Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Grow (and Eat) More Squash

November 17, 2016

One way to make winter squash consumption easier is to cook whole squashes. Just use a sharp knife to poke a few holes in a winter squash, put the squash on a cookie sheet and bake it in a 350 F oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until a knife slides into the squash easily. Then take it out of the oven, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, remove the skin and enjoy with a little salt, butter and/or maple syrup.

For other delicious squash recipes, see Roberta Bailey’s article, "Satisfy Those Squash Cravings." Cranberry squash, winter squash soufflé, squash and butternut risotto … yum! Happy Thanksgiving!


Watch Your Squash

November 10, 2016

Winter squash stores best at temperatures of 50 to 55 F and at 50 to 75 percent relative humidity. Keep a close eye on stored squash and pumpkins so that you immediately use (or compost) any that show signs of incipient deterioration. In a talk about squash cultivation some years ago, Rob Johnston Jr. suggested this order of eating for quality: Acorn by November; Delicata by December; Buttercup/Kabocha, January; and Butternut (the most easily stored squash), February.


When to Mulch Garlic

November 3, 2016

Mulching garlic about six weeks after planting, once the soil freezes, may help protect the bulbs from frost heaving over winter – although garlic planted 4 inches deep and early enough for a good root system to develop may not heave even if it is not mulched. Even if garlic is well rooted and planted deeply enough to prevent heaving, mulching will protect soils from erosion and nutrient loss over winter. Different growers mulch with different materials, including straw, hay (which likely contains weed seeds), shredded leaves or even hilled soil. Some pull the mulch off in spring to hasten soil warming and promote garlic growth; others leave it on. Read more in "Garlic, In Depth" in the summer 2013 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Ready to Ferment?

October 27, 2016

Your vegetables, that is … Fermentation has become increasingly popular as a way to preserve garden produce. In the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Roberta Bailey wrote about fermentation and supplied a few recipes from the book "Fermented Vegetables," including one for carrot kraut that would be great now as you bring in those sweet fall carrots.


Fall Orchard Care Can Reduce Disease Pressure

October 20, 2016

Fall cleanup can help control fungal diseases in orchards. For example, apple scab overwinters on infected leaf and fruit tissue, so remove all fruit, especially mummies, from trees, and augment leaf decomposition by mowing and spreading compost and/or applying fish hydrolysate to encourage microbial activity on the orchard floor. MOFGA's organic orchardist, C.J. Walke, offers these and other tips in his article "Fall Reminders and Income from a Diverse Young Orchard" in the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.


Storing Saved Seeds

October 13, 2016

If your garden hasn't been hit by frost yet, many garden seeds can still be collected now and stored for planting in spring. Echinacea seeds are drying on their seed heads – at least those that the goldfinches aren't eating. Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers are long and red; it's time to eat the flesh and save the scraped-away seeds. Chateau Rose tomato seeds are ripe for the taking (i.e., for the fermenting). For some basics on seed saving and storing, see “Storing Saved Seeds” in the winter 2016 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener (MOF&G). For more detailed information, see “Seed Saving on the Farm” by Roberta Bailey in the summer 2012 MOF&G.


Planting in Clusters or Hills

October 6, 2016

Is your 2016 garden fading? Cover crops growing? Are you thinking about next year’s garden yet? If so, you might want to think about planting some crops in clusters or hills rather than spaced evenly in rows, as Will Bonsall describes in his article "Cluster or Hill Planting" in the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. His method simplifies and speeds planting and weed control.


Plant Species Roses for Edible Rose Hips

September 22, 2016

Three rose species that are hardy in much of Maine, Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose, beach rose or saltspray rose), R. glauca (redleaf rose) and R. pomifera (apple rose), have large rose hips (fruits) that are edible and high in vitamin C. Grown on their own rootstocks, these shrub roses are easy garden plants: They don't need to be trellised; they can grow without pruning (but can be pruned to control growth); and they don't need to be treated for pests. The rugosa and redleaf roses are hardy to zone 2, have fragrant flowers, and the rugosas are even salt-tolerant. Redleaf rose has handsome blue-green foliage and fewer thorns than most roses. The apple rose is hardy to zone 5 and has fragrant flowers. Rose hips can be collected after they turn red and then be made into jams, jellies, teas, syrup or wine and can be dried or used fresh. To dry hips for tea, cut them in half (wearing gloves to protect your hands from the tiny thorns), scoop out the seeds, and dry the fruit pieces in a single layer on a screen, then store them in an airtight container.