Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Potatoes Under 7-Foot Row Cover

February 20, 2020

Last summer Jonathan Mitschele of New Gloucester, Maine, planted two rows of potatoes in a 4-foot-wide bed. That allowed him to use 7-foot row cover from planting to bloom, after which he removed it. His 180 row feet of potatoes yielded about 330 pounds, all with little or no scab and no leafhopper or potato beetle damage. Read more in the winter 2019-2020 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Watch for Leek Moth This Growing Season

February 13, 2020

Last September a home gardener contacted the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office in Farmington about crop damage to his alliums. Extension identified the pest as leek moth – a relatively new insect pest in Maine. Leek moth larvae can damage all members of the allium family – especially leeks, but also onions and garlic. Read more in David Fuller’s article “Another Maine Area Affected by Leek Moth” in the winter issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Browntail Moth Management

December 2019

Late winter is the time to clip browntail moth (BTM) caterpillar webs from trees that are accessible. Hairs of these caterpillars can cause a rash like poison ivy as well as respiratory problems, and the pest is spreading, especially along coastal Maine.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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