Fact Sheets

Crop Topics

Soil-less Mixes for Vegetable Seedling Production

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Soil-less mixes were developed for use in containers for seedlings because field soil does not work well. Soil alone is heavy and poorly aerated. It tends to become waterlogged and sticky when wet. Then it shrinks when it dries, pulls away from the container edges and turns

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Providing Nitrogen to Organic Crops

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Nitrogen is usually the nutrient that is in limiting supply, i.e., the limiting factor to crop growth on organic farms. Plants deficient in nitrogen are stunted, yellowish (especially the lower leaves), and have restricted root growth. Plants turn yellow because nitrogen is an integral part of chlorophyll,

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Basics of Organic Vegetable Gardening

Prepared byDr. Eric Sideman andDr. Jean English Introduction The science of gardening is complex, but the actual practice is simple. The central goal of organic gardening is to maintain or improve the ability of the soil to support plant life as it produces a crop of vegetables each year. That ability depends on a dynamic

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Establishing and Caring for an Organic Lawn

By Eric Sideman, Ph.D., Doug Fox, M.S., and Jean English, Ph.D. Revised February 2016 The cool climate of Maine favors healthy lawns. The grass will grow lush and with few problems as long as basic plant needs are met, including proper soil fertility, soil structure, soil organic matter and proper watering and mowing No synthetic

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Garden Weeds

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Garden weeds are simply plants that are growing where you do not want them. Any plant species may be a weed, but in gardens in New England, there are some species that are very common. And, in some gardens, very common is an understatement. Why do some

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Composting in the Back Yard or on a Small Farm

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Composting is a natural, biological process in which microorganisms use organic materials as food and leave a residue of digested organic matter that is almost completely decomposed. Composting is the same as the decomposition that happens to all living things when they die, except that you control

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An Introduction to the Physical Nature of Soils

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Benefits of Composting The soil is a complex and dynamic system of living and nonliving components. In natural ecosystems, minerals cycle from living back to non-living components, while organic matter levels remain relatively constant as deposits of organic matter (from falling leaves, for example) balance decomposition. In

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Ridge Tillage at Hackmatack Farm

By Nicolas LindholmPhotos and illustrations by Nicolas Lindholm Ridge tillage as we practice it at Hackmatack Farm is a system of growing vegetable crops in raised ridges formed before planting. Essential to this system is incorporation of winterkilled cover crops and other organic matter into the top surface layer of soil as we form the

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Zone Tillage – A Reduced Tillage Option for Northern Farms

By Jan Goranson and Rob Johanson, Goranson Farm, Dresden, and Jean English, Ph.D., MOFGA Plowing and tilling soil excessively can reduce soil health by exposing soil to so much aeration that organic matter oxidizes excessively; subjecting soil to wind and water erosion; inverting soil layers, thus displacing soil organisms from their ecological niches. Plowing and

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Organic Strawberry Production

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Introduction Similar to any organic crop production, producing strawberries organically entails a system approach to the whole farm. Many of the practices are the same in organic and conventional strawberry systems, but the fundamental approach to soil husbandry and pest management may be quite different. Successful organic

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Storing Garden Vegetables

by Eric Sideman, PhD and Cheryl Wixson, P.E. Apples Use caution when storing apples with other vegetables as they give off ethylene gas that causes other vegetables to rot. They can be stored in tubs with lids to prevent this effect. Choose varieties that are good winter keepers, like golden russet, Belle de Boskeep, winter

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Natural Sources of Plant Nutrients

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus There are two basic approaches to fertilization. The first is to provide required nutrients to each crop in a soluble form that plants can use immediately, i.e., feed the plant. The advantage to this approach is the opportunity to quite accurately meet a crop’s need. The disadvantage

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Using Green Manures

by Eric Sideman, PhDMOFGA’s Organic Crop Specialist Emeritus Introduction There is no such thing as the “best green manure”. A grower has to decide what is the most important benefit to their farm system of growing green manures and what is the window of opportunity that they have to take cropland out of production. This

