Succession Planting

April 20th, 2017 10:38 AM

By Jason Lilley, UMaine Extension Cumberland Sustainable Agriculture Professional

Little Ridge Farm, rows of planted beans

Little Ridge Farm in Lisbon, ME. 

Now that the garden soil is drying out and warming up, it’s time to get planting!

Many gardeners wish that they had more space to get more veggies from. One way to increase your yields without increasing your garden space is with succession planting. Succession planting is the practice of planning the use of your garden space and planting times for continual harvests throughout the season. This ensures that as you finish the harvest of one planting of a certain crop, the next planting is ready to be harvested.

Succession planting;

  • Maximizes the use of your garden space
  • Ensures a continuous supply of crops and
  • Results in higher season long yields

To start planning your succession plantings make a chart for each of your crops of the;

  • Days to harvest
  • Cold tolerance of the crop and
  • Harvest period of the crop

Days to harvest

One way to utilize your days to harvest information for succession planting is to plant different varieties of the same crop that have different days to harvest. For example if you plant a sweet corn variety that is 68 days to harvest at the same time as an 80 day variety, you would almost have finished harvesting the 68 day variety in the ≈12 days before the 80 day variety is ready to start harvesting.

Days to harvest information also gives you helpful information about when to put in your last planting. Remember that as the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, you will need more time for your crop to mature than the stated days to harvest.

Cold Tolerance

Be aware of the heat and cold tolerance of your crops. Cool season crops like radishes, lettuces, peas, and spinach do best in cooler soils. These crops are best to plant in succession in the early spring and late fall. Some of these crops can be harvest before warm season crops are ready to plant, making room in the garden those crops. Warm season crops like tomatoes, eggplant, melons, and beans are more sensitive to frost and grow more slowly in cooler temperatures. Final succession plantings of these crops should occur earlier to ensure that they can mature before temperatures are too cool.

Harvest Periods

When deciding how long to wait between succession plantings consider the amount of time that you can harvest from a plant or crop. Crops like kale, peas, summer squash, and tomatoes continue to yield over a long period so you may want to wait longer between plantings. Other crops like melons, radishes, and head lettuce are harvested and done, so more frequent planting are be beneficial. Suggested interval times between succession plantings for different crops are listed in this chart by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Use this succession planting calculator to enter your first planting dates, your desired time between planting, and have your successive planting date calculated for you!

12 Great Gardens to Visit in Maine

March 30th, 2017 9:00 AM

By Kathleen McNerney, UMaine Extension Home Horticulture Coordinator

No Matter where you travel in Maine there are fabulous gardens to visit and explore. From Kittery to Mt. Desert Island, from cottage gardens to arboretums and Native Plant gardens there is something for everyone. Here is a listing of some of the ‘must see’ Maine gardens that are open to the public. So pack a picnic and get out there!

Costal Maine Botanical Gardens, photo courtesy of the gardens.

Costal Maine Botanical Gardens, photo courtesy of the gardens.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay Maine. Located on128 acres of pristine land with 3,600 feet of tidal shore frontage in Boothbay, this is the crown jewel of Maine gardens. Features include the Garden of the Senses, the Children’s Garden, Azalea and Rhododendron Garden, Meditation Garden, Kitchen Garden and miles of woodland trails. There are many educational programs offered throughout the year. The Gardens are open daily May 1 through October 31 with special hours during their Gardens Aglow event, which runs November 18 through December 31.

Celia Thaxter’s Garden at the Shoals Marine Laboratory, Isle of Shoals, Maine, off the coast of Kittery. This garden was the inspiration for Celia Thaxter’s book ‘An Island Garden’. This 15’ x 50’ garden served as the cutting garden for the large hotel that Celia’s father built and that served as a gathering place for many literary giants. To this day interns and workers at the laboratory tend to the gardens, remaining true to the descriptions and method described Celia’s book. Tours are available.

Hamilton House Grounds, South Berwick, Maine. Located on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River, the grounds of this historic house embody a romantic vision of America’s past, with a beautiful perennial garden, a vine draped kitchen ell and a plant-covered pergola. Open June – October

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House Gardens, Portland, Maine. This colonial revival, urban oasis in the heart of Portland is a wonderful retreat. Three generations of the Wadsworth family tended the gardens at this historic home. In 1901 the house and grounds were bequeathed to the Maine Historical Society. Visiting the grounds is free. Open May – October.

