Posts Tagged ‘Maine Home Garden News’

Maine Home Garden News — June 2013

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

June is the month to . . .

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

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

Oh My Aching…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tree Fruit Thinning

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

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

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

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


C is for Cutworm

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

Cutworm. Photo by Charles Armstrong.

Cutworm. Photo by Charles Armstrong.

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

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

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

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

Non Chemical Control Strategies for Cutworms:

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

Other Controls:

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

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


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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — May 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

May is the month to . . .

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

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

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

The Buzz About Bee Gardens

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

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

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

What Do Bees Need?

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

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

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

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

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

Sweat bee on Cosmos

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

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

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

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

Leafcutter bee box

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

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

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

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

There’s Much More to Learn

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

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

For more information:

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

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

Consult lists of bee forage plants for North America:

Learn about Maine invasive plants from UMaine Extension factsheets.


Managing Japanese Knotweed

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

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

Bamboo shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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


What’s In That Compost? Gardeners Be Aware!

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

Background

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

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

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

Auxinic Herbicides Persist in Compost

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

Addressing the Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources for information regarding auxinic herbicides:


Master Gardener Volunteer to Bring Gardening to Waterville School

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

By Brenda Seekins

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

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

Cathy Ribbons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — April 2013

Monday, April 1st, 2013

April is the month to . . .

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

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

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

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

Asparagus

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

Asparagus spears poking up in the garden

Photo by David Handley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fiddleheads

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

fiddleheads

Photo by David Fuller

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

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

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

fiddleheads

Photo by David Fuller

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

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

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

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


Gardening For Community and Youth Development

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

A profile of two Master Gardener Projects in Somerset County

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

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

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

Teaching Methods and Activities

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

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

Results and Impacts

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — March 2013

Friday, March 1st, 2013

March is the month to . . .

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

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

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

Columnar Fruit Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros of Columnar Fruit Trees

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

Cons of Columnar Fruit Trees

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

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

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

SWD male and female

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

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

What is so bad about the fly?

SWD emerging from raspberries

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

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

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

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

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

SWD larvae on blackberry

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

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

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

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

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

SWD on fruit

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

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

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

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

Is there a link for more information about the SWD?

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

How to Identify Spotted Wing Drosophila Damage

Defending Against Spotted Wing Drosophila


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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

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

© 2013

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — October 2012

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

October is the month to . . .

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

  • Clear the garden of remaining vegetation. Apply and integrate compost or manure if you have not already done so. Seed some whole oats on any open areas. Increase the seeding rate as the month progresses. If it’s too late to seed a cover crop, consider spreading a layer straw over the tilled area.

  • This is a good time of year to have your soil tested to determine pH and nutrient levels. Integrate limestone into the soil if suggested by the soil test.

  • Plant dormant perennials like trees and shrubs as there may be some very good deals on these plants at your local garden center.
  • We’ve reached an average daily temp of below 60 degrees F, so bulb planting may start. Plant hardy bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, muscari and scilla. Shop early to get the best selection. Many bulbs are sold in open bins; the later you wait, the more they are apt to be mixed up.
  • Continue to mow your lawn until it stops growing. Mow at its regular height.
  • If you rake leaves, add them to your compost piles.  

  • Consider having a preventative maintenance checkup for your lawn mower. 
  • Empty garden hoses, replace hose washers, roll the hoses up, and store them inside for the winter.
  • Sharpen pruning saws, shears, and blades. Spray cutting surfaces with a thin coat of oil before storing for winter.
  • Take clay pots inside for the winter to avoid them cracking.
  • Evaluate the garden and yard. Make note of what needs to be improved. Act on correcting any hazardous situations in your yard.
  • It’s too late to divide plants, but if there are plants that need to be divided, place a stake or marker to recognize these next spring. The best time to divide plants is early spring because of coolness, adequate soil moisture, and the plants are ready to grow at that time. Think about what you want to divide and do your marking now.
  • Wrap the trunks of young fruit trees with plastic mouse guards or hardware cloth. When using hardware cloth, provide an adequate space for tree trunk growth as the hardware cloth is typically left in place throughout the year. Plastic guards are snug against the trunk through the fall and winter and are removed in the spring and summer.
  • If chainsaws are to be used for bucking up firewood or felling trees, make sure the saw and chains are in good working order. Operators should have proper personal protective equipment such as hardhat, eye protection, earmuffs, chaps, and proper footwear. Review chainsaw safety guidelines in Bulletin #2353, Chain Saw Safety.
  • Be ready for mice with proper control measures. Mice seek a safe winter harborage at this time of year. Your home, barn, shed, and garage can be preferred destinations for them. For more information, see eXtension’s House Mice Damage Management: Damage Prevention and Control Methods.

Sweet Haven Farm Harvest For Hunger Project: A Hancock County Master Gardener Volunteer Project

By Dorcas Corrow, University of Maine Master Gardener Volunteer, Hancock County

Master Gardener Volunteers Tom McIntyre and Sarah Day Levesque harvest crops at Sweet Haven Farm for donation to Mount Desert Island congregate living centers.

Master Gardener Volunteers Tom McIntyre and Sarah Day Levesque harvest crops at Sweet Haven Farm for donation to Mount Desert Island congregate living centers.

Early in February, the grow lights flicker on and seedlings for the Harvest for Hunger project are started; onions and leeks come first. Over the next couple of months, plantings are staged according to how long it takes the plants to be ready to transplant into the gardens. As soon as feasible, the hoop house and cold frames are employed to hold the seedlings while they mature.

In May, volunteer workers start to come several days each week to prepare the garden plots. They add soil amendments according to the soil tests and mix in the required minerals and nutrients using hand tools. They put down weed deterring mulch in the walkways, and plant seeds and seedlings. The harvest will provide fresh produce for congregate living centers around Mount Desert Island.

Things begin to come up in June and by mid-June, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, green onions, and other early crops are ready for volunteers to harvest and deliver to the various sites that are the target users of Sweet Haven Farm produce. Volunteers continue to weed, plant, and maintain the gardens throughout the summer.

We have 4,000 square feet of growing space devoted to this project. We try out various organic methods of protecting crops from insects and disease. We try new varieties of standard crops. We all work hard at making the gardens a showplace for crop maintenance and succession planting. We work at having plots fallow as short a time as possible. We exchange ideas as we work; we are always experimenting and trying to improve our crop yields. The goal is to provide good tasting and nutritious vegetables that are chemical free to as many people in need as possible.

We delivered 1,000 pounds of vegetables last year and plan to exceed that poundage this year. At the beginning and the end of the growing season, we have a luncheon to discuss our plans, our successes, and ways to improve. The people who make this possible are a combination of University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and community volunteers.

The Volunteers are: Jean Howell, Sarah Day Lavesque, Tom McIntyre, Kay Woody, Jennifer Wright, Torie Hallock, Steve Keiser, Pam Mitchell Dakota Strassner, Heidi Welch, Cass Wright, Muriel Davisson, Cecilia Schmidt, Eva Eicher, and Dorcas Corrow.


Fall: A Good Time to Apply Compost

By Mark Hutchinson, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Knox and Lincoln Counties, mhutch@maine.edu.

My garden in the fall is as busy as in the spring. I spend time removing any weeds that have grown under the canopy of the crop to prevent any additions to the soil weed seed bank. It is also a time to plant cover crops to conserve the soil and retain any plant available nutrients in the soil. However, before planting a cover crop is a good time to add compost.

