Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Time for Rhubarb Shortcake

June 3, 2020

In the May-June 1975 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Spoons & Spiders columnist Barbara Mather wrote, “There are some things that neither Mort nor I cared for until we grew our own and ate them as they should be eaten, rather when they should be eaten – picked when ripe and eaten fresh. Rhubarb is one of those things. Now we look forward to the treat of Rhubarb Shortcake – hot, stewed rhubarb heaped between and on top of a big biscuit, and generously topped off by a mound of whipped cream.” By the way, the “spiders” in Mather’s long-running column reflect, she said, her “abiding faith in and devotion to cast-iron pans, which were called spiders years ago. Teflon II, Miracle Maid, PAM – Bah, Humbug! – I wouldn’t trade my cast-iron pans for anything!”

Mulch Apple Trees with Wood Chips

May 21, 2020

John Bunker says that he chips all prunings and branches from his newly cut firewood and spreads them around the base of apple trees as mulch. “I’m fooling the trees into thinking they’re in the woods,” he writes, adding, “Can you really fool a tree into anything?” Trees like the forest, Bunker continues, “and the forest floor is not that different from a bed of wood chips. The chips break down and feed those trees.” Read more in “Spring Orchard ‘Work,’ and then, Ice Cream” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Raise Strawberries Under Low Tunnels

May 14, 2020

At The Berry Patch in Stephentown, N.Y, Dale-Ila Riggs and Don Miles grow everbearing strawberries in low tunnels so that "instead of having to make it or break it in three to four weeks in June, we can have berries in late July or August and into October when nobody else has berries," says Riggs. Bungee cords hold the plastic to the frames. Thanks to low tunnels, the farmers can pick quality berries even after a heavy rain. Read more about these farmers' techniques, presented at MOFGA's 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference, in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Photo: Strawberries grow in low tunnels covered with clear plastic with ventilation holes. Photo courtesy of The Berry Patch

Growing the Sweetness of Life

May 7, 2020

"Growing my food is quintessential," writes Roberta Bailey in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. "I hope to always be able to eat vibrant food. You can't buy the fullness of flavor that comes with walking into the backyard and picking the vegetables that will be eaten within the hour. That is the true sweetness of life." Read more of Bailey's moving writing here and enjoy her recipes for asparagus soup, rooty slaw, and nutty hummus.

Diversity in the Orchard

April 30, 2020

Diversity is one key to balancing orchard ecosystems and farm income. Jesse Stevens of Sy’s Trees in Sweden, Maine, for example, grows more than 100 species and 1,000 varieties in his orchard, including the usual apples and pears, as well as quince, Cornelian cherry, persimmon, honeyberry and more. And at their 5 Star Orchard in Brooklin, Maine, Molly DellaRoman and Tim Skillin grow highbush blueberries, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries and native perennials as well as a 3-acre commercial orchard with 30 to 40 varieties of heritage apples, about 60 peach trees, European and Asian pears, and plums. Read about these farmers’ presentations at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference in “Mixed Orchard Crops” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Growing Saffron in the Northeast

April 23, 2020

Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the dried stigmas of flowers of the fall-blooming saffron crocus, Crocus sativus (not of the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale, which is toxic). Research from the University of Vermont tells how to grow this spice in crates or in raised beds in New England. Read about the fascinating and entertaining talk that Dr. Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani and Dr. Margaret Skinner gave at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference in “Saffron: A Good Fit for New England” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Growing Grains Creates Diversity on Homestead

April 16, 2020

On its homestead in Exeter, Maine, the Ludders family raises not only vegetables but also wheat, oats, pigs and poultry. This diversity has led to a more sustainable and closed system, writes Sonja Heyck-Merlin. “The chaff provides bedding for their laying hens, and the straw provides mulch for their garlic and perennials. The grain also provides an expanded rotation for the pigs and vegetables. While he has found success in growing about 300 to 350 pounds of grain each year, Ross [Ludders] says [about growing grains], ‘Don't just think about what it is doing for your kitchen but your whole homestead system.’” Read more in “Growing Grain on the Ludders Family Homestead” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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