Maine Home Garden News September 2023
In This Issue:
- September Is the Month to . . .
- Drying Flowers – A Great Way to Preserve Nature’s Beauty
- Maine Offers Free Collection of Unwanted Pesticides to Protect Natural Resources
- Spoonful: Bite-Sized Food & Nutrition Information
- First Occurrence of Mile-a-Minute Weed Confirmed in Maine: Urgent Action Required
- Backyard Bird of the Month: Hairy Woodpecker
- Maine Weather and Climate Overview (September)
September Is the Month to . . .
By Barbara Harrity, Penobscot County Master Gardener Volunteer
With a father who was an English teacher and a fan of jazz standards based on the Great American Songbook, there’s rarely a month that doesn’t call to my mind the lyrics of a song or a poem. Among the lyrics that come to mind for September are these: “Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September.”
Yet even with the shorter days, there’s still a lot to do in your garden and many ways to celebrate the change of season. So here’s a to-do list for September:
- Embrace the beauty of goldenrod. Goldenrod has long been undervalued and even wrongfully blamed for seasonal allergies. Yet now that we have a clearer picture of its role in supporting a variety of insects, many of us are changing our tune. A whopping 124 species of butterflies and moths use goldenrod as a caterpillar host plant in our region.
- Slack off on deadheading. Those last flowers and seed heads of the season can provide winter food for birds, and the stalks can serve as nesting sites for ecologically important insects.
- Divide summer-blooming perennials. Dividing perennials helps rejuvenate and control the size of the plants and increases the number of plants available to fill in an empty space, establish a new garden bed, or share with others. It will take 4–6 weeks for the transplants to become established, so be sure to give the plants enough time to settle in before the ground freezes. See the fact sheet Dividing Perennials published by Clemson University Cooperative Extension for detailed information and instructions.
- Dig up bulbs that are not winter-hardy. Bulbs such as cannas, gladiolus, and dahlias are not winter hardy and should be dug after the foliage dies back. Clean the bulbs before storing in peat moss or dry sand in a dark, cool, well-ventilated space where the temperature remains above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Clean up plant debris in the garden. This can help reduce insect and disease populations by eliminating their overwintering sites.
- Stop watering and fertilizing any established perennials, trees, and shrubs. Watering and or fertilizing now will encourage new growth, making the plant susceptible to winter damage. Established perennial plants use this month to prepare for dormancy and the winter.
- Be prepared for possible frosts. Pay close attention to the weather forecast and have a supply of plastic sheets, lightweight tarps, old bed sheets, or row covers available to protect tender crops. Temporarily covering crops can often result in extending your growing season by weeks. See Bulletin #2752, Extending the Gardening Season.
- Scatter oat seeds under tomato plants. To get a cover crop growing while your plants are still in the ground, just scatter oat seeds under your tomato plant. Then, when tomato harvesting is over, use a pair of loppers or pruners to cut the stem at the soil line instead of pulling the roots out of the ground. After decomposing all winter, the remaining stump can easily be tugged out the following spring.
- Fertilize, establish, or reseed your lawn. The period between mid-August and mid-September is the best time to pamper your lawn. For more information about establishing a lawn, see Bulletin #2367, Establishing a Home Lawn in Maine. On the other hand, maybe you’re ready to reduce your lawn area and join the “low-input lawn” team. Reducing lawn area will save you time and effort next year and starting a low-input lawn now will help your soil recover over the winter. See Bulletin #2166 Steps to a Low-Input Healthy Lawn for detailed information.
- Learn about root cellars. If you don’t already have a root cellar, you can learn more about this efficient way to store some fruits and vegetables in this 2014 Maine Home Garden News article, Root Cellaring. If you already have one, now is a good time to clean and prepare it for new produce. Make sure it is set up for adequate air exchange, darkness, easy access, proper temperature and humidity control, and is rodent-proof.
- Clean and sharpen tools for next year. September is a great time to prepare your tools for winter storage, and it’s always a pleasant surprise when you find your tools are all ready to use in the spring. For more information, check out How to Clean and Sharpen Your Pruners by UNH Extension.
