Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Mulch for Mycorrhizae

July 27, 2017

Mulches suppress weed growth while retaining moisture in the soil for tree roots and microbes, so they are excellent for minimizing soil disturbance and thus supporting the mycorrhizal fungi that associate with plant roots. Read about these fascinating connections in C.J. Walke's article "Building the Mycorrhizal Connection" in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Plant Pollinator Strips

July 20, 2017

Pollinator strips – strips of land growing flowering plants for bees – can attract not only more bees but a broader diversity of bees as well. "Diversity is like pollinator insurance – it provides a buffer when weather, disease or some other factor affects some of the bees," writes Sue Smith-Heavenrich in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Read her article "Bring in the Bees with Wildflower Strips" to learn how to create bee habitat.

Watch for Apple Borers

June 29, 2017

Check young apple trees for signs of the round-headed apple borer now. Here's what C.J. Walke, MOFGA's organic orchard specialist, says about this pest: "The adult makes a small slit in the bark of the trunk at the soil surface and deposits an egg in the slit. As the larva develops, it eats the cambium layer just under the bark; you can see its moist, orange/brown, sawdust-like frass coming from the hole in the bark where the egg was laid. (Frass is the waste that larvae excrete after eating plant tissue.) The larva lives for two or three years in the tree, creating roughly a dime-sized cavity in the first year, but excavates around the tree, even into the roots, the following two years, severely weakening or killing the tree."

Watch for Parasitized Japanese Beetles

June 23, 2017

If you see Japanese beetles that have been parasitized by tachinid flies – that is, beetles with white eggs glued to their thorax – don't kill them! As those eggs become larvae, they'll kill the beetles. Then those larvae will turn into more tachinid flies, which will control more beetles … You may see one or more eggs on beetles.

Watch For Elderberry Borers

June 16, 2017

Here's a handsome beetle that you may see soon: the adult elderberry borer (Desmocerus palliatus). The small larvae of this beetle bore into lower shoots of elderberries and down into the roots. Symptoms of borer damage include stems that break readily and wilt and/or die back, as well as entry holes where the borer bored. To control, prune affected stems below the borer and destroy prunings. For more about this beetle and about elderberry care in general, see "Growing Elderberries: A Production Manual and Enterprise Viability Guide for Vermont and the Northeast."

Aspirator Seed Cleaner

June 8, 2017

Daniel MacPhee, MOFGA's educational programs director (and owner, with Corinne Wesh, of MOFGA-certified organic Blackbird Rise in Palermo), built this aspirator seed cleaner based on Real Seeds open source plans. Here's what he says about it: It "is one of the more efficient and versatile processing tools at our disposal for dry seeds.

Good Year for a Rain Garden!

June 1, 2017

This long, cool, wet spring has frustrated many farmers and gardeners, but it's been great for rain gardens. A rain garden is a depression in the landscape that is planted with perennials and shrubs that tolerate high moisture levels. Such gardens help intercept water, minimizing runoff. They can also be great for pollinators and other beneficials, especially when planted with native species. To learn more, see "Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape" by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Harvest Ramps Responsibly or Grow Your Own

May 25, 2017

Foragers are out harvesting and, sometimes, selling wild ramps (aka wild leeks or Allium tricoccum) – even to wholesale distributors in Maine. We encourage everyone involved to harvest, sell and cook with ramps that do not have bulbs on them and that come from areas with healthy populations so that this uncommon wild plant can continue to grow. Better yet, grow ramps on your own land. For more about the perils of overharvesting this plant and the possibilities for growing your own, see Heather McCargo's article "Growing Ramps from Seed" in the winter 2016-2017 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Double Down on Resisting Roundup

May 11, 2017

Even more prevalent than the edible, bee-friendly dandelions popping up in lawns and gardens now are the ads for Roundup and other lawn "care" pesticides (some including neonicotinoid insecticides) and the proliferation of these products on store shelves – and even in bags piled on floors of some stores. Alas, another place for the resistance movement to take root! If you doubt that these products can harm humans and the environment, please read our pesticides quiz, compiled by Sharon Tisher of MOFGA's Public Policy Committee. If you doubt that a healthy lawn is possible without toxic synthetic chemicals, please see our fact sheet, "Establishing and Caring for an Organic Lawn."