Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Organic Gardening Tips

Publications \ Organic Gardening Tips

Controlling Asparagus Beetles

May 22, 2015

Do asparagus beetles populate your asparagus crop? Here's a cultural control from MOFGA's organic crop specialist, Eric Sideman: "During harvest, you can greatly reduce the population by harvesting ALL of the ready spears every harvest. Do not allow any spears to develop into fronds until you are all done harvesting for the season. This reduces the number of stems where eggs will survive, and larvae can feed and grow up into the summer-generation beetles. In the fall remove all of the crop residue and other refuse nearby that provides shelter for adults to overwinter. Maintaining a clean environment in the fall will force beetles to seek shelter outside the field or burrow in the soil, where many predators reside." Read more in Sideman's pest report and sign up for MOFGA pest reports on MOFGA.org.

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Value Your Dandelions

May 14, 2015

Did you know that dandelions "are one of the first pollen/nectar sources during the whole growing season," according to New York state farmer Steve Gilman, who spoke at one of MOFGA's Farmer to Farmer Conferences years ago? One researcher "found 93 different species of insects that feed on that pollen/nectar," he added. "The preponderance of those was beneficial insects." Dandelions also serve as overwintering habitat for mycorrhizal fungi - beneficial fungi that associate with plant roots and help take up, conserve and use water and nutrients. So enjoy these bright signs of spring if they pop up in your yard! If you don't want them to get out of hand, mow your lawn high (above 2-1/2 inches) and mow before dandelions go to seed.

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Start Squash and Pumpkin Plants Now

May 7, 2015

Starting squash and pumpkin plants a few weeks ahead of the last spring frost can give plants a jump on the season - and on pests, such as the cucumber beetle. Set transplants in the garden around the end of May - carefully, since they don't like to have their roots disturbed. Water them in and cover them with row cover until they flower. By then the plants should be large enough to resist cucumber beetles. Remove row covers so that bees can pollinate the flowers.

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Greensprouting Potatoes

April 30, 2015

Greensprouting potatoes – getting some well developed sprouts before planting seed potatoes in the ground – can lead to earlier and greater yields, or enable you to grow longer-season varieties. To greensprout, keep seed potatoes at 70 to 75 F in the dark for a week to break dormancy, and then keep them around 50 F and provide at least 12 hours of light for a few weeks so that sprouts emerge but stay short (about 3/4 inch). Read more in the article Greensprouting Potatoes and the article On-Farm Seed Production.

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Got Your Peas In?

April 23, 2015

MOFGA's late executive director, Russell Libby, used to advise gardeners to plant their peas on Patriots Day so that they'd be ready for harvest by the fourth of July. "Plant peas. It's patriotic," he said, as planting takes us a step toward food independence. You can read about Russell's pea planting technique here. Russell's daughter Anna got her peas in on time this year. Some of us are behind, given the weather – but it's not too late. Did you know that you can transplant peas? Even on a farm scale? New York State growers Paul and Sandy Arnold spoke at one of MOFGA's Farmer to Farmer Conferences about their problems with earthworms pulling pea seeds deep into the soil, explaining why the Arnolds always thought they had poor pea germination. They took to transplanting peas to soils with fewer worms in order to get a crop. Read more about the Arnolds' growing methods (including using organic mulch on a farm scale).

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Rhubarb

April 19, 2015

Rhubarb is poking up in the garden! This easy-to-grow perennial is great for an edge plant in the garden or as a permaculture crop integrated into an orchard. It's also easy to freeze and goes well in several recipes, including rhubarb juice, crisp, jam, chutney and more. Enjoy Roberta Bailey's article on rhubarb from the Spring 2014 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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Try a Hugelkultur Bed This Year

April 9, 2015

As you clean up branches and trunks of trees that were damaged by snow this winter, consider making a hugelkultur (mound culture) bed with them. Hugelkultur beds are excellent for draining and, at the same time, retaining moisture, so they provide a good way to grow crops when weather and climate are uncertain. Read more about hugelkultur at http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ and in article published in the Summer 2013 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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It's Almost Parsnip Time!

April 3, 2015

A few years ago, Jack Kertesz planted a demonstration plot at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center highlighting storage crops – vegetables that are easy to store over winter indoors without canning or freezing or, in some cases, can even be left in the ground over winter for an early spring harvest. Think parsnips! Kertesz said of parsnips, "A spring tradition is to dig these oh-so-sweet roots from the garden. They are excellent drizzled with oil and roasted on a cookie sheet. Or try a parsnip pie: Sauté sliced parsnips and onions in corn oil, place them in a crust and bake until the parsnips are soft. You will look forward to spring's first bounty." Read more in "A Dozen Storage Crops for Homegrown Food Security."

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Do You Know Your Soil pH?

March 19, 2015

The first step in improving soil fertility on farms and gardens is ensuring that the soil pH (acidity or alkalinity) meets the needs of the crops you'll be growing. Micronutrients that plants need are usually adequately supplied when the soil pH is in the appropriate range for them. You can have your soil tested for pH and other fertility measures by the Maine Soil Testing Service at the University of Maine. Obtain a soil test kit now so that you'll be ready to get a soil sample once the snow melts! Kit are available at your local Cooperative Extension office and through the website of the Maine Soil Testing Service. For more about soil tests, see MOFGA's fact sheet, "An Organic Farmer's Guide to the Interpretation of a Standard Soil Test from the University of Maine."

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Got Your Garlic In?

October 23, 2014

In Maine, mid- to late-October is a great time for planting garlic. Roots have time to get established and hold the bulbs in place before the ground freezes around Thanksgiving, but shoots don't have time to emerge and suffer damage from freezing. Read all about planting depth, spacing, mulching, weed control, harvesting and storing garlic, and controlling pests, in our article, "Garlic, In Depth."

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