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Pest Topics

Garden Springtails

Garden Springtails (Collembolla) Identification of pest & Most common damage symptoms in the most common crops that it damages: Springtails are a very diverse group of soil dwelling arthropods, that largely feed on decaying organic matter. As such, most springtail species are playing a beneficial role in a healthy soil’s food web. That knowledge may

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Sunscald/ Windwhip

Identification of pest Plants that have not yet been hardened off thoroughly, or can’t get all the water they need, can suffer from something akin to a sunburn. The damage usually shows up first as a bleaching of exposed leaf surfaces, typically higher up on the plant, though sometimes only becomes apparent as necrotic leaf

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Flea Beetles

Crucifer Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta cruciferae) Striped Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta striolata) Identification of pest & Most common damage symptoms in the most common crops that it damages: Crucifer and striped flea beetles feed on brassica crops as well as weeds that are in the same family, such as yellow rocket or wild mustard. Larvae feed on

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Asparagus Beetle

Asparagus Beetle, Common and Spotted Identification of pest Common Asparagus Beetle  (Crioceris asparigi) Blue-black, shiny, smooth and about 6 to 9 mm (1/4 inch) long, with three large yellow, squarish spots with red margins along each wing cover. Eggs are black, laid standing on end in rows along the spears, and hatch in 3-8 days.

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Edema (Oedema)

Identification of pest & Most common damage symptoms in the most common crops that it damages Edema usually shows up on tomato seedlings when they have been waiting through lots of cloudy cold days. It is also a common problem in plants in the cabbage family, and some house plants Blisters or bumps appear on

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Lawn Care

Establishing and Caring for an Organic Lawn

By Eric Sideman, Ph.D., Doug Fox, M.S., and Jean English, Ph.D. Revised February 2016 The cool climate of Maine favors healthy lawns. The grass will grow lush and with few problems as long as basic plant needs are met, including proper soil fertility, soil structure, soil organic matter and proper watering and mowing No synthetic

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Livestock Topics

Raising Organic Pigs

by Diane Schivera, MAT Pigs can be valuable additions to diversified farms by providing meat and helping to clear land. Louis Bromfield wrote in his book From My Experience (1955), “To be financially successful at raising hogs primarily requires the ability to think like a hog.” This article covers the basics of keeping pigs and

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Organic Chicken Basics

By Diane Schivera, MAT Introduction The basis for organic livestock production is the development of a harmonious relationship between land, plants, and livestock, and respect for the physiological and behavioral needs of livestock. This is achieved by: Providing good quality organically grown feed Maintaining appropriate stocking rates. Designing husbandry systems adapted to the species’ needs.

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Feeding Whole Grains to Chickens

By Diane Schivera, MAT Introduction Feed is the most expensive portion of the cost of raising chickens, and this expense is magnified by the fact that most folks feed a ground mash or pellet that is formulated and produced by a feed company. In an attempt to reduce this cost, you can feed laying hens

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Cleaning, Grading and Hatching Eggs

By Diane Schivera, MAT Revised June 2017 Introduction Many natural barriers help prevent bacteria from entering eggs. The “bloom” or “cuticle,” a gelatinous covering that dries after the egg emerges from the hen, helps seal the pores in the shell, reducing moisture loss and bacterial penetration. The many egg membranes also help prevent the passage

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Orchards

Apple Orchard Activity Calendar for the Northeast

By C. J. Walke Introduction Growing organic tree fruit can be a bit of a challenge, considering the various insects and diseases that like to call your fruit tree home and the relatively short efficacy window of organic control materials; so being attentive to stages of fruit development and biological cycles of pests in your

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Please contact a member of our Farmer Programs team for more information. For information about crops and pests, contact Caleb Goossen. For information about dairy and livestock, contact Jacki Martinez Perkins.

For information & fact sheets on more organic farming topics, visit ATTRA or Cooperative Extension.
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