Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Cure Onions and Potatoes Before Storage

August 27, 2015

After you harvest onions and potatoes and before you put them in a cool place for storage, keep them in a warm, well ventilated place for a couple of weeks so that surface wounds can heal and outer layers of tissue can dry. Don't wash harvested potatoes. Do keep potatoes away from light - in a closed paper bag, for instance. Ideal curing conditions are 68 to 86 F and 70 percent relative humidity for onions; 55 to 65 F and 95 percent relative humidity for potatoes. If you're thinking of storing other crops this winter, check out Adam Tomash's article, "Using a Bulkhead as a Root Cellar," in the summer 2011 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Plan Now for Next Year's Garden

August 20, 2015

Are you deep into harvesting green beans and blueberries? Were your eyes bigger than your freezer when you planned this year's garden? Are weeds overtaking part of your garden? August is a great time to take 10 minutes to sketch your existing garden and jot down ideas for more or less of various crops, or different spacing of crops, or areas that need crops that are intensively cultivated or mulched (to control weeds) next year. Recording this year's layout can also help plan crop rotations. For more information, see MOFGA's fact sheet "Basics of Organic Vegetable Gardening."

Watch for Parasitized Japanese Beetles

July 16, 2015

One way to manage Japanese beetle populations is to go out each morning with a bucket of soapy water and brush the beetles off plants and into the bucket. They'll die in the water, and you can discard the water/beetle mix. However, 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. This picture show a beetle with six eggs attached!

Keep On Planting

July 2, 2015

Happy fourth! Celebrate your independence from big food: Keep on planting (and supporting our local organic producers). Through mid-July in many parts of Maine, you can still sow a crop of bush beans, beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips and hardy bunching onions. See our planting calendar. For more specific dates depending on the date of the first frost in your area, and for more planting ideas, use Johnny's Selected Seeds' excellent "Fall Harvest Planting Calendar."

Take Softwood Cuttings Now

June 26, 2015

This is a good time to take softwood cuttings of woody plants - especially of plants that root easily, such as elderberry, forsythia and willow. To take cuttings, snip about 5 inches of this year's growth that is green but firm, not "bendy." Place the cuttings in a container with drainage holes in the bottom, filled with a 1:1 mixture of moist perlite and vermiculite (available at garden centers). Cover the container loosely with a plastic bag and keep it in a shady spot. After a few weeks test the cuttings for rooting by pulling up on them gently. If you sense resistance, they've rooted. Dump them out of the container (or pry them out with a butter knife) and pot them in a growing mix. They should be ready to plant in the landscape by this fall or next spring. Here's an excellent article on the subject.

Are your potatoes flowering?

June 18, 2015

Are your potatoes flowering? Not all varieties flower, but with those that do, flowering can remind you to pay special attention to watering, as plants start producing tubers around the time they begin to flower. Uniform soil moisture during tuber production will help grow a good crop. If rainfall is minimal and soil moisture is low, apply 1 to 2 inches of water per week, early in the day so that foliage dries quickly and is less susceptible to diseases. Later in the season, when leaves begin to die back, stop watering so that potatoes cure before harvest. Harvest new potatoes two to three weeks after the plants finish flowering by gently digging around the plants, removing enough new potatoes for a meal, and leaving the rest so that they continue to grow.

Trap Apple Maggot Flies

June 11, 2015

The Fedco Trees catalog describes a "nifty apple maggot trap" made by Maine grower Don Johnson and now by others that can help reduce apple maggot damage. Drill a hole in the top edge of an 8- x 11-inch piece of plywood, paint the plywood bright yellow and paint a 2- to 3-inch red spot in the center. Coat the trap with Tangletrap. Hang up to three traps per tree, at chest height, in mid-June. Remove any foliage that might stick to the trap. Scrape traps and reapply Tangletrap now and then. Remove traps around Labor Day.

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