Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

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Protect Fruit Trees from Voles

November 5, 2015

To avoid losing a young fruit tree, place vole guards around trunks before the first snowfall, says MOFGA's organic orchardist, C.J. Walke. This barrier prevents voles from eating the bark. Spiral plastic guards wrap around the tree trunk but must be removed in spring, since they can harbor insects and diseases if left. Plastic or metal mesh guards are loose fitting and can stay on year-round as long as you can enlarge them as the tree grows. For more about fall orchard care, see Walke's article "In the Orchard: Get Ready for Winter."


Watch Those Storage Crops

October 29, 2015

Warmer fall seasons may mean that storage crops in root cellars don't keep as long as in the past. Check your crops often – especially onions. Any onions that are starting to sprout can be peeled and chopped raw into about 1/2-inch pieces, put in a freezer bag and stored in the freezer. They do not need to be blanched.



Cover Garden Beds with Leaves and Grass Clippings

October 22, 2015

Gardeners may not have had time to plant cover crops on beds that grew late-harvested vegetables. You can protect that soil from erosion and nutrient leaching during the fall, winter and early spring by mulching it. If you have a mower that collects leaves, mow one last time after the leaves fall (and before the snow falls, we hope!) and spread the collected leaves and grass clippings on the garden. Raking leaves works, too. In spring, pull the mulch off the beds so that the soil warms in time for planting. Leave the mulch in the garden paths or put it in the compost.


Dig Your Rosemary

October 15, 2015

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis – is a perennial in its native Mediterranean home but may be killed by temperatures below about 20 F, so it needs to be potted and brought indoors over winter in Maine. Give this plant a well-drained, neutral soil, keep it in the sun, and water it a little less often than you water your other houseplants – but don't let the soil dry out completely. You might try overwintering rosemary in a protected structure outdoors, also. See "Overwintering Tender Herbs" for some ideas. Use rosemary in herbal vinegars or honey, or to flavor meat or vegetable dishes. It's wonderful with roasted root vegetables.


Plant Garlic Soon

October 8, 2015

Many Mainers shoot for a mid-October planting date for garlic to encourage good root growth before the soil freezes - often around Thanksgiving time. "Getting the timing right is rather a crapshoot," says MOFGA member and gardener extraordinaire Tom Vigue in his article "So When is the Right Time to Plant Garlic?" "Who knows when the ground will freeze this year, or next year, or any year?" asks Vigue. "All we can do is try our best." To do your best, read Tom's article and MOFGA's coverage of our 2013 Spring Growth Conference on garlic.



This Is a Great Year to Dry Apples

October 1, 2015

Everyone is awestruck by the abundance of apples produced this year, on cultivated and wild trees. This is a great year to dry apples – and here's a tip Beedy Parker of Camden gave us long ago for just such years and for after you make all the sauce, cider, syrup and other goodies you can consume.


Make a Composting Compost Bin

September 24, 2015

Need a place to compost all the extra plant material you're pulling from the garden as vegetables mature? Consider building a straw bale compost bin. Make a rectangle by setting six bales on the ground, leaving the center open. Make a second tier with six more bales. Fill the center with plant debris. Alternate layers of brown material (dried leaves, straw) and greens (grass clippings, kitchen waste, other fresh plant material). Avoid diseased plant material. Sprinkle a little soil on each layer. Top the pile with a few inches of straw. Next year plant squash in the top center of the pile. The squash will grow abundantly. The year after, most of the original straw and plant material will have decomposed in your self-composting compost bin. Rake all that wonderful organic matter over the immediate area to nourish a garden bed, and plant away! (Hay bales will work, too, but can bring weed seeds into the garden.)

Save the Milkweed, Maybe Save the Monarchs

September 17, 2015

If milkweed grows on your land, let some plants mature and go to seed. A lack of milkweed, especially with the spread of herbicide-tolerant, genetically engineered crops, is one important reason for the decline in monarch butterflies. Share milkweed seed this fall with friends and neighbors who don't have the plants already.
For more about milkweed, see:
* "Magnificant Milkweed"
* "Gardening for Monarchs"
* "What Do We Want – Monarchs or Corn Syrup?"


Have Your Soil Tested This Fall

September 10, 2015

The University of Maine Analytical Laboratory and Maine Soil Testing Service tests farm, garden and greenhouse soils for a reasonable price. Early fall is a good time to collect soil samples and send them to the lab so that slowly reacting materials (e.g., lime) can be applied and have time to benefit soils before the next growing season. Taking soil samples regularly at the same time of the year enables you to compare results over the long term. See for directions on collecting soil samples, sending them to the lab, costs and more. See MOFGA's fact sheets on soils for information on building and maintaining healthy soils.


Save Seeds this Fall

September 3, 2015

Fall is a time of horticultural abundance, not just in the fruits and vegetables from our gardens, but also in seeds from those fruits and vegetables and from local trees and shrubs. Saving seed can help ensure community food security and plant biodiversity. For the basics of seed saving, read Roberta Bailey's "Saving Seed: An Introduction" and "Seed Saving on the Farm." We also find this 1947 list of seed collection dates for woody plants invaluable.