Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Mind Your Peas and Oats
Reel Mowers
Solar Water Pumps for Rotational Grazing
Cash in on Metal Market
Mint Oil Kills or Repels Ants
DDT Resources
Rye vs. Weeds
Sow Oats to Weed and Mulch Strawberries
Organic Castup is Better
Read and Weed
Organic Apple Info
Bean and Buckwheat Intercrops
Recycled Refrigerator Truck Cooler Stores Veggies


Mind Your Peas and Oats

Oats can serve as a pea trellis – enabling you to plant your fall peas and cover crop in the same place! Barbara Pleasant reports in Mother Earth News that David Fisher and Anna Maclay of Natural Roots organic farm in Conway, Mass., sow one oat seed for every five or six peas (shell, snow or snap), using a walk-behind seeder. The crops grow at the same rate and both reach about 30 inches in height. ("Palate Pleasing Peas," Mother Earth News, Feb./March 2005.)

In my own garden, I've had success growing a late crop of peas on asparagus stalks – with spinach undersown as a bonus crop. I sow peas on the north side of the asparagus row after I've finished harvesting asparagus and when the spears are growing up into ferns. I sow spinach on the south side, right up against the asparagus row. Thus, three nutritious, delicious, green crops are produced in a space previously used for one. – Jean English

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Reel Mowers

Lars Hundley, owner of Clean Air Gardening of Dallas, Texas, which sells reel lawnmowers, says that today's reel mowers are a far cry from those of old. They are light, quiet and virtually maintenance-free-and, of course, environmentally friendly. They're also better for your lawn, since they cut grass like scissors, rather than tearing it, as rotary mowers do.

A manual mower is best for 8,000 square feet of grass or less, says Hundley, adding that a lawn that takes 45 minutes to mow with a power mower will take 60 or 70 minutes with a reel mower.

For most efficient operation of a reel mower:

1. Walk at a good, steady pace so that the mower doesn't bind up and skid.

2. Overlap rows so that you mow less grass on each pass and catch any spots you may have missed on the previous pass.

3. Try different mowing patterns, since different types of grass and different lawns have different growing patterns.

4. Manual mowers are harder to push through tall grass, so mow weekly. [Ed. Note: We often can't do that during rainy periods in Maine. Think about getting a scythe to go along with your reel mower, for areas that get ahead of you. Check out scythesupply.com.]

5. Find the recommended cutting height for your grass, or try different cutting heights to find which works best on your lawn.

6. Embrace imperfection. Grass is a living organism, not a carpet. If you miss a few blades of grass, you'll get them next week.

7. With a reel mower, you can mow in the cooler morning temperatures without worrying about waking up your neighbor.

For more information, see www.cleanairgardening.com or www.reelmowerguide.com.

Source: Clean Air Gardening press release, Feb. 20, 2005. Lars Hundley, 5802 Penrose Ave., Dallas TX 75206; 214-370-0530.

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Solar Water Pumps for Rotational Grazing

New Hampshire agriculture commissioner Steve Taylor writes that solar water pumps caught his attention at the 2005 Farm and Forest Expo trades show this year. "Rotational grazing programs are often limited by availability of water for livestock in far reaches of pastures," he notes. "Having paddocks a long distance from the farmstead's water supply may be out of the question because of the cost of running water lines, so a remote pump fueled by the sun's energy might be the answer. Solar-powered water pumps also have horticultural and landscape applications, according to Robert Wills of Solar Stream Co. of Temple [N.H.], marketers of the technology." Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, Feb. 16, 2005. FMI: www.Solar-Stream.com; 603-878-0066.

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Cash in on Metal Market

This might be a good time to consider recycling scrap metal that's sitting around on your farm, according to Extension News. The price for scrap iron and steel jumped from $74 per metric ton in 2000 to $253 in 2004, largely because of the industrial boom in China and construction surges in India, Europe and the United States. Source: Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. of Agriculture, Feb. 16, 2005.

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Mint Oil Kills or Repels Ants

Two percent mint oil on peanut shells killed confined fire ants in lab tests and, when applied over fire ant mounds outdoors, caused ants to leave the mounds and build satellite nests within two days. Mint oil granules might repel other types of ants. Source: Growing for Market, Jan. 2005 (www.growingformarket.com); originally in IPM Practitioner, Sept.-Oct. 2004.

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DDT Resources

A campaign to discredit the ban on DDT is going on in some media (including Michael Crichton's latest book, State of Fear ). The Pesticide Action Network's DDT and Malaria Resource Center at www.panna.org/DDT counters the misinformation. Learn how Mexico, for instance, has found alternatives to DDT that are cheaper and more effective in controlling malaria.

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Rye vs. Weeds

To control small-seeded weeds such as pigweed and purslane, grow a crop of rye, cut it and let it sit on the ground as a mulch. According to Lee Reich in his book Weedless Gardening (Workman Pub. Co., 2001), the cut rye controls weeds in two ways: by smothering them and by releasing natural, weed-suppressing chemicals for one to two months. Large-seeded crops, such as corn, can be planted through the mulch.

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Sow Oats to Weed and Mulch Strawberries

When strawberry harvest is over, sow oats right in the beds. They'll grow and help shade out weeds, then will provide a mulch when they're winterkilled and fall over. Source: Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich; Workman Pub. Co., 2001.

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Organic Castup is Better

Analyses of 13 kinds of catsup by USDA showed that organic brands consistently had higher concentrations of antioxidants-primarily lycopene-than nonorganic. Source: Ishida, B.K. and M.H. Chapman, 2004. "A comparison of carotenoid content and total antioxidant activity in catsup from several commercial sources in the United States." J. Agric. Food Chem. 52:8017-8020. Reported in Journal of Pesticide Reform, Spring 2005.

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Read and Weed

Weeding got you down? Minnesota vegetable grower Tim King told The MOF&G that his wife Jan, who raises vegetables with Tim, listens to books on tape while weeding. – Jean English

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Organic Apple Info

At www.HerbsAndApples.com you can read the latest and best ways to grow apples organically, thanks to Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard in Groveton, New Hampshire. You can share information about organic orcharding with Phillips, too, to make the Web site a bioregional resource. Source: Growing for Market, April 2005; www.growingformarket.com.

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Bean and Buckwheat Intercrops

Oregon market growers Anthony and Carol Boutard grow buckwheat between rows of shell beans (beans that are shelled when the seeds are fully formed but are not yet ripe) to keep the soil cool and protect it from compaction during picking, and to improve soil quality. "If the buckwheat gets unruly, it can be cut with a scythe or narrow sickle bar mower or trampled into submission." Source: "Fresh shell beans a popular crop," by Anthony and Carol Boutard. Growing for Market, April 2005.

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Recycled Refrigerator Truck Cooler Stores Veggies

Slack Hollow Farm in Argyle, New York, has converted an old refrigerator truck cooler into a root cellar to store root vegetables for the winter. The insulated box was removed from a truck, and its refrigeration unit cools produce in summer. In the winter, root crops are set on pallets so that they don't touch outside walls and freeze. A small space heater and fan keep the temperature at 34 degrees. The tight box keeps humidity in and rodents out. Source: "Extending the Selling Season – Refer Truck Becomes Root Cellar," by Seth Jacobs, Slack Hollow Farm. New Connections, Spring 2005, Regional Farm & Food Project. www.farmandfood.org.

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MOF&G Cover Summer 2005
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