UMaine Gardens at Tidewater Farm, Photo by Amy Witt (UMaine Extension Horticulturist)

UMaine Gardens at Tidewater Farm, Photo by Amy Witt (UMaine Extension Horticulturist)

UMaine Gardens at Tidewater Farm Falmouth, Maine. These gardens were created and are maintained by UMaine Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners in Cumberland County. The area, with a beautiful view of the Presumpscot River, consists of a Children’s Garden, Cottage Garden, Pollinator Garden, All America Selections Display Garden and the Norm Steele Harvest for Hunger garden that last year provided 1540lbs. of produce to local pantries. Open dawn to dusk year round.

Viles Arboretum, Augusta, Maine. This 224 acre preserve was begun by the Maine Forest Service in 1981 and in that year 120 trees were planted. In 1991, the Arboretum was certified as a Demonstration Tree Farm. With six miles of trails the Arboretum is open dawn to dusk year round.

Merryspring Nature Center, Camden, Maine. Made up of 66 acres of pristine woodlands with a vernal pool and numerous gardens the Merryspring Nature Center this is a perfect place to hike, go birding and view wildlife. Visitors are welcome to collect seeds, ask for cuttings or purchase divisions. Open year round.

McLaughlin Gardens, photo from

McLaughlin Gardens, photo from

McLaughlin Gardens, South Paris, Maine. Celebrating 20 years. Previously privately owned by Bernard McLaughlin, an avid Iris collector, the gardens are now maintained by the non-profit McLaughlin Foundation. Mr. McLaughlin frequently allowed visitors in his garden. He passed away in 1995 and the foundation was formed to protect the property from development. Their goal is to keep the gardens open to the public. Set for a major expansion in the next 15 years this already beautiful place will be interesting to watch grow. Open May 12- October 31. Closed Mondays.

Woodlawn Gardens at the Colonel Black Mansion, Ellsworth, Maine; With 180 acres to explore, this garden features a clipped lilac hedge that encloses the 1903 formal garden and a cutting garden. It is supported by Master Gardener volunteers form the Cooperative Extension in Hancock County. The grounds are open year round.

Ecotat Gardens and Arboretum, Hermon, Maine. A word mash-up combining ecological and habitat, these grounds on 91 acres consist of 55 gardens, with 280 varieties of trees and 1,500 varieties of perennials. It is open year round from dawn to dusk.

Beatrix Ferrand Garden at the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine. Celebrated garden designer, Beatrix Farrand’s emblematic skill is on full display at this garden, created by her in 1928. The unique stone walls, staircases and hedges define garden rooms. Several of the original rose bushes still survive. This garden features great views of Frenchman’s Bay and a geometric parterre. Open year round.

Wild Gardens of Acadia, Mt. Desert Island, Maine. The Wild Gardens are located in Acadia National Park, and reflect the typical habitats as found on Mount Desert Island. There are nine separate display areas and all the plants are clearly labeled for easy identification. The garden is open year round and is located at the Sieur de Monts Spring and Nature Center. While garden touring in Mt. Desert Island be sure to visit their Land and Garden Preserve

Meet the Staff: Administrative Personnel

March 27th, 2017 10:27 AM

University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County Admin standing outside of the office building.
The administrative specialists at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County provide necessary support for the educational programs and are your contact for UMaine Extension’s services. They coordinate classes and workshops, run website and social media pages, prepare instructional materials, monitor budgets, respond to individual client requests, and more.
So who are they?

Lynne Hazelton, Administrative Support Specialist, Agriculture and HorticultureAgriculture and Horticulture
Lynne Hazelton, Administrative Support Specialist

In addition to providing administrative support to the Agriculture and Horticulture programs, Lynne is a Master Gardener volunteer and coordinates the annual Donation Drive to benefit the Preble Street Resource Center each fall. She also uses her fine art education to create marketing and informational materials, like the annual Taste of Tidewater Fundraiser logo.