Compost is a very good soil amendment. One function of compost is to increase the soil organic matter, which provides food for the soil biological community. Healthy soil has a very dynamic and diverse microbial population, which is beneficial to the health of your plants. By adding compost in the fall, you ensure a wealth of food for the biological community late into the fall and early spring.

Just like most things in life, too much of a good thing is not good. Over-application of compost can cause soil nutrient levels to become excessive, especially phosphorous and potassium. Most home gardeners tend to use too much compost in their gardens. Small numerous applications of compost will improve the long term health of the soil better than one large single application. The soil community can only process a limited amount of food at one time, so feed them slowly and often.

So how much compost should be added? Many recommendations suggest 1 or 2 inches of compost; this equals between 60 and 80 cubic yards per acre. This is an excessive amount of compost! Compost should be applied so you can barely see the compost on the soil surface (think about pepper on mashed potatoes!). Though it appears to be very little, the soil biological community will maximize the available food. The compost does not need to be incorporated into the soil. Earthworms and other organisms will carry the organic matter into their holes. This activity will also help maintain the soil structure.

Remember that all composts are not created equal. If you have been composting all summer, some of the compost in your bin may still be immature. Immature compost can cause negative impacts on plant growth. Immature compost applied in the fall, however, is not an issue because the compost will mature before spring planting with the help of the soil organisms. Note: Immature compost should never be used in potting mixes or for potted plants as unfinished compost produces phytotoxins, which can damage plants. This affect is more pronounced in containers and potting mixes because there is less dilution than in field soils.

Fall is also a good time to prepare for winter composting. One way to continue composting through the winter is to collect leaves in a large wire or wood slotted container (4’x4’x4’). The container should be placed in a convenient local with good southern exposure (think about trudging through the snow). Kitchen scraps can be added throughout the winter by moving leaves to the side, placing the food material in the leaves and recovering. The key is to make sure the kitchen scraps are well covered with leaves to prevent any vector issues, a minimum of 12 inches. A wire mesh cover can also be helpful in controlling vectors. Additional leaves can be stored in plastic garbage bags and be added to the bin as the leaves and food compost. It is easier to add food waste if the bin is full of leaves. In the spring, the material can be added directly to the garden or continue to compost during the summer and added in the fall.

Compost and organic matter are critical components of healthy garden soils. Just remember that too much of a good thing usually has a negative effect. Think small quantities often when it comes to compost applications.

For more about compost and compost usage, the following books are my favorite resources:

  • Hanson, Beth-Editor, Easy Compost. Brooklyn, New York, 2005.
  • Martin, Deborah L., Gershuny, Grace-Editors, The Rodale Book of Composting. Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1992.
  • Pleasant, Barbara, Martin, Deborah L., The Complete Compost Gardening Guide. North Adams, Massachusetts, 2008.

http://youtu.be/0vwARMPYHgo


Garden Curiosities, Fact or Fiction?

By Kathryn Hopkins, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension, Somerset County, khopkins@maine.edu.

fasciation

Fasciation. Photo by Kathy Hopkins.

One day, a person brought in this plant and asked, “I saw this unusual plant and would like to buy one. What is it?” It was a bit hard to tell what the plant originally was and here is the explanation why.

Plants usually produce easily recognizable and consistent growth in their stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Occasionally plants produce unusual growth with odd or misshapen structures that make identification difficult. Some of the oddities that plants produce are called fasciations, galls, and chimeras.

Fasciations are an abnormal flattening of plant parts, usually stems, that develop when cells at the growing tip are changed to a jagged row of cells, which continue producing jagged cells that form a wide flat stem that may also appear ribbed, like in the picture (at right). Sometimes these flattened stems grow into a coil, like this plant. The leaves are often abnormally small and fasciations in flowers may look like two flowers fused together. Fasciations can be caused by imbalanced hormones, extreme temperature fluctuations, or insect, bacteria or virus attack. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

gall

Gall on goldenrod. Photo by Kathy Hopkins.

Galls are abnormal, localized swellings on the plant that may also look like tumors. On hardwood trees, these are referred to as burls. The causes of some galls are unexplained. Some are caused by the plant’s reaction to bacteria, fungi or insects. One common gall that we see in autumn is the goldenrod gall. It is a swelling caused by an insect, the Goldenrod Gall Fly, Eurosta solidaginis. This insect spends its entire life cycle on the goldenrod plant; the swelling on the stem that you see in the picture is where the female laid an egg that hatched into a larvae. The goldenrod fly larvae has a chemical in its saliva that causes the plant to grow a round stem swelling that makes a home for the larvae for the next year. Many trees also develop galls in response to insects or diseases. Some woodworkers prize the galls from hardwood species and use them to craft beautiful burl bowls.

Variegated ivy

Variegated ivy. Photo by Kathy Hopkins.

Chimeras are formed when some part of the genetic code of a plant cell is accidentally mutated and two or more distinctly different plant tissues overlay each other. If the mutated cells survive and continue producing new mutated cells, the plant is called a chimera, or a plant with two distinct parts. A sport is when a part of the plant shows a distinct variation from the parent. Some chimeras or sports have become valuable commercial plants. Many commercial fruits developed from a sport – a branch of fruit that was different and better than the rest of the original tree.

Sometimes chimeras cause flowers or leaves to be different colors or multicolored. Often, new plants are produced commercially by taking cuttings from these unusual plants. Diffenbachia, Peperomia, Chlorophytum, and Saintpaulia are a few of the chimeras that have variegated foliage. If you have ever had a variegated plant that faded to a single color, it may be that the genetic code has reverted to its original color.

For more information:


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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

© 2012

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — September 2012

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

September is the month to . . .

By Amy Witt, Horticulturist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County, amy.witt@maine.edu.

fresh vegetables

Photo by Amy Witt

  • Enjoy, preserve, and donate your harvest. UMaine Extension has a variety of videos and fact sheets on preserving so that you can enjoy the summer harvest well into the year. Once you have stored and preserved all you are able to, consider donating the extra produce to local food pantries through our Maine Harvest for Hunger program. Last year, farmers, and gardeners raised and donated 293,820 pounds (140 tons) worth $473,328 of vegetables and fruits to food pantries, shelters, and charitable organizations around Maine. Go to Maine Harvest for Hunger to find out how you can get involved.
  • Visit one of Maine’s agricultural fairs. From Clinton to the Common Ground, there are still many fairs happening around the state in September.  Go to the Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs to get the complete schedule.
  • Review the year. How did your crops do; which vegetables were high producers; what plant varieties were your favorites; what were your successes and failures; what disease and insect pests did you have (for advice on any disease or insect pest, contact your local UMaine Extension county office); what is your plan for next season?
  • Put your gardens to bed. In your vegetable garden, harvest remaining vegetables and fruits; remove spent plants and debris; plant a cover crop like hairy vetch, winter or annual rye to provide erosion and weed control. Mark your perennials before you cut them back, so you don’t mistakenly dig them up later in the fall or spring. Remember to leave plants with well-established seedheads, like cosmos, echinacea, and rudebeckia, as the goldfinches and other birds will enjoy them throughout the fall. Get additional tips from UMaine Extension’s video: Putting the Garden to Bed.

