Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Laura Sieger. Photo by Kip Sieger
Laura Sieger. Photo by Kip Sieger
A top grafted tree
A top grafted tree
 

February 2020

The worst of winter may be over, and the busiest of the gardening season has yet to begin. What to do during this in-between time? Tend to your orchard, perhaps. We asked two orchard experts from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) staff what they're up to now.
 
Laura Sieger was a longtime volunteer for MOFGA and then an intern in MOFGA's Maine Heritage Orchard. Now she is MOFGA's orchard coordinator, overseeing care of the fruit trees on MOFGA's grounds – including in our Maine Heritage Orchard (MEHO). She says that in late February and throughout March, she'll finish pruning in the MEHO and in the orchards on the fairgrounds; she'll collect scionwood from various orchards and old trees in the state; and she'll work with Fedco Trees to distribute scionwood.
 
In early March Sieger will spend a couple of days in Western Massachusetts at the annual Berkshire Roundtable orchardists' meeting. Then she'll teach pruning, grafting and fruit tree renovating classes in Waldo and Penobscot counties with other orchardists from the area.
 
In between outdoor work activities, she continues to update the MEHO website (maineheritageorchard.org) with more information about apple and pear varieties grown on MOFGA's grounds.
 
Also, "stay tuned for changes to MOFGA's south orchard," she says, "as we begin to transform the alley crop orchard into an edible landscape/food forest." Jack Kertesz, MOFGA's landscape coordinator, is working on a design to include many unusual woody and herbaceous plants for this area.
 
C.J. Walke was MOFGA's organic orchard educator for many years and recently transitioned to becoming our agricultural specialist for Downeast Maine. He also works for College of the Atlantic, where, among his many agricultural duties, he tends numerous fruit trees. His orcharding work for the next few weeks will include snowshoeing (he hopes) around his nursery rows to compact snow and prevent voles from tunneling toward his nursery stock; pruning apple trees; gathering scionwood for grafting workshops in April; and removing browntail moth caterpillars nests from atop an old 75-foot pear tree using a telescoping pruner and a ladder.
 
Looking beyond spring, organic orchardists can follow Walke's "Apple Orchard Activity Calendar for the Northeast" to learn when to plant new trees, when to remove tent caterpillars, when to hang sticky red spheres to trap apple maggot flies, and dozens of other organic orchard maintenance tips.
 
For hands-on learning, MOFGA offers a series or organic orcharding workshops. The first, on pruning apple trees, will be held on Saturday, March 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Bar Harbor, Palmyra, Unity and Saco. Register here.
 
Subsequent organic orcharding workshops run from March through August and include Bringing Back an Old Orchard, Bench Grafting Fruit Trees, Organic Orcharding 101, Top Working Fruit Trees, Pests and Diseases in the Summer Orchard, and Growing Nursery Stock and Bud Grafting. Details are posted here.
 
And MOFGA's popular and free Seed Swap and Scion Exchange, held in conjunction with Fedco Trees and the Maine Tree Crop Alliance, is on Sunday, March 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity. Gardeners and orchardists enthusiastically participate in educational workshops during the exchange, and they bring seeds, scionwood and cuttings to share, if they have them.
 
This in-between season offers no shortage of opportunities to get gardeners outside, working on their fruit trees and interacting with other fruit enthusiasts. And then, "come see us in the orchards this year!" says Sieger.

Apples

This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME 04988; 207-568-4142; [email protected]; www.mofga.org.

Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food.

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