Mallory Martin, Administrative Support Specialist, Nutrition and HomemakersFood/Nutrition and Homemakers
Mallory Martin, Administrative Support Specialist

When Mallory isn’t providing administrative support to the Food/Nutrition programs and the Homemaker volunteers, she’s providing support to the state-wide 4-H Foundation. Before working for Extension, Mallory was a Youth Trustee for the 4-H Foundation and now uses her education in film and theatre to assist with videos and promotional materials in her program areas.


ayla Mann, Administrative Support SpecialistReception
Tayla Mann, Administrative Support Specialist

Tayla is your first point of contact at the UMaine Extension Cumberland office. She’s the friendly face when you arrive and the pleasant voice you hear when you call. She provides support to all program areas and uses her personal blogging experience to manage our weekly blog.



Sara Conant, Administrative Support Specialist and Community Education Assistant, 4-H4-H
Sara Conant, Administrative Support Specialist and Community Education Assistant

Sara has been involved with Cumberland County 4-H for 14 years as a member and club leader and is your contact for anything Cumberland County 4-H related. She splits her time between providing administrative support to 4-H programs and teaching outreach programs at schools and libraries, as well as coordinating and teaching our Special Interest 4-H Summer Programs. Sara also runs the Paws ‘N’ Pals 4-H Dog Club in Windham with her adorable Miniature Poodle, Marly.

Get to know your UMaine Extension Educators! More “Meet the Staff” posts are coming soon! 

Maine Maple Weekend in Cumberland County

March 24th, 2017 10:17 AM
Maple Syrup drizzling over a stack of pancakes

Photo by USDA

Maine Maple Sunday is a timeless tradition here in Maine. And we have got the low down for your sweet tooth on where to go in Cumberland County this weekend!

Balsam Ridge will be celebrating all weekend with activities such as a tree tapping demonstration, tours and live entertainment. Stop in and check out their syrup, cotton candy and other delicious maple recipes while supplies last!

140 Egypt Road Raymond, Maine 04071 (207) 655-4474 | 9am-4pm

Jo’s Sugar House at The Hartwell Farm will be open on Sunday from 9am – 4pm sharing stories of the making of maple syrup and the transformation of sap over their wood fired evaporator. With offerings of maple confections, gift baskets and more!

19 North Gorham Road Gorham, Maine 04038 | (207) 671-2189

Whipple Lock Farm is cooking up maple sugar cookies and maple candies in preparation for Maple Sunday! They will be opening at 9am, stop in and bring your sweet tooth!

27 Whipple Road North Gorham, Maine 04038

Coopers Maple Products will be opening their doors at 9am on Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast! They will also have maple nuts, cotton candy and even their newest addition of pure raw honey! You can even check out their farm and livestock while you’re there!

81 Chute Road Windham, Maine 04062 | (207) 892-7276

Dad’s Maple Sugar Shack is prepping for an all weekend celebration! They will be open both Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 3pm with their delicious dark robust maple syrup and many other sweet treats!

1061 Naples Road Harrison, Maine 04040 | (207)583-6036

Greene Maple Farm is gearing up for Maine Maple weekend with Phillip View Farm. They will be supplying sweet maple treats, whoopee pies and even maple pulled pork! They will be open Saturday and Sunday from 8am – 4pm. You are going to want to check it out!

77 Bridgton Road Sebago, Maine 04029

Sweet William’s is definitely sticking with their name providing maple sundaes, maple baked beans, maple popcorn and so much more! They will also have guided sugarbush tours and face painting for the kids. Check it out this Sunday from 9am – 4pm.

66 Spiller Road Casco, Maine 04015 | (207) 627-7362

Nash Valley Farm will be open Saturday from 12pm-4pm and Sunday from 9am – 4pm with everything maple! Try out their delicious maple syrup over ice cream along with other treats at their country store.

79 Nash Road Windham, Maine | (207)892-7019

Merrifield Farm is opening their doors for both Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 4pm. They will be serving up pancakes along with a variety of maple treats. The weekend is filled with all kinds of activities like tours, music and cart rides given by the 4-H Brass Knob Club. You wont want to miss what they have in store!

195 North Gorham Road Gorham, Maine | (207)892-5061

The Lockman Place has been prepping all month bottling up their homemade maple syrup for this Sunday. They will be open 10am – 4pm so stop on in and meet the family!

274 North Gorham Road North Gorham, Maine 04038 | (207) 892-9342

Jim’s Sugarhouse is gearing up to be open all weekend from 8am – 4pm supplying treats like syrup, sugar, and lollipops for your sweet tooth!