  • Do a soil test and add appropriate amendments to your soil in preparation for planting next spring. Soil test kits can be obtained from your local UMaine Extension county office or directly from the Analytical Lab and Maine Soil Testing Service at the University of Maine in Orono. Watch UMaine Extension’s video on soil testing for more information.

dahlias

Photo by Amy Witt

  • Dig up tender bulbs, corms, tubers, and roots (like canna lilies, dahlias, and gladiolas) after their foliage has died back or has been killed by frost. Cure them in a dry, well ventilated room with temperatures between 60º – 70°, and away from direct sun and wind. Most tender plants will take 1-3 days to cure (gladiolas can take up to 3 weeks). To store the cured materials, place them in a ventilated container and layer them with peat moss, sand, shredded newspaper or sawdust. Store them in an area with temperatures ranging from 40º – 50°.
  • Divide summer blooming perennials. Dividing perennials helps rejuvenate and control the size of the plants, as well as increases the number of plants you have (which is great if you need more plants to fill in an empty space, establish a new garden bed, or share with others). Keep in mind that once they are divided, it will take 4-6 weeks for the transplants to become established. Be sure to give the plants enough time to settle in before the ground freezes. See the fact sheet Dividing Perennials published by Clemson University Cooperative Extension for detailed information and instructions.
spring bulbs

Photo by Amy Witt

  • Plant spring bulbs. In addition to crocus, hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, and muscari, why not try something new this year like spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum), orange candle flower (Arum italicum), or Dracula plant (Dracunculus vulgaris)? When selecting bulbs, make sure they are hardy and disease free. Bulbs should be planted in a well-drained soil with a temperature below 60°. Adding organic matter to the soil when planting will provide an added benefit to the bulbs.
  • Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Fall is an excellent time to plant. Because plants are putting most of their energy into root development at this time of year they will be more established come spring. Also, many of the nurseries have sales, which means you can purchase more plants for the same money you would have spent on one plant earlier in the season. Refer to UMaine Extension Bulletin #2366, Selecting, Planting and Caring for Shrubs and Trees in the Maine Landscape for general guidelines on proper selection and planting.
  • Prepare new gardens beds for next spring. It is easy—just determine the site, fertilize (for every 100 square feet of planting area, add 6 cups of a complete fertilizer containing approximately 5% nitrogen), and stamp down, cut or mow any existing vegetation so that all the plants lay flat on the ground. To prevent the roots from re-sprouting, add four layers of newspaper or one layer of landscape barrier paper on top of the area. Make sure to overlap the edges of the paper and wet the paper to keep it in place. Once the paper is down, cover it with mulch (to cover a 100 square foot area 1 inch deep, you need 1/3 cubic yard of mulch—you can use compost, grass clippings, seaweed, wood chips, leaves, straw, and so forth—try to use materials that are free of weed seeds). Let the area sit over the winter and it will be ready to plant in the spring.
  • Fertilize, establish or re-seed your lawn. The period between mid-August and mid-September is the best time to pamper your lawn. For more information about establishing a lawn, see UMaine Extension Bulletin #2367, Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine.


Master Gardener Volunteers Making a Difference — Kids Can Grow, Bangor

By Katherine Garland, Horticulturist, UMaine Extension, Penobscot County, katherine.garland@maine.edu.

The sun is shining, a Master Gardener has pulled the hose across the parking lot to the garden, bags for harvesting are lined up by the fence, and kids are beginning to arrive. Welcome to Kids Can Grow at the new Youth Community Garden in Bangor, one of several Master Gardener projects in Penobscot County.

Kids Can Grow program particpants work in garden

Photo by Barb Baker

Kids Can Grow is a 4-H youth gardening program that provides young people with the training, tools, seeds, and supplies necessary for success in their own garden. Kids Can Grow sites are dotted throughout the state, each with their own unique character. The Bangor program began meeting after school in late April of 2012. Participants were matched with a Master Gardener Mentor who helped them work on planning their own 3’ x 5’ garden plot found within the collection 20 raised beds located at the Bangor Housing Authority Community Center. During after school meetings in the spring, we enjoyed healthy snacks, started seeds, constructed raised beds, and planned a few extra gardens for kids who would enter the program later in the season. Weekly summer activities included garden planting, nutrition lessons, garden maintenance, entomology, and composting. Our young farmers enjoyed a bountiful harvest this year and none of it would have happened without the generous support of our dedicated Penobscot County Master Gardeners who made this program a great success: Ellen Fisher, Jim Green, Alix Johns, Mara Kosa, Jan Placella, Dale Quimby, and Susan Sombret.

For more information on the Master Gardener Volunteer Training visit  umaine.edu/gardening/master-gardeners.


Winter Squash & Pumpkins — An Interview with Dr. David Handley, UMaine Extension Small Fruit & Vegetable Specialist

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

How do you know when pumpkins or winter squash are ready for harvest? The best thing to do to determine ripeness is to look at the “ground spot.” The spot where the fruit sets on the ground will develop a deep yellow or deep orange color. This color change is a good indication that the fruit if ready to pick.

When I harvest winter squash or pumpkins, what do I need to look for in regards to quality, size, and being blemish-free? The skin of the pumpkins or squash should be sound (no obvious wounds, lesions or soft spots). The stem should be firm and well attached to the fruit. Minor scrapes or cuts can sometimes be resolved with good curing.

I have heard that winter squash stores better when the squash is cured. What does curing entail? Curing is basically a process for the skin to thicken to preserve the flesh better. Curing involves storing the harvested fruit it in a warm, dry place for about 2-3 weeks, such as in a greenhouse, a high tunnel or upstairs in a barn. Field curing of harvested fruit gathered in a windrow and left in the field is also used. If the windrow method is used, the fruit must be protected from frosts and freezes. By the end of 2-3 weeks, the pumpkins and squash are then placed into cold storage 50-60 degrees F. An unheated bedroom or cellar works fine.

What effect does frost or freeze have on winter squash or pumpkins in the field or left outside (uncovered)?Low temperatures tend to freeze the skin of the fruit. After freezing, the skin becomes soft. With softened skin, the fruit will lose its storage life. If pumpkins or squash have been frozen, they should be consumed or processed immediately.

squash

Photo by David Handley

Which winter squash varieties store best for long-term storage? Buttercup, Hubbard, and Acorn can store for long periods if cured properly.

Are there some varieties of pumpkin that are better for eating than others? Yes, UMaine has been looking at varieties for several years. In general, some varieties are sold as “pie type” or “eating type.” These are small (3-5 lb.) fruit, including varieties such as New England Pie, Small Sugar, and Winter Luxury. They have much better eating quality than the larger jack-o-lantern pumpkins. FYI, good pumpkin pies are usually made with squash.

What do I look for when selecting pumpkins and squash varieties for next year?Look at the descriptions and characteristics in the seed catalogs for next year’s selections. Seek varieties that mature under 100 days (if direct seeding). Plant seeds or transplants after the danger of frost has passed.

squash

Photo by David Handley

What is the difference between winter squash and summer squash? All squashes are in the genus cucurbita. Within the genus are three main species. They include: cucurbita pepo (star shaped stem); cucurbita maxima (Banana, Buttercup, and Hubbard); cucurbita mochata (Butternut, Wheel pumpkins). All summer squash varieties are in the genus and species cucurbita pepo; the skin and flesh of summer squash are meant to be eaten when the fruit is immature. Summer squash are divided into three general types: yellow, green or scallop. Winter squash have thick skin that is meant to be peeled, leaving the flesh for consumption.

What is Suberization? Suberization is the self healing process for any abrasions on the skin of pumpkins and squash. A corkiness is formed. (Merriam-Webster’s definition.)


Been Thinking about Low Cost Foods & Winter Meals?

