Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Conserving Flint Corn Varieties

July 5, 2019

Flint corn offers nourishment as well as ties to Native cultures. “The valley in Norridgewock and the flood plains of the Kennebec were principal growing areas for massive quantities of corn and appear to have been part of the trade network,” says Albie Barden. “The Norridgewock people would travel to the coast every summer and come back in the fall, with some trips in between.” Now numerous people (“cornservators”) are growing varieties of flint corn to increase the seed supply and the supply of grain for commercial enterprises. Barden and Michele Carmel discuss the grain in “Seeking Flint Corn Propagators” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Native Trees and Shrubs for Agroforestry

June 27, 2019

Diversifying a farm with trees and shrubs produces a valuable harvest and shady foraging area – and provides the ideal growing environment for high-value woodland medicinal herbs. In her article “Permaculture with a Native Twist” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Heather McCargo discusses the benefits of using native plants in such permaculture settings and lists several native trees and shrubs for agroforestry. Aronia, blueberry, elderberry, hazelnut ... lots of choices here!


Smaller, Lighter Beehive Design

June 20, 2019

Lifting 50- to 90-pound boxes of honey a few times is “a lot of heavy lifting!” writes Jonathan Mitschele in his article “Smaller and Lighter Beehives Are Better” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Mitschele came up with a two-queen, side-by-side hive design in which each box in a hive weighs no more than 25 pounds and usually less. Read about his beehives and much more in our newspaper.


How to Trellis Peas

June 14, 2019

Peas appreciate a trellis. Will Bonsall says that he uses mostly 4- to 5-foot hex-wire (chicken fencing) for his pea trellises, as it is relatively quick to put up and lasts for years if properly stored between seasons. To help vines cling to it, he adds a piece of binder twine lengthwise to both sides of the row, about halfway up the eventual height of the plants, weaving it into the wire fence every 6 to 8 feet. “It's much easier and more effective to tie up peas loosely before they start to fall away from the support,” he says. Read more about Bonsall’s pea cultivation ideas (including a summer sowing) in his article “Edible-Podded Peas” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Hope Regarding Emerald Ash Borer Control

June 6, 2019

The emerald ash borer (EAB), a non-native beetle that has been munching its way through the nation’s ash trees, was first detected in Maine in June 2018. Despite the grim picture, there are some rays of hope regarding this pest, writes Hannah Murray in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Infestation is far from widespread in Maine, and we may still have time to slow EAB spread – especially if we can halt the transport of firewood. For biological controls, woodpeckers may be able to cause more than 90 percent mortality in EAB. Scientists are exploring the use of parasitoid wasps and predators to reduce pest populations, and even heavily-infested areas have occasional surviving trees. White ash seems to be faring better than others and may have genetic resistance to EAB. Some municipalities have used pesticides to save target trees, with varying outcomes. Use of such chemicals may harm pollinators. Read more in Murray’s article “10 Q&A’s About Emerald Ash Borer.”


Watch for Spotted Lanternfly

May 30, 2019

The spotted lanternfly is a new invasive pest has the potential to threaten the tree fruit, horticulture and timber industries of the Northeast. It has been seen as close to Maine as Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. Adults and nymphs feed on leaves and stems by sucking out the plant sap with their straw-like mouth parts. The feeding causes wilting, dieback and eventual death of the plant after prolonged exposure. C.J. Walke, MOFGA’s organic orchard educator, tells how to spot and report this pest in his article “Spotted Lanternfly – A Pest on the Horizon” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Grassland Builds Soil Tilth

May 16, 2019

Will Bonsall uses pasture plants, including grasses, clover, daisies, goldenrod, asters, ferns and other “weeds,” as mulch and to make compost for his garden. To boost the productivity of his run-out pasture, he limed with wood ashes and added clover seed for nitrogen (through bacteria that associate with clover and fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into forms plants can use). He also found that watering, and spot-mulching with ramial wood chips, boosted pasture productivity. Read more in his article “Grassland Improvement for Gardeners” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Gardening While Aging

May 2, 2019

How can elders continue to garden when their aging muscles rebel as they try to start a rototiller or do other strenuous gardening jobs? How can anyone garden in a spot where trees have grown tall and their roots have invaded the landscape? Joyce White, who has gardened for 75 years, tackles both issues in her article “Hay Mulch and Other Low-tech Adaptations for Home Gardens” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.