296 Maple Ridge Road Harrison, Maine | (207)449-6511

Be sure to spend your Maine Maple Weekend supporting local maple syrup distributors and tasting lots of treats!

Happy Taste Testing!

by Tayla Mann, UMaine Extension, Administrative Specialist

UMaine Extension Publications on Maple Syrup: 
Bulletin #7036, How to Tap Maple Trees and Make Maple Syrup.
Bulletin #7038, Maple Syrup Quality Control Manual
Bulletin #7041, Licensing and Regulations for Maple Syrup Processing in Maine

Luck of the Clover

March 17th, 2017 11:13 AM
Four-Leaf Clover

Photo by

By Tayla Mann, UMaine Extension Staff, Administrative Specialist 

The four-leaf clover has become a well-known symbol of luck, 4-H and St. Patrick’s Day. But not many of us know the folk-lore and facts behind this little green plant. The chances of even finding a four-leaf clover among the rest are 1 in 10,000! This is why the clover has been given its lucky persona. And if you pass it along to a friend, your luck will double!

It is a known fact that clovers tend to grow by the millions in large patches of yards and fields. This transferred into the 4-H clover emblem we all know today. Becoming patented in 1924 for representing the growth of millions of members in the USA.

Though these little green gems are like a diamond in the rough to most, they are actually considered a genetic defect that occurs in the root of the clover plant. However, most clover patches grow from one plant system, so the chances of finding more four-leaf clovers in that spot is very likely. Regardless of their leaf number, clovers are self-sufficient. This tiny plant takes nitrogen from the air and uses it for growth with the help of special rhizomes in their roots. This can make them a little selfish. If planted at home they prefer to be in separate containers from other houseplants.

Most people wouldn’t consider planting clovers in their home with patches popping up all over. However, if you live in Maine and still have snow on the ground they are a perfect addition of luck and green cheer this St. Patrick’s Day! The trick is to refrigerate your seeds 24 hours before you plan to put them in soil. The seeds will think they have just been through winter. Use moist, well-drained soil and keep in a sunny spot. They will pop up in a few days!

Whether you’re searching fields or trying to plant some

in your own home the four-leaf clover still remains a lucky treasure!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cooking for Crowds: Volunteer Food Safety

March 16th, 2017 3:11 PM

By Mallory Martin, Administrative Specialist, Food & Nutrition


Photo courtesy of USDA

Many organizations and community groups rely on volunteers for a variety of food events such as fundraising, fellowship, food pantries or other services to the community and it can be difficult to make sure you’re fully prepared. How do you store all that food? When is the food completely cooked? How long can you leave food on the buffet table? Cooking for Crowds offers up-to-date information on how to handle, transport, store and prepare foods safely for large group functions such as soup kitchens, church suppers, food pantries and community fundraisers.

Kathy Savoie, UMaine Educator offers the Cooking for Crowds course in the spring and fall. This year the workshop will be expanding to other counties including Oxford and Kennebec. The workshop is also available for organizations to host and can be requested here.

It is scary to think about people getting sick from your meal, but it can happen. More than three-quarters of the outbreaks are blamed on food eaten outside the home. Cooking for Crowds was designed to help prevent these outbreaks and to ensure food safety in food functions.

According to the manual, “This curriculum was designed to show nonprofit groups the food safety risks that develop when cooking large volumes of food and how to reduce those risks so that the food the group prepares is both safe and delicious. Although many of the food safety strategies recommended are similar to those recommended to commercial food establishments, the strategies have been translated into practical methods to meet the specific needs of nonprofit audiences.”

Workshops cover the following food safety guidelines:

  • Planning and Purchasing
  • Storing Food Supplies
  • Preparing Food
  • Transporting, Storing and Serving Cooked Foods
  • Handling Leftovers

Participants receive Cooking for Crowds, a manual specifically designed for volunteer cooks, Certificate of Attendance, Posters, and an Instant Read Thermometer. This class meets the Good Shepherd Food-Bank food safety training requirements. To sign up for one of the Cooking for Crowds workshops, visit

What’s Happening In Orono

March 13th, 2017 10:53 AM
by Lynne Hazelton, UMaine Extension Administrative Support Specialist, Agriculture and Horticulture 

Take a Tour through UMaine with Lynne, Mallory, and Tayla, as they visit the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, the J.Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center, the Hudson Museum, and the Emera Astronomy Center.