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

I have limited garden space and I am unable to produce large quantities of vegetables or fruits to preserve or store for the winter. What I commonly do to rectify the situation is to search out and purchase produce from local farmers that is low cost and easily stored (unrefrigerated). I focus on four vegetables — potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, and winter squash. When you consider the price of food, these four vegetables are a real bargain. The price of these vegetables is typically at or under $1.00 per pound. These types of vegetables can be stored in a cool, clean place that is protected from freezing temperatures.

Are you in the same situation? If so, you might try these activities.

  • Take a fact-finding tour of the produce section of your local grocery store or supermarket. Go there with the purpose of finding foods that are $1.00 per pound or under. Bring a hand calculator and small pad of paper (or your cell phone for picture-taking). Check the unit pricing label so you can easily compare price per pound. This is what you will probably find: a 10 pound bag of potatoes in the grocery store is typically about $5.00 (50 cents/pound); rutabagas are 89 cents/pound; a 5 pound bag of carrots is under $5.00; and the price of winter squash ranges from 80 cents to $1.00/pound. Much of the produce in the grocery store likely came from farms within Maine (or could have). You can probably find lower prices and larger units from local farmers.
  • Interview family members to determine what low cost produce is favored for winter consumption. Think like your grandparents or think like a pilgrim. What did they stock up on in the fall for the long New England winter?
  • Depending on your location (and the price of gasoline), schedule a road trip to Aroostook County in early October. Columbus Day weekend is a great time for a road trip to The County. You will find potato growers selling 50 pound bags of their potatoes on the roadside at prices that range $10.00 to $18.00 — that’s 20 to 36 cents a pound!
  • Do you know a farmer who grows potatoes, carrots, winter squash or rutabagas? If so, make a connection now to arrange to purchase 10-20 pounds of produce. Many of these crops are harvested in September. If you don’t know a local farmer, you can find Maine farms at the website of the Maine Department of Agriculture: Get Real, Get Maine and Find a Farm.
  • Seek out a winter farmers market in your area or participate in a winter CSA. This type of produce is typically grown and sold at these markets. This strategy might be appropriate for you especially if you lack storage space.

Before purchasing bulk produce for winter consumption, calculate how much your family will consume over the next 6 months (November to April) and make sure you have a suitable space and site for proper storage. An unheated bedroom or an unheated cellar works well for most produce. Food grade plastic bins are cheap containers for keeping produce organized, clean and protected. Condensation can occur, so check the bins occasionally (once or twice a week) and wipe any moisture collecting on the sides or lids. Line the bins with newsprint to absorb condensation. Produce stores best under conditions of proper temperatures and humidity. Be aware of rodents and watch for signs of their presence. Address rodent control quickly. Rodents are seeking winter harbor, too, and usually start entering homes and cellars in October.

UMaine Extension has developed some handy resources on how to use these products. Here are links to specific publications:

There are some other low cost foods that are produced locally that you could buy in bulk. You might consider beets, cabbage, apples, onions or garlic.


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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

© 2012

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — August 2012

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

August is the month to . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Master Gardener Volunteer Outreach — Gardening at the Veterans’ Home

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Edwin Remsberg

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

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

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

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


On the Trail of the Anonymous Ambersnail

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

snail

Photo by Craig Anthony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Photo by Don Morrison

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

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

lawn turned into garden

Photo by Don Morrison

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

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

# # #

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


4th Annual Backyard Locavore Day

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

backyard garden

Photo by Kelly Ash

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


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

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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — July 2012

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

July is the month to . . .

By Kate Garland, Horticulture Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Penobscot County, katherine.garland@maine.edu.

  • Seek local gardens to tour as a way to pick up news gardening ideas and tips. Visit public gardens or parks in your area. Garden clubs and groups often arrange tours of some of their best gardens.
  • Pay attention to what is happening in your yard and garden. Look for and note any changes, growth, damage, stress, death, fruit formation or flowering. On damaged plants, look for the culprits. Some of this inspection might need to take place on your hands and knees.
  • If slugs are in your gardens, consider using control such as iron phosphate. For more information, see Bulletin #5036, Slugs.
  • Enjoy your flowering lilies. If you have lilies, you may have lily leaf beetle. For more information, see Bulletin #2450, Lily Leaf Beetle.
  • Enroll in Maine Harvest for Hunger. Learn how you can help – it’s not just for gardeners who have a lot of zucchini! Consider Harvest for Hunger if you are a business or organization looking for a service project.
  • Enjoy a bountiful crop of beans.   Learn how to freeze green beans. While you’re at it, be sure to gather supplies and learn about preserving all of your upcoming harvests.

  • Learn about insect repellents. Remember insect repellents are registered pesticides!
  • Visit your local farmers market and visit a nearby farm on Open Farm Day, Sunday July 22nd. Watch farm activities and demonstrations from milking to felting; pet farm animals, pick berries, tour a barn or go on a hay ride.
  • Set up drip irrigation in your home garden. Water plays a big role in how much you harvest every year.
  • Learn about common diseases and insect pests on fruit trees.
  • Scout for Colorado potato beetles. They are a serious pest of potatoes and they also like tomatoes and eggplant. Destroying their bright yellow egg masses as soon as you see them can greatly reduce their damage.
  • Re-seed empty spots in your garden with peas, lettuce, radishes, chard, spinach, beet greens and other short-season crops. You could also sow a cover crop.

Mosquitoes!

By Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Piscataquis County, donna.coffin@maine.edu.

mosquitoMosquitoes are one of the most common complaints from people who enjoy gardening during the spring and summer months. It’s only female mosquitoes that feed on blood to obtain the required protein needed to produce and lay eggs. In this biting process the females can act as vectors of parasites and disease organisms, such as malaria, yellow fever, and various forms of viral encephalitis such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV).

In Maine, most of the nuisance biting mosquitoes can be broadly placed in three groups based on their breeding sites or where they are likely to cause the greatest problem: urban, woodland or salt marsh. All mosquitoes pass through four developmental stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid either in or near water or in moist depressions that will fill with water during the spring or in flood times. All larvae and pupae require water to develop to adults. Mosquitoes are usually the most active in the evening or on overcast days.

Control Methods

The following are various controls that can be undertaken to reduce the presence of mosquitoes, either by elimination of breeding places or destruction of the adults or larvae. Alone, these methods won’t eliminate your mosquito problem. However, using an integrated approach of combining several of these methods, you should see some results in reduction of mosquito annoyance.

  • Eliminate Breeding Sites – sources of stagnant water, (e.g. unused pools, old tires, tin cans along with other similar discarded containers, rain gutters, and birdbaths). Also, be sure to check and refresh water weekly in small children’s wading pools, birdbaths, and animal water dishes and tubs to eliminate larvae. Keep dumpsters and trash receptacles covered to prevent water accumulation.
  • Eliminate Adult Resting Sites – Cut back or remove dense brush and similar vegetation from around houses and camps. Keep grassy areas mowed short. Promote natural breezes to discourage mosquito occurrence.
  • Encourage Natural Predators – Although limited in their effectiveness, predators such as dragonflies, bats, birds, frogs, and mosquito eating fish naturally control the numbers of mosquitoes, especially in and around small farm and garden ponds or pools.
  • Water management – Every community should consider water management as a very important component of their mosquito reduction program. Roadside ditches and culverts should be cleared to avoid water stagnation.
  • Use of burning wicks containing pyrethrum or citronella candles may provide some relief in limited areas, provided that there is no wind. Although expensive, commercial traps that use carbon dioxide and octenol as attractants can be effective in reducing mosquito annoyance when used with other management tools. However, proper placement of commercial traps is critical.
  • Homeowners and camp owners can alleviate the mosquito nuisance indoors by installing and maintaining tight fitting window and door screens and keeping outside lighting to a minimum. Specific materials for screen treatment containing insecticides, such as permethrin, may add to the effectiveness of screens.
  • Beware of novelty approaches to mosquito control, including such things as “bug zappers,” various sound devices, and scented geraniums (“mosquito plants”). While there may be certain psychological benefits to the use of such things, they are usually expensive and there is little scientific evidence to support the claims of those who market such products. There is no sure-fire solution to the problems as some would assert.

