Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Fall Orchard Sanitation Helps Control Pear Diseases

November 30, 2017

Fabraea leaf spot is a fungal disease that affects pear and quince fruit and foliage. It can defoliate trees and deform or destroy fruit when severe, according to C.J. Walke, MOFGA's organic orchardist, in his column in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. The fungus overwinters on infected leaves and fruit, so orchard sanitation is the best cultural approach to minimize Fabraea presence in the spring. Removing all fruit from the tree and mowing leaf litter in late fall, combined with applying a nitrogen source such as fish hydrolysate or spreading finished compost, will increase decomposition of infected leaf matter, reducing fungal pressures come spring, Walke continues. The same can be done in early spring, if winter came too quickly or if disease pressure was high the previous year and you want to be thorough. Such sanitation practices can help control other pathogens, as well.


Minimizing Seedcorn Maggot Damage

November 2, 2017

The seedcorn maggot is the larvae of a fly, says Eric Sideman, MOFGA's organic crop specialist, in the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. He continues: This critter spends the winter as a pupa in the soil. Flies emerge very early in the spring from these pupae and lay eggs near decaying organic matter and germinating seeds. The eggs hatch into maggots that feed on the seeds or young plants. Fall is the time to start thinking about managing this pest because the pupae that overwinter come from eggs laid in the fall.


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."


Watch for Parasitized Japanese Beetles

June 23, 2017

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.


Watch For Elderberry Borers

June 16, 2017

Here's a handsome beetle that you may see soon: the adult elderberry borer (Desmocerus palliatus). The small larvae of this beetle bore into lower shoots of elderberries and down into the roots. Symptoms of borer damage include stems that break readily and wilt and/or die back, as well as entry holes where the borer bored. To control, prune affected stems below the borer and destroy prunings. For more about this beetle and about elderberry care in general, see "Growing Elderberries: A Production Manual and Enterprise Viability Guide for Vermont and the Northeast."


Cabbage Aphid Control Begins in Spring

April 27, 2017

Cabbage aphid damage can be most severe on fall crops in the Brassica family – but actions you take now and continue through summer can help avoid that damage. In his article "Managing Cabbage Aphids" in the spring issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Eric Sideman recommends crop rotation, good management of crop residue, and supporting beneficial insects, among other practices, for addressing this insect.


Eliminate Browntail Caterpillars Now

February 16, 2017

Entomologists from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry say now is the time to eradicate browntail caterpillars in trees that are accessible. Browntail caterpillars cause a rash like poison ivy, and they are spreading across more and more of Maine. Contact with caterpillar hairs can cause severe reactions for some individuals.


Watch for Pests

July 14, 2016

Eric Sideman, MOFGA's organic crop specialist, reminds us that his past Pest Reports since 2006 are posted on the MOFGA website. "It may be worth your while to go back and look at the ones from the same time in years past," says Eric. "Mostly, pests are timely and can be counted on to return year after year at roughly the same time." Expected around this time of year: squash vine borer, Colorado potato beetle, potato leafhopper, cucumber beetle, imported cabbage worm, powdery mildew and squash bug.

The MOFGA Vegetable Pest and Disease Calendar, also compiled by Sideman, offers another way to anticipate the most common problems of vegetables in our area, and it provides the "most important organic solution" for each.


Biocontrol of Plant Pests

July 7, 2016

Providing habitat for beneficial insects can help control pest insects in the garden and on the farm. At a MOFGA-sponsored talk at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show last January, Kathy Murray, Ph.D., an entomologist and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program coordinator with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, spoke on this subject. She suggested landscaping with strips, borders or banks of flowering plants to attract and support natural enemies – "mother nature's little helpers." For example, create diverse plantings that include small, open-faced flowers that provide natural enemies with pollen, nectar and shelter from the elements and from their enemies. Murray also detailed introducing biocontrol agents. For more, read "Kathy Murray on Using Beneficial Insects to Manage Pests."