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Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts. Photo by Jean English, published in the Winter 2009-2010 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Articles

Hostas: These garden fixtures boast a well-kept secret – they’re perfectly edible!

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I’ve been making a list of the edible greens that come early in the vegetable garden, as weeds and bonus vegetable greens. Here’s how it goes: Dandelion greens are the earliest, just the rosette out of the soft beds – and you might want to break off the root to roast for dandelion coffee; the new young tips of invading nettles; hops shoots; young dame’s rocket and creeping bellflower leaves; lovage stalks – like tender celery for the first few weeks; first-year burdock roots; last year’s parsnips as they emerge; Jerusalem artichoke and skirret roots.

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Basic tips from the National Garden Bureau for growing a scented garden.

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Kale and leeks interplantedPolycultures, intercrops, companion plants – all describe more or less the same idea: growing two or more different crops on the same plot at the same time, in a way that one or more of the partners benefits in some way that it otherwise would not. These combinations may be as ancient as the Native American tradition of Three Sisters – beans, corn, squash – or as modern as a new grouping I’ll try this coming season: chufa (a sedge with an edible tuber) with fenugreek.

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A “permablitz” that BATI organized and helped implement on July 20 fulfilled a dream for Cedar Street resident Karen Ireland and was a model project for others. A permablitz is like a flash mob with lasting purpose. It combines the term “permaculture” – land use design based on ecological principles – and “blitz” – a sudden, intense effort. In Ireland’s case, that involved having a dozen or so people come to her yard, dig up the lawn and prepare ground for two gardens.

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Rosa rugosa flowers and hipsWant to increase the amount of homegrown food you produce, with very little work? Plant any or all of these 10 edible, perennial, ornamental species in your landscape. They’ll provide fresh, mouthwatering snacks and sustenance from early spring until well into fall, as well as preserves or tea for winter – all with just a little weeding (or mulching), a little pruning (for some), and compost from time to time. These plants require no support – no trellises, no arbors; they can be grown in the home garden with relatively little concern for pests; and many are quite beautiful!

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Google Earth imageLast spring, whenever I looked up from the mud while trying to outrun the rain to plant two peach trees, one Nanking cherry bush, three highbush blueberries, 100 strawberry plants and a new raspberry hedgerow, I was madly envisioning where the rest of our food would go.

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‘Gigante’ kohlrabiA demonstration plot planted last summer at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center highlighted storage crops – vegetables that are easy to store over winter indoors without canning or freezing and, in some cases, can even be left in the ground over winter for an early spring harvest.

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Trimming allium seedlingsPick yourself up, dust yourself off. Congratulations on surviving one of the roughest go-rounds with Mother Nature that most Maine gardeners can remember. The fact that you are reading an article on gardening tips indicates that you are not ready to give up. The seeds of hope for next year are already sprouting … hope for a blight-free summer, for an abundant tomato crop, for more cucumbers, or winter squash, for doing a better job of weeding or getting cover crops planted or perfectly timing the late plantings of greens.

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I wasn't born into farming. Neither of my parents was from a farming family. But I did have a great uncle, Laurence, who was passionate about growing his own food, and he was instrumental in my being bitten by the farming bug. I don't know where he got it; his father was a professional poet.

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Lettuce gardenIf you have several packets of old lettuce seed, you can combine them and the results could look something like this colorful section of the Peace Sign Garden at MOFGA's Trial Gardens.

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Welded wire trellisIn my 35 years of serious gardening, I have tried most of the common trellising techniques for tomatoes. One day at the local Agway, I saw a pile of welded wire panels that were 50 inches high, 16 feet long and made from galvanized, heavy duty, 8-gauge wire.

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Heather and Francis YoungHeather and Francis Young are two New Zealanders by birth who moved to Illinois for three years in 1969, when they were a young married couple with two small children, and ended up staying for 30 years.

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I've always had a notion to try pallet culture, since the durable structures are readily available and usually free, so I wrapped one in another salvaged material – silt fence – filled the space with old compost and grew cucumbers in it at MOFGA’s Trial Gardens in Unity.

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Marian Morash, in The Victory Garden Cookbook (Knopf, 1982), gives a perfect (and poetic) description of Brussels sprouts. The tiny “cabbages,” she says, “develop along a thick 20- to 22-inch-high stalk that grows straight up from the ground. The sprouts start at the bottom and circle around the stalk, interrupted occasionally by great fanning leaves which top off the plant as an umbrella of protection for the rosettes below.”