Personal Protection

The use of protective clothing and insect repellants are two tactics that can provide some personal protection against adult mosquitoes.

  • Protective clothing include veils or mosquito netting worn around the head, or even the entire body as a suit, high boots, long sleeved shirts, long pants, gloves, etc. As with many biting flies, it is best to avoid the use of colognes and perfumes while in the field as these may enhance biting fly activity!
  • Insect repellents are chemicals that can be applied to the skin or clothing that will repel mosquitoes and to a lesser extent black flies and ticks. A number of products are available, and come as pressurized sprays, creams, sticks and liquid formulations that are usually spread on exposed parts of the body. The two repellents that have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature are DEET and Picaridin. Studies indicate that oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant-based repellent, also provides protection similar to low concentrations of DEET. Usually a few drops of repellent applied to the neck, face, hands, and arms or sprayed onto thin clothing items such as stockings can repel mosquitoes for periods of 2 hours or more. Since repellents can irritate the eyes or the lips, care should be taken in their application. Be sure to read the instructions to make sure the repellent won’t harm clothing or especially plastic items. Do not over use repellents. Be especially careful with DEET on young children. For more information regarding the use of repellents visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.
  • Clothing treatments with permethrin (a toxicant) products have a long lasting period of effectiveness but cannot be applied directly to the skin; once dried on clothing however, there is little or no transfer of chemical compounds.

UMaine Extension Fact Sheets:


Are You Berry Smart?

By David Handley, Vegetable & Small Fruit Specialist, UMaine Extension, Highmoor Farm, david.handley@maine.edu.

strawberriesSure, you’ve been growing all those great berries for years, but how much do you really know about small fruit? Here’s a little quiz for all of you horticultural trivia fans and berry know-it-alls that provides some interesting facts and insights about our favorite little fruits. A score of 10 or better earns you the rank of Golden Strawberry.

Small Fruit Trivia Quiz

  1. Which three fruit are considered the only true native American fruit?
    1. Strawberry
    2. Raspberry
    3. Concord Grape
    4. Blueberry
    5. Cranberry
  2. What small fruit variety is considered to be the first commercially bred and named horticultural variety in the United States?
    1. Concord Grape
    2. Hovey Strawberry
    3. Elizabeth Blueberry
    4. Early Black Cranberry
  3. “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” This famous quote is attributed to William Butler, a 17th Century writer, referred to what fruit?
    1. Strawberry
    2. Raspberry
    3. Grape
    4. Blueberry
  4. Botanically speaking, a berry refers to a very specific type of fruiting structure. Which one of the following are “true” berries?
    1. Strawberry
    2. Raspberry
    3. Blueberry
    4. Grape
  5. The Concord grape formed the basis of an entire juice and jelly making industry in America, yet the man who developed it earned no money and received little recognition for his efforts. Who was he?
    1. Luther Burbank
    2. Thomas Jefferson
    3. Ephraim Bull
    4. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  6. What Native New Englander and famous fruit breeder has had a strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry variety named in his honor?
    1. Elwyn Meader
    2. George Darrow
    3. Thomas Latham
    4. Arthur Howard
  7. Which small fruit can not be grown in Maine as a result of state law barring its culture and importation?
    1. Juneberry
    2. Black currant
    3. Loganberry
    4. Hempfruit
  8. What berry(ies) did President Reagan publicly cite as an example of frivolous government spending?
    1. Strawberry
    2. Raspberry
    3. Blueberry
    4. Cranberry
  9. What fruit, originally called “Chinese Gooseberry,” was renamed to improve its consumer appeal?
    1. Kiwifruit
    2. Jostaberry
    3. Star Fruit
    4. Jujube
  10. What fruit, in its botanical and anatomical or structural sense, most closely resembles a strawberry?
    1. Raspberry
    2. Fig
    3. Lemon
    4. Pineapple
  11. Which berry is said to have been the favored fruit of Greek Gods? Hint: the Latin or species name of this fruit refers to this honor.
    1. Strawberry
    2. Raspberry
    3. Blueberry
    4. Grape
  12. What is the official fruit of the state of Maine?
    1. Apple
    2. Cranberry
    3. Blueberry
    4. Strawberry

Answers

  1. c, d, e. (cultivated strawberries and raspberries are mixed with European types)
  2. b.  Charles Mason Hovey (1810- 1887) of Massachusetts, was one of the first and most prolific strawberry breeders in the U.S.
  3. a. Dr. Butler’s quote was made famous by Izaak Walton in his book The Complete Angler (1655), a treatise on fishing.
  4. c, d. Botanically, strawberries and raspberries are considered “aggregates”, not berries.
  5. c. Ephraim Wales Bull (1805-1895) developed the grape from wild seedlings in Concord Massachusetts, but it was Thomas Welsh, who began experimenting with the juice of this grape in 1869, that would, with his son, develop large and successful company based on the fruit.  Bull died near penniless.  His epitaph reads “He sowed, others reaped”.
  6. b. George Darrow (1889-1983) was a native of Vermont, but spent most of his professional career at the USDA Fruit Laboratory in Beltsville, MD.   He wrote over 200 publications on small fruit and developed such important varieties as the Blakemore strawberry, which was an industry standard for over 20 years.
  7. b. Black currants are illegal to grow in Maine because they are an alternate host for white pine blister rust, an important and devastating disease of white pine.  Maine is sometimes called the “Pine Tree State”.
  8. c, d. In his 1986 State of the Union Address, President Reagan was hoping to win support for a line item veto in the federal budget by citing what he called wasteful research programs on such things as blueberries and cranberries.  Ironically, a blueberry flavored jelly bean was later developed especially for his second inauguration and has become one of the most popular flavors.
  9. a. The original name was thought to be unappealing by fruit growers in New Zealand hoping to develop a world-wide market for the fruit, and thus changed the name to honor their country’s famous native flightless bird, the kiwi.
  10. d. Both pineapples and strawberries are aggregates, with each “fruit” having numerous small, true fruit called achenes.
  11. b. The red raspberry is classified as Rubus idaeus with the species name idaeus referring to Mount Ida where, it is said, the Greek gods would go to harvest this fruit.
  12. c.  Actually, it’s the Wild Blueberry.

Morris Farm Master Gardener Volunteers Strive for Continuous Harvest

By Paul Fenton, Master Gardener Volunteer, UMaine Extension, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo Counties.

In 2007, I took the Master Gardener Volunteer program for Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo Counties. I really enjoyed the classes and the positive attitude of everyone I met. I’d found a home and volunteered to do several different things. While all of the projects I tried were wonderful, the Morris Farm in Wiscasset really hit a home run for me. It had a great atmosphere and a well established group of Master Gardeners who’d maintained a large garden for many years.

In 2008, after winter planning meetings, I planted a circular-shaped demonstration garden with vegetables that were uniquely Italian. We grew cardoons, arugula, radicchio, fennel, Cavolo Nero kale, and fava beans. The colors, textures, and flavors in the garden were truly beautiful.

