Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Why Organic

January 16, 2020

One of the main reasons growers use organic practices (and consumers buy organic products) is to avoid exposure to hundreds of synthetic pesticides that are not allowed in organic production. This benefit was reinforced during two presentations at the 2019 Common Ground Country Fair: Carey Gillam’s keynote speech, “Decades of Deceit – A Critical Eye on Pesticides, Science and Industry,” and the Public Policy Teach-In, “Pesticides: In the News and All Around Us.” Coverage of each is posted in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Gardens Where Birds and Bees Thrive

January 9, 2020

In her article “Of Birds, Bees and Berries” in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Joyce White writes about hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis, a perennial, shrubby, aromatic plant with the square stems characteristic of the mint family. White says, “I had never seen so many bees at work in any one area” when she visited a friend’s garden that was populated with hyssop and other bee-friendly flowers. Read about plants and bees and about birds carrying ripe strawberries and blueberries to their young in White’s article.


Planning for Crop Rotations

January 2, 2020

Here’s one of Will Bonsall’s favorite crop rotations: In very early spring seed an area to oats for a green manure/living mulch to precede/accompany a crop of squash or pumpkins. A week or two before transplanting the hills of squash, chop in the ankle-high oats only where the hills will go. Let the rest of the oats keep growing. In early July flatten the knee-high oats by flopping down a half-sheet of plywood and treading on it. Then cover the oat thatch with a mulch of old leaves and then enough spoiled hay to keep the leaves from blowing. The following year, transplant cabbage to the mulched area. Read more in “Crop Rotation in the Garden” in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Longer Days Are Coming

December 19, 2019

With the solstice approaching on Saturday, we gardeners look forward to longer days and stronger light. Some plants, however, keep our spirits up by flowering now. Christmas cactus is an example of plants that are triggered to bloom when nights are long. Before you know it, we’ll be back to short nights and long harvests. And on and on the cycles go. Happy Solstice!


Bayberry Seeds Are Ready to Stratify

December 12, 2019

Northern bayberry is an attractive native shrub that stands out in late fall because of its waxy, pewter colored fruits. According to UMaine Cooperative Extension, many bird species eat these fruits, “including songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and marsh birds. They are a preferred food of chickadees, red-bellied woodpeckers, tree swallows, catbirds, bluebirds, yellow-rumped warblers, and others.


Browntail Moth Management

December 2019

Late winter is the time to clip browntail moth (BTM) caterpillar webs from trees that are accessible. Hairs of these caterpillars can cause a rash like poison ivy as well as respiratory problems, and the pest is spreading, especially along coastal Maine.


An Inexpensive Tillage Tool

December 2019

After reading Edward H. Faulkner’s “Plowman’s Folly,” I was sold on disc plows rather than moldboard plows. Sixty years later, however, finding a disc plow that was not far away and not worn out was impossible, so I bought a rototiller. But my Farmall Cub disc hillers, used for ditching, terracing, cultivating and making narrow raised beds, gave me an idea. My make-anything neighbor, Bruce, had made a simple A-frame for the drawbar of my little John Deere, so I had him make some additions .


It’s Cranberry Time

November 20, 2019

Cranberries grow wild in Maine, and you can grow them in your own landscape – even without a bog. (Fedco Trees carries plants and provides cultivation instructions.) Roberta Bailey recounts harvesting the fruits from both situations in her article “Cooking with Cranberries, Wild or Garden-Grown” in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, where she also provides recipes for cranberry rum relish, cranberry salsa, cranberry salad dressing and several other goodies. Her recipes provide lots of great holiday gift ideas.


Native Winterberries Bursting Forth with Color

November 14, 2019

Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) seem to be especially abundant this fall, with striking bursts of red appearing throughout the landscape. The University of Maine says that 49 species of birds, including songbirds, winter waterfowl and game birds, devour these native berries. “Frequent songbird consumers include eastern bluebirds, hermit and wood thrushes, American robins, catbirds, northern mockingbirds, brown thrashers, cedar waxwings, and white-tailed sparrows. Because the berries are relatively low in fat content, they are often taken late in the winter when other fruits are scarce.” At a time when many birds are harmed by such pesticides as the widely used neonicotinoids, planting or encouraging winterberries in an unsprayed landscape can be one of the best season’s greetings for all of us.