Maine Home Garden News May 2023

In This Issue:

Editor’s note: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

We decided to try something a little different this month by sharing a review of some of our old favorites, a few new examples of frequently asked questions, and our newly updated plant sale map. To complete the traditional wedding rhyme “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. . .” we “borrowed” (with permission) another timely bird feature from our partners at Maine Audubon and are sharing a collection of blue from our Demonstration Garden at Rogers Farm in honor of the 2023 UMaine graduates. Go Blue!

Here’s hoping you enjoy this temporary format change. We always welcome your feedback and encourage you to offer suggestions for future topics.

Kate Garland, Horticulture Professional

Collection of blue flowers and berries
Clockwise from top left: bachelor button (Centaurea cyanus), Delphinium F1 ‘Cheer blue’, highbush blueberries, bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), blue flax (Linum perenne). Delphinium F1 ‘Cheer blue’ photo credit to Art Shaw. All other photo credits are to Kate Garland. All are used with permission.

Maine Home Garden News: Best of May – 2010 to 2022

By Phoebe Call, Oxford County Master Gardener Volunteer

Over the past 12 years, there has been a wealth of informative articles published in the Maine Home Garden News (MHGN).  For this issue, I have looked through the archives of past May issues to select my choices for the “best of May.”

There isn’t space to summarize the words of wisdom in 12 years of “May is the Month to…” Instead, I suggest you spend some time in the online archives to better appreciate the valuable information residing there, such as:

  • keep a garden journal (2011)
  • and records of plant performance (2010);
  • remove caterpillar nests (2014);
  • leave the dandelions for the bees (2015);
  • do daily tick checks (2016);
  • get ahead of weeds as they sprout (2018);
  • place hummingbird feeders outdoors (2017);
  • mentor a new gardener (2020);
  • apply nitrogen to emerging garlic plants (2021), See Bulletin #2063 Growing Garlic in Maine;
  • begin planting! (2022).

One of my favorite “May is the Month to…” suggestions is to finish up your spring pruning (2019), specifically videos on How to Prune a Forsythia and How to Prune a Lilac Bush.  I frequently go back and reread How to Rejuvenate Your Old, Overgrown Lilac (2010).

The articles highlighted below include some of my favorites – I encourage you to check out the archives to find your own gems. I’ve grouped them into categories of likely interest to our readers.

spring peeper on a lily blossom
A spring peeper enjoying a daylily’s beauty; photo by Amy Witt

Spring Gardens

If you are looking for new ideas for your garden check out:

Given the short growing season in Maine, row covers can extend the season and help with pest exclusion and management. While the costs for starting seeds indoors presented in the May 2019 article have likely increased in the past four years, the article notes that “the real reason you should consider starting your own seeds—is that you have the freedom to decide which varieties go in your garden.”  A very handy chart to help plan out your vegetable garden can be found in, Planting Chart for the Home Vegetable Garden (2021).

Invasive plants growing in the rootball of another plant
Avoid purchasing plants infested with weeds. This maple has two invasive plants growing in the root ball: multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet.


Last summer the state increased the current list of 33 invasive plant species illegal to sell in Maine to 63 species, effective January 2024. Given the focus on invasive species in Maine and the difficulties in managing them,

Community Projects

Over the years several community gardens and Master Gardener projects throughout Maine have been profiled in May issues of the MHGN.  Some of the projects and the counties represented include

raised bed community garden
Summer in the garden

assorted vegetables; photo by Edwin RemsbergFood & Nutrition 

While Maine gardeners eagerly wait for summer harvest time, rhubarb and fiddleheads provide some locally sourced early spring foods. 

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Maine

Each year the May issue includes information on ticks and Lyme Disease from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Take a moment to get to know UMaine Cooperative Extension tick resources so you know where to go for answers if you have an encounter.

May this recap leave you well-informed on all aspects of spring gardening in Maine and inspired to move forward with confidence toward your horticultural goals!


Question: How do I get rid of wild strawberries in my lawn?

girl picking wild strawberries

Answer: To be truthful, I always struggle with offering management advice for this plant because it has so much to offer. This native plant ground cover is tolerant of poor soils, periods of drought, and a wide range of light conditions; provides food for wildlife (including us); serves as a host plant for 81 species of moths and butterflies in our region; and is a food resource for pollinators. I also understand it doesn’t match with traditional lawn aesthetics and respect that everyone has their own perspective on beauty. If my comments have you on the fence, here’s a resource that may offer you just enough info to sway you to not fight that battle. 