The next year, two of us decided to run a carrot trial. We selected 10 varieties and tried to measure whether they would meet the specifications they were bred to produce in the farm’s notorious heavy clay. Planting was late because of wet weather, thinning was difficult, and at harvest the carrots did not meet the specs. Our conclusion? Carrots would never be a cash crop for Morris Farm!

In 2010, we decided to grow more vegetables for Plant-A-Row for the Hungry (now Maine Harvest for Hunger). To get past the clay and quack grass, we decided to add two very large raised beds, 30 feet long and 4 feet wide. We grew 20 different varieties of vegetables and made careful notes about their performance. We found that raised beds were ready to plant earlier in the spring, but very quick to dry, needing extra watering and coordination of volunteers to keep them at peak performance. We were rewarded with a harvest of over 1,300 pounds of food, which we donated predominantly to the Bath Soup Kitchen. We also had a very well-attended tomato tasting event to raise money for the Morris Farm Trust. At the end of the season, we wrote a detailed summary of our results and decided to expand the number of raised beds for the next season’s focus on Maine Harvest for Hunger.

In 2011, we added two 24’ x 4’ raised beds and a “Three Sisters” demonstration garden with corn, squash, and pole beans. Despite losing most of our squash to insects, our tomatoes to late blight, and a record infestation of Colorado potato beetles, we exceeded our harvest from the year before. We also learned a great deal about how to increase our soil productivity, spending one of our group work days applying chicken manure to the gardens.

This season, we’ve completed our raised bed journey by adding one 36’ x 4’ and two 12’ x 4’ beds. This left us with the original circle garden and the Three Sisters garden as the only ones with native clay, which has been greatly improved with organic matter and a 2:1 mix of blood meal and kelp meal for general fertility. We’ve also been fine-tuning our bio-intensive planting schedule, where there’s never a space left unplanted. When we harvest a vegetable, another one goes in. Within this succession, we do our best to rotate crop families.

The garden at Morris Farm has been a learning experience for all nine of us. We’ve tried to use our successes (and mistakes) to manage tasks, improve our soil, and increase our yield for Maine Harvest for Hunger. If you’d like to meet us and see our gardens, please visit on July 22nd for Open Farm Day!

A few of the Morris Farm Master Gardener Volunteers on planting day.

A few of the Morris Farm Master Gardener Volunteers on planting day.


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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — June 2012

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

June is the month to . . .

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

  • Identify white grubs you may have in your lawn and apply preventive treatment, if necessary. It is too late to treat for the grubs you have now, but you may be able to impact the next generation. For assistance in identifying white grubs, contact the Insect and Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab in Orono. Be sure to read and follow the label of any pesticide you use. The label is the law!
  • Enroll in Maine Harvest for Hunger to help provide fresh, local produce to Maine’s food insecure. You can help us reach our goal of 300,000 pounds in 2012. Information and enrollment are available online. These fact sheets on Food for ME: Citizen Action for Community Food Recovery will give you some ideas for community gardens, gleaning, and other ways you can help.
  • Stake your tomato plants to ensure good air flow, reduce diseases, and improve fruit development. For a quick how-to, check out Vegetable Specialist Mark Hutton demonstrating some best practices. If you prefer tomato cages, he can give you some tips for that as well.

  • Consider container gardening! If you are short on space, time or both, container gardens can be a great way to enjoy fresh produce on your deck or patio all summer long. Extension Educator, Barbara Murphy can show you how.
  • Think about garden safety. From choosing a site for your garden to harvesting and washing your produce, plan ahead to ensure the safety of the foods you grow. For more tips on food safety, visit our Food & Health website.

  • Visit a local strawberry farm to pick your own delicious summer fruit. You can find a farm near you at the Maine Department of Agriculture’s website. When you get home, enjoy your strawberries fresh or preserve them by freezing or making jam to enjoy them year-round.

  • Get ahead of garden pests by mulching where you can to reduce weed pressure and regularly scouting your plants for insects. Consider Integrated Pest Management (IPM) when you have a pest management issue.
  • Get in the habit of protecting yourself from the sun. Simple steps like daily sunscreen application and wearing a hat when working in the sun can go a long way to preventing skin cancer.
  • Introduce a child in your life to the joys of gardening! Fresh air, exercise, and the satisfaction of a job well done are some of the benefits you get from gardening. When learned at a young age, gardening can be a hobby and skill a child takes with them for the rest of their life. Check out our Kids Can Grow program!

Time To Start an Asparagus Bed!

By David Handley, Extension Professor and Mark Hutton, Extension Vegetable Specialist, Highmoor Farm, Monmouth, ME, david.handley@maine.edu, mark.hutton@maine.edu.

Asparagus is often the first vegetable that we can harvest from the garden in the spring, and the sight of those tender spears emerging from the soil fills a gardener with hopeful anticipation for the coming season.

An asparagus planting is usually established from fleshy crowns bought from a nursery supplier or local garden center. Plants can also be started from seed, which should be planted into peat pots and started indoors about six weeks prior to moving outdoors. It is important to select varieties that are disease resistant and will perform well under Maine’s challenging climate. Varieties we presently recommend include Mary Washington Improved, Jersey King, Jersey Knight, Guelph Millennium, and for those wanting spears with a unique color, Purple Passion.

The site for an asparagus planting must have a well drained soil, because plants in wet soils will succumb to root rot problems. A soil test should be carried out well before planting and any needed amendments should be worked in during the fall or spring prior to planting. Perennial weeds such as quack grass must be eliminated prior to planting, or they will quickly overcome the crop. Asparagus should be planted on the west or north edge of a garden to prevent the ferns from shading other crops and interfering with tillage of the rest the garden. Plant asparagus in the spring after the danger of hard frost has past. How much should you plant? Figure that each crown should produce about ½ pound of spears per year once fully established.

To plant dormant crowns, dig a furrow two to three inches wide and about four to six inches deep. Phosphorus can be helpful in plant establishment. If your soil tends to be low in phosphorus, apply about two pounds of super phosphate (0-20-0) per 50 feet of row along the bottom of the furrow (bone meal can also be used, but it tends to attract skunks). Space the crowns about 18 inches apart at the bottom of the furrow. If planting more than one row, space them at least four feet apart to allow the ferns plenty of growing space. After planting, fill the furrow back up to the original soil level, but do not compact or press the soil over the buried crowns, as this may damage the buds and will delay spear emergence. Keep the soil moist. You should start to see spears emerging in one to two weeks. Do not harvest the spears during the planting year. The spears will elongate and form “ferns,” which will support and promote the growth of the roots. The plants can be mulched lightly during the growing season to help reduce weed pressure with wood shavings, pine needles or the like.

The ferns will die off in the fall and should be mowed off either late in the fall or early in the spring, prior to the emergence of new spears. Waiting until spring may improve winter survival. During the second year spears may be harvested as they emerge over a two to three week period. Snap the shoots off when they are seven to nine inches high and before the tips start to loosen. The bed should be harvested every three to four days. After three weeks stop harvesting and allow the shoots to develop ferns to build up the plants for next year. Fertilizer should be applied after the last harvest. About ½ pound of ammonium nitrate or 1 ½ pounds of 10-10-10 should be applied over 50 feet of row. An application of compost over the plants can also be used as a fertilizer. Check the product container to determine its nutrient levels.

asparagus beetles and larvaeLate frost or cutworms can cause the spears to “crook” after they emerge, and asparagus beetles and their larvae may be found feeding on the ferns during the season. In the latter case, handpicking may provide an effective means of control on a small planting, but insecticides may be warranted on larger plantings. There are both organic and synthetic insecticide options available, but be sure to check product labels for rates, timing and safety precautions.