Lynne, Mallory, and Tayla wearing hard hats and safety goggles at the Advanced structures and composites center at UMaine Orono

After surviving a snowy drive north, we started our full day of tours at the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, a very large and impressive facility. Our tour guide started off by showing us the Composite Arch Bridge System, or Bridge-In-A-Backpack. This system that accelerates bridge construction time and reduces life cycle costs has been used in 21 bridges in the US (and beyond).

Map of were the Bridge-In-A-Backpacks have been built.

After that, we got the chance to see the Wind Blade Testing area which was currently hosting a massive wind blade. We weren’t allowed to photograph it, but we were able to go into inside a concrete room with the Wind Lab Reaction Wall, which was where the wind blade was bolted in. This concrete structure reaches deep underground and is bolted into bedrock so it’s able to hold up the wind blades as they stress test them. Next, our tour guide told us all about the VolturnUS 1:8, a 65-foot-tall floating wind turbine prototype that is 1:8th scale.

“For more than 10 years, the University of Maine has led the nation in developing an economical way to harness clean, renewable wind energy from our deep ocean waters. This has led to the development of UMaine’s patented VolturnUS floating concrete hull technology that can support wind turbines in water depths of 150 feet or more, and has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind.”

Wave Basin at UMaine Orono

Lastly, we got to see the Offshore Model Testing Wave Basin, which is 30 meters long and 9 meters wide. This lab is able to simulate wave and wind conditions that represent the worst storms possible.

This facility does so much more then could fit into one tour and has a long list of awards and honors. If you’re interested in seeing some of this for yourself, you can request a tour.

Calf at Witter Farm

The second facility we toured was Witter Farm, which is part of the J. Franklin Witter Teaching & Research Center  and is home for UMaine’s teaching and research programs in animal sciences and sustainable agriculture. Witter Farm is where undergraduate and graduate students specifically study dairy and equine science. You may have seen in the news that one of UMaine’s Holsteins ranks among the top 10,000 in the county for performance out of 22 million registered Holsteins in the US!

UMaine offers the only bachelor’s degree in sustainable agriculture in New England and it’s the oldest sustainable agriculture program in the country.

A line of diary cows eating at witter farm

“In addition to dairy and equine courses at the Witter Farm, a student group, the UMaine Applied Dairy Cooperative of Organized Working Students—known as the UMAD COWS—is fully involved in operation of the dairy.”

Three horses outside in the snow at Witter Farm

We loved visiting all the animals at the farm and took a lot of photos of them. To see all our photos of our tour at Witter Farm, check out the UMaine Extension Cumberland County Facebook page!

Birch Wigwam at the Hudsom Museum

For our third tour we went to the 2nd level of the Collins Center for the Arts to see the Hudson Museum. Currently on display are the exhibits “Adventures in the Amazon” in the Merritt Gallery, the “UMaine Field School in Zadar, Croatia: The Archaeological Study of Ancient Cities” in the Minsky Culture Lab, the World Cultures Gallery and the Maine Indian Gallery.

The “Adventures in the Amazon” Exhibit displays items collected between 1940 and 1980. UMaine faculty memeber, Brian Robinson (1953-2016) collected many of the items to document the lives of the people of the region.

Part of the Maine Native American Exhibit at the Hudson Museum

“Across from the presentation of Maine Indian material culture, UMaine researchers will present their research and collections. These collections have rarely been exhibited to the public and until now have been used almost exclusively for research. This portion of the exhibit includes artifacts gathered by UMaine archaeological projects and housed in the collections of the Anthropology Department.”

The storage area for the Hudson Museum

A special treat was in store for us after we saw the current exhibits on display. The Director of the Museum, Gretchen F. Faulkner, then told us that there is only 1/8 of the collection on display at a time and took us down into a storage area of the museum. Here we could see just how large the collection is.

The Hudson Museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am-4pm and on Saturdays, 11am-4pm. The Museum also offers guided tours for elementary and secondary school groups.

