Maine Home Garden News — October 2017


October Is the Month to . . .

By Cathryn Kloetzli, Extension Professional in Agriculture and Food Systems, UMaine Extension Oxford County

Pumpkins for sale at farmers market
Photo by Edwin Remsberg
  • Stock up on the ample harvest. Many farmer’s markets remain open into October and beyond.
  • Take your ghouls and goblins out for a day at the farm! Explore pumpkin patches, take a hayride, get lost in a corn maze or see if you can make it through a haunted house! Search this directory for even more options.
  • Gather up all ye apples! Round up the family and go visit an apple farm or pick your own apples.
  • Cider, Apples, and Donuts, oh my! Check out recipes and instructions on how to make various fruit pie fillings, homemade cider, and apple cider doughnuts. Fun facts: About 36 apples go into making one gallon of apple cider and 2 lbs. of apples make one 9-inch pie
  • Soak up the Fall Foliage splendor! Find out where the leaves are at peak color and learn about the whys and hows of the transformation from green leaves to the rich leaf colors of Fall.
  • Gallivant on over to
    • Fryeburg Fair! This is Maine’s largest agricultural fair and is chock full of exhibit halls, educational and historical displays, livestock shows, animals, food, rides, and much more!
    • Visit many of Maine’s cheesemakers in their creameries, meet the animals, and learn the stories behind 150+ artisan cheese made in Maine. Be on the lookout for the Maine Cheese Festival on October 15th!
  • Fill up the cupboards! Make up some herbal vinegars or harvest and put up some cranberries. For a different twist, learn about drying as a food preservation method.
  • Got a root cellar? Or looking to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for longer?  Proper storage conditions — temperature and humidity — are needed to lengthen storage life and maintain quality. Discover how to extend fruit and vegetables storage times.
  • When will the frost come? Maine’s frost free dates, on average, extend from May 7th – June 17th until August 25th – October 6th.  Find out when you can expect the frost to hit (PDF) your neck of the woods. This can help you plan for next Spring’s planting schedule too.
  • Keep houseplants healthy during the winter. Learn some tips about light, watering, and humidity to keep your houseplants healthy.
  • Keep the pruners at bay. While you may be on a tear to clean up everything and get it all trimmed back and looking neat before winter hits, it is often best for many plants to wait until the plants have gone dormant before pruning them. Pruning them now can signal to them it’s time to put out new growth, instead of preparing for dormancy. Get the scoop on pruning at Pruning Woody Landscape Plants, pruning raspberries, How to Prune a Blueberry Bush, and pruning fruit trees.
  • Winterize your gardens — and your equipment.
  • Got dahlias, tuberous begonias, gladiolus? Learn how to store tender bulbs.
  • Ensure a good garlic harvest and plant now. Planting garlic through October allows the garlic cloves time to establish their roots before winter sets in. This gives them the ability to shoot ahead and grow well during next year’s growing season, providing you with an ample harvest.

Fir Tip & Wreath Season

Compiled by Donna Coffin, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

November brings cold weather and an opportunity for farmers who have balsam fir growing on their property to add a little to their farm income. Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties have a number of Christmas tree producers who are looking for brush or balsam fir tree tips for their wreath making operations. If you plan to sell to these folks, it is best to contact them and ask what type of brush they need and how they would like it delivered. Tip gatherers, who plan to collect tips from land that is not their own, must receive permission to use private land whether you intend to sell the tips or use them for making your own wreaths.

Illustration of a for tip
A fir tip is 12 to 20 inches long. Illustration by Mark A. McCollough.

The end portion of a balsam fir branch is called a “tip.” Tip lengths range from 12 to 20 inches. The tip may be broken into two or three pieces. These pieces are placed together to form a tip bunch and wired onto a ring to make a wreath. Balsam fir has dark green, blunt-ended needles that are about one inch long. Spruce looks similar to balsam fir, but has shorter needles with pointed ends. This makes the needles “prickly” to the touch.

Many wreath producers and home crafters are very selective when buying or harvesting tips, because tip quality largely determines the quality of the finished wreath. Tips should be “rounded” (needles on all sides of the tips’ stems). The needles should be a dark green color, not yellow or brown. The tips shouldn’t have any signs of disease or insect damage.

Illustration of a 4- to 6-foot-long stick used for stacking tips. Illustration by Mark A. McCollough.
A 4- to 6-foot-long stick used for stacking tips. Illustration by Mark A. McCollough.

Once the tips are removed from the tree, they are gathered together. One common tip gathering method is to stack the balsam fir tips into a “stick.” The tip gatherer first cuts down a small tree (four to six feet tall), then strips the tree of all branches except for the last set (located at the bottom end of the tree). These remaining branches are cut four to eight inches in length. The tip gathers use these sticks to transport their tips.

Individuals can sell the tips to local buyers (usually a wreath wholesaler or retailer), who provide tip specifications (required tip length, quality, and stacking method). These tips are sold according to their weight.

Balsam fir wreaths consist of tips, a metal ring, and wire. A wreath is assembled by attaching bunches of tips to a ring. These bunches are held to the ring with the wire. Our publication on making balsam fir wreaths includes instructions for making double-faced wreaths (wreaths with tip bunches attached to both sides). Single-faced wreaths are made the same way as double-faced wreaths, except tip bunches are attached only on one side. Wreath making methods may vary slightly, depending on the wreath producer.

Source: Bulletin #7011, Balsam Fir Tip Gathering and Bulletin#7012, Making Balsam Fir Wreaths.


Cephalanthus occidentalis (Common Buttonbush)

By Kathleen McNerney, Home Horticultural Coordinator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Buttonbush blossom
Photo by Kathleen McNerney

Ode to Cephalanthus and Seuss

I am a globular ball
I am not shy at all
Above long stalks I tower
I am a Dr. Seuss-like flower

To my many white flowers pollinators come
Native bees and butterflies to name some
The honey made from my nectar is sweet
It does not at all smell like feet

My glossy green leaves
Are eager to please
Larvae of Sphinx moths will feed on me
It is quite plain — you see
I am useful indeed
I am a Buttonbush and happy to be!

The whimsical, fragrant, spherical, ball-shaped flowers heads of Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush) remind me of something that may have come straight out of Dr. Seuss’s famous book the Lorax. The flowers are unique indeed, but not the only standout feature of this native Maine shrub. The Genus name comes from the Greek words cephalo (head) and anthos (flower).

Buttonbush in blossom
Photo by C. Eves-Thomas

Cephalanthus is a shrub that has it all. This hardy, deciduous, 6-12’ tall shrub, with a nearly equal girth is incredibly adaptable. It grows best in wet soils including, low woods, thickets, swamps, stream/pond margins, and shallow standing water, thus making it ideal for rain gardens, naturalized areas, slope stabilization, and other challenging sites. Meanwhile, buttonbush can also tolerate sites with normal to slightly dry moisture conditions if provided with ample water during the first growing season. Buttonbush grows best in full sun to part shade.

Cephalanthus is an excellent choice as a food, forage, and shelter resource for all sorts of wildlife — supporting over 24 species of birds, bees, and butterflies. Long blooming flowers provide ample nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds throughout the summer. Flowers fade in the fall, maturing into seed heads or little brown balls, which contain nutlets. Each buttonbush fruit can produce up to four hundred seeds. Seeds heads persist well into the winter, giving this shrub year round interest, and are also a favored food of waterfowl. Leaves provide larval food for the Aellopos titan (Hummingbird moth) and Darapsa versicolor (Hydrangea moth), and the lower branch structure is used by wood ducks as protection for their brooding nests.

Low maintenance is another appealing feature of this shrub. It requires little to no pruning and is relatively disease free. Any pruning desired for the purposes of shaping is best done in spring. It is hard to imagine a shrub that does so much, delighting humans with fanciful flowers and so many birds and pollinators with needed food and shelter, and needs so little in return.

Additional resources:


Piscataquis Passport Project

By Trisha Smith, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

Three proud youth participants in the Piscataquis Passport Project holding their passports.
Three proud participants in the Piscataquis Passport Project. Photo by Trisha Smith.

The Piscataquis Passport Project evolved from a “Market Kids” 4-H program in Penobscot County. Its purpose was to increase participation in Free Summer Meals, encourage kids to visit the library and farmers’ market, and help in the school garden. Planning began in January when Piscataquis Healthy Food for All coordinated meetings with Maine Department of Education, food service directors and managers, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and other interested community members.

Free Summer Meals are supported by Maine Department of Education to help mitigate hunger during summer vacation. Anyone under 18 can get a free, nutritious meal at any designated Free Summer Meals site. In Dover-Foxcroft, both breakfast and lunch were available Monday through Friday at Sedomocha School. Sedomocha’s kitchen manager provided additional meals for distribution at other sites as well.

Kids carrying Passports got them stamped or initialed when they attended a Free Summer Meal or other listed activity. Those who brought their Passports to Dover Cove Farmers’ Market received $5 in “Veggie Vouchers” to spend on fresh vegetables and fruits as well as a stamp in their “Visit DCFM” column. Helpers in the school garden often went home with food they had harvested themselves. Some families discovered the Free Community Dinners held at various churches every Monday in Dover-Foxcroft. Thompson Free Library entertained and educated kids with a series of special guests and activities. Mayo Regional Hospital served Free Summer Meals on “Mayo Mondays,” hoping to make visiting the hospital less intimidating. An “Other Fun Stuff” column contained suggestions for additional activities. At the end of summer, participants returned their Passports to the Extension office to win a prize.

Passports required parent/guardian permission, and registration was limited to two days at Sedomocha. Twenty-six kids received Passports, and 6 were awarded a prize for returning their Passport to the Extension office (they were returned as keepsakes). Numbers and prizes are not the only measures of success, however. Several families discovered the school garden, shopped at the farmers’ market for the first time, or found new connections in the community. With some tweaks, the Piscataquis Passport Project will return next summer to Dover-Foxcroft and may expand to other towns in Piscataquis County or beyond.

For more information contact trisha.smith1@maine.edu or call 1.800.287.1491 (in Maine) and ask for Trisha.


Food & Nutrition: When It’s Time to Store Canning Supplies…

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

canning equipment
Photo by Edwin Remsberg

With frost on the pumpkin, many home food preservers are storing canning equipment until spring. Before packing up and forgetting about those items that served you so well this past preserving season, take time to give them a little tender loving care! You will be so glad you did next year when you see those first signs of vegetables in the garden and fruits beginning to ripen.

First, start with your biggest investment, the pressure canner. For safe operation next season, clean the vent and safety valve. To clean the vent, draw a clean string or narrow strip of cloth through the opening. Check to make sure the safety valve is free of debris and operates freely. Clean the valve by removing, if possible, or following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Next, check the gasket which is the rubber or rubber-like compound that helps seal the edges of the canner and lid to prevent steam from escaping. Gaskets are removable for cleaning or replacement by following the manufacturer’s directions. If needed, new gaskets can be ordered from the canner manufacturer or found at hardware stores. (Some canners do not have gaskets and use a metal to metal seal instead.)

If your canner has a dial gauge, go ahead and mark your calendar now for a time to have your gauge tested in early spring. Contact your local UMaine Extension county office for information on checking the accuracy of the gauge. This should be done well in advance of canning season so that if the gauge tests off more than 2 pound of pressure at 5, 11, or 15 pounds, it can be replaced. Find your closest location to have your dial gauge tested.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for care of the sealing edges of your canner. If your canner has a dial gauge, be careful not to immerse the gauge when cleaning. The darkened surface on the inside of an aluminum canner can be cleaned by filling it above the darkened line with a mixture of 1 tablespoon cream of tartar to each quart of water. Place the canner on the stove, heat water to a boil, and boil covered until the dark deposits disappear. Sometimes stubborn deposits may require the addition of more cream of tartar. Empty the canner and wash it with hot soapy water, rinse and dry. Hint: deposits from hard water may be reduced if you add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water in the canner while you process your jars.

Store the canner with crumpled clean paper towels in the bottom and around the rack. This will help absorb moisture and odors. Place the lid upside down on the canner. Never put the lid on the canner and seal it.

Once your canner is properly stored, take time to inventory jars and two piece lids. If properly used and stored, jars can last indefinitely. As you empty jars during the winter, check for any chips or breaks, wash and store in a safe place. Two-piece lids consist of a flat metal disc and a separate metal screw band. After canning, screw bands should be removed once the jars have sealed, instead of leaving them on the jars during storage. Wash and dry the screwbands completely and put them away in a dry place. Bands can be used over and over, unless they rust. The flat lid is used only once and then discarded after the jar of food is opened.

Designate a clean and dry storage area for your canning equipment and utensils. Use clear storage boxes, stackable racks, and other organizer accessories to make a food preservation storage center. Come spring, you’ll be ready for another year!

Adapted from: Carolyn Ainslie and Elizabeth Andress
National Center for Home Food Preservation
December 2005


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 Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, serving as editor.

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Maine Home Garden News — September 2017


September Is the Month to . . .

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

  • Harvest the garden regularly. Donate excess produce through the Maine Harvest for Hunger program. For more information, please visit Maine Harvest for Hunger.
  • Harvest and dry vegetables while they are at their peak. If you have been gathering vegetables regularly through the summer, mid September should be the last of the big harvests. Most vegetables require the use of a dehydrator. Find a friend and share the harvest as well as the dehydrator. Dried vegetables are great additions to soups and sauces throughout the winter.
  • Stop watering and fertilizing any established perennials, trees, and shrubs in September. 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 winter.
  • Remove plant debris and weeds from the garden to reduce the number of overwintering sites for unwanted insect and disease populations, and minimize the deposit of seeds into the soil “weed seed bank.” Follow with a cover crop to protect the soil and serve as competition for weeds. If planting a cover crop is not an option, top dress with an organic mulch, such as seaweed, straw or leaves. Mulch will also add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.
  • Plan that new garden bed for next year. If you are considering a new garden space for next year now is the time clean that area out and do some sheet mulching or lasagna gardening to prepare the bed for planting in the spring. For more information, see Sheet Mulch — Lasagna Composting (PDF) from Oregon State University.
  • Attack poison ivy with a vengeance. Dave Fuller, Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional, UMaine Extension Franklin County, suggests the following steps for the best control of poison ivy:
    • Spray with glyphosate just before poison ivy leaves start to change color — about September 1. Timing is everything. Why late summer? The plant is sending photosynthetic reserves down to the roots and a systemic herbicide will be better moved to the roots, as well. Don’t spray if rain is eminent.
    • Wear garbage bags over your boots and pants, taped around the legs to avoid contact with urushiol, the offending compound in poison ivy. Turn bags inside out when removing for disposal.
    • Follow the directions on the herbicide container. The label is the law.
  • Watch the weather and take steps to protect tender plants if there’s a chance of frost. Bulletin #2752, Extending the Garden Season describes methods to protect plants from the cold and extend the growing season.
  • Do a soil test. If the results indicate the need for lime and manure additions, September is a great 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.
  • Review the year. Which vegetables were high producers? What plant varieties were your favorites? List successes, failures, diseases, and insect pests. Brainstorm a plan for next season. Take pictures and add to an electronic garden journal or calendar. Pictures will help you remember the good and bad of the season.
  • Save seeds of non-hybrids to plant next year. Learn how to have success saving seeds by reading Bulletin #2750, An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener.
  • Dig up bulbs that are not winter hardy like cannas, gladiolus, and dahlias after the foliage dies back. Clean the bulbs before storing. Store for the winter in peat moss or dry sand in a dark, cool, well ventilated space where the temperatures remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Build raised beds now, so they will be ready to plant in early spring. For more information, watch our four-part video series Extending the Gardening Season Using Raised Beds. Includes a link to plans and materials list.
  • Cut back on your lawn area and come over to the “Low Input Lawn” team. Reducing lawn area will save you time and effort next year. Starting to implement the practices of a “Low Input Lawn” now will help your soil recover over the winter so you can have a healthier lawn next year. See Bulletin #2166 Steps to a Low Input Lawn for detailed information.

Leek Moth: A New Pest of Alliums in Maine

By Dave Fuller, Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional, UMaine Extension Franklin County

Leek moth (Acrolepiopsis assectella Zeller), a very destructive pest of all of the Allium family, was first found in Maine in the larval stage by the author on garlic plants at the Forest Hills Consolidated Schools garden on May 28, 2017. Cocoons were also found from which moths were reared and submitted to a USDA APHIS specialist in Maryland who made the confirmation of leek moth.

A detection trapping program was then initiated in early June in multiple locations in Maine by Cooperative Extension in collaboration with Karen Coluzzi of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Division of Animal and Plant Health. The object of the trapping was to determine where in Maine leek moths are found and to study its life cycle. Such information would be used to alert growers of the presence of leek moth and how to manage the pest. To date, Jackman is the only location in Maine where the moths have been found. Trapping will resume in the spring of 2018.

windowpane appearance on onion leaves
Larvae tunnel into the hollow leaves and feed on the inside surface causing a windowpane appearance. Photo by Dave Fuller.

A native of Europe, leek moth first was seen in the United States in 2009 in New York and is now established in Vermont, New Hampshire and nearby in the Province of Quebec. Leek moth is so named for its affinity for leeks, but is attracted to all members of the allium family.

Damage to garlic and other allium leaves is done by leek moth caterpillars (larvae) and can be extensive, leading to diminished crops or possible crop failure. Damage on garlic in Maine has been seen mainly on the scape as it emerged, causing collapse of the structure. With onions, the larvae tunnel into the hollow leaves and feed on the inside surface causing a windowpane appearance. Mature larvae then exit the leaf and enter the pupal stage by spinning a loose “cargo net” cocoon.

Leek moths have 3 generations in Maine with damage to plants compounding as the season goes on as leek moth populations build. Each generation completes its life cycle from 30-50 days depending on the environment. Moths, larvae and cocoons are all very small, measuring about 3/8 of an inch long. Female moths lay from 100-200 eggs per generation over a two-week period starting in spring. Leek moths overwinter as adults or pupae in crop residue.

Larvae on onion leaf
Larvae on onion leaf. Photo by Dave Fuller.