- Attend Maine’s Agricultural Fairs! There are still plenty of fairs in September, including the iconic Common Ground Fair and the Blue Hill Fair of Charlotte’s Web fame. Here are the fair dates for September 2023:
- August 27–September 4: Windsor Fair
- August 31–September 4: Blue Hill Fair
- September 1–4: Harmony Fair
- September 7–10: Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair
- September 8–10: Litchfield Fair
- September 13–16: Oxford County Fair
- September 15–17: New Portland Lion’s Fair
- September 17–23: Farmington Fair
- September 21-24: Common Ground Fair (Unity, Maine)
- September 24–30: Cumberland Fair
- Celebrate Maine Apple Sunday. The Maine State Pomological Society will hold the 23rd annual Maine Apple Sunday on September 17, with participating orchards around the state. Maine Apple Sunday kicks off the peak of the apple harvest when summer apples are still available but the main crop is ready for its first picking. Apple orchards from Wells to Caribou will offer special activities and free samples of Apple products.
Drying Flowers – A Great Way to Preserve Nature’s Beauty
By Robin Betterley, Penobscot County Master Gardener Volunteer
Some plants and flowers are just begging to be dried! While I’ll list some options here, you can tell good candidates for drying by simply feeling them. Do the petals hold a lot of moisture? If they feel thin and/or light, not succulent, they may be a great candidate for air drying.
These are my favorites for easy air drying:
- Helichrysum bracteatum, sometimes called Strawflowers (as the petals feel dry like straw), come in a multitude of colors such as pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, rusts, purples, and whites. The trick to these flowers looking nice after they are dry is to pick them when the petals are about two-thirds open. Strip off the leaves and hang them in small bunches upside down until the stems are stiff.
- Limonium sinuatum, also called Statice, is a multi-branched filler flower. Their colors are often blues, purples, apricot, white, light rose, and yellow. They have small papery flowers on stiff stems. Pick these when the flowers are fully filled out but before they begin to fade. Gather in small bunches and hang upside down until dry; usually just a few weeks.
- Gypsophila elegans is a standard airy filler also known as Baby’s Breath. It dries beautifully by itself or you can make a bouquet with it fresh and then dry the entire bouquet.
- Lavendula angustifolia, or Lavender, is so easy to dry. Cut individual sprigs or gather a small bouquet. Even the flower buds and the pungent leaves are wonderful for a potpourri dish.
You can also have fun experimenting with other plants at various stages of growth such as these easy flowers, seed pods, and foliage favorites.
- Small to medium flowers: cockscomb or feather celosia (Celosia), globe amaranth (Gomphrena), larkspur & delphinium (Delphinium), floss flower (Ageratum), chives (Allium), yarrow (Achillea), winged everlasting (Ammobium), sea thrift (Armeria), sea holly (Eryngium), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla).
- Larger flowers: hydrangea (Hydrangea), coneflower (Echinacea), yarrow (Achilla).
- Tip: allow them to dry right in the vase and just let the water evaporate.
- Foliage: sweet Annie and silver king (both Artemesia species).
- Seed pods/heads: silver dollar plant (Lunaria), love-in-a-mist (Nigella), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis), Chinese lanterns (Physalis), lamb’s ear (Stachys), drumstick flower (Craspedia).
- Some of these also dry well at the flower stage.
Tips for cutting and choosing flowers to dry:
1. Choose flowers that are not completely open. They will continue to open a bit as they dry.
2. Cut flowers in the morning after the dew has dried or in the early evening. Use sharp garden shears or scissors.
3. Strip off foliage.
4. Ready them for drying as soon after cutting as possible.
5. Group into small bundles or create small bouquets. Cut the ends off evenly.
6. Use an elastic band or string to tie the bundle together.
7. Hang upside down in a cool, dry, indoor spot. A dark area is an added benefit for preserving color. They should hang in a spot with good air circulation.
8. When they are dry they will feel brittle and stiff. This usually takes a few days to a few weeks.
9. Use when they are dried in arrangements or bouquets.
Sometimes it’s easiest to make a flower bouquet or wreath and allow it to dry after you arrange it. Working with dry and sometimes brittle flower stems can be a challenge until you have done a few of them. When making a fresh-cut wreath you have the advantage of wiring small bunches of stems in place and then laying the wreath flat and allowing the completed wreath to thoroughly dry. When using dried material, you have the advantage of using a glue gun, which is just another way to create a wreath or other arrangement. Some dried flowers can be worked into a traditional balsam Christmas wreath for a lovely, different look.
In addition to air-drying flowers, there are many ways to preserve the beauty of summer’s flowers. It’s fun to experiment and try some of these other methods.
