Maine Home Garden News — September 2011

September is the month to . . .

By Hannah Todd, Home Horticulture Coordinator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Piscataquis County,

  • Continue to harvest crops.
  • Donate excess produce through the Maine Harvest for Hunger program. For more information please visit the Maine Harvest for Hunger website.
  • Watch the weather; if there is a chance for a frost, then take steps to protect your plants (place a sheet or piece of plastic over them).
  • Pull weeds. Pull weeds. Pull weeds.
  • Do a soil test…and if the results indicate the need for lime and manure additions, September is the time to apply those amendments. For more information on soil testing, see Bulletin #2286, Testing Your Soil. For safe manure practices, see Bulletin #2510, Guidelines for Using Manure on Vegetable Gardens. For more information on soil organic matter, see Bulletin #2288, Soil Organic Matter.

(NOTE: Soil testing prices have changed since the making of this video; please, check the Soil Testing Service website for up-to-date pricing.)

  • Plant a winter cover crop. If you live in one of the northern Maine counties (like Piscataquis) September 15th is typically about the cut off date for planting a winter cover crop. Refer back to the Maine Home Garden News July issue article on cover crops. If planting a cover crop is not an option, use organic mulch, such as straw or leaves to protect the soil from winter winds and precipitation. Mulch will also add nutrients to the soil and build organic matter.
  • Build raised beds now, so they will be ready to plant in early spring. For more information, watch our videos: Extending the Gardening Season Using Raised Beds. Includes a link to plans and materials list.
  • Clean out plant debris left in the garden. This can help reduce insect and disease populations.
  • Tend your lawn. Fall is a good time to fertilize or re-seed. For more information see:
  • Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials.
  • Do not fertilize or prune woody plants. These actions will prompt growth, which will not have time to harden off before winter.
  • Apples are ready to harvest when the seeds turn dark brown. Remember not to pick apples until ambient temperatures rise above freezing, otherwise, you could bruise the apple.
  • Attend your local fair and check out the gardening displays (and the 4-H exhibits).
  • Keep an eye out for invasive insect pests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle.
  • Preserve your harvest by freezing, canning, or dehydrating. If you have questions about these techniques contact your local UMaine Extension county office or attend a hands-on workshop.
  • Take notes on the gardening season and start planning for next year.
  • Did I mention, pull weeds?

Planting Trees Successfully in the Fall

By Amy Witt, Horticulturist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County,

After a long winter, most Mainers can’t wait to get out in their yards to prepare their gardens and rejuvenate their landscapes. Often, one of the first tasks on people’s list is to plant trees and shrubs, thinking that spring and early summer are the best time for this activity. While late spring and early summer are good times to plant, late summer to mid-fall is also a great time to plant trees. The soil temperatures are warmer and less saturated than in the spring, people generally have more time to plant, and many nurseries often have end of the season sales on their plant material. When planting trees in the fall, the general rule is to plant them by Columbus Day in order to give the roots time to establish before the ground freezes and the cold weather shuts down growth. Tree roots need soil temperatures of at least 55° (at a 6-inch depth) and take approximately 6 weeks to get established.

The first step to a healthy tree is selecting the right tree for the right location and then planting it correctly. In order to select the best tree for your site you must consider the following:

  • What is the hardiness zone in which the tree will be planted? (Refer to Bulletin #2242, Plant Hardiness Zone Map of Maine.)
  • What is the environment the tree will be planted in (exposure to light and wind, type of soil, drainage, topography, etc.)? Select a site with enough room for the branches and roots to reach their full size.
  • What is the purpose of the tree (fruit bearing, shade, ornamental)?
  • What characteristics are you looking for (4-season interest, deciduous, conifer, shape)?
  • What is the mature size of the tree (makes a big difference in regards to where it is planted)?
Trees that adapt well to fall planting include:
Ash (Fraxinus)
Crabapple (Malus)
Maple (Acer) — (most)
Horsechestnut (Aesculus)
Elm (Ulmus)
Pine & Spruce (before end of September)
Trees that are best planted in the spring or summer include:
Oak (Quercus) –- (most)
Birch (Betula)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Hawthorn (Crataegus)
Cherry (Prunus)
Broadleaf evergreens

Once the tree and site have been selected, it is time to plant.