Control of leek moth is best accomplished by covering allium crops with a row over. Since the moths only fly at night, weeding and scape removal on garlic can be done during the day and covers replaced. Wire hoops would need to be used with onions as their tops would be damaged otherwise by wind-flapped row cover.  There are no pesticides currently registered for leek moth in Maine. In other states, Bt is used, but timing is very important to be effective.

For more information, see Leek Moth (PDF), an excellent resource developed by Cornell University.

Please contact the author at dfuller@maine.edu if you have seen damage on your alliums similar to that pictured/described.


New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

By Liz Stanley, Community Education Assistant, Horticulture, UMaine Extension Knox & Lincoln Counties

Vernonia noveboracensis at the former Farnsworth Victorian Garden
Vernonia noveboracensis at the former Farnsworth Victorian Garden. Photo by Lee Schneller Sligh.

Vernonia is a genus of about 1000 species of shrubs and forbs in the Asteraceae or Composite family. Plants in this very large family can be recognized by their inflorescence, which appear to be a single flower, but are actually a collection of flowers merged into a single head. Some species are known as ironweed.

New York ironweed is a tall native wildflower with deep purple clusters of finely petaled flowers that bloom in late August and September. The plant grows in airy clumps that can reach 8’ tall in wet swales, but can also grow in drier sites. Rough, pointed, serrate, lance-shaped leaves (6-8″ long) are similar to Joe-Pye weed but they’re alternate and more refined. The plant is easy to grow in full-sun (zones 5-9), and attracts many butterfly species, including Monarchs. The genus name, Vernonia, honors the 17th century English botanist William Vernon, who collected plants in Maryland. The species name noveboracensis describes the plant being “of New York” where it was probably first collected.

Veronia blooms
Vernonia noveboracensis flowers in September. Photo by Lee Schneller Sligh.

New York Ironweed is not attractive to deer, rarely needs staking, and is a beautiful background plant for rain gardens, pond sides, stream beds, native meadows and border gardens. It creates a strong upright companion for other tall species like yellow and orange Helenium (sneezeweed), Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root), all colors of Echinacea (coneflower), Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), and ornamental grasses.


In-Field and Farmers Market Gleaning

By Kate Garland, Horticultural Professional, UMaine Extension Penobscot County

apples in crates
10,000 lbs of surplus apples were gleaned and redistributed by community volunteers at Johnston’s Pick Your Own Orchard in Hancock County in 2016.

The USDA estimates that 15.8 percent of Maine households, or more than 209,000 individuals, are food insecure. Our state ranks 1st in New England and 9th in the nation for food insecurity. Meanwhile, Maine has 8,200 farming operations managing 1.45 million acres of land. A 2016 study by Shelburne Farms in neighboring Vermont estimated that 14.3 million pounds of wholesome vegetables and berries are lost each year in their state when food was not connected with people either by being purchased or donated by the producer. This study reported that every year, perfectly edible food is left in the field because of: blemished (edible) produce, farmers not confident they’d be able to sell, lack of available and/or affordable labor, and other reasons. No such estimates exist for food left in Maine fields, but there is no doubt it’s there and there’s a need to make an effort to capture these leaks in our food system.

Since 2000, University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff have been creating sustainable linkages between farms, volunteers, and food pantries/community meal sites. Statewide, our staff and volunteers currently support 49 gleaning sites and have gleaned close to 2.5 million pounds of food. Here are some of their stories.

In 2010, Hancock County Extension Hancock gathered hunger relief organizations to harvest surplus apples from a local orchard, starting a yearly tradition of gleaning and distributing an average of 5,000 pounds of apples to area food pantries and soup kitchens. In 2012, they partnered with Healthy Acadia and the city of Ellsworth to receive a grant to expand the Downeast Gleaning Initiative enabling them to hire a local gleaning coordinator and significantly increase their efforts to recover surplus crops from farms that would otherwise go to waste. Initially designed as a one year project, it’s now in its 6th season. Thanks to the hard work of two regional gleaning coordinators and over 200 community volunteers, many of whom are Master Gardener Volunteers, over 100,000lbs of fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats have been rescued and redistributed to neighbors in need.

Maine Gleaning Network (MGN) was launched in 2016 by Hannah Semmler, one of the Downeast Gleaning Initiative gleaning coordinators, as a way to increase communication among gleaning leaders throughout the state to share best practices and resources. The MGN offers networking opportunities to share and learn tips on how to improve safety, organization, and efficiency while also making procedures more seamlessly integrate into farm operations. Introductions to new online food sharing platforms such as Spoiler Alert and connections with innovative gleaning organizations such as Boston Area Gleaners have served as great professional development experiences.

In 2011, Penobscot County Cooperative Extension staff worked with a local farmer and volunteers to develop and implement a farmers’ market gleaning plan for the Orono farmers’ market. Tip sheets and market gleaning trainings have been offered throughout the state. Since then, at least 5 other markets in Maine have established programs that utilize volunteers and/or agency staff to collect and distribute unsold high-quality food to food security organizations. The past 6 years have yielded over 20,000lbs of donations from the Orono market alone. Farmers see this as a service and often bring extra food from their farm because they can count on the volunteers to bring it to where it’s most needed.

The first formal on-farm gleaning activities supported by UMaine Extension started in 2000 at Spiller Farm in York County when Extension had just begun promoting the national Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) initiative. A local Master Gardener Volunteer, and customer at the farm, was welcomed by the Spillers to harvest crops to donate to PAR (now known as Maine Harvest for Hunger). Soon, there was too much to harvest for the one volunteer so a team was organized to build an efficient system to respond to gleaning opportunities there. Gleaning leaders eventually set up a Tuesday/Thursday gleaning system and even organized food distribution agencies to pick up food directly from the farm, building an even more streamlined system of getting food into the community. “The Spillers have a real passion for the program; with annual donations totaling over 10,000lbs for many years running. This is an example of extreme generosity,” says Extension Educator Frank Wertheim.

These are just some of the many stories of how UMaine Extension is working to bring a professionalized service for farmers seeking to make donations of what is no longer of commercial value to them. Our producers work hard to grow this food; it’s important that it reach as many plates as possible.

Many volunteers and farmers are needed to continue making this program a success. Contact your local UMaine Extension county office to learn how you can help.


Obsolete Pesticide Collection

Each October, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control conducts a program to collect and properly dispose of banned and unusable pesticides from homeowners and farms. Preregistration is required and collections are held at four sites across the state.

Next collection will be in October 2017, one day each in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. Registration by September 22 is required; no drop-ins will be accepted. Find more information and use the forms found on this website.


Food & Nutrition: Preserving Tomatoes

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Let’s Preserve: Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes on the vine; photo by Edwin Remsberg
Photo by Edwin Remsberg.

At the end of the growing season most home gardeners have loads of ripe and green tomatoes. They can be picked and managed so you have tomatoes and tomato-based products for the months to come.

Ripening Green Tomatoes

Select mature tomatoes that are green to slightly pink. They will ripen indoors in time if handled properly. First, remove the stem and dip each tomato in a solution made of household bleach mixed with water (add scant 1 tsp. bleach to 1 quart water). Dry each tomato off. This process will kill bacteria on the tomatoes which would cause them to spoil before they can ripen. Do not attempt to ripen green tomatoes from plants that are affected by disease, such as late blight. These tomatoes are not safe for canning, because the fungus can affect the pH of the fruit.

Sort according to ripeness. Spread newspapers in a carton. Place a layer of tomatoes in the box. Cover with another layer of newspapers. Close the box and keep at a temperature between 55°F and 70°F. At 65°F to 70°F, the tomatoes will ripen in about 2 weeks. At 55°F to 60°F, they will ripen in about 3 to 4 weeks. Be sure to check the tomatoes weekly for ripeness and to remove any spoiled fruit.

Let’s Preserve Tomatoes!

Using, Storing and Preserving Tomatoes

Keep ripe tomatoes at room temperature: above 55 degrees is recommended. Do not refrigerate under-ripe fruit. Tomatoes will ripen better out of sunlight. Once tomatoes are red and slightly soft, they will keep a day or two at room temperature. Refrigerate only if you want to keep them longer. For recipes using fresh tomatoes, see

With tomato season upon us, it is important for home canners to know that to ensure the safety of whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, additional acid is needed whether you process them in a boiling water bath or pressure canner. To ensure safe acidity in whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. Add acid directly to the jars before filling with the product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5% acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. For more information, see Bulletin #4085, Let’s Preserve Tomatoes.

Freezing tomatoes is a simple and quick way to preserve them. Learn how by watching our video on freezing tomatoes.

If you are looking to amp up your intake of local foods, preserving is a skill to learn to help extend your access to local foods year round. Check out our hands-on food preservation workshops.

Can I preserve tomatoes that have visible signs of late blight?

No. Late blight is a common disease in tomatoes and potatoes caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans. The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning (1994 ed.) recommends that canners select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm tomatoes for canning. The reason for this recommendation is that fungus infestation may raise the pH of the tomato flesh to a level that makes it unsafe for canning.

For more information, see Tomatoes and Potatoes Infected with Late Blight — Are They Safe for Canning? from Penn State Extension to help home canners understand the issue of late blight and home food preservation.

UPDATE for Home Canners

New Ball® Sure Tight™ Lids — 2017

The Ball® brand introduced new canning lids for 2017. These lids started appearing in stores where canning supplies are sold in May 2017. These lids are intended to replace all Ball® and Kerr® lids. Older lid supplies are safe to use and will be sold until they are gone. For more information, see Kansas State University’s informational flier (PDF).


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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — August 2017


August Is the Month to . . .

By Cathryn Kloetzli, Extension Professional in Agriculture and Food Systems, UMaine Extension Oxford County


Northern Bayberry: A Resilient, Functional Native Shrub for the Sunny Maine Garden

By Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Hancock County

Morella pensylvanica, aka Myrica pensylvanica (Northern Bayberry) is a native shrub that grows wild from Newfoundland to Maryland. Although it is reliably evergreen in its southern range, it is typically deciduous or semi-evergreen in Maine. Along the rocky coast in Acadia National Park, northern bayberry forms immense colonies of windswept, salt-sprayed plants that reach only two feet in height.

A colony of Morella pensylvanica grows along the coast in Acadia National Park.
A colony of Morella pensylvanica grows along the coast in Acadia National Park. Photo by Reeser Manley.

Because of its ability to tolerate heat and drought once established, landscapers often select this shrub when faced with poor sandy soils where few other plants will grow. When planted in a full sun garden with rich soil and adequate water, it can grow well over six feet tall and wide. All parts of this plant have a spicy scent when crushed. In our garden, on a warm August afternoon, we cannot pass by the bayberries without running our hands along the leaves to savor the spicy scent. This is one of many reasons why we planted them; for the bold texture, dark green color, and delicious aroma of the summer foliage.

Northern bayberry has bold, glossy, aromatic summer foliage.
Northern bayberry has bold, glossy, aromatic summer foliage. Photo by Reeser Manley.

Northern bayberry is a must for the bird garden. Because of its suckering habit, it forms dense thickets which serve as a nesting site for songbirds, offering excellent protection from raccoons and other nest predators.

The small gray waxy-coated berries borne in clusters along the stem are a preferred winter food of chickadees, red-bellied woodpeckers, tree swallows, catbirds, bluebirds, and yellow-rumped warblers. The fragrant waxy coating is also used to scent bayberry candles. Northern bayberry is typically dioecious, with only female plants bearing fruit. Include at least one male plant in your landscape to ensure adequate pollination. The best time to purchase bayberry plants is in the fall when the females are fruiting, which makes it easy to distinguish between males and females.

In addition to its wildlife value, the fruit of northern bayberry is used to scent candle wax.
In addition to its wildlife value, the fruit of northern bayberry is used to scent candle wax. Photo by Reeser Manley.

The following photographs were taken along a winding bayberry-lined drive leading up to the Cape Cod home of Patricia Crow and James Hadley. The bayberry served as a foil for colorful herbaceous perennials and shrubs, all selected for their ability to nourish wildlife.

An informal bayberry hedge forms the perfect foil for butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’), and the bold-textured flower clusters of oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia).
An informal bayberry hedge forms the perfect foil for butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’), and the bold-textured flower clusters of oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia). Photo by Reeser Manley.
The fruits of American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) add a splash of color to the bayberry hedge.
The fruits of American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) add a splash of color to the bayberry hedge. Photo by Reeser Manley.

A striking combination we see growing naturally along the coast of Maine is northern bayberry with one of New England’s native roses (either the Carolina rose (Rosa carolina) or Virginia rose (R. virginiana)). The dark green foliage of bayberry makes an excellent foil for the simple pink flowers, deep red autumn leaves, and bright red hips of these roses.

Writing about bayberry also brings to mind a late summer discovery along the rugged coast of Vinalhaven, of bayberry and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) growing together. The dark red pyramidal fruit clusters of sumac surrounded by the bold bright green of bayberry foliage formed an image impossible to forget.


Not Your Grandmother’s Cutting Garden

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

peonies in bloomIn old crime films when they have no leads, they round up the “usual suspects” and try to pin it on one of them. While snow is still on the ground and plans are being made for the gardening season ahead, cutting gardens are not unlike that mystery with no clues — gardeners often fall back to the “usual suspects.” As a floral designer with more decades of experience than I care to admit, I have always challenged myself to expand the definition of floral arranging options to keep things interesting throughout the year. My definition of and choices for a cutting garden might surprise you.

Several challenges pop up when designing a cutting garden. The first challenge is to plan for having plenty of material for arrangements available at the same time in the space that you have to work with. Secondly, gardeners should be prepared to trial and embrace options they hadn’t considered in the past. Last, is the mission of finding greenery and accent material that lasts as long as the flowers. Addressing those options takes planning, vision, some luck, and a sense of adventure. So let’s take these challenges one at a time and see how to address them in your unique landscape.

Many cutting gardens are full of annuals because, generally, annuals produce flowers quickly and are more likely to re-bloom than most perennials. A number of seed suppliers have entire sections on their websites and in their catalog for cut flower seeds; Johnny’s, Harris, Burpee, Swallowtail, and Seed Savers all have content dedicated to the cut flower crowd. These resources can offer some great inspiration for expanding your horticultural palate. In general, cutting garden flowers should have stems of 15” or more and be able to survive out of the garden in a vase for several days. Another factor to consider is the ability to remove leaves or other parts of the flower that might be underwater to minimize bacterial growth. In many types of plants, pinching growing stems will encourage branching and longer stems in most varieties (ex: snapdragons, zinnias, cosmos, some sunflowers). Although it may be painful to snip the tip of that new plant around the Fourth of July, you will be rewarded in a few weeks with three or four long stems of flowers rather than one single flower.

border garden in bloomFirst blooms of most annuals will appear in mid to late July and any real abundance of flowers may not arise until early August. This is where a selection of perennials (bulbs, herbaceous plants, trees, and shrubs) can play a big role in offering material all year round. The use of bulbs is a trick long used in Dutch and English gardens. Bulbs planted in fall such as daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips produce the first focal flowers of the season. Other, less known bulbs planted in the fall that can add interest and uniqueness to your bouquets include Belladonna Lily (resurrection or naked lady lily), Camassia (Indian Hyacinth), Crocosmia, and many varieties of allium. Summer planted bulbs and tubers that will fill in your later bouquets include gladioli, tuberose, and a myriad of dahlias.

Potted plants from the winter will also produce flowers for vases. Amaryllis, forced daffodils or hyacinths or even some exotic flowers can fill your vases late in the fall or early in the winter. One of my favorite flowers to use in small vases is the miniature rose. The plants found in the supermarket floral departments are frequently hardy so I cut the flowers as they bloom indoors then plant it early in the spring when the ground thaws. I’ve found that some tend to produce several long stems (9”-12”) in the second season with multiple buds — perfect for a desk or bedside table.

Standby garden plants such as peonies, hydrangeas, and butterfly bush are often overlooked as too touchy for arranging. The trick with these is a sharp cut, removal of most foliage, and making sure they’re cut just before they peak in the garden. If they are open and gorgeous on the plant you have missed your opportunity.

The last challenge is that of finding accent material (texture, filler, and greens). Of course, many types of ferns are found in floral bouquets, but many of our Maine-grown ferns do not last like the ones grown further south. Greenery is not just found on the forest floor. Look at the shrubs and trees to find nice, long lasting foliage and sometimes the bonus of a small unique flower. This is where long term planning pays off. Consider adding an Andromeda (Pieris) or laurel (Kalmia) to a shrub border — both offer firm, glossy green leaves that are excellent for arrangements. Hosta leaves make a great surround low in a vase for a mass of flowers. Vegetable gardens can also produce interesting foliage from asparagus greenery to brightly colored varieties of chard. A host of herbs  (sage, winter savory, tarragon, lavender, and dill, just to name a few) have greenery that last many days, are often available later in the season and smell delicious. Winter savory, thyme, and oregano flowers are some of my favorite fillers.

Looking for vertical interest? Root the curly willow you get in a spring bouquet and grow a small tree or multi stem hedge in a sunny wet area. Black and fantail pussy willow are also relatively easy to start from cuttings. Harry Lauder Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), and Red Twigged Dogwood (Cornus cericia) are just a few shrubs that have branches that have winter interest. Holly, boxwood, Yaupon holly, and many needled evergreens are good for more than just Christmas arrangements. Perennial grasses work well in tall and oversized vases. The key to using these shrub and grass materials is a good sharp cutting tool and very clean vases.

Challenge yourself not to just have a cutting garden, but a cutting landscape. Plan and plant your landscape to produce vases of flowers from the first forced branches of forsythia in early spring to the evergreens and amaryllis of the darkest days of December. I still have a goal of 12 months of flowers from my garden and I have come very close many times with Mother Nature’s cooperation.

A short list of our non-traditional favorites

Many of these suggestions are considered fillers or accent options to complement more traditional cut flowers.