And that’s it! Every year thereafter the first shoots to emerge in the spring should be harvested for a three to four week period, then allow the ferns to grow and mow them off the following spring. Enjoy your asparagus planting and be sure to share with your friends. They’ll be much more tolerant of your excess zucchini in the summer.


Edible Flowers: Pretty in Your Garden and a Culinary Delight

By Amy Witt Horticulturist, UMaine Extension, Cumberland County, amy.witt@maine.edu.

layer cake with edible blossom decorations

Cake with edible flower decorations; photo by Amy Witt

Did you know that many of the flowers in the home landscape are edible and the flowers of most culinary herbs are safe to eat? Flowers have a long tradition in cooking including European, East Indian, Victorian, English, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Early American colonists also used flowers as a valuable food source. Many flowers are high in nutrients and can be used fresh in salads, garnis hes, baked goods, jams & jellies, teas, oils, vinegars, honey, wine, butters, stuffed, and stir-fried.

Because some flowers are toxic, proper identification is a must before consuming any flowers (or plants).  (Both Rutgers and the University of Vermont are good resources for lists of poisonous plants.)

Take the following precautions before eating any flowers:

  • spring peeper on a lily blossom

    A spring peeper enjoying a daylily’s beauty; photo by Amy Witt

    Pick flowers that are disease, pest, and pesticide-free.

  • Know your source. Don’t use purchased flowers from garden centers, nurseries, florists or the side of the road. These flowers were not grown for consumption and many of them have been sprayed. Pesticides used on flowers and ornamentals have not been researched to determine safety on food crops. Whereas, pesticides used on food crops have been extensively tested to determine the waiting period before consumption.
  • Avoid flowers from plants fertilized with un-composted/fresh or treated manure.
  • Introduce flowers slowly into your diet in order to determine any possible allergies. (Keep in mind that a flower’s pollen can detract from the flavor and may cause an allergic reaction — especially if you have hay fever).

Edible Flowers to Consider Trying

Common Name Botanical Name Edible Parts Flavor Suggested Uses
Calendula Calendula officinalis Petals at peak Tangy; peppery Fresh in salads; substitute for saffron
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Young flowers (yellow parts — sepals are bitter) Sweet, honey-like (mature flowers become bitter) Wine, sauté, vinegars, butters, garnish, fritters
Daylily Hemerocallis fulva Buds and blooms. Eat in moderation — daylilies may act as a diuretic or laxative. Combination of asparagus/zucchini. Prepare buds like green beans.  Use blooms in desserts, as a garnish in salads or on cakes.
Gladiolus Gladiolus spp. Blossoms Mild Container for garnish or dips or spreads.
Hibiscus, China rose, Rose-of-China Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Petals Citrus/cranberry flavor Used in many tea flavorings and as a garnish.
Hibiscus, Rose-of-Sharon Hibiscus syriacus Petals Mild, nutty Teas, fruit salads
Hollyhock Alcea rosea Flower Slightly bitter Best as a garnish or container for dip.
Lilac Syringa vulgaris Flowers Perfumed, slightly bitter Candied
Nasturtium Tropaelum majus Blossoms Watercress; peppery Garnish in salads
Rose Rosa spp. Petals, hips (remove the white, bitter base of the petal) Sweet to bitter. Hips are tart and cranberry like. Petals used in salads, garnishes, candied & rose water. Hips are used in teas, jams, wine, pastries
Squash or pumpkin Cucurbita spp. Male and female blossoms Slightly floral Eat raw or cooked — sautéed or batter fried, stuffed.
Tuberous begonia Begonia x tuberhybrida Petals. Tuberous hybrids are best. Citrus-spicy Salads or garnish
Violet Viola odorata Flowers Sweet, perfumed Candied or garnish for soups, desserts, and punch; jams, fruit & green salads

*In many cases, other parts of the plant are also edible (please check a reputable source to identify which plants and parts). 
**For more extensive lists of edible flowers, visit the following websites: www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/Garden/07237.html or www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8513.html.

For optimum results:

  • Hibiscus syriacus

    Hibiscus syriacus; photo by Amy Witt

    Pick flowers early in the day, but after the dew has dried.

  • Don’t pick un-opened (daylilies are the exception), wilted or faded flowers.
  • In most cases, use just the petals and remove the pistil, anthers, stamens, and stems of the flowers since they might be bitter.
  • Flavors vary with growing conditions and cultivars—it is best to conduct a taste test before harvesting large amounts of a specific flower.
  • To maintain maximum freshness, keep flowers cool after harvest. Long-stemmed flowers should be placed in a container of water. Short-stemmed flowers should be harvested within 3-4 hours of use. Place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (place a damp paper towel in the bag to provide humidity).

Consider integrating edible flowering plants to your vegetable garden. They will not only attract beneficial insects and pollinators for your vegetable crops, but you will also be able to use them for food.

Enjoy the flavor and colorful additions to your culinary dishes!

Sources:

Edible Flowers, S.E. Newman and A. Stoven O’Connor (11/09), www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/Garden/07237.html

Edible Flowers, 1/99 HIL-8513, Cyndi Lauderdale, Extension Agent, Wilson County Center and Erv Evans, Extension Associate Department of Horticultural Science College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8513.html


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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

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

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

Maine Home Garden News — May 2012

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

May is the month to . . .

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

  • Have a plan for planting your 2012 vegetable garden. Consider sowing some seeds and transplants 2-3 weeks before the traditional Memorial Day weekend. Some vegetables are not affected by frosts. See Vegetable Gardening ~ Keep Your Garden Growing ~ Plant from Spring to Fall.
  • Prepare garden spaces for this year’s planting. Consider raised beds, containers, and new gardens for fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, trees, and shrubs. Addition of organic matter into the soil will help water- and nutrient-holding capacity of your garden soil.
  • Repair or replace the sides and ends of wooden raised beds as needed.

  • Try a new vegetable variety this year, like conical cabbage (early fresh cabbage) or something your family enjoys eating.
  • Consider growing perennial food crops, like rhubarb, asparagus, blueberries, apples, strawberries, and raspberries. These crops take planning and site preparation. Pick out a spot this year to prepare the soil for the planting next spring.
  • Visit your favorite garden center to learn about new and different plants, products, and tools. Ask the owner or an employee about what’s new.
  • Review safety rules for using your lawn mower. For more information, visit University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service online publications listing and search for “Lawn Mower Safety” or “FSA1005″. You will be asked for your zip code.
  • Consider using mulches on your perennial beds and plantings to prevent and control weeds. Improve beds this month by edging, removing weeds, and adding fresh mulch.
  • If you use any type of pesticides (organic or synthetic) in your yard or gardens, be sure to purchase the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Specific protective gear such as eye protection, respirators, gloves, and clothing will be specified on the pesticide label.
  • If you have not done so already, start a compost pile. Pick a site that is convenient and accessible. For more information on the essentials of home composting see Bulletin #1143, Home Composting.

http://youtu.be/0vwARMPYHgo


Soil Temperature as a Guide to Spring Planting

By Lauren St Germain, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Franklin County, lauren.stgermain@maine.edu.

gardeners planting seeds; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDAEvery spring, gardeners are faced with the challenge to determine when to plant seeds and seedlings in the ground. Factors most gardeners consider are average day and night time temperatures, the date of the last expected frost, how early crops were planted the year before, how wet the soil is, or the date of the next full moon.