  • Before digging the hole, you need to call DIG SAFE (1-888-344-7233). They will survey the area and make sure you will not be hitting any underground utilities.
  • Find the root flare (place where roots attach to base of trunk).
  • Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and 3-5 times the size of the diameter.
  • If the tree is balled and burlapped, remove the burlap and any wires or rope around the ball before planting. If the tree is in a container, remove the container and carefully cut through circling roots with a knife to release them.
  • Plant the tree so once settling has occurred, the flare will be at grade level (it is better to plant a little too high than too low).
  • Back fill the hole with un-amended soil.
  • Water well to settle the soil and remove air pockets.
  • Add a 2-3-inch layer of mulch, but not within 6 inches of the trunk of the tree.
  • Do not stake unless the tree has a large crown, is not able to stand up to the wind, or is located where people may push it over. Then only stake it for a maximum of one year and make sure the tree can flex in the wind. (Conifers rarely need to be staked.)
diagram showing root ball of tree in a hole
Used with permission from O’Donal’s Nursery.

Once the tree has been planted:

  • Remove tags and labels from tree.
  • Prune basal suckers, co-dominant leaders, narrow crotch angles, and damaged, rubbing or crossed branches.
  • Do not prune terminal leader or branch tips (you do not want to promote new growth).
  • Water newly planted trees will need an inch of water each week until the ground freezes. (Trees planted in the fall need extra attention as cold winter winds and sun cause plants to lose water from their branches and the roots have to replace that water.)
  • Wrap the trunks of thinned-bark young trees in late November to prevent frost cracks, sun scald and animal damage. Remove wrapping in March.
  • Fertilize the second year after planting (fertilizing newly planted trees will weaken the tree and take energy away from root establishment).

For more information on selecting and planting trees, refer to Bulletin #2366, Selecting, Planting and Caring for Trees and Shrubs in the Maine Landscape.

Keeping Cats Out of the Garden

By Richard Brzozowski, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cumberland County,

cat sitting atop a chain link fence
Photo by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

Cats whether they be domestic or feral (wild) can be a real problem for gardeners. Cats can destroy plants and mess up your seed bed. Cats defecate and urinate in the garden soil and make the place an unpleasant place. Cats can serve as a reservoir for diseases that include histoplasmosis, leptospirosis, mumps, plague, rabies, ringworm, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and distemper. Cat feces can contain parasites that can affect the health of people. It is in the interest of the gardener to keep cats out of the garden.

The following strategies are offered for those gardeners with a cat problem:


  • Chicken wire fencing can be laid on the ground in the garden to prevent digging by cats. The wire can be secured with extra large “hair pins” formed by cutting wire coat hangers in half. Most plants will grow through the wire easily. The wire can be covered with a thin layer of mulch if needed.
  • Single or double strands of electric fence at low voltage can be used to teach cats that the garden is not a place for them. Polywire strands or ribbons are attached to short fiberglass rods. The polywire is durable and will last several years with care. As a substitute for the polywire, one could also use 22 gauge galvanized utility wire. The wire should be placed at heights of four and nine inches. A single strand could be placed at a four-inch height. Fence chargers can be purchased from farm and feed stores or from farm supply catalogs. One style of electric fence charger is powered by flashlight batteries. The fence can be turned off after the cats have “learned” to avoid the area. This same barrier can help keep woodchucks out of the garden.


  • Rough textured mulch is uninviting for cats. Cats are attracted to garden soil with the same texture as kitty litter, so use mulches that are coarse.
  • Rue, a hardy blue-green herb, is said to repel cats.
  • Dog hair spread on the ground or hung in onion bags around the garden could work to keep cats away. Some cats won’t go near dog hair.
  • Live dogs can serve as garden guards against cats as well as other animal pests.
  • Anise Oil, methyl nonyl ketone, Ro-pel and Thymol as well as other repellents sold at pet stores and garden centers may be effective in repelling cats. Read and follow label directions of any product that you obtain. Some of these products may not be labeled for use around food crops. Some products may be irritating to people.

