New England gardening tips

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An Abundance of Gardening
Tips from the Common Ground
Country Fair
by Jean English

The 30th Common Ground Country Fair in Maine this summer offered yet
another chance for old and new friends to gather and share tricks of the
gardening trade. No matter how many fairs the Maine Organic Farmers and
Gardeners Association (MOFGA) puts on, no shortage of exciting new
information ever exists.

As gardeners Nikos Kavanya and Jack Kertesz talked to fair-goers about
interesting plants and practices in the Common Ground vegetable garden, they
were especially excited that three vegetables -- varieties of kale, collards and a
chicory-endive cross -- had reseeded themselves and overwintered with no
protection, emerging from the snow this past spring.

For less hardy crops, fair-goers showed strong interest in the season extension
devices displayed in the gardens. A hoop house made from PVC conduit with
wood supports ensured good growth of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes in the
summer and could extend the harvest season for greens and carrots in the fall
and spring. Kertesz showed an even simpler, wooden A-frame that could cover
a small bed of crops. Smaller hoops made from rebar and covered with plastic
offered the quickest way to protect Swiss chard and other vegetables from cold
weather. (Rebar is concrete reinforcing wire, a wire mesh with 6-inch-square
openings. It's easy to bend over rows of crops.)

Kavanya had a tip for deterring deer: String a single line of fishing filament
from stake to stake so that it drapes slightly above a row of greens, beans or
other vegetables. When deer's whiskers touch the filament, they'll be spooked
and leave the garden.

Walking through the Common Ground Farmers' Market was a feast for anyone
looking for new varieties or for new ways to use old varieties. 'Batwing'
pumpkins, perfect for Halloween with their decorative, deep green and orange
coloring, were featured at some booths. Kate Newkirk displayed her corsages
made from garlic bulbs and a mix of green culinary herbs, explaining that this
was a good way to use smaller garlic bulbs. Move over orchids!

The Exhibition Hall was loaded with gorgeous crafts and fascinating fruit and
vegetable varieties as well as some interesting growing techniques. Leave it to
the Waldo Organic Growers (a local MOFGA chapter) to come up with a
seedling shelter made from a Pendaflex file drawer frame covered with
recycled sheer curtains from a thrift shop, held onto the file frame by
clothespins. These metal file frames should become more abundant for
recycling in the garden as documents are increasingly stored electronically.
The covered frames can protect seedlings from sun, wind, frost and insects.

CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds toured the vegetable tables in the Exhibition Hall
with an engaged group of gardeners. One highlight was the 'Schimmeig
Striped Hollow' open pollinated tomato, grown by MOFGA's farmer in
residence, Clayton Carter. Gardeners heard that this meaty variety makes good
salsa and makes a beautiful presentation in a salad. Gardener extraordinaire
Adam Tomash exhibited the beautiful pale purple and white streaked 'Listada
de Gandia' eggplant -- his favorite eggplant for taste, available from the Seed
Savers Exchange.

As the Common Ground Fair came to a close, one farmer was seen recycling
decorative corn stalks by feeding them to a couple of appreciative,
good-natured goats -- a fitting treat after their weekend of entertaining and
educating fair-goers. Everyone left the Fair satisfied.

This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
(MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME  04988; 207-568-4142;; Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and
gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown
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A hoop house promotes abundant growth of warm weather crops in summer and extends the growing season for cool weather crops in spring and fall.
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