Early (Feb-May)

  • Bulbs: Spanish Bluebells, Tuberose, Frittilaria, Camassia, Belladonna Lily
  • Forced stems: Quince, Cherry, Serviceberry, Vernal Witch Hazel, Maple

Mid (June-August)

  • Food: Dill, Asparagus (foliage), Blueberry, Swiss Chard, Garlic Scapes
  • False Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi visnaga ‘Green Mist’)
  • Cornflower ‘Black Ball’ (Centaurea cyanus)
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
  • Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
  • Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis)
  • Sea lavender (Limonium nashii)

Late (September-January)

  • Perennial grasses
  • Amaranthus
  • Assorted seed heads (Echinacea, Allium)
  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Sensitive Fern (fertile fronds)
  • Harry Lauder Walking Stick
  • Blueberry (stems)
  • Annabelle Hydrangea

Cutting Garden Chart

Plant / Flower Short Med. Tall Annual or
Perennial
Time Use Notes
Annuals
Sunflowers X X Annual Summer
and Fall
Focal Branching and single stem; subsequent blooms smaller
Salvias x X Annual Summer
and Fall
Mass Red, white, pink, and purple/blue; cut almost to ground for stem length
Amaranthus X X Annual Fall Focal Many unusual shapes and sizes
Bells of
Ireland
X X Annual Summer Background
or height
Small thorns on stem at blooming; be careful
Lisianthus X X Annual Summer
and Early Fall
Focal Looks similar to rose; long lasting
Scabiosa X X Annual Summer Mass Has some blues
Statice
Sinuata
X X Annual Summer
and Fall
Filler Purples, pinks, white, and red
Bulbs
Spanish
Bluebells
X X Perennial Spring Filler
Tuberose X X Perennial Summer Focal Highly fragrant, white flower; bulbs must be removed each fall
Frittilaria X X Perennial Spring Focal
Camassia X X Perennial Spring Mass
Belladonna
Lily
X Perennial Summer Focal Naked Lady Lily or Resurrection Lily
Allum
varieties
X X X Perennial Late
Spring and Early Summer
Onion-like smell; some can be used as dried flowers
Self Sowers
Forget me nots X Spring Filler Spread seeds for more colors
Lupines X X Perennial Early
Summer
Does not transplant easily
Asters X Late
Summer
Perennials
Butterfly Bush X X Perennial Summer Keep cutting back for more flowers
Peonies X Perennial Summer Foliage works in summer bouquets
Hydrangeas X Perennial Summer
Miniature Rose
plants
X Perennial Summer
Montauk Daisy X Perennial Summer Unique aroma
Greenery
Andromeda X Shrub Winter Small bell flowers bloom in late winter
Curly Willow X X Tree Spring Easy to propgate
Black Pussy
Willow
X X Shrub Spring
Fan-Tail
Willow
X X Shrub Spring

Fair Season in Maine

By Trisha Smith, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

Judge and 4-H'er at the oxen showing at the Skowhegan State FairMaine has a rich tradition of celebrating summer and harvest seasons with agricultural fairs. The longest-running fair in the United States is the Skowhegan State Fair, which will celebrate its bicentennial in 2018. Fryeburg hosts Maine’s largest, attracting 300,000 people every year. You could visit a different Maine fair every week from the end of June through the first week of October!

Most fairs have a midway with rides and carnival games, but each has its own personality, a reflection of its surrounding community. Granges, garden clubs, and other community organizations set up displays to inform the public and attract new members. Local farmers and gardeners, cooks, crafters, and kids show off the results of their labors. Everybody wants to win a blue ribbon!

Blue (and red and white) ribbons generally have a cash premium attached, and can be a nice way to start a seed fund for next year’s garden. If you’ve grown something especially wonderful this year, made amazing zucchini relish, or want an outside opinion of your perfect pies, enter it in the fair!

While each fair has its own rules and guidelines, most have similar judging standards. Your entries will be judged according to these standards, not by how they compare to what others have grown or made.

Here are Skowhegan State Fair’s standards for fruits and vegetables:

  • Excellent: Clean, free from any damage, uniform in size, true to variety.
  • Good: Free from damage (no more than 5% loss of total weight), relatively uniform in size, fairly true to variety.
  • Worthy: Fairly clean, free from serious damage (no more than 10% loss of total weight), fairly uniform in size.
  • No Award: Dirty, seriously damaged, overmature, extremely different in size, shape or color.

For more specific information on what is required of exhibitors, along with tips for success, browse the Skowhegan State Fair’s Exhibition Hall Rules.

If you are new to exhibiting and competing, your first step is to find a “Fair Book” for the fair you’re interested in. Many can be found online well in advance. Others still publish primarily on paper, and may or may not upload their information much before the event. Maine Association of Agricultural Fairs lists links to websites and contacts for each fair as well as the season calendar.

Celebrate Maine’s farms and farm communities at a fair this season. Whether or not you choose to compete, make time to check out the exhibition halls. You may see a new vegetable or flower variety to try, or connect with a garden club or Grange. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel, eat some fried dough, check out a live band. If it has been years since you went to a good old-fashioned country fair, wait no longer! Find a fair near you, or plan a road trip.

See you at the Fair!


Food & Nutrition: The Cost of Preserving in Maine

By Kathy Savoie, Extension Associate Professor, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Master Food preserver lifts a canning jar from a hot water bath while demonstration participants look onIn Maine, freezing and hot water bath canning are the two most economical means of preserving the harvest at home, according to a new study by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, just in time for this year’s growing season.

The study, “The Cost of Preserving in Maine,” by UMaine Extension Associate Professor and Registered Dietitian Kathy Savoie and Kate McCarty, Community Education Assistant, found freezing fruits and vegetables was most cost-efficient at an average 38 cents per pound including 16 cents in energy per pound, compared to 73 cents per pound including 01 cents in energy per pound using the hot water bath canning method.

The most costly preservation method at triple times the expense: pressure canning, at an estimated $1.14 per pound including 03 cents of energy cost per pound. Drying was the third most costly preservation method at an average 99 cents per pound including 32 cents in energy cost per pound.

The costs were determined using average energy and preservation equipment prices in Maine, which may vary by location. The formulas for kilowatt-hour use during freezing and blanching, cost of repairs of equipment, and appliance energy use come from USDA research.

“Home food preservation has rebounded as the approach to extend year-round access to local foods. Home food preservers play an important role in supporting Maine agriculture and a sustainable local food system,” says Savoie, who has been providing educational programming related to nutrition, food safety, and food preservation since 1996. The cost of energy used in the preservation methods, as well as packaging materials/equipment required, should be considered. There are also noneconomic factors to take into account: taste, preferences, storage space, and price of equipment. A diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables each contain important nutrients and contribute to a healthy diet.

Indeed, a survey of 2,606 participants in UMaine Extension food preservation workshops found only 40 percent cited saving money as a reason for preserving. The top three reasons: increasing year-round consumption of locally grown foods, personal satisfaction, and desire to preserve homegrown produce.

Among the study’s other cost-related facts to take into consideration when preserving the harvest:

  • The cost of a freezer is the greatest expense associated with using freezing as a method of food preservation. However, the longer a freezer lasts, the less the cost per year to preserve.
  • Despite the higher cost to pressure-can a pound of food, there are reasons one would chose it over freezing, including the frequency of power outages in your area.
  • While hot water bath canning is a less expensive method of preserving than pressure canning, food safety recommendations limit the products that can be preserved using the hot water bath canning method. Only high-acid foods such as jams, jellies, salsa, tomato products, and pickles can be preserved using a boiling water bath canner. Low-acid products such as vegetables and meat must be pressure canned or frozen.
  • Maine’s high humidity and low nighttime temperatures prevent successful outdoor or solar dehydrating, which means an electric dehydrator or oven must be used. And while the cost for this preservation method are highest, it is best for creating lightweight snacks essential for outdoor recreational activities.
  • Cold storage or root cellaring is a low-cost way to store fruit and vegetables in Maine. Apples, root vegetables (potatoes, beets, rutabagas), carrots, garlic, and onions are best suited for cold storage and can last several months longer if stored in the right conditions.

For a copy of the full report, see Bulletin #4032, The Cost of Preserving Food in Maine.

For more information on UMaine Extension Home Food Preservation resources, including hands-on workshops and publications, see Food Preservation.


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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — July 2017


July Is the Month to . . .

By Liz Stanley, Horticulture Program Coordinator, UMaine Extension Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties

  • Thin your peaches so they’re 6-8 inches apart, if you haven’t done it already. This will prevent branches from breaking, stress on the health of the tree, and you’ll get better fruit. For more information, see Bulletin #2068, Growing Peaches in Maine.
blossoming lavendar
Photo by Liz Stanley.
  • Harvest lavender just as the flowers open. Use this first crop for drying, and the second flush of flowers to enjoy in the August garden.
  • Deadhead plants like peonies, iris, and lilacs. With rhododendrons, be careful not to snip the emerging leaves at the base of the spent flower.
  • Prune an overgrown forsythia. Remove the oldest wood at the base to create a vase-like shape and encourage more flowering next season. (Is it a jungle? You can also do this in late winter/early spring when you can see what you’re doing.) For more information, see Bulletin #2513, Pruning Forsythias in Maine
  • Prune and stake your tomato plants before they get away from you.
  • Intercept weeds in your vegetable garden while they’re small. Shallow cultivation with a sharp hoe on a sunny day will do the trick. Do this regularly.
mulched pathways in garden at Brae Maple Farm
Photo by Liz Stanley.
  • Make permanent paths in your vegetable garden. They won’t need weeding! Use boards, straw, hay, cardboard, or strips of old carpet.
  • Pamper your asparagus patch. Weed it well, and apply compost, manure, or fertilizer. For more information, see Bulletin #2071, Growing Asparagus in Maine.
  • Keep succession planting: Bush beans, summer lettuces, beets, carrots, spinach, turnip, bunching onions, etc.
  • Flip your compost pile. Take the finished material, set it inside (covered) to use on your lawn and gardens as needed. For more information, see Bulletin #1143, Home Composting.

Plant of the Month: Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine)

By Tori Lee Jackson, Associate Professor of Agriculture & Natural Resources, UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

Maine State Arms of the Union
By Henry Mitchell Restoration by Godot13 – Mitchell, Henry (1876) The State Arms of the Union, Boston: L. Prang & Co., Public Domain.

What do the Maine State flower, tree, seal, flag, nickname, quarter, and coat of arms all have in common? If you guessed the Eastern white pine, you’re correct! Pinus strobus is such an iconic symbol in our state that we have officially commemorated it in many of our official designations and it’s not difficult to figure out why.

The Eastern white pine is a native species to “The Pine Tree State” and is the tallest conifer in our forests. It is used in many applications, from timber and pulpwood, to ornamental use and erosion and wind control. Historically, the Royal navy and British ship builders prized the old growth pine of Maine and New Hampshire for use as masts on their ships after they had depleted their own supplies, as they were the tallest and straightest trees around.

White pine tree
Eastern White Pine in Wayne, ME following an ice storm. Photo by Tori Lee Jackson

From virtually any location in Maine, you can look out a window and see Eastern white pine in the backyard and on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less special as a part of our home landscapes. As habitat and a food source for wildlife, it’s commonly used by squirrels, mice, deer and songbirds. It is also a preferred species for Bald Eagle nesting sites. Pine needles are used for mulch on plants with acidic soil requirements and pine cones are used by crafters, florists, and even in medicinal applications.

If you are interested in maintaining a healthy yard using native plants, consider an eastern white pine as a specimen tree. This species does well in a variety of soil types and provides year-round interest and evergreen color.

There are some pests and diseases to watch out for, such as the white pine weevil, white pine blister rust and several needle casts. Proper care while the tree is young and being on the lookout for these potential problems can prevent any long-term problems.

Sources:


Growing Peppers Mild and HOT!

By Kathryn Hopkins, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Somerset County

assortment of picked hot and sweet peppers.
Photo by Edwin Remsberg.

In July, many gardeners get excited about harvesting fresh summer vegetables and preparing dishes from their garden produce. Many traditional summer dishes include ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers. Though gardeners often argue persuasively about their favorite flavored tomato, peppers present a much wider range of flavors from mild bell peppers to “how hot do you need”? Peppers are generally divided into “sweet” and “hot” varieties based on whether or not they contain the heat producing compound, capsaicin. Peppers are classified into a number of species. Capsicum annuum includes both hot and mild peppers such as Anaheim, Banana, Cayenne, Jalapeño, Bell, Poblano, Paprika and Cherry. Capsicum chinense includes the Habanero and Scotch bonnet varieties. Capsicum frutescens include the Tobasco peppers. Paprika is a ground spice made from ripened, red and air-dried varieties of Capsicum annuum. The flavors of paprika vary by region and pepper variety combinations.

Hot peppers are hot because of compounds called capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin. These compounds are not soluble in water but only in fats, oils, and alcohol. If you overindulge in hot peppers or condiments made with hot peppers, be sure to drink whole milk to cool the heat instead of water which will only spread the heat. When preparing hot pepper dishes, be sure to use gloves when cutting the peppers to prevent a burning sensation on your fingers and hands that can last for several days.

Peppers are measured in heat units called Scoville units. The higher the Scoville number, the hotter the pepper is. Some well-known peppers and their Scoville heat unit rating include:

 Pepper  From  To
 Bell pepper 0 0
Cherry peppers 100 500
Ancho, Poblano 1,000 1,500
Jalapeno 2,500 5,000
Serrano 5,000 23,000
Cayenne 30,000 50,000
Chipotle, Thai 50,000 100,000
Habanero 100,000 325,000
Bhut Jolokia 500,000 1,000,000

Growing peppers is basically the same for both hot and sweet peppers. Peppers prefer a deep, moderately fertile and well-drained soil. Over fertilization can yield beautiful green plants with few fruits, so fertilize according to soil test results. The heat level of hot peppers can vary and develops as a result of both genetics and the temperature, water level and fertility of the growth environment. Some peppers may require staking especially when carrying a heavy fruit load and when located in a high wind area. Peppers can be picked and used when green or allowed to fully ripen on the plant and preserved by drying or freezing. Peppers picked for fresh eating should be cooled as soon as possible after harvest and stored above 50º F. For more information on preserving peppers, see UMaine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #4043 Let’s Preserve Peppers. For a great salsa recipe go to Salsa.

For many years, herbalists have recommended hot peppers medicinally to cure a variety of complaints. Capsaicin is a compound that is currently being investigated by medical researchers for relieving arthritis pain and well as a number of other conditions such as neuropathic pain, psoriasis, and prostate cancer. Will your doctor one day prescribe “take two hot peppers and call me in the morning?”

For more information:


Maine State Beekeepers Are Buzzing Around the State

By Richard McLaughlin, EAS Master Beekeeper and President of the Maine State Beekeepers Association

Summer is the time of year we all get outside and enjoy the warm sunny weather. As the gardening season progresses we notice the increased activity of the many pollinators around us — bumble bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and of course, honey bees. With this comes the curiosity on just how these pollinators do their job and how they live their lives. To help answer some of these questions each year, members of the Maine State Beekeepers Association give talks and demonstrations, collect swarms, and just generally volunteer in all kinds of ways to help people understand the important role pollinators play in making our flower and vegetable gardens more beautiful and abundant.

The MSBA, founded in 1976 (the year after the honey bee was named the state insect) currently has over 700 members. It is comprised of many chapter clubs across the state ranging in size from only a handful of members up to 250 or more. Here’s a sampling of what our local club members do to spread the word about bees:

The Cumberland County Beekeepers Association presents at the Gray Wildlife Park each year. They bring an observation hive with live bees along with hive equipment, beekeeping tools, smokers and veils. It is a fun day for families. Adults and children alike can watch the bees busily working and learn about the life of the honey bee. Kids are encouraged to dress up in beekeeping attire and have their pictures taken.

Apiary at Tidewater Farms
A view of the Tidewater Apiary. Photo by Keith Kettlehut.

If you miss the CCBA beekeepers at the Wildlife Park, you may be able to catch them at the Tidewater Farm in Falmouth where the club has an apiary on Cooperative Extension land. Open hive events and impromptu demonstrations are conducted throughout the season. If you just happen to be walking the Portland Trails when the keeper of the apiary, Keith Kettlehut, is present you are welcome to stop, observe, and ask questions. And, if you are feeling brave, extra veils are usually available so you can get an up close tour of the bees working inside their hives.

The Sagadahoc Beekeepers offer a “Honey Bee Night” once a year at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick that includes a short film, a panel Q & A, a honey tasting, and a sampling of honey-sweetened beverages by Green Bee Soda for curious members of the community. During the library’s “Eat Our Yards” lecture series, club member Mike McNally presented an introduction to beekeeping talk.

The Western Maine Beekeepers presented at the Fryeburg Home and Garden Show this past May. Their talk “Helping the Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” was given by Carol Cottrill and emphasized the important role honey bees and native pollinators play in Maine agriculture. So much of the food we eat depends on pollination by some type of bee. Homeowners and gardeners learned steps they can take to protect and promote honey bees as well as native pollinators of which there are over 270 different species in Maine.

A Western Maine Beekeepers booth display at the fair.
A Western Maine Beekeepers booth display at the fair. Photo by Carol Cottrill, Past President of Western Maine Beekeepers (WMBA).

You will also find the Western Maine Beekeepers at the Fryeburg and Franklin County Fairs each fall tending an educational booth to teach adults and local school children about Maine agriculture. To assist at the booth each year is either the American Honey Queen or Honey Princess. Fairgoers can peer into an observation hive, learn how to extract honey from the comb, and taste honey samples. Those who are interested in learning more about honey bees are directed to educational opportunities available through the Maine State Beekeepers Association.

Nearby in Waterford, the Oxford Honey Bee Club has an educational booth at the Waterford World’s Fair each summer. Club members join the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation folks to provide activities with local kids at the fair to teach about the value of honey bees to Maine agriculture.

Across the state in mid-coast Maine, the Knox-Lincoln County Beekeepers reach out to the community through a number of different venues such as the Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation Fair where they have been educating the public about honey bees for the past 17 years. At this event, students from Knox and Lincoln County schools come for a day of exploring conservation topics, environmental issues, live animals and farming, music and fun. Even-numbered years are reserved for early elementary students and odd-numbered years are for middle school students. If you would like to attend, mark your calendar for September 28, 2017, 9 AM – 1:30 PM at the Union Fairgrounds.