Other Techniques

  • Keep the cats indoors or negotiate with the cat owners to do so.
  • If the cats are stray, call your local animal control officer.
  • Avoid feeding pets outdoors. Food is an invitation for stray animals and neighborhood pets as well as wildlife.
  • Remove brush and other cover where animals are apt to hide or live. Keep the vegetation in the area clipped.
  • Some animals are attracted to compost piles. When composting use a covered and walled compost bin. Bury fresh materials in the pile.
  • Try placing loaded mousetraps under a layer of newspaper in and around the garden to teach the cat(s) to stay out.

Practices to Avoid

  • Don’t grow catnip in your garden. This attracts cats.
  • Don’t use mothballs or moth flakes made from naphthalene to try to repel cats and other pests outside. When used outdoors the balls and flakes melt and may contaminate ground water.

Final Thoughts

Cats are more active during twilight and night-time so freshen repellents and prepare barriers for higher use during those times. To avoid contamination by cats feces wear gloves when gardening. Wash your hands and under fingernails thoroughly after working in the garden when not using gloves.

What are Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)?

By Rosalie Deri, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, Franklin County

Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). Photo by Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute,

Lingonberries are small, red, edible berries that grow on a perennial, woody, evergreen shrub with a low growth habit. They are related to both blueberries and cranberries. The first fruit ripens in mid-summer, around July, and the second crop ripens in late September to early November. Lingonberries are native to Scandinavia, Alaska, and northeastern Canada. They are similar to cranberries but not quite as tart and they make great jam, jelly, juice, sauce, wine, and liqueur.


Lingonberries contain high levels of benzoic acid, which helps provide for a long refrigerated shelf life. Lingonberry jams, jellies or other products should be kept in the refrigerator after opening.

Using Lingonberries

Lingonberries can be used in any recipe that calls for cranberries or blueberries. They make a great accompaniment to meat and cheese dishes.

  • Use as a garnish for pancakes, waffles, French toast or crepes.
  • Add to other fruit in pies or cobblers.
  • Heat and stir lingonberries until soft and crushed, sweeten, then add small amounts of this “juice” to ginger ale or soda water for a unique beverage.
  • Stir lingonberries into cookie, muffin or sweet bread dough.
  • Lingonberries complement wild poultry, game, turkey, chicken, pork, and ham.
  • Use lingonberries in place of cranberries to make sauces and relishes.

A Berry by Any Other Name

You may know lingonberries by one of their many other names: cowberry, red whortle berry, foxberry, northern mountain cranberry, dry ground cranberry, rock cranberry, partridge berry or whimberry.

How Nutritious are Lingonberries?

Since lingonberries are closely related to cranberries, they probably have a similar nutritional content, although exact data is unavailable; they are a good source of vitamin C. Lingonberries contain valuable phyto-chemicals, which are natural chemicals that plants produce. In particular, lingonberries possess anthocyanin, about 100 milligrams per 3 1/2 ounces of berries.1 Anthrocyanin, a member of the flavonoid family, is a potent antioxidant. Researchers believe that these substances can help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and cancer.2 Anthocyanins help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood. By doing so, they keep blood vessels healthy. Therefore, anthocyanins play a preventive role in the early stages of heart disease. Researchers believe anthocyanins may also help decrease inflammation and stop cancer before it gets started.

1J. Kuhnau, The Flavonoids: A Class of Semi-essential Food Components: Their role in human nutrition. World Review of Nutrition and Diet 24, 117-91, 1976.

2Bohm, H. et al. Flavonols, flavone and anthocyanins as natural antioxidants of food and their possible role in the prevention of chronic diseases. Z Ernahrungswiss 1998 Jun; 37(2): 147-63. (German)

Adapted with permission from “What are Lingonberries” by Carol Miles, Associate Professor, Horticulturist Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State University, 1999.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine Home Garden News is designed to equip home gardeners with practical, timely information.

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Maine Home Garden News was created in response to a continued increase in requests for information on gardening and includes timely and seasonal tips, as well as research-based articles on all aspects of gardening. Articles are written by UMaine Extension specialists, educators, and horticulture professionals, as well as Master Gardener Volunteers from around Maine, with Professor Richard Brzozowski serving as editor.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2011
Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Land Grant University of the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the U.S.D.A. provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

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