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"One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I would never see it again?""
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MOF&G Cover Spring 1997


 


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 1997Tips   
 Tips – Spring 1997 Minimize


Plastic Pot Recycling: A Pioneer Project
Herbal Resource Center Offers Valuable Network
Mulch Protects Tomatoes
Aluminum Strip Edges Garden
Barn Planning Books Available
Bug Zappers Zap the Environment
Clay Pots as Watering Devices
Elderberry Extract Inhibits Influenza
Selling Odds and Ends
Spacing More Important Than Height for Livestock Fence
More Deer Repellents
Larger Transplants, Larger Yields


Plastic Pot Recycling: A Pioneer Project

How do you get rid of old plastic pots? Collect them! That’s what owners and managers of Maine’s green industry businesses learned last May.

Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist in Ornamental Horticulture for the University of Maine, coordinated a pioneer Maine Green Industry Plastic Recycling Project. For it, she used a grant from New England Grows, a two-day Boston trade show that happens each February.

Fliers and newspaper stories from local greenhouses and garden centers encouraged customers to turn in old plastic pots, first rinsing them free of debris. Over the summer, the businesses stored the pots, using those that were in good condition.

The rest were collected in the fall to be melted and formed into pellets that would later be shaped into something useful – such as plant pots.

Maine’s Horticulture Industry Planning Committee, sponsor for the venture, found that New England Processing of South Gardiner would recycle the waste plastic. New England Processing is the only federally licensed, private sheltered workshop in Maine; workers sort and process the plastic.

On October 19, growers brought the tattered pots to the Augusta Civic Center, thence to be trucked to South Gardiner. Instead of the estimated 40 cubic yards of old plastic, 70 arrived. “They would coat the entire earth,” was one comment. About 100 pot donors stayed for a talk by Adrian Bloom, head of Great Britain’s Blooms of Bressingham nursery.

“It was very successful,” said one greenhouse owner. “We didn’t know what to expect, so we didn’t advertise it much, and still people brought pots. Next year …”

Dr. Stack said that although the response was great, New England Processing might have been overloaded, and there might be ways to streamline the project. The greenhouse pot recycling scheme is the first of its kind in the Eastern United States. The only other such enterprise that we know of is in Oregon.

For more information, or to pass on suggestions for recycling agricultural plastics, write to Dr. Lois Berg Stack, University of Maine, 495 College Avenue, Orono 04473.

– Carol Howe

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Herbal Resource Center Offers Valuable Network

The Herbal Resource Center of Maine offers information and networking channels to owners of herbal businesses as well as to herbal enthusiasts and students. The Center, started in 1995 by Katharyn Dunham and Shelley O’Connor, organizes an annual Herb FEST in Farmington on the first Saturday of June, and Herbal Circles – classes and workshops – throughout the year. The Center serves as an information clearinghouse about matters relating to herbal businesses in Maine and publishes the Maine Directory of Herbal Businesses.

Herbs & You, the quarterly newsletter, provides valuable information, a calendar of herbal events in Maine, classified ads, and a place for herbalists to express their opinion. The Sept.-Nov. 1996 issue, for instance, had articles about essiac, an herbal tea that has been used to treat cancer; making herbal soap; drying herbs; herbal recipes; and a business profile of Renaissance Aesthetics. All members receive Herbs & You as well as discounts on classes and workshops. Business members participate in group advertising organized by the Center.

Membership fees are $20 per year for individuals or $25 for businesses. Contact the Herbal Resource Center of Maine at P.O. Box 291, Kingfield, ME 04947-0291; Tel. (207) 265-5636; Fax (207) 639-2012; E-mail: kdunmah@somtel.com.

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Mulch Protects Tomatoes

Tomatoes mulched with wheat straw needed less weeding, yielded almost twice those of unmulched plots, and showed fewer symptoms of anthracnose, early blight and blossom end rot than unmulched plants in a study in New York last year. Wheat straw, which is said to be less slimy than oat straw when wet, can be grown in your own garden if you have the space.

Source: HortIdeas, Aug. 1996, citing Ann C. Cobb and Helene R. Dillard, “To Mulch or Not to Mulch,” Extension Line Lookout 18 (6), June 1996, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Erie County, 21 S. Grove St., East Aurora, NY 14052- 2398.

Aluminum strip edging in a garden

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Aluminum Strip Edges Garden

You can buy border edging but the lawnmower gets it and the grass hangs over it and is hard to trim. I placed a 6-inch aluminum strip folded at right angles with the horizontal flap over the grass and the vertical edge against the edge of the grass. It helps to keep the grass from running into the flowers, and the flap on the grass helps in the mowing. If any place isn’t trimmed well, a string trimmer can cut it easily this way. I always have a border of shavings between the grass and the flowers.

I had bought a 12-inch-wide strip of aluminum to keep my roses from running. It didn’t work so I pulled up the aluminum and sold the roses. I wondered what to do with the aluminum. It would be hard to cut and bend.

Luck was with me. We had a new roof put on the house and the builder had a piece of equipment that could cut the aluminum and bend it very easily.