Many of our chapter clubs reach out to elementary schools to teach about honey bees and pollinators. The Androscoggin Beekeepers Club in particular visits many classrooms during the school year. Their presentations delight and inform the children while also challenging them to think about what our world would be like without pollinators. The honey samples are a big hit as are the beekeeping tools and equipment. The children take turns trying on a beekeeper’s suit.

The ABC is setting up a new hive this year at the Whiting Farm, a non-profit in Auburn. This hive will support pollination on the farm and be used for teaching purposes. Both club members and others — especially those who may want to become a beekeeper — are welcome to learn from the farm’s new edition.

The Penobscot County Beekeepers Association developed a unique hands-on educational program for students at Hampden Academy who want to learn about honey bees. Led by Peter Cowin, the PCBA established an apiary on campus and organized a beekeeping club for students and staff. Beekeeping husbandry is taught and students are instructed how to install bees, conduct inspections, harvest honey, and make products from honey and beeswax. The program, now in its third year, helps students learn about running a small business by selling the honey and hive products. Profits are reinvested in the program. The club has grown to 24 student members operating three hives. At least two of the club’s high school graduates have gone on to start beekeeping clubs at their universities.

These are just a few of the programs and events our member volunteers conduct throughout the year. We welcome the opportunity to speak at local events, garden clubs, or schools. Please visit our website, mainebeekeepers.org, to find contact information for a chapter club near you. You may also want to follow the MSBA on Facebook for updates, future activities, and interesting information about honey bees.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and, remember, when you see any of the pollinators busy at work in your gardens or fields, it is because of them that our environment and lives are so bountiful.


Food & Nutrition: Freezing Green Beans

By Kate McCarty, Food Preservation Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

July brings the first harvest of green beans ready for fresh eating, pickling, and freezing. Freezing green beans is a great way to preserve them for year-round use and results in a product that is closer to fresh than canning does. For best results, the USDA recommends blanching green beans before freezing. Blanching kills enzymes inside the vegetables that can cause a loss of color, texture, and flavor over time. The trick to avoiding mushy green beans is to stop the cooking process before they become overcooked. Use an ice water bath to shock green beans after blanching for a higher-quality frozen product. Freeze beans in freezer-grade plastic containers and use within 6 to 8 months for best results.

To freeze green beans, select beans at when they are young and tender — overgrown beans can be tough. Wash beans and remove any stem and leaf bits. Cut into pieces that are 2 to 4 inches in length. Bring one gallon of water to a rapid boil in a blanching pot (a large stockpot with a blanching basket insert). Add one pound of prepared green beans and boil for 3 minutes. Avoid blanching too many beans at once or the water will take too long to return to a boil and result in overcooked beans.

After blanching is complete, remove the blanching basket and empty beans into a large bowl full of ice water. Adding a colander to the ice water will aid in easy draining after vegetables have cooled. Chill vegetables for 3 minutes, then remove and drain. Dry vegetables in a salad spinner or with clean dish towels. Pack into appropriate containers and label and date. Store in freezer, set at 32 degrees F or below.

For a demonstration of how to freeze green beans, watch How to Freeze Green Beans by UMaine Extension Educator Kathy Savoie.

For more information on freezing, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s General Information on Freezing Vegetables and for more information on how to best preserve your harvest, consider a taking a UMaine Extension hands-on workshop in your area.


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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — June 2017


June Is the Month to . . .

By Richard Brzozowski, Food System Program Administrator, UMaine Extension

  • Adult & nymph deer ticks
    Adult and nymph deer ticks. Image by Griffin Dill.

    Be aware of the threat of ticks. Learn more about ticks at

  • Make a short list of problems you faced last growing season with your yard, gardens, and trees. Develop a plan to address one or more of these issues this growing season with a goal of improving the situation.
  • If you have space, plant additional vegetables and flowers this month. It’s still not too late to plant seedlings (transplants) of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or to sow seeds of cucumbers, summer squash, beans, beets, carrots, etc.
  • Use a liquid starter fertilizer (or starter solution) around your newly transplanted seedlings to reduce root stress and encourage new growth. These products are readily soluble and contain suitable amounts of phosphorus to encourage new root growth. Examples of such starter fertilizers have analysis such as 10-20-10 and 15-30-15. These pulverized fertilizers are typically dissolved in water at a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon to make the solution. Approximately one cup of solution is applied around each seedling after planting. Be sure to follow all product label directions and precautions. Organic fertilizers usually have lower numbers for their analysis. For organic starter fertilizers, seek one with a 1-2-1 ratio.
  • Grow some vegetables and flowers in containers. See Bulletin #2762, Growing Vegetables in Container Gardens for more information.
  • Visit your favorite garden center or nursery. Seek out new and traditional plant materials as well as other garden-related products for gardening in Maine. To find a local garden center near you, visit the Plant Something Maine website.
  • Continue to be prepared for possible frosts in your area in the early part of June. Be aware of weather forecasts each evening. If you use a mobile device, consider an app for warnings about frosts.
  • Remove flowering stalks from your rhubarb plants. For more information, see Bulletin #2514, Growing Rhubarb in Maine.
  • Harvest your asparagus. If you are considering growing asparagus, see Bulletin #2071, Growing Asparagus in Maine and our checklist for the best chance of success with your asparagus plants.
  • Tell a friend or colleagues at work about the Maine Home Garden News. Current and back issues can be found at the Maine Home Garden News website. Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications, fill out our online form.
  • Visit a private or public garden. Most gardeners appreciate visits from other gardeners. During your visit, look for ways to improve or enhance your own garden.
  • Check for insect pest damage to your plants by making “walk throughs” each week. Look for leaf, stem, and blossom damage. Check the undersides of leaves for egg masses. Make an accurate identification of the pest(s) before making any treatments. Visit UMaine Extension’s Insect Pests, Plant Diseases & Pesticide Safety website for facts sheets about common insect pests in Maine. Submit an Insect Specimen for free identification and diagnostic help.

Summer’s Flowers: Sunflowers

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

sunflowersThe most famous images of sunflowers are probably the series of nearly a dozen paintings by Van Gogh of various sunflowers featuring the summer beauties that, to many, symbolize summer. The sunflower is a flower with a great work ethic, not only looking good, but also tasting good and accomplishing good in its environment. It is such an important plant it even has its own association — The National Sunflower Association.

Sunflowers we see in gardens today are primarily hybridized strains of the North American native sunflower (Helianthus annuus). All parts of the sunflower plant were used by Native Americans in the Southwest for food, dye, building materials, and included in ceremonial use. Brought to Europe by the Spanish explorers by 1500, only relatively recently has it been recognized for its commercial value. Most of the hybridization to create the wide array of sizes, shapes, colors, oil content, and other features has been done in Europe. Their American origins explain many of the variety names along with the features that were focused on in the hybridization process. As a commercial crop, the seeds and the oil are both prized. In the garden, the flowers are not only attractive to the human visitors, but also appeal to bees, butterflies, and wildlife.

Sunflowers perform best in full sun and well-drained soils. They have deep and wide roots to balance out their great height, but still occasionally tip over in heavy winds and shallow soils. They are easy to plant from seed once the ground warms up to 55°F or can be transplanted as seedlings. Some varieties can grow to over 15′ tall while some branching varieties can get to be 3′ in circumference. The seed head, especially if you are growing for seed or oil, can be quite large in some varieties and can serve as great winter interest if left in the garden or tucked into outdoor container arrangements.

A single sunflower is, in fact, a collection (aka inflorescence) of very small flowers called ray and disk flowers. Ray flowers are what we typically call “petals” and the disk flowers are found in the center of the inflorescence. Look closely the next time you’re near a sunflower to find the reproductive parts on both the disk flowers — you may notice the pollen-bearing anthers and the ovary containing an ovule that, when fertilized, develops into seed. Another fun botanical feature of sunflowers is heliotropism or “following” the sun through the day. The trait is especially noticeable in larger varieties when they are just beginning to bloom.

Some fun varieties to try in Maine are:

American Giant and Mammoth Varieties produce the towering dinner plate sized sunflowers that bear a lot of seeds and make excellent cut flowers. If the plants are pinched back either intentionally or by a critter eating the top of the plant, these will also branch but the head of the flowers will be smaller.

Dwarf Sunflowers are generally less than 4’ tall. Some are even suited to container growing. A few varieties have double petals or unusual flowers. ‘Teddy Bear’ and the ‘Smiles’ series are common choices. Most of these varieties will also branch out to a certain degree.

Branching Sunflowers are generally over 4’ tall and many can tower in the 10’ range by the end of the season. There’s a lot of variety of color in this group ranging from lemony yellow to a mahogany brown. Most varieties produce many flowers per plant with 1-4’ stems. Cutting back of spent flowers will encourage new flowers to form. ‘Autumn Beauty’, ‘Ring of Fire,, ‘Moulin Rouge,’ and ‘Lemonade’ are just a few of the varieties in this group.

In 1987 Van Gogh’s painting Sunflowers in a Vase sold for over $39 million; this summer, beautiful sunflowers in your garden will be priceless.


Understanding Weeds to Understand Weed Control

By Donna Coffin, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

dandelion gone to seedCorrect identification of the problem weed gives access to information about its life cycle and, in turn, information about best methods and timing for eradication. Weed identification keys, such as this helpful ID tool from Cornell, often start off asking whether a weed is grass-like or broad leaved and then take you into more in-depth questions to narrow down the options for what you might be dealing with.

Once your weed is identified, you can determine what life cycle the plant has  — annual, biennial or perennial.

  • Annuals grow from seed, mature to a flowering stage, and produce seed for the next generation in one year or less. They die after a single reproductive cycle. Annuals are best controlled when they are very small seedlings, but at all costs, should be removed before they set seed. Keep in mind that some species of weeds can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds from a single plant and those seeds can remain viable in the soil for 40+ years. This is why it’s so important to reduce the weed seed “rain” each year. In urgent and overwhelming situations, simply mowing before plants develop seeds can make a significant impact on the weed seed rain.
  • Biennials require two years to complete their life cycle. These plants grow from seed that germinates in the spring and develops heavy roots and compact rosettes or clusters of leaves the first summer. Biennials remain dormant through the winter, then in the second summer they mature to a point where they flower, produce seed, and die.
  • Perennial plants live more than two years and may live indefinitely. Perennial plants may grow from seed, but many also produce storage structures such as bulbs, tubers, rhizomes (underground stems) or stolons (above-ground stems) from which plants can develop. Seed is the primary method of introducing these weeds to new areas; however, perennial weeds are often spread during soil preparation and cultivation.

Annuals and biennials should be controlled early in the growing season, not only to destroy plants of the current generation, but to prevent seed formation for the next. Repeated shallow cultivation of young weed plants (once a week) with a wire weeder or hoe can help gardeners keep ahead of the problem without bringing up as many weed seeds in the seed bank as they would with deep tilling. Physical suppression with mulches can also be a reasonable and effective strategy — especially around larger transplants. Biodegradable mulches include paper or cardboard topped with straw (not hay), bark mulch, or compost. Plastic or fabric mulches can be easier and faster to install, but take time and effort to remove and dispose of at the end of the season. Read more about mulches here.

Weed control practices on perennials must deal with below-ground structures as well as the above-ground portions of the plant.

In perennial weeds, the period when root reserves have been maximally depleted and carbohydrates are beginning to move back down to form new underground structures occurs when the plant has reached one-fourth of its height or is at the early flower bud stage. These are the ideal times for control measures, such as clean cultivation, close mowing or foliar applied herbicides.

Adapted from an article in the Piscataquis Gardening Newsletter, June 2010.

Other helpful resources:


Community Garden at the Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope and Healing Grows!

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

gardener planting onions
Photo by Dennis Connelly

The headline is stolen, but this article is not fake news. This is an update on a project first written about in Maine Home Garden News in July 2014 by Tori Jackson. The Dempsey Center initiated a garden for hope and healing in 2013 with help from the UMaine Cooperative Extension and area partners. Like any garden, the Dempsey Garden has grown and had changes over the years. The biggest change to date started in the summer of 2016 when project partner Cascade Fiber abruptly closed and put the land and buildings the garden is situated on up for sale. The newest thing growing in the garden was uncertainty.

The garden itself had been evolving and by mid summer 2016, the Dempsey garden had grown from 5 beds to 27 raised beds in the Auburn location on Cascade’s land. It had 8 perennial berry beds including blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry. Four of its beds had been planted in ornamental gourds for the Children’s Cancer Program, as they had every year since the start. The rhubarb was resting but the potatoes and tomatoes were just ripening. Over a dozen other beds held vegetable plants for the nutrition classes at The Dempsey Center. It would be no mean feat to move this garden. Faced with the uncertainty of the land and, more importantly, in a drought year, the uncertainty of access to water, the four Master Gardener Volunteers went right to work. Dennis Connelly ’10, who heads the team of MGVs (Linda Croteau ’14, Donna Lebrun ’14, and Bonnie McLaughton ’15), got the okay from Cascades to continue to work on the land while the land was up for sale. Cascades also delivered two large tanks of water to help them finish out the season. Maintenance and harvest proceeded pretty much as normal but the monthly meetings and weekly work/harvest sessions were all focused on the next step and the uncertainty surrounding it. The garden was put to bed in the fall with no clear answers. A lot of time and effort had been invested in the garden over the years — it would be devastating to have it all be plowed under.

During the winter, The Dempsey Center began discussions with Whiting Farm in Auburn. Whiting Farm (@WhitingFarm1930), owned by John F. Murphy Homes, is a working four-season farm dedicated to community enrichment, education, and the support of people with disabilities. Whiting Farm agreed to let the Dempsey Garden move their garden over to a spot on Whiting Farm, should they need to. They would share a two-acre field with two other organizations. As winter slowed down and the first planning meetings of the season began, word came that the new owner of the Cascade’s land would not only let the garden remain there, but they too would support the garden with water each season. The Dempsey garden went from uncertainty to overabundance. A second garden was born at that meeting.

Gardener tends young plants in raised bed
Photo by Dennis Connelly

In light of the new collaboration with Whiting Farm, and with four Master Gardener Volunteers working on it, the new plan was formed. The current garden location would get a partial overhaul using the resources from a small grant that allowed the use of professional garden planning software. Linda Croteau ’14 would coordinate a new plan of the Cascade beds with the idea of crop rotation and production in mind. All the perennial fruit and herb beds would be kept but also evaluated for the future. The production focus would be fruits and vegetables to be used in the Nutrition Program Cooking Classes at the Dempsey Center as well as the classes that Master Food Preserver Dennis Connelly would teach there. The new two-acre space would be a collaborative effort by the Dempsey Center nutritionist Judy Donnelly, Dennis Connelly and his team of Master Gardener Volunteers, Kim Finerty (Whiting Farm Manager), and the Center for Wisdom’s Wisdom (from Lewiston). The first year will be focused on doing some in-ground planting as well as planning the future gardens for that space. The space would eventually be a mix of client and production raised beds, herb and flower beds for Wisdom’s Women, an outdoor meeting area, and a garden for working, walking, meditating, and fun.

The Dempsey Garden volunteers will continue to meet monthly, rotating the meeting space between the two gardens. The Master Gardener Volunteers and any interested garden volunteers will continue to meet weekly in the garden(s) where they will do that week’s work and decide the focus for the coming week in the garden. Harvest will still be done twice weekly with the Nutrition Class schedule driving that effort. Extra produce will be made available free to the families impacted by cancer who come to the Dempsey Center for support. To quote Tori Jackson in her article from 2014, “Physical exercise, fresh air, healthy food, hands-on education, and friendship are exactly the kinds of benefits the Dempsey family had in mind when they created the Center,” and now they will have two places to make that hope and healing happen.


Food & Nutrition: Garlic Scapes and Freezing Pesto

By Kate McCarty, Food Preservation Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Growing garlic is one of the more satisfying experiences for the patient gardener. The bulbs may take about a year to form, but springtime brings another edible offshoot from the plant — garlic scapes. Hardneck garlic sends up curly stalks in the spring that should be trimmed to prevent the growth of the scape from impacting with the size of the garlic bulb.

Watch our video to learn the best way to remove garlic scapes from the plant.

If you didn’t plant garlic in your garden last fall, garlic scapes can also be found at the farmers’ market this time of year. Scapes can be used in cooking to add mild garlic flavor or made into pesto.

While we typically think of basil pesto, any herb can be used to make this paste of herbs, garlic, cheese, nuts, and oil. Garlic scapes are more mild than garlic cloves, so scapes can be used raw in pesto. To make garlic scape pesto, simply substitute chopped garlic scapes in for basil in your favorite recipe. Garlic scape pesto can be used in pasta and eggs dishes, pizza, seafood and poultry, potato salads, and even eaten as a dip.

Pesto should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three days or frozen for long term storage. To freeze pesto, fill freezer-grade plastic or glass containers and leave 1/2-inch headspace. Label and date, and use within 8-12 months for best quality. To learn more about freezing local foods, see a listing of our hands-on food preservation workshops.

For more information about growing garlic in Maine, see Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden and for more information about freezing, see National Center for Home Food Preservation General Information on Freezing.


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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — May 2017


May Is the Month to . . .