- Lazy Drying: Some flowers like hydrangeas, statice, baby’s breath, and any other stiff stemmed flowers or seed pods can be dried by placing them in a vase with a couple of inches of water. Enjoy them while they are fresh; then just let the water evaporate, tie the dried flowers with a ribbon, and use as you like.
- Pressing Flowers: Lay each flower or leaf between 2 sheets of plain paper and press between the pages of a heavy book. Weigh the book down for a few weeks until the flowers are dry to the touch. You may also use a flower press. Gently lift the flower and arrange it in a little frame or on a bookmark. The glass will keep the flowers in place in a frame and you can make bookmarks or other things with pressed flowers if you laminate them after arranging.
- Use a Microwave: You will need some silica sand or borax and cornmeal in equal parts. Place the flowers in a shallow microwave-safe container and gently cover with the silica or borax/cornmeal mix. Microwave for a minute or so checking to see if the flowers are dried. If not, add more time. Leave flowers in the silica for a day or two to finish the drying.
- Waxing Flowers: This method is a little trickier but also fun to try. Use paraffin or soy wax and melt until liquid in a double boiler. Use caution as the wax is flammable and will cause a bad burn. Dip the flower into the wax quickly and spin it around to remove some of the extra wax. The wax will begin to cool fairly fast. Set the flower stem into a jar to finish cooling. Flowers that are more dense, like roses, are good for waxing. A flower like a daisy is difficult as it collapses against itself when you dip it. Some flowers like a daisy can be done by quickly brushing the wax on the petals as it lays flat on waxed paper on an old cutting board. Lift and do the back as well. Keep in mind that if the flower isn’t completely waxed, air will get in and discolor/decompose the flower parts.
Preserved flowers will last for a long time. Usually, dust and color fading are the biggest enemy. Try to store them where it is cool, dry, and dark and where they will not receive attention from insects.
Maine Offers Free Collection of Unwanted Pesticides to Protect Natural Resources
Source: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Board of Pesticides Control
Maine residents can participate in the Obsolete Pesticide Collection Program, a joint initiative by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The program aims to safeguard Maine’s natural resources and prevent agricultural pollution by promoting the safe and proper disposal of outdated, unused, or unwanted pesticides.
Homeowners and family-owned farms are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity by bringing their unwanted pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, disinfectants, and similar products used in agricultural production or around the home, to collection sites in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta, and Portland.
- The next obsolete pesticide collection days will be held during October 2023, with one-day events in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta, and Portland.
- Pre-registration is required by September 29 to participate; drop-ins are not permitted.
- The program only accepts pesticides and spray adjuvants. Registration instructions and forms can be found on the program webpage.
- Each registration must be from the person currently possessing the pesticides, and materials collected on behalf of others will not be accepted.
More details, including drop-off locations and the obsolete pesticides inventory form, are on the BPC website.
About Maine’s Obsolete Pesticide Collection Program
Removing obsolete and unwanted pesticides is essential for protecting public health, wildlife, and the environment. Improper handling and disposal of pesticides can contaminate land and water resources. The Maine Obsolete Pesticide Collection Program ensures these hazardous materials are handled and disposed of safely. Since its inception in 1982, the program has successfully diverted over 250,000 lbs. of pesticides from entering the waste stream. Collected pesticides are transported to licensed, out-of-state disposal facilities through a hazardous waste disposal contractor.
Disposing of Pesticides Safely
The label is the law. Always follow the label instructions for the proper use, storage, and disposal of any pesticides you use. For more information about safe pesticide disposal, visit the EPA website.
Spoonful: Bite-Sized Food & Nutrition Information
Reprinted from University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Food and Nutrition blog.
Explore Spoonful, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension Food and Nutrition blog focusing on feeding you bite-sized food and nutrition information that is science-based and applicable to your life. We hope you enjoy the variety of blog posts including recipes, food preservation, grocery shopping on a budget, food safety, health tips, and more! You won’t want to miss cooking videos that highlight many of our favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables. Enjoy our recent post about Taco Pie.
The Spoonful Bloggers are University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff members with knowledge of food and nutrition. We hope you enjoy learning more about food and nutrition as much as we do—thank you so much for visiting!