Maynard F Jordan Planetarium Doors

For our final tour we visited the Emera Astronomy Center and M.F. Jordan Planetarium. What better way to end the day then laying back and watching the stars? The center has an ever changing schedule of programs, including shows on Sundays specifically for kids. Our show was all about how space technology improves our lives every day. The center also has a great Science Lecture Series, which has had topics like “Unlocking the Secrets of Proteins: The Rise of Cryo Electron Microscopy” by Dr. Caitlin Howell and “How molecular motors work – insights from the machinist’s toolbox” by Dr. Dean Astumian.

The Observatory

“The Maynard F. Jordan Observatory is located behind the Emera Astronomy Center on the University of Maine campus. This observatory is an integral part of the curriculum in the department of Physics and Astronomy and is frequently used by students and faculty for research purposes.modern astronomy research and exploration. Click here to view a gallery of images taken with the telescope.

(The center is funded through donations  and tickets sales.)

Highlights of the Day

Lynne’s Highlight: There were so many amazing things that we got to see; it’s incredible how much UMaine does, but the highlight of my day has to be the Maine Indian Gallery. If you have the opportunity to go see it, I highly recommend that you do.

Mallory’s Highlight: Having gone to a small liberal arts college in a city, I always have fun visiting a college with a real campus with such diverse offerings. The highlight for me was visiting the Advanced Structures and Composites Center for the first time. I had been looking forward to seeing the Offshore Model Testing Wave Basin and it didn’t disappoint. They work on such interesting projects that have a real impact on the world!

Tayla’s Highlight: I would have to say that the highlight of my day was the overall hands-on experience the University provides for students, faculty and community members who come to visit. With the Structures & Composites Center being a personal favorite learning about all of the projects that the University is working on to improve a variety of technologies. Great things are happening!

Gardening is for the Birds!

March 2nd, 2017 9:29 AM

Article and Photographs by Amy Witt, UMaine Extension Horticulturist 

Eastern Bluebird and American Goldfinch. Photograph by Amy Witt.

Eastern Bluebird and American Goldfinch 

Gardens bring delight to gardeners, visitors, and people passing by. They can also provide important habitat for birds, and in return, more enjoyment for the gardener and visitors.

Gardening successfully for birds involves meeting their basic needs of food, water, nesting sites and shelter.


The first step in designing a bird garden is to evaluate your yard from a bird’s perspective. Does it provide for their basic needs? If not, what is lacking?

To give you a sense of the types of plants and plant communities that make up the natural bird habitat in your area, visit various local parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Notice the plants and their habit – are there vertical and horizontal layers; large masses or groupings? Creating a similar environment using native plants is an important step to a successful bird garden.

Begin planning your garden by completing an inventory of your property (include plants, habitats, birds, structures, also take note what is on adjacent properties). Next, create a map of your property or the space where you want the garden to be.   Sketch in your house, fences, out buildings, driveway, utilities and all of your existing plants (trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants) – noting which ones benefit the birds. This map will be a good tool for you to identify the existing resources for attracting birds. Once you have your inventory and map, it’s time to start designing your garden.

When designing your garden, keep the following in mind:

  • Full sun means more food (there are more varieties of fruit and nut trees that prefer full sun than shade)
  • Create vistas (birds need to be able to survey their surroundings for food and predators)
  • Vary heights of vegetation (birds perch, nest and forage for food at different heights)
  • Planting thickets or groupings of plants is more desirable to birds than having single plants scattered across an area
  • Create a natural effect (nature doesn’t plant in a straight lines, curves and clusters are very appealing to birds)
  • Establish plantings for year-round beauty, shelter and food
  • Use diverse living (plants) & non-living (structures) materials
  • Use native plants as much as possible
  • Remove invasive plants (many invasive plants out-compete the native species favored by birds)
  • Reduce your lawn area (lawns have little value to birds)
  • Do not use pesticides (remember, insects are the primary source of food for many birds)
Cedar Waxwing. Photo by Amy Witt.

Cedar Waxwing



Native plants provide the best food sources for birds. Try to recreate the plant ecosystem native to your area by selecting a variety of plants that offer year-round food in the form of seeds, berries, nuts, buds, nectar and insects. Native insects evolved to feed on native plants, and birds raise their young on insects.

