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Somerset County Master Gardeners Newsletter June 2012

Well, gardening season is really getting into full swing after a month of “should I or shouldn’t I plant?” I think we have finally settled into a weather pattern that will allow us to start planting without wondering if what we plant in the warm daytime temperatures will freeze in the cold nights or rot in the wet soil before it has a chance to germinate properly. For those of you wanting to get those warm weather crops in the ground, be sure to check the soil temperature before planting; warm weather crops such as peppers, tomato, eggplant, and melons won’t do well with soil temperatures below 60 – 65 degrees.

June is the month to

  • Start planting. It’s not to late to start planting or put in a second planting of things like beans, radishes, beets or maybe some parsnips, which will be great when dug in late fall after a couple of frosts or, even better, next spring after all the sugars have settled in. The Johnny’s Selected Seeds website has many helpful interactive tools to help you with things such as succession planting and fall planting.
  • Think ahead to those dry days coming up in July and August. Gardens need an inch to an inch and a half of water per week. For homeowners with roof gutters, consider installing a rain barrel beneath your downspout to collect water coming off the roof. This is a great way to supplement your water supply to use in the garden. To save your back from lugging all that water, see Bulletin #2160, Trickle Irrigation: Using and Conserving Water in the Home Garden. June is a great time to start on these projects and be ready for the dry spells that are sure to be coming.
  • Start scouting for weeds, insects, and disease problems around your yard or garden. Early detection is essential in combating and controlling those unwanted insects, diseases, and weeds. For more information, visit UMaine Extension’s Insect Pests & Plant Diseases website.
  • If you’re growing strawberries, check out the Strawberry IPM Newsletter. Subscribe to weekly updates on the Highmoor Farm website.

Items of interest

 A Garden Life

  • A Garden Life, a new online magazine, is now available to gardeners. A Garden Life can be viewed on a tablet, smartphone or online. It features beautiful images and thoughtful articles on gardening topics. Its goal is to help you achieve better health, create meaningful spaces, and engage in community interaction. Download the app or read it for free!
  • Are you interested in preserving heirloom varieties of flowers and vegetables? If so the following could be a great opportunity. The National Gardening Association is a proud sponsor of the Grow It Forward Heirloom Seed Contest on Gardeners from across the U.S. and Canada are coming together to grow over 1,400 heirloom plant varieties as part of a movement to preserve the legacy and diversity of these time-honored plants. To learn more, visit Grow It Forward.

Maine Forest & Shade Trees

  • Ever wonder what goes on in your garden when you aren’t watching? The following link may shed some beautiful and exciting insight into just what you’re missing: The Beauty of Pollination (YouTube video).

A Master Gardeners Experience

  • Xerces’ Pollinator Conservation Course at MOFGA

By Samantha Burns,Somerset County Beekeepers-President, and UMaine Master Gardener

I was bubbling with enthusiasm as I sat among the farmers, NRCS representatives, and scientists alike on Tuesday, May 15th. For more than a year, I had waited to attend the Pollinator Conservation Short-Course offered by the Xerces Society, and finally I was there.

I first learned about the course last year when I was up to my neck in research, studying pollinators and how to promote them. The Xerces Society offers a myriad of free resources and articles on their site, and I even went so far as to order their book “Attracting Native Pollinators,” which is an incredible resource.

They offer the short-course at locations around the country, but at the time there were no scheduled visits to Maine, so I submitted my name to their notification list and this year I received word.

Xerces was coming to Maine–and practically in my backyard, too! The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) in Unity hosted the course, which is about an hour’s drive for us.

Eric Mader is the Assistant Pollinator Program Director for the Xerces Society. He works to raise awareness of pollinator conservation techniques among growers and governmental agencies, and has worked as a beekeeper and crop consultant, as well as authoring several books and government management plans for native pollinators. Eric came to MOFGA to present the course and answer questions for us. He claimed to be an uncomfortable public speaker, but despite that he was engaging and knowledgeable, even humorous at times.

The Pollinator Conservation Course began with some background information about the Xerces Society, which was founded in 1971 and was initially a butterfly conservation project, named after the first butterfly in North America to go extinct due to human activities. Today the Xerces sponsors a number of major programs centered around endangered species, aquatic invertebrates, and pollinators, which is currently their largest project.

There were seven modules, beginning with “The Importance of Pollinators,” and then moving on through “Basic Bee Biology and Identification,” “Pollinator-Friendly Farming Practices,” and “Planning Pollinator Habitat” before a break for lunch.

When we returned, specialists from the University of Maine took turns talking about their research surrounding native bee populations, beginning with Professor Frank Drummond, who has been working in this field for nearly two decades. Last summer, the Somerset Beekeepers hosted Frank, who spoke with us about Colony Collapse Disorder and his recent research regarding its effects on the native bee population in the blueberry barrens of Maine.

A very good report of his work, along with the work of collaborating scientists across the country, was recently published in Bee Culture, and you can learn more about the Managed Pollinator CAP program online.

We also heard from Alison Dibble, a university botanist who has been researching alternate forage for pollinators of the Maine wild blueberry, in partnership with the NRCS. She happened to mention that they are working on a paper that will list all of Maine’s 246 native species, which should be available in a year or so.

A couple of UMaine students told the group about their research surrounding native pollinators. Eric Venturini, with a Master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, has been looking at using strips of pollinator plantings around the blueberry barrens to increase pollination of wild blueberries by native pollinators, while Kalyn Bickerman, who has a PhD in bio sciences, is studying the native bumblebees to determine their health and population numbers.