By Donna Coffin, Extension Professor, UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

  • Start the following seeds indoors and plan to transplant after all chance of frost has passed in your region (typically late May or early June): cucumbers, melons, pumpkin, sunflower, morning glory, and zinnia (all may also be sown directly in the garden later in the month). Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower can be sown indoors in mid-May to establish transplants for a fall crop. Be sure to harden off transplants before setting them out (gradually exposing them to cooler temperatures along with great amounts of light and wind). See Bulletin #2751, Starting Seeds at Home for more information.
  • Once hardened off, cool season vegetable seedlings can be transplanted outdoors: lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, onions, leeks, cauliflower, kale, etc. Hold off on transplanting peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, until the weather is consistently warmer. Cool weather will actually set peppers back.
  • Direct sow outdoors: beets, carrots, leaf and head lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.
  • Start mowing lawns when grass is about 3 1/2 inches high. Set mower to cut to about 2 1/2 inches high. Be sure your blades are sharpened for the upcoming season.
  • hummingbirdPlace hummingbird feeders outdoors. Make your own feed by mixing one part table sugar with four parts boiling water. See Bulletin #7152, Understanding Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and Enhancing Their Habitat in Maine for more information about the maintenance and sanitation of nectar feeders as well as a list of nectar plants you can add to your garden to attract hummingbirds.
  • Stake peonies and other plants needing support. It’s much easier to stake now before the plants get too unmanageable.
  • Consider putting in an automatic watering system. Automatic watering can be especially helpful with container gardens that have a high demand for water. For more information, see Bulletin #2160, Trickle Irrigation: Using and Conserving Water in the Home Garden.
  • Plant strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apple trees, pear trees, etc. as weather and soil conditions permit.
  • Plant an outdoor herb garden. Hardy perennials (chives, mint, thyme, etc.) can be planted in May, but wait until later in the month or early June to install the more tender herbs transplants such as basil and to direct sow dill and cilantro seeds.
  • Protect well-developed strawberry buds from frost injury by applying straw mulch when freezing temperatures are in the forecast.
  • Remember to check the planting depth of any container-grown or balled and burlapped trees or shrubs. They should be planted at the same depth that they were grown in the nursery. Be sure to remove any rope or twine and snip wire baskets on balled and burlapped plants. For more information, see Bulletin #2411, Planting and Early Care of Fruit Trees.
  • When planting trees or shrubs avoid amending soil that will be returned to the planting hole with organic matter. Backfilling with parent soil will encourage the roots to grow out beyond the planting hole. If dealing with very poor soil conditions, consider installing a plant adapted for the challenging soil type (ex: buttonbush for clay soils) or amend the backfill with no more than 25% organic matter.
  • Beware of tree volcanoes! Thick mulch against the bark will retain moisture and allow insects and disease easy entry into the plant. Volcano mulching will also encourage roots to grow into the mulch where they are more exposed to cold and drought damage. Do not pile mulch up against the tree when trying to prevent weeds from growing.  Instead, form a donut of mulch with a minimum amount of mulch next to the bark of the tree.
  • Start new flower beds or expand older ones. If adding soil to create a new garden bed, remember to till the existing soil with the added soil, at least to a depth of 6″ to create a transition layer ensuring better drainage.
  • Leave daffodils and other spring bulb foliage in place until it yellows and dies. The leaves produce the food to fuel next season’s blooms. Don’t fold or braid foliage!

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Testing Your Garden Soil — Use a Home Test Kit?

By Caragh Fitzgerald, Associate Extension Professor, UMaine Extension Kennebec County

Extension expert demonstrates how to do a soil testGo to any University of Maine Cooperative Extension gardening talk, and you’ll hear advice to take a soil sample and follow the recommendations. After all, measuring what is already in the soil is the best way to know which nutrients are lacking and how much is needed. It’s like looking in the pantry before going grocery shopping. We usually bring boxes and forms for the UMaine Soil Testing Laboratory to our presentations, and there are private labs that can run nutrient analyses as well.

Sometimes we’re asked about using home soil testing kits. Gardeners like the idea of home test kits for two reasons: first, the cost per test is less than sending the sample to a lab; second, the results are available immediately. Despite these advantages, I don’t recommend that gardeners rely on these home kits to plan their nutrient applications, and I will explain why.

The purpose of the soil test is to determine whether or not the crop will yield better if a nutrient is added and then to determine how much of that nutrient is needed. Labs chose specific extracts because their results can be related to the likelihood of a yield response. Different chemical extracts will remove nutrients from different storage sites, and they can’t be used interchangeably. For example, phosphorus extracts that are used in regions tending to have acidic soils (pH less than 7) are different than those used in regions tending to have alkaline soils (pH more than 7). Using the wrong extract can give meaningless results.

If it is determined that the crop is likely to respond to additional nutrients, the next step is to determine how much should be added. For example, if phosphorus (P) measures “X” by a particular test and will respond to more P, how much should be added? The recommendations rely on data from years of in-field testing as well as the professional knowledge of University personnel and skilled crop consultants.

So what about the home test kits? They will give a result for the nutrients they test, perhaps one that is numerical or perhaps one that is qualitative (very low, low, optimum, excessive). And they may give recommendations of how much of a nutrient to apply. However, the extractions used with the home test kits and the recommendations are not chosen based on Maine (or New England) soils or cropping conditions. They might work, or they might not. We don’t know the science behind them. Going back to the pantry analogy, a home test kit is like looking in your pantry without turning on the light. You know there are canned goods, but you don’t know if the cans are peaches, cranberry sauce, ravioli, or lychee fruit. So you still don’t know what you need at the store. Your best bet is to get a soil test that uses testing and interpretation methods based on research from Maine.

For more information on testing your garden soil, take a look at Extension Bulletin 2286, “Testing Your Soil.” Your local Extension office will have UMaine Soil Testing Laboratory boxes and forms and can answer any other questions you may have.

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The Tom Settlemire Community Garden, Brunswick, Maine Master Gardeners Linton and Bonnie Studdiford

By Kathleen McNerney, Home Horticultural Coordinator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

sign for the Tom Settlemire Community GardensIn 1994 the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust began a 14-year effort to conserve the 321-acre Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, Maine. In 2008 the acquisition of the farm was completed and it was placed into conservation. The idea for a community garden was not envisioned at the time of the capital campaign. As far back as 1998 community members expressed an interest in starting a community garden at Crystal Spring Farm, but it was not until 2010 when UMaine Extension Educator, Dr. Richard Brzozowski went to speak to the leaders of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust that the idea began to take shape. It was Dr. Brzozowski’s suggestion that an outreach program, involving the community in a meaningful way, would be a great benefit to both the Land Trust and the wider community. This suggestion revived discussion about a community garden and was the seed that sparked the growth of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden.

A view of the finished garden
The Garden. Photo by Caroline Eliot.

The garden is named for Tom Settlemire, a former Land Trust President, its longest serving Director, and sheep farmer. Tom has been actively involved in the garden, both in establishing it, working, and tilling it, and establishing a scholarship for low-income families which helps pay for seeds and plot fees.

Master Gardener Linton Studdiford (Cumberland County MG 2010) became a member of the Land Trust’s agriculture committee in 2011 and planning for the community garden began in earnest. In the fall of 2011, the initial plot of soil was plowed and fundraising began. At that time there was no fence, no water, and no electricity. The town of Brunswick was going to charge thousands of dollars to bring a city water line to the plot of land and the first estimate for bringing in an electrical infrastructure was $8,000. The plot of land sits atop a post-glacial aquifer and the decision was made to tap into this natural aquifer, so a well was dug. A local excavator donated his services for the project. Three 4-foot-high cement holding containers, each with a 160-gallon capacity, were installed.

On Earth Day 2012, all of the plot holders as well as hundreds of volunteers, including 30-40 Bowdoin College students, began the construction of the garden. On this one day, the paths were dug and wood chips were spread, the original 68 individual plots built (there are now 81 plots), 1,000 feet of fence was installed around the perimeter, composting bins constructed, and the 1/8-acre Common Good Garden was formed. Master Gardener Linton Studdiford coordinated all of the volunteers in this massive one-day effort.

The Garden in mid July
The Garden in mid July. Photo by Linda Long.

For the first several months the only way to water the garden plots was via a gas-powered generator and pumps that were installed in the water holding tanks. Very quickly it was recognized that this was a rather untenable situation, as it required either Linton or another volunteer be present to operate the generator and the pumps. In 2012, with the help of a hydraulic engineer and Revision Energy, a simple solar-powered water system was installed. Revision Energy supplied the panels and the pump at cost, and volunteers installed the water lines. Now solar panels power a pump, which is activated by float valves in the tanks. This system was expanded in 2013, allowing for an increase in yield and a decrease in the amount of time required by volunteers for the purposes of watering.

The Common Good Garden, in collaboration with the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), provides fresh produce for the MCHPP’s soup kitchen and pantry. This infusion of fresh food, a total of 11,500 pounds in the first five growing seasons alone, has been an invaluable resource and the crowning success of the Common Good Garden. It would not have been possible without the help of hundreds of volunteers, working on average 400 hours per growing season, and the enormous effort by Linton to organize the work.

Even before the Community Garden was built, Master Gardener Linton Studdiford began a Gardening Winter Workshop for the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Linton gave the very first lecture in the winter of 2012. Not knowing what the turnout for the event might be, Linton printed out 20 handouts to accompany his talk. For that first event 65-70 people were in attendance. The series has been going strong ever since then. The workshops are open to the public with a suggested donation of $5, which helps to cover basic costs. Speakers at these events are well-known garden experts, Cooperative Extension personnel, arborists, soil scientists, and many more. The last lecture on the use of native plants in the garden broke all previous attendance records at 106 attendees.

Tom Settlemire Community Gardens committee members Judy Renolds and Bonnie Studdiford pose in front of shed
Tom Settlemire Community Gardens committee members Judy Renolds and Bonnie Studdiford.

Indeed, Linton has been involved in every aspect of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, as has his wife Bonnie Studdiford (Master Gardener 2010). Bonnie has been the driving force behind the Tom Settlemire Community Garden’s annual Taking Root Plant Sale since 2012. That very first sale, organized in about one week, consisted mainly of plants from the Studdiford’s own gardens and netted a grand total of $268. The progress and success of these plant sales has grown exponentially over the years. Bonnie always led the way, organizing committees, soliciting donations, potting up and labeling plants, and always looking for better ways to increase the profitability of the sale. Lessons have been learned along the way, which resulted in 2016 being a banner year for this endeavor. Donations of plants were up (with the Studdiford’s supplying 300-400 themselves), credit card sales boomed, and the take away was over $6,800. All of these funds go directly back into the garden and eventually find their way, in the form of donated produce, to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. This Master Gardener dynamic duo (along with many other dedicated volunteers) has helped make the Tom Settlemire Community Garden what it is today, an unqualified success story and a win-win for all involved in the project. To learn how you can become involved in the Tom Settlemire Community Garden visit their website at BTLT Community Garden.

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Maine Composts Week: May 7-13

The first Maine Composts Week, a collaboration of groups and individuals from around the state, is an event for all of Maine that will promote reductions in unused food, sharing unserved food with those who are food insecure, and diverting unused food to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities thereby minimizing the amount of food being disposed.

Events will occur across the state simultaneously and include everything from documentary screenings, composting open houses, to children’s book readings at libraries. There are challenges, contests, and resources geared towards schools, businesses, communities, and households. Participants can try the hand-drawn or digital art challenge or take a selfie of their compost pile or their school’s share table.

Notes organizer Travis Blackmer of the University of Maine, “If you can’t find an event near you, organize one! The only wrong way to do Maine Composts Week is to not do it at all.”

backyard composting binGot a compost bin out back? Send it in to the Do-It-Yourself Compost Bin Challenge. Make a 30-second advertisement about composting and send it in. Participate in the Mason Jar Challenge for students or the Household Social Media Food Waste Challenge.

The purpose of Maine Composts Week is to engage the state of Maine on the topics of composting, anaerobic digestion, food insecurity, and solid waste/materials management in an effort to:

  • promote business and service providers who excel in organics management;
  • reduce wasted materials;
  • highlight best practices in organics management;
  • promote composting being integrated in K-12 education, businesses, and household behavior;
  • provide resources that enable schools, businesses, households, communities, and institutions to compost effectively; and
  • promote food diversion as a first option to manage organic materials before composting.

“Maine is doing a lot to fight hunger,” says Blackmer. “From the Food Councils and Gleaning Networks across the state, to local food pantries and hunger events, we can continue to cut down on the 16 percent of Maine that is food insecure and 24 percent of children that do not know where their next meal is coming from.”

At the heart of the issue is landfill capacity, which is limited and valuable. Presently Maine’s solid waste stream is 40 percent organic in nature. These materials, typically wet and dense, are a valuable resource that must be managed and processed properly in order to add value to society. Maine’s recycling (diversion) goal of 50 percent remains unmet and progress has plateaued in the past decade. Maine currently composts only 5 percent of its potentially compostable/digestible material.

compostHighlighting composting and other organics management processes, such as anaerobic digestion as well as food diversion and food waste reduction are key ways to make inroads into this larger societal issue. For details on the event, visit the Mitchell Center website or Maine Composts Week on Facebook.

“Find answers to all your composting and related questions on our Maine Composts Week web page, Blackmer notes. “Our favorite tip: Relax! Even if you do everything wrong, you will eventually make great compost.”

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Be Tick Smart to Prevent Tickborne Diseases

An announcement from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Adult & nymph deer ticks
Adult and nymph deer ticks. Image by Griffin Dill.

The warmer weather is on its way, which means that we need to be using proper protection methods against ticks and the diseases they carry. Maine had 1,473 cases of Lyme disease reported in 2016 (preliminary as of 3/1/17). May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month each year in Maine, which is the perfect time to remind you to “be tick smart” by doing your daily tick check, since ticks are most active in warmer weather.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is passed through the bite of an infected deer tick. It is most common in adults over the age of 65 years and in children between the ages of 5 and 15 years in Maine. Individuals that work and play outside are more likely to be exposed to ticks. Ticks must be attached for 24-48 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted, so daily tick checks will allow you to find and remove ticks before getting Lyme disease.

If you are bitten by a tick, or spend a lot of time outdoors, watch for symptoms for up to 30 days, and call your healthcare provider if symptoms develop. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a skin lesion called erythema migrans (EM), better known as the “bull’s-eye” rash. This usually appears in 3-30 days after the tick bite. Other symptoms include fevers, headaches, and joint or muscle pain.
Lyme disease is treatable and most individuals recover completely with proper drugs. However, the easiest way to avoid the disease is prevention, using “No Ticks 4 ME”:1) Use caution in

  1. Use caution in tick-infested areas
  2. Wear protective clothing
  3. Use an EPA approved repellant
  4. Perform daily tick checks after any outdoor activity

Lyme disease is not the only disease that can be carried by deer ticks in Maine. Anaplasmosis and babesiosis are two other tickborne infections found in Maine. The number of cases reported for anaplasmosis rose to 372 (preliminary as of 3/1/17) and the number of babesiosis cases rose to 82 (preliminary as of 3/1/17) in 2016.

While the deer tick is the only species of tick in Maine that can transmit Lyme disease, there are other species of ticks found across the state including dog ticks. Tick identification is important, especially when removing ticks, and there are tick identification resources available to order at Maine CDC’s website. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick ID Lab also offers free identification services and educational references.

Additional information:


Food & Nutrition — Fiddleheads and Rhubarb: Maine Foods for May

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Two of spring’s early edible treats in Maine include rhubarb and fiddleheads. Both of these foods are a pleasure to enjoy in your favorite recipes and these are both very easy to preserve. Once preserved, they can be used and enjoyed again in the off-season. If you are looking to amp up your intake of local foods, preserving is a skill to learn to help extend your access to local foods year round. See a listing of our hands-on food preservation workshops for dates and locations.

Using, Storing, and Preserving Rhubarb

Rhubarb, a spring tonic for vitamin C and calcium, is an easy and versatile fruit to use, although it provides only a moderate source of fiber. One of the drawbacks is that because it is so tart, most recipes call for more sugar than most other desserts. As with other fruits, 1/2 cup cooked rhubarb is considered a serving. A serving without sugar is only 29 calories, but with sugar it is 139 calories. By combining the stalks with sweeter fruits, like strawberries, the sugar content can be lowered quite a bit.

To store rhubarb, cut off the leaves, wash the stalks and store them in a plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator. Use within one week. (Caution: Rhubarb leaves contain a toxic substance that makes them poisonous. Be sure the leaves are removed before using the stalks. Discard them without cooking or eating.)  See Bulletin #4266, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Rhubarb for recipes.

Freezing rhubarb is a simple and quick way to preserve it. View our video for step-by-step instructions.

Because rhubarb is a high-acid product, it can safely be processed in a boiling water bath. For directions on how to can stewed rhubarb, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Using and Preserving Fiddleheads

picked fiddleheads ready for cookingFiddleheads, an early spring delicacy throughout their range, are the young coiled fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Many people mark the arrival of spring with a fiddlehead-picking outing. But, shh, don’t tell where your pickin’ spot is!

Some important food safety advice for fiddlehead consumers: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has investigated a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fiddleheads. The implicated ferns were eaten either raw or lightly cooked (sautéed, parboiled or microwaved). The findings of this investigation recommend that you should cook fiddleheads thoroughly before eating. Under no conditions should fiddleheads be consumed raw.

Cooking Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads can be safely cooked using two different methods, boiling and steaming.

Boiling

Bring lightly salted water in a pot to a rolling boil and add washed fiddleheads. The water should fully cover fiddleheads when added. Bring the water back to a steady boil and hold for 15 minutes.

Steaming

Bring a small amount of water to a boil, preferably in steam apparatus. Add washed clean fiddleheads and steam for 10-12 minutes.

Serve at once with optional melted butter and/or vinegar. The sooner they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor. They may be served, like asparagus, on toast. Cooked, chilled fiddleheads can be also served as a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing.

Sautéing, stir-frying or microwaving ostrich fern fiddleheads are NOT recommended methods for cooking fiddleheads. Fiddleheads should be boiled or steamed prior to use in recipes that use further cooking methods like sauteing, stir-frying or baking.

Source: Food Safety Tips for Fiddleheads, Health Canada.

For information and recipes on how to harvest, clean, use, store and preserve (freezing and pickling) fiddleheads, see Bulletin #4198, Facts on Fiddleheads.

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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — April 2017


April Is the Month to . . .

By Amy Witt, Horticulturist, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

  • Celebrate National Garden Month! April a great time to plan and partake in activities that celebrate the benefits of gardening and plants. Here are some ideas from the National Gardening Association to get you started.
  • daffodils
    Photo by Amy Witt.