Different birds require different kinds of foods in different seasons. While raising their young, adult birds get the energy they need from sweet fruits (e.g. berries and wild cherries); fall migrating birds require fatty fruits (e.g. flowering dogwood and spicebush) to build fat reserves; and wintering birds need abundant, persistent fruits (e.g. conifers, bayberry, crabapples, and sumacs) to help them survive winter temperatures. Persistent fruits are also extremely important for early spring migrating birds.

Supplemental feeders can also be used, particularly if there is shortage of natural food. Add variety to the kinds of food you offer, and you’ll attract a wider variety of bird species. Use suet only from October through April or May (sun-warmed suet can cause infected follicles and loss of facial feathers). To protect the birds from predators (like cats), place feeders 10 feet from cover (i.e. dense shrubs and buildings)


While birds get much of the water they need from foods, they will also use open water sources such as birdbaths, ponds and water gardens, for drinking and bathing. Birds need access to water all year long, especially for cooling themselves in summer’s heat and during the winter when ponds, lakes and streams are frozen or covered with snow.

When choosing a birdbath, find one with a shallow slope (no deeper than 3”), as most birds have short legs and avoid deep water. Place the birdbath about 10 feet from dense shrubs or other cover that predators may use.

It is a good idea to clean the bath with a stiff brush every few days and add fresh water as needed. Birds will drink from the bath as well as bathe, and excrement and algae can accumulate when baths are neglected. To make sure the birdbath is accessible year round, add a heater in the winter.

Bird Nest by Amy Witt

Nesting Sites

It’s a bonus if your garden and adjacent property can provide appropriate and adequate nesting sites for your backyard birds.

Does your yard have an area of dense thickets that birds could use for nesting, secluded perching, or escape cover? If not, you can easily provide an area by planting and grouping dense shrubs or making a hedge.

What about dead trees? Dead trees not only provide cavities for birds to raise their young, they also contain a lot of insects for the birds to feed on.

Some birds will nest in brush piles, so think about creating a brush pile in a corner of your yard. Start with larger logs for the base and add smaller branches to the top.

Nesting boxes are also a great addition. Keep in mind that nesting boxes are species specific. If you want to put out a box for bluebirds, make certain it is a box designed for bluebirds. Nesting boxes need to have ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes on the bottom. Do not use a box with a perch, as house sparrows are known to sit on the perch and peck at other birds using the box. Nesting boxes should have a side panel that opens so the inside of the box is easily accessible and can be cleaned out. Lastly, place nesting boxes out of reach of cats, raccoons and other predators. Placing a baffle on the pole directly under the box is also a good idea.


Providing shelter is different than providing a nesting site. Birds need places where they can hide from predators and inclement weather.

Evergreen trees and shrubs provide excellent cover through all seasons. Many birds will also seek shelter from bad weather inside hollowed out trees, brush piles and rock walls.

You can also set-up roosting boxes. They have an entrance hole near the bottom so that heat doesn’t escape. Mount the box in a sheltered area, preferably facing south.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Other things you can do to attract birds to your yard:

  • Don’t deadhead flowers in the fall – many birds will eat the dried seed heads.
  • Leave the leaves alone – rather than raking leaves in the fall and taking them to the dump, use them to create feeding places for birds. Place the leaves in 5-6” piles under trees and shrubs. By spring the leaves will have decomposed and attracted earthworms, insects, and other animals on which the birds feed.
  • Create a dust bath- many birds, take dust baths to control external parasites. A dusting site can be a dirt driveway or a circle of finely pulverized soil 2 feet across.
  • Leave a few dead branches on live trees for perches. Birds tend to perch on dead branches, which they use as singing posts to defend their territories.
  • Provide nesting material in the spring including small twigs, mud, moss, dried grass stems, wool, hair (avoid using hair from animals that have been treated with pesticides, such as flea and tick spray), snakeskins, narrow strips of cloth, string and yarn. DON’T USE – Laundry dryer lint. It will soak up water and may be steeped with chemicals unhealthy for birds.

Cumberland County 4-Her’s Have a Long Stylish History

February 23rd, 2017 4:19 PM

By Sara Conant, 4-H Community Education Assistant & Administrative Specialist

Fashion Revue (formerly know as dress revue, or style show) is an annual event in Cumberland County where local 4-H members ages 5 – 18

Fashion Revue Blog Post 17

1940’s Sunday Telegram article about 4-H Dress Style Show

can show off their knitting, crocheting, or sewing skills. Here in the Cumberland County Extension Office we found a newspaper clipping from the 1940’s highlighting what was then dress style show. This year at Fashion Revue 13 4-H members showed off their skills to a panel of judges and modeled for their friends and family at The Root Cellar in Portland on Saturday February 18th.