Finally, Sam Hanes of the Department of Anthropology at the University has recently begun a project studying the perceptions held by farmers and gardeners regarding native pollinators.  He’s looking to learn more about how growers use native pollinators, which factors affect pollination practices, and which perceptions matter most to growers (i.e., effectiveness, monitoring, uncertainty, variability, etc.).

While research regarding honeybees and native bee populations has generally been overlooked by the academic community, Maine’s scientists have been working to learn more about pollinators for decades, and that is something Mainers can be proud of.

Once the university academics had finished their presentations, Eric continued along with the Xerces’ program, picking up with “Restoring Pollinator Habitat,” “Conservation Programs,” and “Additional Resources.”

We all went home with copies of “Attracting Native Pollinators,” as well as a packet of pamphlets and handouts (I will be donating all of the materials I received from this course to the Somerset Beekeepers’ library of resources). Four lucky people won copies of “Managing Alternative Pollinators” in the closing raffle. I was not one of the recipients (bummer!). But it is available for free download on the SARE website.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of free resources and information available at the Xerces Society’s website. But the main take-away message was this:

  1. Don’t use — or at the very least, limit the use of — pesticides and herbicides.
  2. Plant a diversity of floral sources that span the entire foraging season.
  3. Provide nesting habitat.

The high I received by attending the Pollinator Conservation Course lingers in the days following my participation — and I can’t even really say why. I have no idea why I’ve fallen so hard for pollinators — especially considering I was by no means an insect-lover as a child, yet here I am, fascinated by pollinators and plants and the intimate relationship between the plant and animal kingdoms.  It feels a grave injustice that insect pollinators are generally overlooked, and even shunned. It’s almost as if I never really saw the world around me until I began seeing the pollinators at work. How the world has changed for me! And my heart wants to protect it, to share my love of this beautiful process with the rest of humanity.

So here am I, filled with ideas and exuberance, and the desire to inflict others with this same sense of awe that overwhelms me whenever I watch a bee pollinate a flower.

Upcoming Events

  • June 7: the second session in the Raised Bed & Container Gardening series will be held at the UMaine Extension Somerset County office in Skowhegan on 7 county drive at 3:00 p.m. with a rain date of June 8, same time. Master Gardener Cheryl Perkins will be presenting (Starting your Garden).
  • Check out UMaine Extension’s Calendar of Events to find out what is coming up in June and beyond.

Vegetable Growers Twilight Meeting June 5, 2012 from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

  • Tour  the Stutzman’s Farm, which produces a wide range of vegetables and fruit for their stand and CSA. You’ll have the opportunity to see some of the work with zone tillage, new high tunnels, and the stand and bakery.

There’ll be a discussion of pest management strategies for the upcoming season and an update on GAP certifications and new regulations. We anticipate one pesticide applicator recertification credit will be available for attending.

Save the Dates: 4-H Shooting Sports Training Weekend Workshop

  • The Annual 4-H Shooting Sports training weekend workshop has been scheduled for June 8 – 10 at University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond. More information.

UMaine Extension and Maine Highlands Farmers Offering a Weed Identification Walk 

  • SANGERVILLE, ME—University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Highlands Farmers have announced that a Weed Identification Walk will be held on June 27 at 7:00 p.m. at the Stutzman’s Farm, 891 Douty Hill Road, Sangerville.

The Maine Highlands Farmers are having short business meeting following the walk. Registration is free. Two hours of pesticide recertification credit are available for private pesticide applicators.

For more information, contact Donna Coffin at (207) 564-3301 or (800) 287-1491 (in Maine), or e-mail You can also visit the events calendar.

Farmers will benefit from the weed identification walk by learning common weeds that can invade their vegetable, fruit, and other cultivated crops. Donna Coffin, Extension Educator, will lead the walk and have a number of references available for farmers to learn how to identify weeds and how to manage them in their crops. Farmers with weeds to identify from their home farm are encouraged to bring a digital picture of their problem weed.

If you are a person with a disability and will need additional accommodations to participate in this program, please call Donna Coffin at (800) 287-1491 to discuss your needs. Receiving requests for accommodations at least (10 days) before the program provides a reasonable amount of time to meet the request, however all requests will be accepted. UMaine Extension programs are open and accessible to all in accordance with program goals.

Volunteer Opportunity

Our nutrition associates have been asked to do some education on container gardening, where the participants in the program will go home with containers and some sort of plant, such as tomato, potato, squash or flowers. It is the Free Fruit and Veggie Program that is hosted by Dr Lamke and Redington Fairview General Hospital. They will be presenting information to families that will be flowing in and out of the hall to meet with Dr. Lamke, so it will be an opportunity to talk with families about container gardening, and giving them the supplies they need to plant in a container. They may also be interested in raised garden beds, etc. He also said if a Master Gardener would like to assist with this, this would be even better. We need ideas please; the date is June 20 from 3:00-7:30 p.m. at Tewksberry Hall on Main Street in Skowhegan. For more information on this opportunity, please contact Gail Cardarelli at or Toni Smith at

  • The third session (caring for your garden) of our Raised Bed & Container gardening series is scheduled for July 12 at 3:00 p.m. We are looking for Master Gardener Volunteers to be presenters at this session. Please contact Tom @ or phone 1-800-287-1495 (in Maine).

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