Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Beautiful and Useful Calendula

June 18, 2020

There are so many reasons to plant a big bed of calendula, Calendula officinalis. It blooms until frost for cut flowers and medicine, it isn’t fussy about where it’s planted, pollinators like it, it can be added as a garnish to food, and its seed is easy to save for next year’s planting. Read Joyce White’s article “Calendula – Beautiful and Useful” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Growing Saffron in the Northeast

April 23, 2020

Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is the dried stigmas of flowers of the fall-blooming saffron crocus, Crocus sativus (not of the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale, which is toxic). Research from the University of Vermont tells how to grow this spice in crates or in raised beds in New England. Read about the fascinating and entertaining talk that Dr. Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani and Dr. Margaret Skinner gave at MOFGA’s 2019 Farmer to Farmer Conference in “Saffron: A Good Fit for New England” in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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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!

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Time to Think Storage

September 28, 2017

Despite the drought in many parts of Maine, gardens produced at least some crops abundantly, especially if gardeners were able to water. Pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, onions, carrots and more are ready or almost ready to be stored for winter. Read about storage techniques in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, including Anneli Carter-Sundqvist's "How we store our year-round supply of produce," Cheryl Wixson's "Root Cellars: Safe and Secure from the Corporate Food Train," "A Dozen Storage Crops for Homegrown Food Security" and Adam Tomash's "Using a Bulkhead as a Root Cellar." For crops that did not do well in your garden this year, local farmers' markets and Community Supported Agriculture farms offer great options for affordable organic goods.

Plan a Butterfly Garden

September 14, 2017

Hooray for unsprayed gardens with plenty of flowers for butterflies! Those who cultivate such habitats may be rewarded now with gold-dotted chrysalises of monarch butterflies, such as the one pictured here on a milkweed butterfly plant (Asclepias tuberosa). Find out how to attract butterflies to your yard in UMaine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #7151, Landscaping for Butterflies in Maine, by Nancy Coverstone, Jim Dill and Lois Berg Stack.

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.

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.

Think Spring (Bulbs)!

September 8, 2016

Spring-flowering bulbs are among the earliest spring food sources for bees, and they're wonderful for awakening our own senses in the spring. Plan and plant this fall for "the color-rich buoys of hope in a sea of mud and sloppy snow squalls," as Roberta Bailey says in her "Fall Bulb Primer" in the fall 2013 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Flowers and Bees More Abundant When Lawns Mowed Less Often

June 9, 2016

Susannah B. Lerman et al. tested different lawn mowing frequencies to try to improve bee habitat and promote ecosystem services for households. They assigned 17 suburban yards in Springfield, Mass., to be mowed every one, two or three weeks. They documented 110 bee species - nearly one-third of the state's species - in Springfield lawns. Yards mowed every three weeks averaged 300 percent more flowers than those mowed weekly. Bees were most abundant in yards mowed every two weeks, although species richness did not differ among mowing treatments. Soils in yards mowed every three weeks were the least compacted, possibly offering more nesting opportunities for some ground-nesting bees. FMI: "To mow or to mow less: How landscaping behaviors influence bee diversity and ecosystem services in residential yards," by Susannah B. Lerman et al., Abstract, Ecological Science at the Frontier conference, Aug. 14, 2015; http://eco.confex.com/eco/2015/webprogram/Paper50775.html

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