At Fashion Revue there is a non-competitive category for Cloverbuds (5-8 year olds) and Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced competitive categories for older 4-H members. Participants make items with varying degrees of difficulty pertaining to their skill level, and submit them for off the person judging by a panel of three judges. Participants then either wear or hold their item in front of the judges and answer questions about their project. Fashion Revue culminates in a Fashion Show in the afternoon for friends and family.

This year three Cloverbud members entered items including a football themed pillow case, an artist’s apron with pockets for paint brushes, and a full length skirt. There were seven Beginners with 1 -2 years of project experience. Beginners made a knitted washcloth, a skirt with matching bow, a poncho, a matching scarf set for a doll and 4-H member, show shirts with collars and buttons, and a doll with an outfit. Kaitlyn of the Sebago Nor’Easters general club earned a Rosette in the beginner category for her doll made entirely of recycled fabrics.

Participants in the Intermediate category with 3-4 years of experience made a beach towel bag and pajama pants. Olivia of the Warm Up Maine 4-H crocheting & knitting club, earned a Rosette in this category for her beach towel bag she made using a knifty knitter loom along with seashell accents and a crocheted strap. The Advanced category for members with 5+ years of experience had one participant, Lauren from the Young Farmer’s Beef Club. Lauren earned a Rosette for her strapless semi-formal mid-length dress with zippered back and matching clutch.Fashion Revue Blog Post 17If you would like more information about how you or your child can get involved with Fashion Revue, or any 4-H project in Cumberland County, please email or call Sara at 207-781-6099.

Preparing for Your Next Vegetable Garden

February 16th, 2017 3:19 PM

By Clark Whitter, Cumberland County Master Gardener, Class of 2010

Clark Whittier Photo for Blog Post

I use the hoop house and earth boxes which soil warms up quicker gives me about a three-week head start on tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. The hoop house also allows me to start earlier in the spring with broccoli, beets, and greens by direct seeding in the beds which soil warms up quicker than outside beds.

Analyze: At the end of the growing season, including fall and early winter crops, analyze what did well and what did not. If a crop has not done well for the last two to three years, consider cutting back on some vegetables or change some varieties. This year, I’m dropping corn because it uses too much space for the yield. I’m also dropping soybeans, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.

Inventory: Next, I inventory all my leftover seeds. Then I plan my next beds with consideration for crop rotation. When I plan beds, I determine how much space I want to allocate for each crop for each crop to be raised. This allows me to determine how much seed to order. I also check the first new catalogs I’ve received to see if there are any new items I would like to try. If I have not received the newest catalog for companies that I have previously used, I will check out their items online. (I try to order and receive my seed orders by January to ensure they are not sold out of the items.)

Planning: I develop a chart containing a list of varieties I would like to grow, the inventory of seeds I have and the amount I want to plant, the seeds that need to be ordered, what beds and space is allotted, estimate when to start seedlings, when to direct sow vegetables, and when to transplant seedlings. Example

Data Collection: I plant according to soil temperature and determine when to estimate dates by averaging two to four years of data. I also compare the data to the Cumberland County averages for my area to determine my estimation of when to plant seedlings, direct sow, and transplant seedlings. When the snow if off the beds in the Spring, I push a small meat thermometer in my Hoop House beds until I get a reading of 32 to 33 degrees. After getting that reading, I take reading each day or every other day for about a month and a half and put the data on an excel spread sheet. When I reach the temperature I want, I see if the temperature is maintained for about three days to ensure a cold snap does not lower the ideal temperature. If the temperature falls after planting, I use low hoops covered with remay or green house plastic to protect the crops.

C.W. Frost date for blog postC.W. Plant by Soil Temp for blog postC.W. Indoor Planting table for blog post


University of Maine Cooperative Extension Publications: 

Bulletin #2286: Testing Your Soil
Bulletin #2763, Garden Equipment and Items to Make for the Maine Garden

Bulletin #2751: Starting Seeds at Home
Gardening in Limited Space Using Container Gardens, Parts 1 & 2 (videos)