With all that said, I’ll share the following tips to eradicate wild strawberries (with my fingers crossed you decide to reconsider this lovely gift that has graced your lawn). Start with a soil test with the Maine Soil Testing Service and follow the soil amendment recommendations on their report. Improving the conditions to support turf growth is always an important first step in managing lawn weeds. Next, consider a broadleaf herbicide that lists wild strawberries on the label. Be sure to follow the label instructions to ensure you’re not impacting non-target species and also that you’re applying it when it’s most effective. In general, most broadleaf herbicides work best when plants are actively growing (June) and will need to be reapplied to well established perennial plants; but (again) be sure to follow the label instructions. Never apply a higher concentration or apply more frequently than is recommended on the label.



Question: I have a “natural” lawn in Prospect Harbor which has been damaged by grub hunting critters (last fall). I’m planning on reseeding the damaged patches after I rake and it’s warm enough not to kill grass seed around May 1. Does that seem like a good approach to you?
Also, Should I spread some aged manure over the bare patches in advance?  After I seed, should I cover it with peat or straw?

Holes dug in the lawn (left) and white grub (right) under the lawn.
Holes dug in the lawn (left) and white grub (right) under the lawn.

Answer: We call that a low input lawn and grubs can be an issue. Your plan for reseeding soon is a good approach, although seeding can sometimes be more successful in the fall when there’s less competition with weeds. Our bulletins #2367 Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine and #2166 Steps to a Low-Input, Healthy Lawn offer some great tips moving forward. 

There is no need to spread the manure; in fact, if it is not well-aged it might burn that area. Instead, just give it a gentle raking to loosen the surface and create some nooks and crannies for the seed to get good soil contact. If the areas are large (over a couple of feet wide), plan on covering it lightly with straw and a dusting of compost (like sprinkling colored sugar on a cake). Peat is not recommended.

The next step is to regularly water the new grass 1.5-2″ a week.  You can do the seeding anytime now, no need to wait until May unless your soil is waterlogged. If it is a mix of sun and shade make sure you use a shade mix for lawns. Or consider using a low-mow or no-mow mix of grass seed.


Flowerbed with dried leaves, flowers and stalk
Photo with permission from client.


Question: I inherited tons of flowerbeds with a new house (we bought when there was tons of snow on the ground) and I am lost on them and what needs to get done. Do you have any advice? I’ve enclosed just a few pictures but really don’t know where to start.

I’ve started to take out the leaves and pull up some of the dead stuff. Not sure if I should cut the dead stalks down too? They seem like they are really really dead but maybe I’m not supposed to trim them too far? Should I remove the plants close to the foundation and plant further away from the house?

Flower bed with dried leaves, dead stalk
Photo with permission from client.

Should I add some more soil since the ground looks so dry? Or just mulch?

Again, I have no clue where to start with flowerbeds so I will take any guidance you have to give! I usually have about 30 minutes in the evening to work outside after the kids go to bed and before the sun goes down so I would love to start getting a little better curb appeal!


Answer: Congratulations on the new home! This is going to seem like an odd answer, but my recommendation is to do (almost) nothing this first year. 

Why? Leaving things alone for the first year will ensure you don’t mistakenly remove anything of value. For example, many late blooming perennials are often mistaken as weeds and are tough to identify when they are not in flower. Additionally, some of my favorite shrubs tend to look dead until midway into June. “Editing” your gardens too early may result in the loss of some terrific plants. 

This additional time to ponder landscape decisions will give you a chance to get a full grasp of how you’ll be utilizing and enjoying the landscape in every season and allow you to watch how the sun and moisture conditions change throughout the year. You might be surprised on both accounts.

What should you do? 

  • Take a lot of pictures! Try your best to capture images at different stages of the year, both close up and full landscape shots. This will provide you with incredibly valuable information to use moving forward.
  • In the first few weeks of May, start cutting back the dead leaves and remaining stalks from your perennials and gently pull leaf litter out of the garden. The key is to try to hold off until then to allow overwintering insects to develop and emerge as the weather warms. Here’s more information on that topic, Leave the Leaves!
  • Look out for any invasive species and manage those as soon as possible. If you’re unsure if something is invasive, please submit pictures to me or through our plant ID website. Here you can find great management advice, Advisory List of Invasice Plants. Simply click on the name of the plant and a fact sheet with management info will likely pop up like this one, Asiatic Bittersweet.
  • Consider doing a soil test in areas where you’d like to eventually plant herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

In short, I’m giving you full permission to not work too hard on your landscape this year (unless you’re dealing with invasive species)!

Backyard Bird of the Month: Northern Parula

By Maine Audubon Seasonal Field Naturalist Andy Kapinos

Northern Parula, photo credit to Nick Lund.
Northern Parula, photo credit to Nick Lund.

The Northern Parula has a peculiar name for a warbler and an even more peculiar story. Many warblers, including the Northern Parula, are referred to as parulas and parulines in Spanish and French, respectively. Parula derives from the Latin parus, for Eurasian tit species (similar to our chickadees and titmice), and highlights the similarities between warblers (family Parulidae) and tits (family Paridae), which often forage for insects in similar areas of trees and shrubs. Northern Parulas are no different, preferring to forage among the tips of branches in the middle to upper canopy for caterpillars, spiders, and a variety of other arthropods.