One important factor that is often not considered is soil temperature. Soil temperature has a strong influence on when seeds will germinate and on performance of transplanted seedlings. Seeds planted in soil that is too cold or even too hot may have poor germination. The result is wasted time, money, and a lot of frustration. Some seeds planted in soil that is too cold are also more susceptible to soil-borne diseases and insects that will feed on them. Vegetable seedlings, if planted in cold soil, have difficulty absorbing nutrients, have very slow growth and root development, and are likely to develop diseases like blossom end rot.

There are minimum, optimum, and maximum temperatures at which different vegetable seeds will germinate. By using Soil Temperature Conditions for Vegetable Seed Germination by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System as a guide, gardeners will not only have better success with seed germination, but can also space plantings over time to gain a longer growing season and hopefully greater yields. For example, radish seeds can be planted when the soil is a minimum of 40º F. It could be a month or more after that before soil temperatures reach the minimum of 60º F for pumpkin seeds.

Ideal soil temperatures for seedlings are 60º F for tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans; 70º F for peppers, watermelons, and squash; and 75º F for cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. This is not to say that plants will not live if planted at lower temperatures, but there will be higher risk for complications.

To measure the soil temperature for seeds, insert a soil thermometer around 2 inches deep into the soil. Use the average temperature over the course of 3 days as a guide to whether or not to plant seeds. For seedlings, measure a little deeper down to 4 or 5 inches.

Tracking soil temperature is a simple, inexpensive addition to any garden planning ritual. Soil thermometers can be found at most garden supply stores, and generally cost less than ten dollars.


Reasons for Not Establishing Vegetable Gardens on Septic System Disposal Fields

By David Rocque, State Soil Scientist, Maine Department of Agriculture, david.rocque@maine.gov.

While there are no rules or regulations concerning the placement of vegetable gardens on or adjacent to septic system disposal fields, it is the policy of the Maine Department of Agriculture to discourage the practice. Following are the reasons for this policy:

Background:

Most septic system disposal fields designed since 1974 are installed either partly or completely above the original ground surface. This is because most of our soils in Maine have a shallow seasonal groundwater table, hardpan and/or bedrock. The bottom of the disposal field must be elevated above any “limiting factor” in order for the waste water to drain into the soil and be renovated. For the most part, fill material over the stone or other components (plastic or concrete chambers, fabric wrapped pipe, geo-textile sand filters, etc.), which comprise the main body of the disposal field is usually 8” – 12” deep. Generally, only the top 4” of this fill material has silt or clay and organic matter in it. The lower part of this fill is supposed to be a gravelly coarse sand material. This is to allow for the free exchange of air into the disposal field so that microbes can quickly attack and renovate the waste water. Below the fill material, and immediately above the stone or other disposal field components is a layer of compressed hay or filter fabric. The purpose of this compressed hay or filter fabric is to prevent fine soil particles from the fill material above entering voids in the stone or other devices. The stone or other devices main function is to provide storage capacity for the wastewater, which is usually generated faster than the soil can absorb it (people usually generate most of the waste water in the morning before work and school and in the evening after coming home from work). If the voids in the stone or other devices become filled with soil, they will not be able to store the waste water causing a septic system failure.

  1. The most important reason you should not create a vegetable garden above or immediately adjacent to a septic system disposal field is because of the potential for the plants to become contaminated with human pathogens. The vegetable garden plants will send roots down in search of water and nutrients; neither of which will be found in the gravelly sand fill material. If the roots come in contact with waste water, they can take up pathogens such as viruses which can then infect the person eating the plants.
  2. In a brand new septic system disposal field, the waste water level in the disposal field is usually quite low. Over time, however, as the disposal field matures, ponding of waste water can be expected. This is due to the partial clogging of the soil pores by particles escaping from the septic tank and the living and dead bodies of microorganisms. The thicker this clogging layer is the higher in the disposal field the waste water level will be. The waste water level will also rise during heavy use events or as a family grows up and/or adds more members. Eventually, the waste water levels in a disposal field will likely be high enough for even shallow rooted plants to come in contact with it.
  3. Water (including waste water) will “wick” up into soil due to capillary attraction. If waste water rises high enough in the disposal field to come in contact with the fill material on top of it, capillary attraction could cause the waste water to wick up to as high as 18” above, depending on the texture of the fill. This is also why no vegetable garden should be placed on a disposal field fill extension, especially near the disposal field. There may be no wicking up to the top of the disposal field or fill extension material at first but it may occur as the disposal field matures.
  4. Generally, the soil over the top of a septic system disposal field is very droughty, particularly soon after the disposal field is installed, and therefore not suitable for the growing of a vegetable garden. This would create the need for watering of the plants in order for them to prosper. Adding water to the top of a disposal field, particularly if the disposal field was only marginally functional, could cause it to fail.
  5. Roto-tilling the top of a disposal field could result in damage to the compressed hay or filter fabric. If the compressed hay or filter fabric is damaged, it could allow soil particles to migrate down into the stone or other devices in the disposal field reducing the waste water holding capacity.
  6. Placing additional fill over the top of a disposal field, in order to create a safe zone for vegetable plants to grow is also not a good idea. The additional fill material might “suffocate” the disposal field by making it more difficult for the free exchange of air. An anaerobic disposal field is much more likely to clog up and fail than an aerobic one. In addition, placing the additional fill material on the disposal system could result in damage to disposal field components by heavy equipment.

The most suitable plants to grow on top of septic system disposal fields and fill extensions is grass. It is also permissible to grow flowers, but only if the soil is not roto-tilled and minimal watering is done. No plants that have woody roots should be planted on the disposal field or fill extensions since the roots might clog up pipes and other devices in the disposal field. If you do not want vegetation to grow over your disposal field, it is permissible to cover the bare soil with bark mulch.


Changing the Culture of Lawn Care

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

lawn grassFive step fertilizer and pesticide programs, irrigation, frequent mowing, lawn care services – the American lawn has become an icon and status symbol across the country. Along with this explosion in the lawn care industry, there has also been an increase in use by Maine home gardeners in the pounds of active pesticide ingredients, from 800,000 pounds in 1995, to 6.2 million pounds in 2007 – an almost 8-fold increase in 12 years (chart below). Excessive fertilization can result in leaching of nitrates, which can end up in toxic levels in fresh groundwater sources and/or be a threat to groundwater quality and coastal estuarine environments. Soil levels of phosphorus from lawn fertilizers can become excessive, and if spread too close or from erosion into fresh water bodies, can result in algae blooms causing pond and lake water quality degradation.

We all live downstream!

chart showing increase in home use pesticides

Click on the chart above to view an enlargement.

Fortunately, there has also been a rising interest in alternatives to intensive lawn management practices. Programs like the Maine Yardscaping Coalition are dedicated to promoting low input lawns and garden practices to reduce fertilizer and pesticide inputs and recommend the right plant for the right place. Visit www.yardscaping.org.

The good news is there are some pretty simple steps, which while they do take some research and labor, result in healthy lush lawns with a minimal or no fertilizer and pesticide inputs. For more information, see Bulletin #2166 Steps to a Low Input, Healthy Lawn.

Through education and best practices we can have our cake and eat it too – healthy, vigorous lawns and positive impacts on our environment.


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 Colleen Hoyt at colleen.hoyt@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.

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

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