I write this, we are starting seeds indoors for transplant into our 60′ x 100′ garden bed as soon as the water drains out of the field. We are also beginning to terminate some of the experiments we have been growing under lights indoors, including the hydroponics table the students built. There are two Garden Clubs, one for boys and one for girls, since they do not have classes together. The clubs grow food for the kitchen at Long Creek. The kids fight woodchucks, geese, drought, and bugs like gardeners everywhere. Last year, we had huge success with tomatoes, basil, various greens, and onions. We are hoping for a harvest from our new blueberry bushes this year.

The students get academic credit for the Garden Clubs, but because the population is fluid, maintaining the academic part of the curriculum is a challenge. The program is run by a partnership between a math teacher and a science teacher — who unfortunately left for an unexpectedly lengthy maternity leave in December, leaving me with a bit more responsibility than I anticipated. The math teacher, Susan Finch, provides great leadership to all of us, is an avid gardener, and is much respected by the students. We hope the newly hired science replacement arrives soon, but getting all the background checks completed takes a while. For me, even though I had taught there previously, it took two months to get cleared to volunteer.

Last week we planned the garden. First we identified the wetter areas, then we identified zones for different pH preferences, based on soil treatments we applied last fall as well as pH testing with kits. Next, we took our brainstormed list of desired crops and used the identified soil conditions to place them on the map. Using software we received from Kitchen Gardens International (thanks to a grant written by one of the teachers and one of the students), we created and printed some lovely colored plans for the garden.

We enjoyed a career talk last week by the horticulturist from the city of South Portland, and two students who have earned off-campus privileges (the best motivator there is — off-campus status is necessary if you are on a sports team or have a job in the community) will be taking a field trip next week to the greenhouse at SMCC, a first-ever college visit for those boys.

Meanwhile, we are anxiously awaiting the installation of our new greenhouse, built by the students over the winter in shop class. The platform was installed by students with construction experience last fall next to our tool shed. Like all gardeners, we can’t wait to get outdoors.

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Food and Nutrition

Fiddleheads and Rhubarb: Maine Foods for May

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County, ksavoie@maine.edu

Two of spring’s early edible treats in Maine include rhubarb and fiddleheads. Both of these foods are a pleasure to enjoy in your favorite recipes and these are both very easy to preserve. Once preserved, they can be used and enjoyed again in the off-season. If you are looking to amp up your intake of local foods, preserving is a skill to learn to help extend your access to local foods year round. Check out our upcoming hands-on food preservation workshops.

Using, Storing, and Preserving Rhubarb

Rhubarb, a spring tonic for vitamin C and calcium, is an easy and versatile fruit to use, although it provides only a moderate source of fiber. One of the drawbacks is that because it is so tart, most recipes call for more sugar than most other desserts. As with other fruits, 1/2 cup cooked rhubarb is considered a serving. A serving without sugar is only 29 calories, but with sugar it is 139 calories. By combining the stalks with sweeter fruits, like strawberries, the sugar content can be lowered quite a bit.

To store rhubarb, cut off the leaves, wash the stalks, and store them in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator. Use within one week. (Caution: Rhubarb leaves contain a toxic substance that makes them poisonous. Be sure the leaves are removed before using the stalks. Discard them without cooking or eating.)  For recipes on how to use fresh rhubarb, see Bulletin #4266, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Rhubarb.

Freezing rhubarb is a simple and quick way to preserve it. Watch how in our video on freezing rhubarb.

Because rhubarb is a high-acid product, it can safely be processed in a boiling water bath. For directions on how to can stewed rhubarb, check out Selecting, Preparing and Canning Fruit: Rhubarb — Stewed from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Using and Preserving Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads, an early spring delicacy throughout their range, are the young coiled fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Many people mark the arrival of spring with a fiddlehead-picking outing.

Some important food safety advice for fiddlehead consumers:  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has investigated a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fiddleheads. The implicated ferns were eaten either raw or lightly cooked (sautéed, parboiled or microwaved). The findings of this investigation recommend that you should cook fiddleheads thoroughly before eating (boil fiddleheads for at least 15 minutes).

For information and recipes on how to use, store, and preserve (freezing and pickling) fiddleheads, see Bulletin #4198, Facts on Fiddleheads.

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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.

Image Description: Adult & nymph deer ticks

Image Description: Poorly pruned (sheared) forsythia

Image Description: Properly pruned forsythia, open, fountain-like habit

Image Description: Common Buckthorn seedlings

Image Description: pumpkin seeds

Image Description: seedlings

Maine Home Garden News — April 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

Buying 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

Planning 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

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

Storing 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.

Image Description: garden tools

Image Description: Harvest for Hunger volunteers plant a donation garden

Image Description: seedlings on indoor growing racks

Image Description: Preparing for canning

Maine Home Garden News — March 2014


March Is the Month to . . .

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

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

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Peas in the Home Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Plan to Keep It Covered!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Skowhegan History House Heirloom Gardens

By Patricia Horine, Master Gardener Volunteer, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Column: Food and Nutrition

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

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

Sprout Safety

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

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

What can you do to reduce your risk of illness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2014

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

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

Image Description: seedlings

Image Description: peas

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

Image Description: Plastic mulch with straw mulch between rows

Image Description: Heirloom garden at Skowhegan History House

Maine Home Garden News — October 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

If 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!

Additional 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

This 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

The “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.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Image Description: FoodCorps participants in garden

Image Description: FoodCorps Maine

Image Description: green tomatoes on the vine

Image Description: rain garden plants

Image Description: Master Gardener Volunteers laid out their rain garden plan with colored sticky notes

Maine Home Garden News — September 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.
  • Extend 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. Consider 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. Buy 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.

The 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. 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.

Image Description: row covers; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: rows of lettuce plants; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: Mother and son shopping at a local farm; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: carrots; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Image Description: York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar

Image Description: York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar

Image Description: York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar

Image Description: York County Master Gardeners building a root cellar

Maine Home Garden News — August 2013


August is the month to . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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August Blooming Native Perennials

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

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

Goldenrods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneezeweed

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

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

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

Joe-Pye Weed

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

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

Photos by Reeser Manley.

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When is Hardneck Garlic Ready to Harvest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, see our web page about hornworms.

Also look out for…

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Redesign Your Home Landscape: Add a New Room!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Palermo Community Garden Offers a Hands-on Connection to Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Connie Bellet.

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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Image Description: Gray Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed

Image Description: sneezweed

Image Description: garlic with three brown lower leaves

Image Description: Tobacco and Tomato Hornworms

Image Description: Japanese Beetle

Image Description: gated entrance to a garden

Image Description: rooftop gardens

Image Description: espaliered apple trees

Image Description: Harvesting parsnips

Image Description: Phil builds more raised beds.

Image Description: raised bed community garden

Maine Home Garden News — July 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.
  • Visit 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

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

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

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.”

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.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Image Description: farmer selling produce at farmers market

Image Description: reproductive parts of a flower

Image Description: 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.)

Image Description: Laurie Magee

Image Description: FoodCorps Maine


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