First Occurrence of Mile-a-Minute Weed Confirmed in Maine. Urgent Action Required
Source: Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry
The Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry (DACF) has recently verified the first known occurrence of mile-a-minute weed (Persicaria perfoliata) in Maine. This fast-growing invasive vine, native to India, Asia, and the Philippine Islands, poses a significant threat to nurseries, Christmas tree farms, reforestation projects, and restoration areas, as it can smother young plants and trees under its dense growth.
The discovery was made at a private residence in Boothbay Harbor, where the alert landowner reported finding a mile-a-minute weed plant while cleaning up weeds that came with newly installed landscape plants. This invasive species is one of 33 plants listed on the DACF’s do-not-sell list, notorious for hitchhiking on nursery stock and spreading rapidly.
Mile-a-minute weed derives its name from its astonishing growth rate of up to 6 inches per day or 25 feet in six to eight weeks. It features distinctive triangular leaves, spikes of pea-sized blue fruits, and recurved barbs along the stems and leaf margins. The vine also displays peculiar circular leaves, known as ocreae, clasping the stem beneath each fruit spike.
Invasive species like mile-a-minute weed have the potential to cause severe harm to Maine’s environment and economy. As part of our commitment to controlling and eradicating this invasive plant, the DACF urges the public to report any potential sightings promptly. If you encounter a vine resembling mile-a-minute weed, please visit the Maine Natural Areas webpage for identification information. If the plant matches the description, we encourage you to take photos, note the location, and report the finding via email to Invasives.MNAP@maine.gov or call 207.287.7545.
“The timely reporting of invasive plants is crucial to our efforts in safeguarding Maine’s natural areas,” said State Horticulturalist Gary Fish. “With the public’s support, we can respond rapidly and take necessary measures to eradicate any other mile-a-minute weed plants in the area.”
For more information on mile-a-minute weed and other invasive species of concern in Maine, please visit Invasive Plants. Let’s cooperate to protect our state’s biodiversity and preserve its natural beauty.
By Maine Audubon Field Naturalist, Andy Kapinos
Hairy Woodpeckers get their name from the long, “hair-like” white feathers on their back. They share this patch of white feathers with their local lookalike, the Downy Woodpecker. You can identify Hairy Woodpeckers by their longer bill (approximately the same length as the head, or longer), white outer tail feathers (with no black spots), and louder “PIK” call. These common woodpeckers prefer large patches of wooded habitat with mature trees for foraging and nesting, but will also commonly visit bird feeders. The majority of their diet is insects (~70% throughout the year), especially the larvae of beetles that live on and in bark; they generally increase in number in areas with bark beetle infestations. These cavity excavators frequently nest in living trees with cores softened by heart rot. Their nests are frequently reused by a great variety of species, including other woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, and flying squirrels.
For more on the importance of planting Maine native plants to support birds like the Hairy Woodpecker and other wildlife, visit Maine Audubon’s “Bringing Nature Home” webpage.
Sean Birkel, Assistant Extension Professor, Maine State Climatologist, Climate Change Institute, Cooperative Extension University of Maine. For questions about climate and weather, please contact the Maine Climate Office.
August 2023 brought near normal temperature and above near or above normal rainfall across Maine. A storm system on August 8th produced heavy rainfall with accumulations ranging 1–5 inches (or more in isolated areas), which caused flooding in some parts of the state. Precipitation data from NOAA indicates the three-month period May–July 2023 as the wettest since 2013 and the 7th wettest for records beginning 1895. The period May-August is likely to rank in the top 10 wettest based on data ending August 28th. Streamflow, groundwater, and soil moisture indicators likewise show normal or above normal statewide. This year’s wet growing season stands in sharp contrast to recent summers in which Maine experienced varying levels of drought. Elsewhere this month, a large heat dome developed over the central U.S. bringing record or near-record high temperatures to several states. Also this month, the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information confirmed that, averaged worldwide, July 2023 was the hottest month on record for observations beginning 1850.
The current NWS weather (August 29) shows a warm, overall dry weather pattern for the first week of September. Beyond that, the Climate Prediction Center 8–14 day outlook probability maps for September 5–11 (issued August 17) show above normal temperature and near normal precipitation for Maine. The 1-month outlook for September (issued August 17) shows equal chances for above or below normal temperature and precipitation. Looking further out, the three-month fall outlook September–November (issued August 17) also shows above normal temperature and equal chance of above or below normal precipitation. These and other maps are available on the Maine Climate Office website. As always, be sure to check weather.gov for the latest weather forecast for your area.
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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. 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.
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