They are generally blue-gray above with an olive green back patch, and a distinctive reddish collar on adult birds. The “Northern” part of the name is quite literal: they are widely distributed throughout eastern North America, overwintering across the Caribbean, from the Yucatan peninsula to the Bahamas, and breeding in mature forest, near water, from Texas west to Florida, and north to Quebec and Ontario. There is a conspicuous swath where they do not breed, in southern New England and surrounding the Great Lakes. This is due to their dependence on epiphytic plants and lichens for nesting material: they utilize abundant Spanish Moss in the south, and Usnea lichens (Old Man’s Beard) in the north. The latter was extirpated from this conspicuous swath due to industrial air pollutants during the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result, Northern Parulas stopped nesting there. If you’ve got a Northern Parula nesting in your backyard this summer, you can thank decades of environmental legislation that have removed many pollutants from the air we all breathe.

For more on the importance of Maine native plants to support birds like the Northern Parula and other wildlife, visit Maine Audubon’s “Bringing Nature Home” webpage.

Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund: Now accepting applications

Have you noticed a lot of browntail winter webs in your town this winter? Have you been itching from a browntail moth rash? You may live in an area with a high population of browntail moths. The Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund is a new funding opportunity available to your local government officials or nonprofit organizations to fund activities that will reduce browntail moth impacts in your community. 

Help yourself, your family, and your community by contacting your local government or nonprofit organizations in your town to let them know about this funding opportunity. The DACF is now accepting applications from government entities or nonprofit organizations in areas with significant browntail populations (PDF), which, if approved, will receive funding from the Browntail Moth Mitigation Assistance Grant Program. 

Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund fliar


The Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund was established to provide funding to government entities or nonprofit organizations with significant populations (PDF) to assist with reducing impacts from browntail moths. Eligible activities are those that may help reduce the impacts of the browntail moth: 

  • Physical controls such as removal and destruction of overwintering webs,
  • Pesticide treatments in accordance with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control Regulations,
  • Cultural controls such as taking actions to limit exposure, reduce habitat or attraction, and
  • Education that fosters continued community engagement in browntail moth population reduction and awareness beyond the immediate mitigation measures taken,
  • Or a combination of the above activities. 

Application for Funds* (Word)

Check out our finalized rules (PDF) for more details. Only government entities or nonprofit organizations that plan to conduct mitigation in areas found on the significant browntail population’s list are encouraged to apply; funding is not available to individuals. Areas outside of this list may be considered for funding at the request of an applicant if significant populations of browntail are confirmed.

*Only applications from government entities or nonprofit organizations will be considered.

Stay Connected!

Look for updates on the Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund on the Division of Procurement Services Grant RFP/RFA page, these bulletins, or subscribe to receive updates if you haven’t already.

Knock Out Browntail fliar with web address

For more information on Browntail Moth:

Visit the Maine Forest Service webpage, explore the resources, and subscribe to news bulletin topics. Review and share the newly updated brochure (PDF), news and events, FAQs, and management techniques. Test the BTM interactive map and read the latest research.

Permission was granted from Maine DACF for this article and images.

2023 Plant Sale Fundraisers and Garden Tours

Buy local plants; help a local cause!

We have recently updated our annual list of Maine plant sales for shoppers to be aware of this spring. No endorsement of specific sales is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed sales implied. This resource is for information only and reflects all the information we have been given by plant sales organizers. 

If your group is not listed, please email with the information for your sale so it can be added. 

Many sales are different this year: some are in-person and some require pre-ordering and quick pick-up. Please, refer to the details of each sale. Contact the sale sponsor for questions.

If buying or selling plants at a plant sale, see Bulletin #2518, Best Practices for Plant Sale Donors and Buyers in Maine.

New this year: Garden Tours!

Listings are alphabetical and by date; otherwise, they are in no particular order.

View the Map of 2023 Plant Sale and Garden Tour Locations

Do you appreciate the work we are doing?

Consider making a contribution to the Maine Master Gardener Development Fund. Your dollars will support and expand Master Gardener Volunteer community outreach across Maine.


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We appreciate your feedback and ideas for future Maine Home Garden News topics. We look forward to sharing new information and inspiration in future issues.

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

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at or 1.800.287.1485 (in Maine).

Visit our Archives to see past issues.

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. The following staff and volunteer team take great care editing content, designing the web and email platforms, maintaining email lists, and getting hard copies mailed to those who don’t have access to the internet: Abby Zelz*, Annika Schmidt*, Barbara Harrity*, Kate Garland, Mary Michaud, Michelle Snowden, Naomi Jacobs*, Phoebe Call*, and Wendy Roberston. 

*Master Gardener Volunteers

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.

© 2023

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