Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

Publications \ Organic Gardening Tips

Be Like an Ancient Apple Tree

July 23, 2020

As we struggle to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic, says John Bunker, we might consider looking at old apple trees that have survived famously cold winters, a summer without summer, hurricanes, drought, insect and disease infestations and more. There’s a chance that everything we need to know about survival, these trees have known for millennia: Don’t move; build community; waste not, want not; eat local; bend. Read more in “The Pandemic and the Ancient Apple Tree” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

214

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.

352

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.

374

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.

421

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.

369

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Garden

August 1, 2019

We all want to garden in a level, deep, well-drained, loamy soil nourished with organic matter. But sometimes you just don’t find those qualities where you live. What to do? In her article “Rock and Roll: Terraces in Ancient Jerusalem” in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Deborah Rubin Fields discusses how challenging ancient Jerusalem’s topography and climate were – yet people still farmed and gardened there, by establishing terraces. Read more and be inspired.

794

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.

173

Mulch for Mycorrhizae

July 27, 2017

Mulches suppress weed growth while retaining moisture in the soil for tree roots and microbes, so they are excellent for minimizing soil disturbance and thus supporting the mycorrhizal fungi that associate with plant roots. Read about these fascinating connections in C.J. Walke's article "Building the Mycorrhizal Connection" in the summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

155

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."

186

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."

 

152
12