Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
An Abundance of Gardening Tips from the Common Ground Country Fair

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An Abundance of Gardening Tips from the Common Ground Country Fair
by Jean English
Copyright - The Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association, 2006

The 30th Common Ground Country Fair offered yet another chance for old and new friends to gather and share tricks of the gardening trade. No matter how many fairs the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) puts on, no shortage of exciting new information ever exists.

A hoop house promotes abundant growth of warm weather crops in summer and extends the growing season for cool weather crops in spring and fall.

As gardeners Nikos Kavanya and Jack Kertesz talked to fairgoers about interesting plants and practices in the Common Ground vegetable garden, they were especially excited that three vegetables -- varieties of kale, collards and a chicory-endive cross -- had reseeded themselves and overwintered with no protection, emerging from the snow this past spring.  

For less hardy crops, fairgoers showed strong interest in the season extension devices displayed in the gardens. A hoop house made from PVC conduit with wood supports ensured good growth of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes in the summer and could extend the harvest season for greens and carrots in the fall and spring.

Wire frames or frames made from rebar (reinforcing concrete wire) can be bent over crops and covered with plastic to protect them from frost.
Kertesz showed an even simpler, wooden A-frame that could cover a small bed of crops. Smaller hoops made from rebar and covered with plastic offered the quickest way to protect Swiss chard and other vegetables from cold weather. (Rebar is concrete reinforcing wire, a wire mesh with 6-inch-square openings. It’s easy to bend over rows of crops.)

Kavanya had a tip for deterring deer: String a single line of fishing filament from stake to stake so that it drapes slightly above a row of greens, beans or other vegetables. When deers' whiskers touch the filament, they’ll be spooked and leave the garden.

These "Batwing" pumpkins were grown by Fisher Farm Organic Produce and displayed at the Common Ground Country Fair Farmers' Market.
Walking through the Common Ground Farmers’ Market was a feast for anyone looking for new varieties or for new ways to use old varieties. ‘Batwing’ pumpkins, perfect for Halloween with their decorative, deep green and orange coloring, were featured at some booths. Kate Newkirk displayed her corsages made from garlic bulbs and a mix of green culinary herbs, explaining that this was a good way to use smaller garlic bulbs. Move over orchids!

Kate Newkirk used small garlic bulbs and fresh green culinary herbs to make corsages.
The Exhibition Hall was loaded with gorgeous crafts and fascinating fruit and vegetable varieties as well as some interesting growing techniques. Leave it to the Waldo Organic Growers (a local MOFGA chapter) to come up with a seedling shelter made from a Pendaflex file drawer frame covered with recycled sheer curtains from a thrift shop, held onto the file frame by clothespins. These metal file frames should become more abundant for recycling in the garden as documents are increasingly stored electronically.  The covered frames can protect seedlings from sun, wind, frost and insects.

The Waldo Organic Growers showed how to protect garden seedlings from sun, wind, frost and insects by covering a recycled Pendaflex file drawer frame with recycled sheer curtains from a thrift shop. Clothespins hold the curtain on the file frame.

CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds toured the vegetable tables in the Exhibition Hall with an engaged group of gardeners. One highlight was the ‘Schimmeig Striped Hollow’ open pollinated tomato, grown by MOFGA’s farmer in residence, Clayton Carter. Gardeners heard that this meaty variety makes good salsa and makes a beautiful presentation in a salad. Gardener extraordinaire Adam Tomash exhibited the beautiful pale purple and white streaked ‘Listada de Gandia’ eggplant -- his favorite eggplant for taste, available from the Seed Savers Exchange.

The "Schimmeig Striped Hollow" open pollinated tomato makes good salsa and a beautiful presentation in a salad. 

As the Common Ground Fair came to a close, one farmer was seen recycling decorative corn stalks by feeding them to a couple of appreciative, good-natured goats -- a fitting treat after their weekend of entertaining and educating fairgoers. Everyone left the Fair satisfied.

Corn stalks that served as decorations at the Common Ground Country Fair were recycled by appreciative goats. 
This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME  04988; 207-568-4142; [email protected]; Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food. Copyright 2006. Please let us know if you reprint this article. Thanks!