    Stand back, breathe in the spring air, listen to the birds, and notice the plants that are emerging from the ground and the buds swelling on the trees and shrubs.

  • Test your soil, if you are installing new garden beds or if you haven’t done a soil test in the past three years. As soon as the soil has thawed, you will be able to dig down 8-12” to get a sample. It doesn’t matter if your soil is wet. Soil test kits are available from your local UMaine Extension county office or the Analytical Lab and Maine Soil Testing Service.
  • Work compost into your garden beds as soon as the soil is not frozen or wet. The compost will improve aeration in clay soils and increase the water holding capacity in sandy soils.
  • Dig up and enjoy the parsnips left in your garden from last fall. Try this recipe from Kathleen Savoie, UMaine Extension Educator, for Refrigerator Spring Pickles using parsnips and other spring vegetables.
  • As soon as planting conditions are right, it is safe to sow the following vegetable seeds: peas, parsnips, spinach, carrots, lettuce, onion sets, beets, turnips, parsley, and radishes, as well as plant these seedlings: broccoli, cauliflower, and cauliflower outside in the garden. You can also start cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seeds in a cold-frame or in a seed bed outside. It is a good idea to use row covers to protect the seed beds from birds and late frosts. Maine Vegetable Gardening: Keep Your Garden Growing — Plant from Spring to Fall is a great resource to get you started.
  • Sprout seed potatoes by moving them from cold storage to room temperature. Refer to Bulletin #2077 Growing Seed Potatoes in the Home Garden for detailed tips on growing potatoes successfully.
  • Complete any tree and/or shrub pruning. Keep in mind that you do not want to prune spring flowering plants (like forsythia and lilacs) until after they are done flowering and the flowers are spent. For more information, see Bulletin #2169 Pruning Woody Landscape Plants.
  • Late April is a good time to plant raspberries and blackberries. Bulletin #2066 Growing Raspberries and Blackberries, prepared by David Handley, UMaine Extension Small Fruit Specialist is the perfect resource to assist you.
  • Clean up perennial beds by removing debris from last season. Cut back perennials almost to ground level. Divide and replant emerging perennials like asters, bee balm, hostas, day lilies, and irises.
  • gardener plants a young tree
    Photo by Amy Witt.

    Plant bare-rooted trees when the soil has thawed and is dry. For information on proper selection and planting techniques refer to Bulletin #2366 Selecting, Planting and Caring for Trees and Shrubs in the Maine Landscape.

  • Remove tree guards that were placed around the trunks of young trees to keep mice and voles from damaging the trees during the winter. Guards left in place will trap heat and injure the bark.
  • Remove spent flower heads from spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and hyacinth. Don’t braid or clip leaves. The foliage continues to photosynthesize, which enables the bulb to store food for this dormant period.

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Gardening is for the Birds!

By Amy Witt, Horticulturist, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

bluebirds perched in bare branches
Photo by Amy Witt.

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.

PLAN & PLANT

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) and 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)

MEETING THE BASIC NEEDS

Food

goldfinch on shrub
Photo by Amy Witt.

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).

Water

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.

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.

woodpecker
Photo by Amy Witt.

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.

Shelter

waxwing hidden in the trees
Photo by Amy Witt.

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.

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.

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Maine Harvest for Hunger’s Collaboration with Southern York County Food Pantries

By Frank Wertheim, Educator, UMaine Extension York County, and Zelda Kenney, Master Gardener Volunteer

North Berwick Food Pantry Volunteer Mary Craig (left) with Pastor Tim Kezar (right) at the grand opening of the new site for the North Berwick Food Pantry.
North Berwick Food Pantry Volunteer Mary Craig (left) with Pastor Tim Kezar (right) at the grand opening of the new site for the North Berwick Food Pantry.

York County has had an Active Maine Harvest for Hunger (MHH) program for 17 years now, and through the tremendous generosity and farming skills of the Spiller Farm in Wells, our volunteers are able to glean 20,000-30,000 lbs. of fresh vegetables each year from that one farm alone.

The dilemma we had faced each year was how to distribute the right amount of food to more hunger relief organizations in Southern York County. The York County Shelter Program and Food Pantry, the largest of the 40+ agencies served by the program in the county, received truckloads of fresh vegetables, delivered by Master Gardener volunteers, while gleaners tried to deliver the right amounts of food to other food pantries in their home communities.

During a discussion of the distribution issue at a winter MHH planning team meeting in 2014, Master Gardener Volunteers’ Cheryl Shaw, Theresa Korish, and Zelda Kenney formed a sub-committee to personally survey directors of six agencies all located within a few miles of each other to see if there was a way to work together on the problem.

Because each pantry has different days and hours of operation, Cheryl offered to host the group at her South Berwick home where she served her trademark apple pie. “Within minutes, the directors who had never met face-to-face were discussing their common issues and had come to an agreement as to which ones would drive vans or trucks to the farm to pick up on our Tuesday and Thursday gleaning days,” Cheryl noted. “It was magic.”

The conversation moved on to what to do when one pantry has an excess of a commodity or fresh produce, food storage, and other issues. Soon, the directors were exchanging phone numbers and emails and offering to share information and food.

Separately, several members of the MHH planning team met with representatives of the York County Shelter Program and Food Pantry. As a result, the shelter/pantry program committed to sending a van to pick up what still remains the larger share of the Spiller mother-lode of fresh vegetables.

As the gleaning season began at Spiller Farm, our MHH volunteers also put a distribution plan into place. Upon finishing that day’s gleaning, gleaners prepared for the food pantries vans and trucks arrival by weighing and dividing all the produce into shares for each pantry based on their needs.

During a follow-up meeting at the end of the season the agency representatives were in solid agreement about just how much their recipients savored the regular appearance of fresh healthy vegetables and that there was much less waste because they were able to gauge the quantities needed. It was also revealed that when one of the directors was sidelined by an injury, other directors stepped in to pick up her share.

Two years later our MHH volunteers continue to hold winter meetings with pantry volunteers and York County Shelter program representatives to discuss how things went the past year and what their anticipated need is for the coming year — and of course, there is always Cheryl’s apple pie to enjoy.

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Maine’s Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)

By David Fuller, Agriculture and Non-Timber Forest Products Professional, UMaine Extension Franklin County

bare ramp clumpWild leeks, also known as ramps, are a tasty herbaceous perennial with very scant distribution in Maine. The Maine Natural Areas Program lists wild leeks as a plant of special concern. Wild leeks are in the Allium family along with other members including onions, garlic, and chives. Emerging very early in the spring, wild leeks prefer locations along streams and rivers in the understory of hardwood trees such as maples and ash.

Identification of wild leeks is easy. They are a monocot, so have parallel leaf veins. The simple dark green leaves are about 8 inches long and about 2-3 inches wide. Wild leeks tend to form colonies — where you find one, you’ll find many. Try pinching a small piece of the leaf — it will smell distinctly of onion/garlic.

Wild leeks propagate from seeds and by directly connected underground stems called rhizomes. They spread very slowly in part because it takes about 7 years to produce a seed-bearing plant from a planted seed. Wild leeks are an excellent example of a spring ephemeral. Their tops die back in June, then mature plants will send up a flower stalk with an umbel of small white blossoms with 6 petals. The black, shiny seeds that result may stay on the stalk until the following spring.

Harvesting of wild leeks should be done in great moderation. Research has shown that no more than 1% of a population should be removed to ensure a sustainable harvest. Cherokee people and harvesters in the Ukraine only pick the leaves, or part of the leaves of the plant, leaving the small, slender bulb to survive and grow again.

The Maine Wild Leek Project would like to enlist your help as a citizen scientist to document the distribution of wild leeks in Maine. To log locations of wild leeks, please use this form.

Information on location of wild leeks is confidential and will not be distributed.

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Food & Nutrition: Food Safety for Food Pantry Donations

By Kate Yerxa, Associate Extension Professor, UMaine Extension

Fresh produce collected for food pantriesDonating, recovering, and gleaning foods that would otherwise go to waste helps feed hungry Mainers. When donating food, it is important to consider both the safety and quality of the food.

Use the following checklist to decide whether foods are unsafe to give to food pantries, cupboards, and shelters.

For foods stored at room temperature, these are signs that may indicate that food is UNSAFE to donate or eat:

Cans

  • Too crushed to stack on shelves or open with a manual can opener
  • Crushed immediately under the end (double) seam
  • Severe or sharp dents
  • Rust on the inside of the can or on the surface of a swollen can
  • Swollen or bulging ends
  • Holes or punctures
  • Evidence of leakage
  • Signs of spoilage (spurting, unusual odor or appearance) when opened
  • Baby food or infant formula past the expiration date

For more information to help you decide whether a commercially canned food item is safe to use, visit UMaine Extension’s publication #4306 Is This Can Safe To Use?

Glass Jars (Only commercially canned foods should be donated; no home canned products should be donated)

  • Raised, crooked, or loosened lid
  • Damaged tamper-resistant seal
  • Cracks or chips
  • Signs of spoilage (discolored food; cloudy liquid)
  • Dirt under the rim
  • Baby food past the expiration date

Cardboard Boxes

  • Torn or missing inner packaging in cartons that are slit or opened
  • Evidence of insects
  • Baby food past the expiration date

Plastic Containers

  • Damaged tamper-resistant seals
  • Signs of spoilage (mold)
  • Baby food or infant formula past the expiration date

For foods stored in the refrigerator or freezer, these are signs that indicate the food is UNSAFE to donate or eat:

Refrigerator Foods

  • Uncertain handling or storage history
  • Lukewarm food (above the maximum safe refrigerator temperature of 40°F)
  • Signs of spoilage (mold)
  • Unsuitable containers and/or covers that allow food to be contaminated

Freezer Foods

  • Evidence of thawing (ice on the food or leaking)
  • Unsuitable packaging that allows food to be contaminated

Do not rely solely on look or smell. Foods that cause food poisoning may look fine and smell okay. Never taste suspicious foods!

When in doubt, throw it out!

Adapted from University of Maine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #4302, Food Safety for Food-Pantry Donations.

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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — March 2017


March Is the Month to . . .

By Tori Jackson, Extension Educator: Agriculture and Natural Resources, UMaine Extension Androscoggin & Sagadahoc Counties

  • Prepare your indoor garden for increasing daylight by repotting any root bound plants, taking cuttings to propagate new plants, and fertilizing ahead of increased growth and bloom.
  • Sterilize pots, trays, and tools you will use for seed starting. Remnants from last season’s plants and even dust from the shed or barn can transmit disease. Seedlings require a sterile environment to get the start they need to produce all summer long.
  • Attend Maine’s Garden and Flower Shows to get ideas for your yard and garden this year.
  • Learn more about Cooperative Extension’s Maine Harvest for Hunger program. Maine again ranks third in the nation in food insecurity. Farmers, Master Gardener Volunteers and home gardeners all have a role to play in helping to address this issue. Grow food for your neighbors, area seniors and food pantries or join a gleaning team to gather thousands of pounds of food for donation from participating farms. This is an important time of year to contact the individual or organization where you plan to donate to find out what produce is most needed.
  • Plan your vegetable garden. Use graph paper or (my favorite) spreadsheet software to create a scale map of your vegetable garden to help you decide how many seeds or seedlings you will need and how much garden hose or drip tape it will take to keep things watered. See our Planting Chart for the Home Vegetable Garden for the earliest and latest safe dates to plant in Maine.
  • Ask the UMaine Extension gardening experts! If you have a question about something you are seeing in your own garden or how to prepare for the upcoming growing season, browse the archive first and then ask your own question here.
  • Prune your perennial fruits and woody landscape plants. When the snow has begun to melt but everything is still dormant, it can be a great relief to get back outdoors to manage your yard and garden. Prune out weak, diseased, or superfluous canes and branches to improve airflow and increase yields of healthy fruits.
  • Complete your 2016 Master Gardener Volunteer Training. If you missed any classes during your training last season, work with your county MGV coordinator to make up sessions at a nearby 2017 class.
  • Prepare to mitigate drought. Following the drought of 2016, farmers and gardeners should plan now for a potential lack rainfall in the upcoming season. A new resource has been developed for farmers that contains information gardeners can use as well. Read Resources to Navigate Drought Successfully to learn more.
  • Consider Beekeeping. With concerns about the decreasing populations of pollinators around the world, gardeners are learning how to keep their own bees. Find a nearby Bee School on our events calendar.

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Gardening for Biodiversity

By Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Hancock County

We live in the sixth mass extinction period of Earth’s history, a period of unprecedented plant and animal species loss. Conservation biologists tell us that overall extinction rates are now 1,000 times higher than the historical rate of one to five species per year, with future extinction rates likely to be 10,000 times higher. Habitat loss is the number one cause of Earth’s biodiversity crisis.

We gardeners can play an important role in reversing the current trend in biodiversity loss. Studies show that public and private gardens represent a growing percentage of suitable habitat for many threatened species. Gardening for biodiversity means selecting and nurturing functional plants in our garden: those that provide shelter, food, and breeding ground for many forms of life, including insects, birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

We had some serious epiphanies in our garden when we took the time to put our tools down and quietly observe. Most of them had to do with insects, which shouldn’t be surprising, since insects comprise 60 percent of Earth’s biodiversity. While often overlooked, or sometimes cursed, insects deserve to be recognized as the lynchpin of the garden ecosystem. Everyone knows we need the pollinators. We need the predatory insects and the plant eating insects (“insect herbivores”), too, the creatures who, if nurtured, will coexist in a delicately linked web of life.

Monarch butterfly on Asclepias incarnata
Monarch butterfly on Asclepias incarnata, our native swamp milkweed. Photo by Reeser Manley.

Among our garden epiphanies was the diversity of life that we encountered one summer in a small patch of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). We planted the milkweed to attract monarch butterflies with hopes that they would lay eggs on the milkweed leaves.

In early August we spotted two adult monarchs, and two weeks later we discovered 20 small caterpillars munching on the leaves. Two more weeks and the larvae were full grown and ready to pupate. By early September there were new adults nectaring on a variety of garden plants.

Milkweed aphids on Asclepias incarnata.
Milkweed aphids on Asclepias incarnata. Photo by Reeser Manley.

Soon after the monarch caterpillars pupated, the plants in our milkweed patch were nurturing hundreds of tussock moth caterpillars and thousands of milkweed aphids. It was astounding how quickly these creatures appeared. The tussock moth caterpillars ate the remaining milkweed leaves while the aphids sucked sap from the stems and seed pods.

ladybird beetle larvae hunting aphids on Asclepias incarnata
Ladybird beetle larvae hunting aphids on Asclepias incarnata. Photo by Reeser Manley.

As the population of aphids reached “standing room only,” we were delighted to find the first ladybird beetle larvae preying on them. Before long there were several ladybird beetle larvae, each eating about 400 aphids before pupating. By the end of summer, the feeding of all these life forms reduced our milkweed plants to naked sooty-mold covered-stems. And thus the cycle was complete. The following year vigorous new shoots emerged from the underground crowns, ready to begin the cycle anew.

predatory wasp carries a caterpillar
A predatory wasp carries a caterpillar back to its nest to feed its young. Photo by Reeser Manley.

I suspect that you, like Reeser and I, enjoy the multitude of birds that visit our gardens. Did you know that each pair of chickadees requires between 6,000 and 10,000 caterpillars to raise a single clutch of fledglings? This is the case for 96% of North American songbirds. Caterpillars are what bird food looks like. Other garden animals that depend on insect herbivores include amphibians, reptiles, rodents, and small mammals, as well as spiders, harvestmen, and the larvae of predatory and parasitoid wasps.

holes chewed in oak leaves
Normal caterpillar munching does not reduce the vigor of a tree, and is a sign of healthy garden biodiversity. Photo by Reeser Manley.

Tree leaves that are riddled with holes in September by the chewing of caterpillars and other herbivores should not be cause for alarm; they are a sign of a functional garden.

The following is a short list of easy to find functional garden plants that enhance garden biodiversity.

Shrubs:

  • Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet)
  • Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood)
  • Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel)
  • Ilex verticillata (Winterberry Holly)
  • Morella pensylvanica (Northern Bayberry)
  • Sambucus canadensus (American Black Elderberry)
  • Vaccinium corymbosum (High Bush Blueberry)

Herbaceous Perennials:

  • Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
  • Astilbe x arendsii (Astilbe)
  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle)
  • Lysimachia clethroides (Gooseneck Loosestrife)
  • Monarda fistulosa (Bee Balm)
  • Nepeta x faassenii (Catmint)
  • Solidago spp. (Goldenrods)
  • Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster)

More information on gardening for biodiversity can be found in The Life in Your Garden: Gardening for Biodiversity by Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto (Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, ME, 2016.)

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Staff Picks: Acer species

By Kathy Hopkins, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Somerset County

red maple leaves
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Many of my favorite plants any time of year are members of the Acer genus, more commonly known as maple trees. They produce the first agricultural crop of the season, maple syrup, usually beginning in February or March. They are one of the first to bloom, coloring the woods with a delicate tracing of red or yellow in late spring. In the summer, they provide luxurious shade from the hot summer sun providing a blessing for plants and animals. In the fall, they provide a last explosion of color before the pristine whiteness of winter descends on Maine.

There are about a dozen species of maple trees native to North America and one species that can grow as far south as Guatemala. World-wide, there are also species of Acer native to Korea, Japan, and Europe. European native Acer platanoides (Norway maple) is considered an invasive species in Maine.

Maples generally grow as trees although some, like Mountain maple or Acer spicatum have a shrub form. Most have palmately lobed leaves with veins that radiate out from the petiole although boxelder, also called Ashleaf maple, Acer negundo, has compound leaves. All Acer species have opposite leaves making them easy to spot when out on a walk.

Red maple samaras
Red maple samaras

Maple seeds or samaras develop from the flower clusters or chains. Samaras are usually joined in pairs, each having a membranous wing that can carry the seed on the wind out and away from the parent tree to find a patch of less competitive fertile ground in which to sprout. Each species has a uniquely shaped samara. A good identification book can aid in classifying the different maples by their seeds.

