April 28, 2013

Maine Gardener: It'll be a greenhouse gas for you gardeners


Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day is Saturday at garden centers throughout Maine, with events designed to get people ready for the season and to promote people's passion for plants.

"This is the fourth one," said Mary Lou Hoskins of Greencare Plantscapes in Hermon, who came up with the idea. "Every year, we get a few more participating businesses."

Hoskins isn't sure that the nurseries and greenhouses bring in a lot more money because of the event, but they do get some recognition.

"The greenhouse and nursery business in the state brings in many millions of dollars," she said, "and they don't get any recognition. We see more and more business going to the big box stores, and we have to fight back a bit."

A Maine Department of Agriculture press release promoting the event quotes Gov. Paul LePage as saying, "In addition to providing thousands of jobs, the horticulture industry contributes over $280 million annually to Maine's economy."

And Maine Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb notes that more than half of the plants sold at independent, family-owned garden centers are grown in the state.

Claudia Risbara of Risbara's Greenhouse at 26 Randolph St., off outer Forest Avenue in Portland, sees a lot of interest from younger people who are interested in the buy-local movement.

While the movement began with people trying to get food that is grown and prepared near their homes, it is expanding to other areas.

"I am seeing a lot of people in their 20s and 30s for the first time," Risbara said, "and that is really exciting."

Risbara is focusing a lot of her events for the day on those even younger than the young adults.

"We will be having snapdragons and marigolds for kids to plant and take home with them," she said. "Last year, that was really big, because the kids just love getting to do some planting."

She will also have demonstrations on growing vegetables in containers and on pruning.

Hoskins said the events statewide will cover a range of things. Some will have book signings, sales, greenhouse tours and more.

One of the key attractions is that local garden experts will be available to ask questions. The event comes early in the season, when most people are just getting started working on their yards, and before the garden centers get busy with Mothers Day and Memorial Day business.

For more information, go to plants4maine.com and click on the "Maine Greenhouse and Nursery Day" button.

AS AN EXPERIMENT, I spread some corn gluten meal on our lawn this spring in an attempt to control crabgrass, dandelions and plantain.

Timing is critical with this product, because you want to do it right before these weeds germinate. Right now would be a good time, and not much later.

Scientists at Iowa State University discovered the pre-emergent weed-fighting benefits of corn gluten meal in 1991, and have been promoting the product ever since.

The only problem with the product is that it does not prevent these weeds once they actually have sprouted.

As a side benefit, however, the corn gluten does contain a lot of nitrogen, so it does work as an organic lawn fertilizer even if you miss the ideal date for its use in weed prevention.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:



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