Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Mulch Apple Trees with Wood Chips

May 21, 2020

John Bunker says that he chips all prunings and branches from his newly cut firewood and spreads them around the base of apple trees as mulch. “I’m fooling the trees into thinking they’re in the woods,” he writes, adding, “Can you really fool a tree into anything?” Trees like the forest, Bunker continues, “and the forest floor is not that different from a bed of wood chips. The chips break down and feed those trees.” Read more in “Spring Orchard ‘Work,’ and then, Ice Cream” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Diversity in the Orchard

April 30, 2020

Diversity is one key to balancing orchard ecosystems and farm income. Jesse Stevens of Sy’s Trees in Sweden, Maine, for example, grows more than 100 species and 1,000 varieties in his orchard, including the usual apples and pears, as well as quince, Cornelian cherry, persimmon, honeyberry and more. And at their 5 Star Orchard in Brooklin, Maine, Molly DellaRoman and Tim Skillin grow highbush blueberries, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries and native perennials as well as a 3-acre commercial orchard with 30 to 40 varieties of heritage apples, about 60 peach trees, European and Asian pears, and plums. Read about these farmers’ presentations at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference in “Mixed Orchard Crops” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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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.

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Has John Found Sarah?

January 30, 2020

John Bunker read about the Maine apple variety called Sarah long ago. “Sarah had remained on the back burner of my apple search since I first read about her many years ago,” he writes in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. “But with the hiring of MOFGA’s new executive director in 2018, Sarah – the apple – leapt into first place in the apple priority list of what I must find.” Did he find her? Read about Bunker’s Sarah-seeking adventures here.

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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."

Remember to Remove Vole Guards

April 20, 2017

If you haven't done so already, remember to remove vole guards from orchard trees asap – and then keep an eye on tree trunks for signs of borers. For other spring orchard-care tips, see C.J. Walke's article "In the Orchard – A Calendar to Guide Apple Tree Care" in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. And remember, too, Walke's advice that "the best orchard activity is the frequent observation of tree and fruit growth, combined with an awareness of life in your orchard ecosystem."

 

Fall Orchard Care Can Reduce Disease Pressure

October 20, 2016

Fall cleanup can help control fungal diseases in orchards. For example, apple scab overwinters on infected leaf and fruit tissue, so remove all fruit, especially mummies, from trees, and augment leaf decomposition by mowing and spreading compost and/or applying fish hydrolysate to encourage microbial activity on the orchard floor. MOFGA's organic orchardist, C.J. Walke, offers these and other tips in his article "Fall Reminders and Income from a Diverse Young Orchard" in the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Trapping Orchard Pests

August 11, 2016

Traps can provide helpful information about pests in your orchard ecosystem. Traps are also useful in young plantings that have yet to fruit or are in their first years of fruit bearing but have not yet reached marketable yields. Collecting and retaining this information will highlight trends in your orchard system and help establish methods of pest control before populations escalate. Read about traps for codling moths and apple maggots in C. J. Walke's article in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, "Trapping Orchard Pests," so that you can plan to use these traps next year.

Protect Fruit Trees from Voles

November 5, 2015

To avoid losing a young fruit tree, place vole guards around trunks before the first snowfall, says MOFGA's organic orchardist, C.J. Walke. This barrier prevents voles from eating the bark. Spiral plastic guards wrap around the tree trunk but must be removed in spring, since they can harbor insects and diseases if left. Plastic or metal mesh guards are loose fitting and can stay on year-round as long as you can enlarge them as the tree grows. For more about fall orchard care, see Walke's article "In the Orchard: Get Ready for Winter."

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