Maine has five native Acer species: Red (also called soft, white or swamp) maple Acer rubrum; Sugar (also called rock or hard) maple, Acer saccharum; Silver maple, Acer saccharinum; Striped maple Acer pensylvanicum; Mountain maple, Acer spicatum.  Maine has two non-native maple species that have naturalized in the state: Boxelder, Acer negundo and Norway maple, Acer platanoides. Both species are sometimes considered invasive. Norway maple and its cultivars such as ‘Crimson King,’ ‘Columnare’ and ‘Schwedleri’ are now listed on Maine’s newest Invasive Plant list. These will be illegal to import, buy, sell or propagate after December 31, 2017.

Maple trees in northern North America produce sap that can be boiled into syrup in late winter and early spring. Sap flow begins when nights are below freezing and the days warm to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature change causes a positive pressure in the sapwood of the tree. In the warmth during the day, activity in the cells produces carbon dioxide that is released into spaces between the cells. The carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis the previous summer are stored in the tree in the form of starch. Starch is converted to sucrose (sugar) and dissolves in sap in the spring. Amino acids dissolved in the sap give a characteristic maple flavor, which differs from white or brown sugar and other sweeteners. These components dissolved in sap also add to the osmotic pressure within the tree, causing sap flow in the spring.

Spring is also a great time to get out and visit a sugarhouse on Maine Maple Sunday™ or visit one of the many maple festivals across the maple producing region of North America. Even British Columbia, while it has no sugar maples, has a “Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival” to celebrate its small but tasty syrup production.

For more information on identifying maples, go to the Maine Forest Service Forest Trees of Maine

For more information on Maine Maple Sunday™ and sugarhouses open to the public, go to mainemapleproducers.com.

For more information on invasive plants, go to Invasive Plants.

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“Plant a Pollinator Garden!” Kicks Off at Maine Flower Show

By Kate Garland, Horticultural Professional, UMaine Extension Penobscot County

If you attend the Maine Flower Show this year, you will have a chance to pick up a FREE pollinator seed packet and take part in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. That’s because the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association (MELNA) was just awarded a grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture to provide seed packets for attendees of our inaugural Maine Flower Show. The seeds will be a mystery until you visit our website and unlock the code to find out which pollinator-friendly plants your packet contains, along with directions to grow and care for them. Each packet will also have instructions on how to register your planting as one of the gardens in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

The National Pollinator Garden Network tells us that:

Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

MELNA and Plant Something Maine are proud to support this effort to create pollinator-friendly gardens across the state of Maine, and very excited to launch our first Plant a Pollinator Garden! at this year’s Maine Flower Show. Tickets are now on sale; buy them here on Eventbrite.

Special thanks to Gary Fish for the beautiful photos in the slideshow below.

Bee on purple flower
Bee on purple flower
Bee on purple flower
Bee on yellow flower
Bee on yellow flower
Bee on yellow flower
Apis Mellifera on milkweed
Apis Mellifera on milkweed
Apis Mellifera on milkweed
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly
Speyeria Cybele and Vanessa Cardui on Echinacea
Speyeria Cybele and Vanessa Cardui on Echinacea
Speyeria Cybele and Vanessa Cardui on Echinacea
Wasp on butterfly milkweed
Wasp on butterfly milkweed
Wasp on butterfly milkweed
Polistes Dominula on goldenrod
Polistes Dominula on goldenrod
Polistes Dominula on goldenrod
Apis Mellifera on white flower
Apis Mellifera on white flower
Apis Mellifera on white flower

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Food & Nutrition: Sprout Safety

By Kathy Savoie, MS, RD, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

With the arrival of spring, some gardeners like to get sprouting early with bean and seeds sprouted at home. Like any fresh produce that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Sprouts are often served on salads, wraps, sandwiches, and Asian foods. Unlike other fresh produce, sprouts from seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. The warm and humid conditions are also ideal for the growth of bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

If just a few harmful bacteria are present in or on the seed, the bacteria can grow to high levels during sprouting. Home-grown sprouts also present a health risk if they are eaten raw or lightly cooked.

What you can do to reduce your risk of illness:

  • Children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind (including onion, alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
  • Wash sprouts thoroughly under running water before eating or cooking. Washing may reduce bacteria that may be present, but it will not eliminate it.
  • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
  • When you’re eating out, ask that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you buy ready-made sandwich, salad, or Asian food, check to make sure raw sprouts have not been added.

Read this publication to learn how to treat seeds first in order to reduce risk when growing your own sprouts.

Adapted from Produce: Selecting and Serving It Safely, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, April 2016

Additional UMaine Extension resources on food safety with fruits and vegetables

Master Food Preserver Volunteer Program

Are you interested in becoming a Master Food Preserver Volunteer through an extensive hands-on food preservation training? You will learn the art and science of food preservation and develop expertise in food safety, canning, drying, freezing, fermenting, and winter storage. Master Food Preservers become familiar with materials and equipment in home canning, identify and avoid food safety problems and successfully preserve products. Master Food Preservers serve as volunteers and resources in the community to provide the public with research-based information from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and USDA. Send an e- mail to: extension.rlreception@maine.edu or call 1.800.287.1471 to be placed on an interest list. Applications will become available in April. For more information visit Master Food Preservers.

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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2017

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — October 2016


October Is the Month to . . .

By Kate Garland, Horticulturist, and Jonathan Foster, Horticulture Community Education, Coordinator Rogers Farm Demonstration Garden, UMaine Extension Penobscot County

  • Step away from the pruners. While it’s tempting to trim back certain woody plants during fall cleanup, it’s usually best to wait until late winter or early spring to prune most ornamental and edible trees and shrubs. Find more details: Pruning Woody Landscape Plants, How Do I Prune Raspberries?, How to Prune a Blueberry Bush, Pruning fruit trees.

    Autimn foliage at Big Indian Lake, Maine
    Photo by C. Eves-Thomas.
  • Take in a country fair and revel in the beauty autumn in Maine has to offer. Check out Facts About Leaf Color in Maine before you head out on the road so you can impress your fellow leaf peepers.
  • Plant garlic and ornamental bulbs after the soil has cooled (typically mid- to late-October). See Growing Hardneck Garlic in Your Maine Garden or Grow a Little Garlic below for more information.
  • Conversely, dig tender bulbs or bulblike structures after the foliage is hit by the frost (ex: dahlias, gladiolas and canna lilies). For excellent tips on how to cure and store a wide variety of these plants, check out this excellent resource from University of Minnesota.
  • Start a compost pile while leaves are abundant. Leaves make an excellent substrate for a compost pile — especially when first shredded with a mower. Collect excess leaves in a separate pile to add when depositing food scraps and other high nitrogen inputs. Woman grinds apples for pressing into cider
  • Make some tasty and safe apple cider. For more information, see Safe Home Cider Making.
  • Score some great deals at a local nursery. It’s not too late to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. If you don’t have a perfect spot for those terrific half-price impulse purchases, remove them from the pot and temporarily sink them into the ground in a holding area for the winter. Water and mulch well before the ground freezes solid.
  • Save seed. Be sure to know whether the seeds being saved are going to produce plants with the same traits as the “parent plant” — any plant you may have purchased with “F1” in its name is a hybrid and will not produce the same characteristics. See An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener for more information.
  • Test your soil. Soil testing can be done anytime, but it’s especially helpful to find out what needs to be added to the soil and incorporate it when there are typically fewer other garden chores to be done.
  • Stretch the growing season a few more weeks, or even longer, by constructing a simple low tunnel over cold tolerant crops such as spinach and kale. If using plastic to cover the low tunnel, vent on warm sunny days to prevent overheating.
  • Dry those beautiful herbs or make your own herbal vinegar. Don’t miss the opportunity to gather mint, oregano, thyme, and other items that will be much appreciated in teas and soups this winter.
  • Prepare for live Christmas trees. If you’re thinking ahead to the holidays and are considering having a potted living Christmas tree, now is the time to dig the hole where you plan to plant it outside. Store the soil in containers where it won’t freeze solid. Living trees should only be inside for a short amount of time in order to minimize stress. Learn more here.
  • Find the best place to store fresh produce to ensure longer shelf life. Not all produce should be treated the same.

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Give Hardworking Garden Tools a Good Conditioning Before Putting Them Away

By Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Hancock County, and Reeser Manley, Horticulturist

A variety of garden toolsThe gardening year is almost over and it’s almost time to put your tools to bed for the winter. When things wind down in the garden, take the time to give your tools the attention they deserve after a season of hard work. Soothe those rough cracked wooden handles and those rusty metal blades caked with soil.

To clean the working end of a digging fork, shovel, trowel, rake, or hoe, first remove all soil and other debris with water. A stiff wire brush and/or putty knife will help remove stubborn caked-on soil and much of the rust. Any remaining rust can be removed by rubbing with course steel wool. Finally, give the tool head a thorough wiping down with a dry cloth. When all of the dirt and rust has been removed, coat the metal heads with a light oil to prevent rust formation. Many gardeners apply this oil by rubbing the metal with an “oil sock,” an old sock filled with sand and soaked in fresh engine oil, then squeezed out and stored in a zip-lock bag when not in use.

Other gardeners prefer to use a large pot or wooden box filled with oil-saturated sand (again, fresh engine oil). The cleaned tools are coated with oil by plunging their heads into the sand. Some gardeners store their digging tools through winter with the metal ends buried in the sand. Either way, the oil-soaked sand will last “forever” if you use it only for clean tools.

Don’t forget to recondition the handles of your tools. If a handle is loose, tighten or replace the essential screws and bolts. If the handle is broken, replace it. Handles can be purchased at most hardware stores, but you may have to reshape the replacement handle to fit your tool’s head. This can be done with a wood rasp or sanding machine.

Clean each handle with a stiff brush, then sand away nicks and splinters with medium-grade sandpaper. Finally, slowly rub the handle with a rag soaked in boiled linseed oil. Repeat the application several times, allowing time for the oil to be absorbed into the wood between applications.

When it comes to cleaning pruners and loppers, wipe the blades with rubbing alcohol, a solvent that will dissolve pitch. Remove rust by rubbing the blades with steel wool, then rinse with rubbing alcohol, and wipe with a dry cloth.

For sharpening a bypass pruner, the type that cuts like a pair of scissors, you should sharpen only the side of the cutting blade with a beveled edge. For an anvil pruner, the type with a cutting blade that strikes an anvil-like surface, both sides of the cutting blade should be sharpened. For either type, sharpening is done by holding the open pruner firmly in hand and slowly passing the sharpening stone across the beveled blade, following the contour of the blade as if you were removing a thin layer of metal from the blade surface. I like to use the DiaSharp Diamond Mini-Hone Kit, available from on-line retailers, because they are easy to hold. The kit contains three stones in extra fine, fine, and course grits. After sharpening your pruners but before putting them away, oil the moving parts with a little squirt of 3-in-1 Multi-purpose Oil.

If you often work the soil with a digging fork, you have probably experienced the frustration of bending one of the tines on a buried rock. To straighten the bent tine, often first noticed when cleaning and putting the fork away for the winter, I use a long galvanized one-inch pipe driven into the ground with about 12 inches left above ground. Sticking the bent tine into the end of the pipe, I can usually straighten it as good as new, or nearly so. This works well for pitchforks, too.

With freezing temperatures imminent, be sure to keep your garden hoses drained when not in use, as it’s quite frustrating trying to use a hose filled with ice. When you no longer need hoses in the garden, let them drain completely, then coil them for storage in the garage or basement.

In May, when you take your favorite digging tool down and feel the smoothness of its handle in your palm for the first time in months, October’s work will be rewarded.

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Merrymeeting Gleaners

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

Fresh produce collected for food pantriesThere is a lot of buzz around Bath coming from farms, farmers’ markets, and food pantries; but it is not from the bees. The buzz is about the Merrymeeting Gleaners. New to the Midcoast this year, this small, yet determined group of Master Gardener Volunteers, area leaders, and college students are working to address food insecurity in Bath and surrounding towns.

Their efforts began last fall when the Merrymeeting Food Council formed as a coalition of citizens and organizations focused on hunger, nutrition, and food waste in the towns around Merrymeeting Bay. The council developed several work groups including one focused on food security. Part of that work group included Master Gardener Volunteer Michelle Rines who brought her strong interest in gleaning (collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or from farmers markets). UMaine Cooperative Extension, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT), Brunswick Topsham Land Trust (BTLT), MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program, Access Health, and Bowdoin College all supported the team as they developed a framework for the gleaning team over much of the winter. The plan is to start small and be prepared to scale up if need and capacity increase in the future. The work group acted as a steering committee and each step was documented by Bowdoin Fellow Shannon McCabe and discussed at monthly food council meetings. By early June they were ready to start gleaning.

Rines and Rebecca McConnaughey led teams of fellow gleaning volunteers in a successful effort to deliver over two tons of otherwise wasted food to distribution sites such as the Bath Food Pantry, Bath Housing, Richmond Food Pantry, Bowdoinham Food Pantry, and Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. This food comes from picking up donations at the end of the Bath Farmers’ Market (participating members: Goransens, Squire Tarbox Farm, Borealis, and Hootenany Breads) and on-farm gleaning at Six Rivers Farm.

freshly pulled onionsAs the growing season comes to a close, the group continues to glean while keeping the future in mind. They have applied for a grant for equipment to help grow the program next year and the Forest Foundation via Bowdoin College has underwritten Shannon’s fellowship through next spring. A major one-day orchard glean is planned for later in October and market gleaning will continue as long as product is available.

By starting small and focusing on each pilot project, the Merrymeeting Gleaners have created a “buzz” of dialogue regarding food security and a foundation for an exciting program to minimize food waste and get food to the folks that need it.

For more information: lynne.Holland@maine.edu or merrymeetingfoodcouncil.org – Food Security Work Group. See more at http://www.slowmoneymaine.org/blog/#sthash.dCAydUGH.ifFZY2n2.dpuf.

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Grow a Little Garlic

By Trisha Smith, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension Piscataquis County

garlic; photo by Edwin RemsbergIf you attended the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity this (or practically any) year, you could hardly miss the garlic. Myriad varieties were sold in the Farmers’ Market, displayed in the Exhibition Hall, and even incorporated into useful kitchen décor in the craft and folk arts areas. And that’s not to mention the fragrance in the air and flavor in the food!

Garlic is a member of the allium family and has become a popular crop for Maine farmers and gardeners. Humans have cultivated garlic for 5,000 years, treasuring it for culinary and medicinal uses. Hundreds of varieties are grown all over the world’s temperate regions. Garlic is divided into two groups: hard- and soft-neck. Elephant garlic is actually a leek, and does not generally thrive in our climate. Most Maine growers favor hard neck garlic for its reliability and size. Popular varieties include Philips, Russian Red, and Georgian Fire.

In addition to the usual reasons of supporting farming and farmers in your area, it is important to get your garlic from local suppliers. Imported stock can harbor disease and fungal pathogens that can affect your own crop as well as your neighbors’. “Grocery store garlic” is most likely grown far away (China or maybe California) and is often subjected to post-harvest treatments to make it sprout- and rot-resistant. Because garlic adapts to the soils and conditions of your area, you will be more successful growing garlic from your own stock or that of a trusted local. UMaine Extension has recently published a list of Maine seed garlic growers: Maine Seed Garlic Directory.

Garlic is a fairly simple and rewarding plant to grow. Every clove you plant has the potential to become a bulb of garlic with 4-8 cloves. When you are selecting planting stock, choose the largest bulbs. It is the size of the bulb you choose, not the individual clove you plant, which determines the size of the bulb you will harvest next July-August.

Where will you plant your garlic? You won’t need a lot of space to give it a try, but the area should be sunny and as weed-free as possible. Garlic cannot out-compete grass or other aggressive weeds. Get your soil tested to pinpoint the amendments you may need to grow the healthiest garden possible. Garlic is a heavy feeder, and thrives in rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.8-7. Working compost or well-rotted manure into the bed before planting is generally a good practice. Dave Fuller’s video “How Do I Grow Garlic in Maine?” shares excellent information and planting tips.

No more than a day or so before planting, carefully break bulbs apart into cloves, preserving the point of attachment to the basal plate (where roots emerge). If you encounter a double (fused) clove, set it aside for culinary use. Most growers recommend leaving the papery covering as intact as possible. The garlic will be in the ground over the winter; it’s going to need its “jacket” and “boots!” Timing your planting involves a bit of guesswork, because we never know for sure when the freeze will come. The cloves need a chance to settle into the soil and get some root growth on, but it’s best if they don’t put up sprouts. Mid-October is usually a safe bet for most of Maine. Garlic is usually the last crop to be planted, and one of the first to emerge from the soil in the spring. (See MOFGA’s So When is the Right Time to Plant Garlic?).

After you’ve planted your garlic (2 inches deep, 5 inches apart, in rows 8 inches apart), it’s time to mulch. Mulch insulates the soil, holds moisture, and smothers weeds. Use a weed-seed-free mulch and apply to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. A bale of straw is just about the perfect amount for a 4×8′ bed. Shredded leaves will also work, but whole leaves have a tendency to mat together, and may be difficult for garlic to sprout through in spring. Although some growers pull the mulch aside in spring to aid sprouting, most leave it in place.

Garlic is a great crop for snowbird gardeners. You can plant it as the leaves are turning, tuck it in for the winter, it comes up in late spring, and is harvested in midsummer. Unless you choose to side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer, all you’ll need to do until scapes (flowers) emerge is keep the garlic watered and weeded. Check out Dave Fuller’s video for UMaine Extension: “Garlic in the Garden: Removing Scapes.” A month or so after scapes are removed, it will be time to harvest (usually late July-early August in Maine). The “Harvesting and Drying Hardneck Garlic” video below offers specific suggestions.

Unless you are growing at a commercial scale, garlic is a fun and relatively undemanding plant. Helpful information is available online through University of Maine Cooperative Extension (Garlic) and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association (Garlic, In Depth). Your farmers’ market is a great place to find local favorite varieties and to learn and share gardening and cooking tips. Grow some garlic and bond with your farmers!

