Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Spring Greetings and Gentle Waterings

March 19, 2020

March 19 is the first day of spring. Seedlings are sprouting, giving hope. Local, organic, hoophouse-grown spinach is so sweet and delicious now. Here’s a tip for watering small-seeded crops: Recycle a dish detergent bottle into a water dispenser. Rinse it thoroughly to get rid of residual detergent. Fill with water and tip the bottle upside-down to gently drip water onto delicate seeds or seedlings. Leave the bottle of water out for a while to ensure that the water will be room temperature, which is better for plants than cold water straight from the tap.

Birthday Greetings, Maine!

March 12, 2020

In her State of the State address in January, Gov. Janet Mills noted that after Maine separated from Massachusetts 200 years ago (this March 15), “we, Maine people, learned to be self-reliant and, at the same time, to rely on each other.” She also noted, “We stand here today because of the resilience of Native Americans.” So much history … and much of it lives on in the seeds that continue to grow here – some conserved thanks to Native Americans, some that washed up onto Maine’s shores after shipwrecks, some brought by early settlers even before Maine became a state, some saved by MOFGA members. We love seeing this mix of crops in the Exhibition Hall at MOFGA’s Common Ground Country Fair – part of a living representation of all that history. Grow on, Maine!

Save Scions for Grafting

March 5, 2020

While pruning fruit trees, think about saving some of the small branches you remove to use as scionwood for grafting onto other rootstock. C.J. Walke, MOFGA’s agricultural specialist, gives this advice about storing scions until you're ready to graft: "To store scionwood for later grafting, the wood must remain dormant and protected from drying out. An effective way to achieve this is to store the scions triple-bagged in Ziploc bags, and keep in the back of the refrigerator. You can add a small piece of damp, not wet, paper towel in with the scions to help retain moisture. The back of the refrigerator is best because temperatures are more stable than near or on the door. Do not store in the freezer." To learn how to graft, come to the Seed Swap and Scion Exchange and/or read Roberta Bailey's "Spring Grafting Primer" in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Sow Ground Cherries Soon

February 27, 2020

Ground cherries, aka husk cherry tomatoes (Physalis pruinosa), are native to Central America but were “widely grown in Poland and are now on board the Slow Food Ark of Taste” of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction, according to Fedco Seeds. The ripe fruits are delicious, tasting like little melons (or pineapple, some say). Pinetree Garden Seeds suggests starting the small, slow-to-germinate seeds eight to 10 weeks before the last spring frost – so any day now. Fedco recommends filtered light and temperatures of at least 75 F and preferably closer to 90 F for germination. “Cover seeds with just a light sprinkling of soil and place the flats in the hottest part of the greenhouse, transplanting after last spring frost,” says Fedco. Those without a heated greenhouse might find a spot atop a refrigerator, water heater or near a wood stove to provide warmth. Johnny’s Selected Seeds reminds us to keep the soil moist – and adds that the mature fruits can be eaten raw, dried like raisins, frozen, canned, or used in preserves, pies and other desserts.

Potatoes Under 7-Foot Row Cover

February 20, 2020

Last summer Jonathan Mitschele of New Gloucester, Maine, planted two rows of potatoes in a 4-foot-wide bed. That allowed him to use 7-foot row cover from planting to bloom, after which he removed it. His 180 row feet of potatoes yielded about 330 pounds, all with little or no scab and no leafhopper or potato beetle damage. Read more in the winter 2019-2020 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Watch for Leek Moth This Growing Season

February 13, 2020

Last September a home gardener contacted the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office in Farmington about crop damage to his alliums. Extension identified the pest as leek moth – a relatively new insect pest in Maine. Leek moth larvae can damage all members of the allium family – especially leeks, but also onions and garlic. Read more in David Fuller’s article “Another Maine Area Affected by Leek Moth” in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Mushroom Mainea

February 6, 2020

“In Maine,” writes Roberta Bailey, “mushroom cultivation is spreading like its mycorrhizae. Farmers inoculate piles of shredded wood or straw with mushroom cultures. Shiitakes sprout from plug-filled logs. People grow bags of them on counter tops. Wild foraging proves bounteous in the Maine woods.” Even now, in the depth of winter, consumers can find organically grown or wild harvested mushrooms at farmers’ markets. Bailey offers several mushroom-based recipes in her Harvest Kitchen column, “Mushrooms: The King of Umami, and More,” in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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