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Tat SoiNo surprise: I came home from the Common Ground Country Fair with a cornucopia of gardening ideas; and the lush results that came from taking a little time, space, seed and compost that were displayed at the Fair encouraged me to spend that little bit of extra time this fall to ensure a more prolific garden in all seasons.

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Solomon's SealFor years I have been carefully observing which medicinal herbs and flowers hummingbirds visit frequently in Avena Botanicals’ gardens. Instead of putting out a feeder of sugar water, consider adding some of the following flowers, trees and medicinal herbs to your garden. I plant windowboxes with fuchsias and enjoy standing at my kitchen sink and watching hummingbirds feed just inches away.

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The Teeth of the LionWhether you love them or hate them, dandelions are among the most familiar plants in the world. They're one species that just about anyone can identify at a glance, as familiar to humans as the dog. Dandelions are, quite possibly, the most successful plants that exist, masters of survival worldwide.

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Collecting milkweed seed is a late fall tradition in our family. When the seeds are bursting out of their pods in late fall, they’re carried away on dry and windy days – or stuffed into a paper bag to sit on a shelf by our door all winter.

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Monarch butterflyShortly after moving to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, five years ago, while visiting friends in Carleton County, we learned that the exquisitely beautiful Monarch butterfly, threatened in much of its North American range by over-development, chemical agriculture and habitat destruction, was also struggling in New Brunswick.

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Rain GardenUniversity of Maine Cooperative Extension has a new bulletin, “Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape,” the newest offering in its Landscapes for Maine series. Developed by UMaine Extension assistant scientist Laura Wilson and water resource specialist Mary Gilbertson of the Portland Water District, the publication details how to plan for, design, install and maintain a rain garden on your property, and includes garden designs and plant lists.

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More than 800 gardeners contribute to Cornell University’s Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners Web site, profiling more than 4,100 varieties. Gardeners who visit the site can rate and review varieties as well.

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I have often wondered where plant pollinators, such as bumblebees and hummingbirds, sleep during the night. Recently, while gathering fresh calendula flowers the evening before a tropical storm was to hit, I began seeing individual bumblebees nestled inside dozens of calendula blossoms, as if someone had told them it was time to go to sleep.

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A reader asked for details about sowing carrot seeds on toilet paper, mentioned in Effie Elfer’s feature, “Agricultural Systems in an Old Believers’ Village in Siberia.” Here they are.

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According to the National Gardening Association, the number of container gardeners has more than doubled over the last five years, reaching an all-time high of 26 million participating households.

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For us gardeners, the approach of spring is a most exciting time. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the winter, with its time away from the garden to rest and recharge. After a busy autumn of harvesting the garden’s bounty, winter offers time for quiet contemplation. Perhaps we have, in fact, a bit too much time to reflect on the happy thoughts the garden brings to mind this time of year: The change of seasons. The inexorable passage of time. Decay. Death. But just when you’re ready to toss yourself into the compost pile, springtime arrives and your spirits soar as you look forward to a new season of gardening with your children.

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Toki Oshima drawingRoses may not seem an obvious candidate for the dinner table, but their presence can turn the relatively mundane into something quite extraordinary.

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Greg and Pat Williams described their vegetable garden crop rotation system in the April 2001 issue of their publication, HortIdeas. Their garden crops can be divided into three types: direct-seeded early crops; transplanted, warm-weather crops; and direct-seeded warm-weather crops.

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13 tips on fall gardens by Rick Kersbergen, Waldo County Cooperative Extension.

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The right kind of landscaping can shade a home or block the wind enough to lower heating and cooling costs by up to 30%, according to the Solar Energy Research and Education Foundation. To keep energy bills low in summer, plant shrubbery and trees to shade the east and west walls and to provide some cover for an outdoor air-conditioning unit.

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The summer 1998 issue of Habitats, a publication of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), outlined a method of creating a marsh in your yard by using water running off of a roof, as Craig Tufts has done in Virginia.

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Will BonsallWill Bonsall’s original inspiration for growing crops intensively on his farm came from the book Farmers of Forty Centuries, by F.H. King. Paraphrasing a point from the book, Will told an audience at the Common Ground Country Fair, “Such crowding of plants on the land must be accompanied by crowding of gray matter in the brain.”

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Ellen Louise Payson is considered a pioneer of American landscape architecture. Her prominence in the “Golden Age of American gardens” was acknowledged in some of the leading publications of her time. As a woman practicing in what historically had been a male-dominated field, she helped redefine the character and qualities that established the distinctiveness of American gardens and estates.

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