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Food & Nutrition:
Making Better Baked Goods

By Kate Yerxa, Associate Extension Professor, and Kathy Savoie, Extension Educator, Extension UMaine Extension

Muffins, scones, and quick breads are a “go-to” breakfast food for many people. Unfortunately, some baked goods from coffee shops or grocery stores are oversized and have a high amount of calories, fat, and sugar. Not all baked goods are created equally. You can make your own baked goods at home and control the ingredients. Below are instructions on making your favorite baked goods recipe healthier.

Reduce Sugar Sugar makes baked goods tender and moist and gives muffins a golden brown flavor. You can reduce the sugar by ⅓ in a recipe. To ensure that muffins are tasty, use at least 1-tablespoon sugar per 1 cup flour. You can also add extra vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg to get a sweeter flavor.
Reduce Fat In baking, fat adds moisture, flavor, and tender texture to cookies, cakes, quick breads, and muffins. Using fruit puree, such as banana, prune, or apple, help to give some fat-like flavor and texture characteristics to homemade baked goods.

Try substituting half of the fat with applesauce, up to ½ cup. if the recipe calls for 1 cup of fat, use ½ cup applesauce and ½ cup butter, margarine, or oil.

Reduce Salt As long as your recipe is not a muffin recipe that uses yeast, you can eliminate salt completely from the recipe.
Add Fiber Substitute whole wheat flour for ¼ to ½ of the all-purpose flour in the recipe. Oat bran, or 100% bran cereal (ground to flour in a blender) can replace up to ¼ of the all-purpose flour.

Also, try adding fruit such as diced apples and raisins, or vegetables such as shredded carrots to your muffins for added flavor and fiber.

For additional information, check out the UMaine Extension Bulletin #4167, Altering Recipes for Better Health.

If you are interested in making your own applesauce to use as a fruit puree to substitute for fat in your baked goods recipe, check out the UMaine Extension Bulletin #4035 Let’s Preserve Apples.

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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2016

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

Maine Home Garden News — September 2016


September Is the Month to . . .

By Lynne Holland, Community Education Assistant (Home Horticulture), UMaine Extension in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties, and Kathy Hopkins, Extension Professor, UMaine Extension in Somerset County

  • Harvest the garden regularly. Donate excess produce through the Maine Harvest for Hunger program. For more information, please visit Maine Harvest for Hunger.
  • Harvest and dry herbs while they are at their peak. If you have been gathering perennial herbs regularly through the summer, mid September should be the last cut of the year. Any new growth after that will likely be damaged by cold weather. The drier days of autumn are a good time for drying herbs. Get some hints on drying garden produce from our video “How to Dry Vegetables.”
  • Remove plant debris and weeds from the garden to reduce the number of overwintering sites for unwanted insect and disease populations, and minimize the deposit of seeds into the soil “weed seed bank.” Follow with a cover crop to protect the soil and serve as competition for weeds. If planting a cover crop is not an option, topdress with an organic mulch, such as seaweed, straw or leaves. Mulch will also add nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.
  • Watch the weather and take steps to protect tender plants if there’s a chance of frost. Bulletin #2752, Extending the Garden Season describes methods to protect plants from the cold and extend the growing season.
  • Do a soil test. If the results indicate the need for lime and manure additions, September is a great 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.
  • Review the year. Which vegetables were high producers? What plant varieties were your favorites? List successes, failures, diseases, and insect pests. Brainstorm a plan for next season. Take pictures and add to an electronic garden journal or calendar. Pictures will help you remember the good and bad of the season.
  • Save seeds of non-hybrids to plant next year. Learn how to have success saving seeds by reading Bulletin #2750, An Introduction to Seed Saving for the Home Gardener.
  • Dig up bulbs that are not winter hardy like cannas, gladiolus, and dahlias after the foliage dies back. Clean the bulbs before storing. Store for the winter in peat moss or dry sand in a dark, cool, well ventilated space where the temperatures remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Build raised beds now, so they will be ready to plant in early spring. For more information, watch our four-part video series Extending the Gardening Season Using Raised Beds. Includes a link to plans and materials list.
  • Cut back on your lawn area and come over to the “Low Input Lawn” team. Reducing lawn area will save you time and effort next year. Starting to implement the practices of a “Low Input Lawn” now will help your soil recover over the winter so you can have a healthier lawn next year. See Bulletin #2166 Steps to a Low Input Lawn for detailed information.
  • Stop watering and fertilizing any established perennials, trees and shrubs in September. 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 winter.
  • Plan to water trees (deciduous and evergreen) deeply once all the leaves on the deciduous trees have dropped, but before the ground freezes (later in October or November for most areas). This can help trees recover from some of the stress they may have experienced during the prolonged dry spell this summer. Read article below for tips on watering deeply.
  • Register for free disposal of banned, unusable pesticides through the Maine Board of Pesticides Control. This free annual program takes place at several locations across the state, but registration is mandatory. Learn more.

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Understanding How Drought Impacts Our Landscape

By Kate Garland, Horticulturist, and Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Coordinator, UMaine Extension Penobscot County

It has been a dry season in Maine. Hopefully, this pattern has changed by the time you are reading this piece, but even if it has, it’s important to take a moment to understand how drought can influence our ornamental and edible landscapes and to learn strategies to minimize water stress in the future.  Water stress impacts plant growth in several ways and can vary between species (and even among individuals of the same species), but it always carries the potential for negative consequences. Gardeners may notice reduced yield, slower growth, poor fruit quality, or simply overall plant decline.

Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ produced under three different substrate moisture contents: 40%, 25%, and 5% water.
Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ produced under three different substrate moisture contents: 40%, 25%, and 5% water. Photo credit Dr. Stephanie Burnett.

Just like all other living organisms, plants are made up of tiny building blocks called cells, which must divide and expand for the plant to grow. Plants don’t have a bony skeleton like large animals do, so they rely on constant internal water pressure to stay upright; if a plant does not have enough water in its cells, the cells shrink and the plant will wilt. Turgor is the constant water pressure within a plant cell that gives the cell its shape and the plant its structure. In order for cells to continue dividing and permanently expanding (i.e., for the plant to grow), they must have sufficient turgor not just to maintain the plant’s architecture, but also to pressure the cell wall to expand outward.

Unsurprisingly, plants developing under sustained water stress will have smaller cells—resulting in smaller leaves, shorter stature, and less developed fruit. The produce in our gardens is basically nicely packaged water with good nutritional value. For example, the moisture content for roots and tubers is typically 73-95%, leaves and stems is between 77-96%, and fruits top the moisture content at around 90-96%. Knowing this, it’s easy to see how vulnerable commercial producers are to crop loss in drought situations. Finally, moving beyond limited cell expansion, water stress can also slow down or alter a number of vital metabolic processes within plants, including the all-important photosynthesis.

Examples of impact on fruit quantity and quality

Under water stress, plants will deploy different strategies to minimize the energy required to survive and/or maximize their capacity to pass their genes on to the next generation, generally reducing the number or quality of their fruit in order to conserve resources for overall plant survival. For example, cucurbits (cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, and melons) produce more male flowers than female flowers during an especially dry season. The female flowers are what yield the fruit when fertilized, but fruit production requires a lot of energy and water. Allocating resources towards more male flowers than female allows individual plants a greater chance of spreading their genes via pollen without having to put the energy into developing fruit (if the pollen reaches the female flower on another plant).

Several types of plants (eggplant, peppers, beans, to name just a few) drop their flowers when water is limited or another compounding stress, such as heat, is involved, thereby reducing the likelihood of fertilization and costly fruit set. Leafy greens, such as spinach and lettuce sometimes transition into the flowering stage of their life cycle (bolt) significantly faster in drought conditions. Plants may also react to drought stress by directing more of their growth energy towards root development instead of towards stem, leaf, flower, and fruit production. This evolutionary strategy carries the dual benefit of increasing the capacity for the plant to mine water from the soil while reducing the surface area exposed to water loss, but can also leave the plant without enough photosynthetic foliage to support the rest of its biomass. And finally, the diminished amounts of energy that stressed plants allocate into producing expensive fruit tissues often results in outcomes like bitter-tasting fruits, blossom end rot (squash, zucchini, tomato, and pepper), and cracked tomatoes, among other examples of poor fruit quality associated with water stress.

Overall plant decline

Newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals (including vegetable transplants) all need supplemental water the first year they are in the ground. Symptoms of water stress in newer transplants include wilt, scorch, and premature leaf drop. As a general rule, most newly installed plants will benefit from having 1″ of water a week throughout the entire first growing season. A simple rain gauge will usually provide evidence that our rain events do not supply nearly that amount of moisture on a reliable basis. Furthermore, the larger the transplant, the longer it will take to have a well developed and established root system capable of sustaining the water requirements of the entire plant. When trees are over 1” in diameter, it’s a good practice to plan on supplementing the water for the same number of years as the trunk measures in diameter (ex: 4 years for a 4” caliper tree).

Established trees, shrubs, and perennials can also suffer from sustained periods of drought, but unlike newer transplants, the symptoms can take a long time to appear and are hard to relate back to drought. Damage happens when the delicate root hairs growing in the top 15” of the soil profile are destroyed over prolonged dry periods. These small roots play an enormous role in the water absorption capacity of the plant, but their loss can be masked in the short term by the capacity for a mature plant to tap into water stores within the trunk, other stem tissue, and larger roots.

What you can do

rows of lettuce plants; photo by Edwin RemsbergMulch. Bark, wood chips, straw, lawn clippings, and even re-used materials such as cardboard and newspaper are all examples of useful organic mulching materials. Black plastic is also an effective barrier to evaporation that also reduces weed pressure near vulnerable plants (minimizing competition for moisture and nutrients).

Harvest for Hunger volunteers plant a donation gardenWater. Differences in soils and plant types make it difficult to give a single prescription for watering that will work for every site, but here’s some general advice. To provide 1” of water a week to new transplants, water the soil (not the plants) with a slow trickle approximately 2-3 times a week for roughly 15-20 minutes. The water should not pool up on top of the soil, but should penetrate deep into the roots. Decrease the water pressure if pooling is observed. To check whether the water is reaching down to the appropriate depth, dig a 6” deep hole after watering to see if the moisture has truly reached the root zone. Prioritize watering zones if it’s difficult to keep up with watering and consider adding permanent drip lines near high-value established plants. Rain barrels are a great solution to capturing run-off from rooftops for use on ornamental plantings.

compost; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDAImprove soil structure. Gardeners should aim to have a Goldilocks soil: not too porous, not too compacted, but just right. Regularly introducing organic matter is the best tool to improve soil moisture management on either end of the spectrum, as it will improve the capacity for highly porous soils to hold onto water while improving the porosity of heavy clay soils. Fall is an excellent time to add a variety of types of organic matter: compost, aged manure, seaweed, and (my favorite) shredded leaves are all additives that will improve the resiliency of your landscape to sustain itself when — not if — another dry spell hits Maine again.

Read more

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Redvein Enkianthus: A Functional Plant for All Seasons

By Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator, UMaine Extension Hancock County, and Reeser Manley, Horticulturist

Fall foliage of Redvein Enkianthus
Photo by Reeser Manley.

Our garden is carved out of the woods. It is a thing of beauty to us, but more importantly, it is a functional garden. All the ornamental plants we select, whether herbaceous or woody, have one thing in common: they build garden biodiversity. They have a role in supporting the many forms of garden life including soil organisms, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Though we lean towards natives, plants “from away” can also be ecologically functional. For example, we have found Redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus), native to open woodlands in Japan, to be absolutely “abuzz” with Maine bumblebees in the spring. This small tree, now in its fifteenth year in our garden, stands about 10′ tall. When in flower, clusters of yellow to white bells with deep red veins hang from each branch tip. The flowers, similar in shape to those of its close relative, the native Maine highbush blueberry, serve as a nectar source to bumblebees.

We have pruned this naturally shrubby plant into a small multi-trunk tree. Redvein enkianthus can also make a beautiful informal hedge if kept in its shrubby form.

After flowering, seed capsules develop and ripen in late summer. What birds or rodents eat the seeds after they are dispersed remains a mystery. We have had the pleasure of seeing many different species of songbirds flitting among the branches throughout the spring and summer.

Redvein Enkianthus in winter
Our pruning over the years highlights the tree’s layered branching habit, a striking feature in winter when the branches are traced with snow. Photo by Reeser Manley.

In autumn the leaves on our plant turn to a mix of brilliant red and gold. Fall color is variable within the species with some plants turning all red or all yellow. Cultivars have been selected for red fall foliage, others for deep red flowers.

Redvein enkianthus is recommended by University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and by Massachusetts’ nurseries as a replacement for the non-native invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus), or Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Any gardener familiar with enkianthus knows that neither burning bush nor Japanese barberry can hold a candle to the brilliant red and gold of enkianthus’ autumn leaves. It deserves a place on any gardener’s list of “Functional Plants for All Seasons.”

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Master Gardener Volunteer Project Profile:
Westrum House in Topsham

By Tori Lee Jackson, Associate Professor of Agriculture & Natural Resources, and Lynne Holland, Home Horticulture CEA, UMaine Extension in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties

Raised bed garden at Westrum House in Topsham
Raised bed garden at Westrum House in Topsham

Volunteers of America (VOA) is responsible for improving the lives of many people in Maine, and around the country. The President of the Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Association (ASCEA), Michael Coon, is Vice President of External Relations and director of Camp POSTCARD at VOA. He has been interested in making program connections with Extension since joining the ASCEA several years ago. Collaboration began with 4-H Educator Kristy Ouellette and Camp POSTCARD, and has now expanded to include the Master Gardener Volunteers program.

One of VOA’s local projects is a beautiful facility for low-income seniors in Topsham, known as Westrum House. In February of 2016, Travis Drake and Bill Browning, staff members at VOA, contacted the Lisbon Falls Extension office for information on getting a garden started for the seniors living there. Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) Program Coordinator Lynne Holland met with staff and residents to determine where the gardens would be placed. Local volunteers began planning the perfect garden space for the seniors who missed growing vegetables of their own.

Sample survey resultsThere has been great enthusiasm for this project from the start and as soon as the snow was gone, planning and construction of beautiful, handicapped-accessible raised beds got underway. MGV Deanna Cyr created a simple survey and distributed it to residents to see what kinds of vegetables would be most desired. She created a shopping list with the results and a combination of seedlings and seeds were bought. The beds were filled with media and planted in mid-June during a work party with participation from about a quarter of the residents.

With so many residents, volunteers, and staff involved and excited about this project, the regular maintenance of weeding and watering has been handled very easily and residents are now enjoying the harvest of lettuce, radishes, herbs, summer squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Rachel L., a resident of Westrum house reported, “This morning… harvested about 10 cucumbers. I don’t know if the tomatoes will ripen. Harvested 3 zucchinis. I had some little poles and placed them around the string beans until I get something taller.” Rachel has also been avidly watching University of Maine Cooperative Extension videos on YouTube to see how to improve the harvest and the garden for next year. (And, by the way, the tomatoes are ripening nicely.)

A couple of comfortable chairs are next to the beds and in the early morning and late evening you can find residents stopping off to sit for awhile after walking their dogs or waiting to go out to appointments or to eat.

Raised bed garden at Westrum House in Topsham
Herbs in the raised bed garden at Westrum House in Topsham

This garden has been such a hit that staff of VOA have invited the ASCEA to hold their September meeting on site and to serve fresh vegetables from their garden for dinner.

The new raised bed gardens at Westrum House are a great example of how a relatively small project can have a very big impact on the lives of Maine seniors. It will be part of the VOA focus on Seniors in their October/November newsletter and can serve as a model for creating gardens at VOA housing facilities across the state.

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Food & Nutrition:
Preserving Relish Safely

Kate McCarty with pressure cookerBy Kate McCarty, Food Preservation Community Education Assistant, UMaine Extension Cumberland County

Preserving relish is a great way to use up end-of-season garden vegetables while creating a flavorful condiment to use on sandwiches, in salads, and even as a tart side to your cheese plate. Because relishes are made from a combination of low-acid ingredients, like cucumbers, onions, and peppers, and vinegar, which is acidic, particular attention must be paid to the quantity of each in order to ensure your relish is safe for canning. Follow a recipe from a trusted source, like Cooperative Extension or USDA, and do not change the amount of any ingredients. Spices can be added or left out without affecting the safety of the final product, so you can personalize your relish by adding spices to your liking. Relish can be safely processed in a boiling water bath canner.

assorted fresh picked produceThe recipe below is great for using up small amounts of produce that may be leftover in the fall as you put your garden to bed. The recipe calls for salting and refrigerating your vegetables for several hours before preparing the relish, so plan ahead. This process draws water from the vegetables so they stay crunchy after being cooked. Skipping these steps will result in a relish with an unpleasant texture. Canning salt is salt with no additives, like iodine or anti-caking agents, which can cause discoloration of your pickles or relish.

For more relish recipes, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s How to Can Relish. To learn more about hot water bath canning, visit Let’s Preserve: Food Canning Basics or attend a hands-on workshop in your area.

Fall Garden Relish

Adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation

4 cups chopped cabbage (about 1 small head)
3 cups chopped cauliflower (about 1 medium head)
2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 4 medium)
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped sweet red peppers (about 2 medium)
3-¾ cups vinegar (5% acidity)
3 tablespoons canning salt
2-¾ cups sugar
3 teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons dry mustard
1-½ teaspoons turmeric

Yield: About 4 pint jars

Procedure: Combine washed chopped vegetables; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator. Drain well. Combine vinegar, sugar and spices; simmer 10 minutes. Add vegetables; simmer another 10 minutes. Bring to a boil.

Pack boiling hot relish into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process pints for 10 minutes in a Boiling Water Canner.

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

Let us know if you would like to be notified when new issues are posted. To receive e-mail notifications fill out our online form.

You may also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. New to RSS? Learn more.

For more information or questions, contact Kate Garland at katherine.garland@maine.edu 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, with Katherine Garland, UMaine Extension Horticulturalist in Penobscot County, 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.

© 2016

Call 800.287.0274 (in Maine), or 207.581.3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.