– Nellie Davis, Jay, Maine

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Barn Planning Books Available

As people plan new barn construction or renovations to freestall barns, they should be aware of three new resource books: Guidelines for Planning Freestall Barns ($8) is a very detailed book with feedbunk and stall designs as well as other management considerations and sample plans; Penn State Freestall and Heifer Housing Plans ($10) is full of plans for milking cow barns and heifer barns, including truss and laminated rafter options; Greenhouse Barns for Dairy Housing ($4) is the first comprehensive booklet available in the Northeast giving the pros and cons of greenhouse farms. All prices include postage. Mail a check payable to Merrimack County Cooperative Extension to John Porter, 327 Daniel Webster Hwy., Boscawen NH 03303.

Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, Dec. 18, 1996, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, Markets & Food, P.O. Box 2042, Concord NH 03302-2042.

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Bug Zappers Zap the Environment

About a million electric bug zappers are purchased by homeowners each year – to the detriment of their pocketbooks and the environment. A University of Delaware study showed that only 31 insects out of 13,789 caught in a zapper in a summer were biting flies, including female mosquitoes and biting gnats. Some 48% were nonbiting aquatic insects that could otherwise have fed fish, while some 14% were beneficial insects. University of Minnesota entomologist Jeff Hahn says that the Delaware study “indicate[s] that 4 million bug zappers operating for 40 nights each summer could destroy as many as 71 billion nontarget insects each year. And the number of mosquitoes would be essentially unchanged.”

Source: HortIdeas, Aug. 1996, citing Joseph Kurtz, “Bug Zappers Won’t Protect You from Mosquitoes,” News Information, July 5, 1996, Univ. of Minnesota Extension Service, 405 Coffey Hall, 1420 Eckles Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108-6068.

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Clay Pots as Watering Devices

I once read about putting a tall juice can with holes punched in its bottom near plants and pouring water into the can so that it would slowly seep down to the roots of the plant. I changed the juice can to a clay pot, which I put on the ground and turned back and forth just enough to get it well seated, then filled with water. It worked great and the pots stand up much better than plastic or a juice can.
– Nellie Davis, Jay, Maine

(Nellie added this note to her tip, which she sent in last summer: “Cukes are mostly water so my mouth is already watering for the cukes I hope to get.” )

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Elderberry Extract Inhibits Influenza

When 40 people who had the flu were given either 4 tablespoons (for adults) or 2 tablespoons (for children) of a standard elderberry extract, their symptoms, in almost all cases, were significantly less severe within two days, versus six days for a control group. Studies done in test tubes have also shown that elderberry extract is antiviral.

Source: HerbalGram, No. 38, Fall 1996; citing Zakay-Rones, z., N. Varsano, M. Zlotnic, O. Manor, L. Regev, M.Schlesinger and M. Mumcuoglu, 1995, “Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B in Panama. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1, 4:361-369.

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Selling Odds and Ends

Among the many ways that Francine Pierce has found to make a living from 2.5 acres in Arizona is to sell odds and ends from the farm. In early spring, for example, she sells flowering branches of flowering quince, forsythia and fruit tree prunings for flower arrangements. In a CSA twist, she sells her “bag o’ veggies” at retail stores; the bags contain “bits and pieces of produce” and herbs that were left over from other orders and bagged in two- or four-person quantities and sold for $10: “our choice, no special requests.”

Source: “Making the Desert Bloom,” by Francine Pierce, Growing For Market, April 1996.

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Spacing More Important Than Height for Livestock Fence

For effective animal control, wire spacing is more important than fence height. More animals go through and under fences than over them.

Regardless of how many wires your fence has, always position one wire at the shoulder height of the animal to be controlled. This is the “nose wire” that your animals see and touch when they approach the fence. Other fence wires should be spaced according to the type of animal: 10 to 12 inches apart for cattle and horses and 6 to 8 inches apart for sheep and goats. The bottom wires should be closer together than the top wires.

Fences taller than 48 inches are not necessary. In many countries, livestock fences are seldom over 42 inches tall. Electric fences may be even lower: 36 inches for cattle and horses and 30 inches for sheep and goats. Shorter fences also allow closer wire spacing.

Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, July 24, 1996, N.H. Dept. of Ag., Concord, N.H., originally in Extension News.

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More Deer Repellents

Gardeners in New York are placing old rugs and carpet pieces around valuable plants because, they say, deer won’t step on them and eat their landscape specimens. They are also hanging scented anti-static strips in valuable plants; these are strips that are used in clothes dryers and happen to repel deer with their scent.

Source: “More on Deer Repellents,” Extension Line Lookout 18(1), Jan. 1996, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Erie County, 21 Grove St., East Aurora, NY 14052.

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Larger Transplants, Larger Yields

The trend in transplant trays has been to pack more cells into a tray, yet some growers are using trays with larger but fewer cells. University of Florida professor C.S. Vavrina summarized nine studies conducted in the U.S. and Israel in which tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, watermelons and muskmelons were grown in trays with different cell sizes. In six of the studies, transplants grown in larger cells were larger when planted in the field and produced earlier and/or greater yields. The trend toward higher yields with larger cells was also noticed in the trials that did not show statistical differences. Some cultivars responded less dramatically to larger cells, but the trend toward earlier and/or larger yields was similar. Plants grown in larger cells developed more rapidly in the field and resisted insects and diseases better. “Economics may still play a role in the decision to grow transplants in larger cells,” says Vavrina, but “… in crops such as tomato or watermelon the increase in yield and earliness should cover that small investment up front.”

Source: Vegetarian, Nov. 20, 1996, Cooperative Extension Service, Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

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