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Somerset County Master Gardener August 2012 Newsletter

Well, hopefully your garden is producing well and you have lots of room in the root cellar, or wherever you store your bountiful harvest. It’s time to stock up on canning jars and freezer bags to fill up with good things to eat for the next few months and more. If you would like information on preserving your harvest, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has lots of information to help you. It’s also time for the Agricultural Fairs in the area to begin. The Fairs are one of Maine’s great traditions that also just happen to mark the beginning of the end to an all too short summer! Be sure and visit as many of our state’s great agricultural fairs this season that you can. They all have something entertaining and interesting to offer to adults and kids of all ages! While you’re at the fair, don’t forget to stop by and support your local 4-H clubs’ displays and exhibits!

Gardening Items to Do in August

  • Now is a good time to take a soil test if you forgot to do it earlier on. Now is also a great time to get your garden ready for next season by amending the soil this fall as you put the garden to bed. Let the University of Maine Cooperative Extension help you by testing your soil and making useful recommendations for spring of 2013.
  • Plant a fall cover crop in those spaces no longer producing vegetables. Cover crops are a great way to protect your soil from our unpredictable winters here in Maine and restore valuable nutrients that may have been depleted during the growing season. You may also want to put in a second crop of things like spinach, beans, lettuce or beets. For information on cover crops, see Improve Your Soil with Cover Crops form Cornell University.
  • Continuing with garden maintenance, scouting for insects and disease is an ongoing project in every garden this month. One insect to be on the lookout for in August is the Tomato Hornworm. For more information or to ask a gardening question, please check out UMaine Extension’s gardening website.

Disease & Pest Alert!

  • The Spotted Wing Drosophila has been found in Maine! The first spotted wing drosophila of the 2012 season was found in a trap in Limington on Friday, July 13. Three male flies were caught in a trap in the woods adjacent to a raspberry planting. We haven’t caught flies in other locations yet, but growers should be on alert for indications of fruit flies in their plantings and premature fruit decay. For information on identifying spotted wing drosophila and making your own monitoring traps, visit the Michigan State University’s Spotted Wing Drosophila website.
  • Late Blight has been found in two locations in coastal and central Maine. Be alert and on the lookout for this disease in your area. For information on preventive measures and what to do if you find the symptoms in your garden, visit your local UMaine Extension office.
  • Be on the lookout for Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegassianum), an invasive perennial and a public health hazard. Contact with sap followed by sun exposure can cause painful blistering. Giant Hogweed grows in moist soil, especially in ditches and ravines in both sun and shade. For more information, see Giant Hogweed.

Items of interest

  • The Maine Board of Pesticide Control has tentatively scheduled fall of 2012 for their next collection of old unusable pesticides. Visit their website for a registration form or more information or contact your local UMaine Extension office.
  • The USDA has launched new updates to its website: Know Your Farmer Know Your Food. View and take advantage of the new updates.
  • Are you looking for information or directions to a farmers market in your area? The Get Real, Get Maine website has a listing of Farmers Markets by county, along with much more that’s going on in the area.
  • As the month of August gets into full swing, so do the many agricultural fairs around our state. This is a time of year that comes with mixed feelings. For many, it signals the beginning of the end to our gardening season and we all know what follows after that. To others it’s getting ready to go back to school, and along with those two less than pleasant thoughts come the elation of Fair Time! For a complete listing of Agricultural fairs in the state, visit Get Real, Get Maine website.
  • Are you interested in more information on invasive pests? The USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) developed outreach materials for Extension Educators on USDA’s Hungry Pests National Initiative. The program helps the public understand — in an engaging way — about the threat of invasive pests and how to prevent their introduction and spread. To see this information visit their Hungry Pests website.

Upcoming Events

  • The 2012 Annual Maine Farm Days will be held at Misty Meadows Farm on the Hill Road in Clinton, Maine this year, on Wednesday, August 22 and Thursday, August 23. More information.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • If you are looking for a project to work on, we have plenty to do right here at the office close to home. Whether you work on your own or in a group, we can use your help. Call Tom or Kathy for more information on this. Phone 1-800-287-1495 (in Maine) or e-mail
  • Just a reminder to everyone: please send in your Master Gardener Volunteer reporting hours!
  • For those of you thinking about root cellars and wanting to know more about them, the following short piece by one of our Master Gardeners will be of interest to you.

 Root Cellars

By Wallace Seavey

The root cellar is a way to preserve your harvest of fresh, raw, whole vegetables and fruits for several months. The root cellar would need to be a cold, rather moist environment that does not allow the food to freeze. Traditionally, root cellars were underground in a cool, damp cellar with dirt floors and brick or stone walls. However, today’s homes usually have finished basements. But with a little research and understanding almost any space can be adapted for storage.

The two essential requirements are temperature and humidity. The optimum storage temperature for many vegetables is between 32 and 40 degrees F. The temperature can be maintained by using insulation on walls and ceilings. A 100 watt bulb placed near the floor may be an adequate heat source. Thermometers can be placed around the cellar to monitor temperatures.

High humidity keeps vegetables from drying out. The exception is pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash, which store best at about 50 degrees F and 70 t0 75 % humidity. The easiest way to keep moisture high is to have a dirt floor which most of us today do not have. If your floor is concrete or wood, place several pans of water on the floor to help maintain moisture. Vegetables are 90% water. The more you put in the root-cellar, the higher the humidity. A small, full root cellar will work better than a larger one.

Ventilation is used to help control temperature and humidity. Excess moisture that encourages mold can be exhausted and the room can be aired out when not in use. Be sure the ventilation system (window) is screened to keep rodents out.

A root cellar should be cold, dark, humid, and in a convenient location. The most convenient location may be a walled off part of a basement or garage with a window for ventilation. Water drainage is important for keeping out surface water in spring and summer.

Keep only fresh and sound produce in your root cellar. Produce should be free of cuts, cracks, bruises, insects, and any other damage. The old adage, “one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel” is true. Visit and check your root cellar frequently.

Resources to help you construct a root-cellar are Stocking Up from Rodale Press; Vegetable Storage in Root Cellars from University of Alaska at Fairbanks Cooperative Extension; Root Cellars: Safe and Secure from the Corporate Food Train from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; and Storing Vegetables at Home by the University of Wisconsin.

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