Articles by Reeser Manley

A ladybird beetle with its eggs.

Non-native trees, shrubs also can sustain the garden food web

By Reeser Manley on June 11, 2014, at 2:08 p.m.
Gardeners in tune with nature appreciate the importance of native plants in sustaining the garden food web. We know, for example, that caterpillars of numerous butterfly and moth species (members of the insect order Lepidoptera) feed on the leaves of native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, and these caterpillars are …

The merry month of May in the vegetable garden

By Reeser Manley on May 04, 2012, at 7:33 p.m.
It was a cold weekend to be bound to the garden and yet by Sunday evening the asparagus crowns were in the ground as well as the onion and leek transplants that arrived Saturday by mail. Spinach seeds also were sown with hopes of a warming trend. All of this …
Photo taken the third week of April showing that soil temperature is the best indicator of sowing and planting times.

Garden advice for May

By Reeser Manley on April 27, 2012, at 11:53 a.m.
Guided by soil temperature rather than the calendar or phase of the moon, here is a bit of gardening advice for the month of May. These ideas, plus many more, can be found in my upcoming book, “The New England Gardener’s Year, a Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, …
Three exuberant native perennials, joe-pye weed (back left), sneezeweed (back right), and goldenrod (front), take center stage during summer in the University of Maine Cooperative Extension native plant landscape in Ellsworth. These and other flowering perennials will be available at the May 19 plant sale.

Put a mailbox in your garden

By Reeser Manley on April 20, 2012, at 3:44 p.m.
The gardening season is under way with perfect timing, a week off from teaching and nothing to keep me out of the garden. The shadblow serviceberry in Marjorie’s Garden has burst into bloom on the heels of the native honeysuckle and the soil temperature reached 53 degrees by midweek. I …
A volunteer pansy, the seed dropped from a potted plant on the porch rail.

Include edible flowers in the vegetable garden

By Reeser Manley on April 13, 2012, at 4:33 p.m.
There is a fuzzy line between edibles and ornamentals in Marjorie’s garden. Take as an example the self-sown calendulas that pop up each year among the garden peas. They do double duty, their flowers adding a spot of color to the garden as well as to our summer meals. When …
Root crops, such as these carrots and turnips, begin with direct sowing of seeds in the April garden.

Tips on direct sowing seeds in the vegetable garden

By Reeser Manley on April 06, 2012, at 4:21 p.m.
Many vegetable crops are best started by sowing their seeds directly into well-prepared soil. Root crops such as carrots, beets, radishes and turnips are good examples. Their seedling tap roots are too easily damaged by transplanting seedlings grown indoors. Most gardeners direct sow beans, peas and corn, although I know …
These rhubarb crowns arrived early from the grower and were heeled (temporarily stored) in a garden bed for a week or so while their planting bed is under construction.  After placing them in this shallow trench, buds up, they were covered with soil so that the buds were just below the soil surface.  This technique also works for asparagus crowns and bareroot herbaceous perennials.

An April garden checklist

By Reeser Manley on March 30, 2012, at 9:52 p.m.
Framed by uncertainties of weather, here are a few garden tips for April. They were gleaned from my upcoming book, “The New England Gardener’s Year, a Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Upstate New York,” to be published later this year by Cadent Publishing. …
Corn in the tasseling stage with winter squash growing at its feet in summer 2011 in the garden of Ladonna Bruce and Stuart Hall in Stockton Springs. In the Three Sisters Garden, beans would be growing up the corn stalks, but with or without beans, raccoons will leave this corn alone.

Growing sweet corn in the small garden

By Reeser Manley on March 23, 2012, at 11:44 a.m.
When Lynne was around 10 years old, she grew a small patch of sweet corn in the garden as a 4-H project. When all was said and done, in response to the prompt on the project report form asking what she’d learned, she wrote, “I learned that raccoons really like …
This solitary bee condo was made from five nest boxes constructed as described in this article. Attached to a fence post in Marjorie's Garden, it is decorative as well as functional. Many of its cavities are filled with dormant adult bees, waiting for spring.

Will pollinators be there when you need them?

By Reeser Manley on March 16, 2012, at 3:20 p.m.
Whether this will be your first vegetable gardening season or your 50th, your success with many crops will depend on the timely presence of pollinators. Cucurbits, including cucumbers, squash and melons, are pollinated by bees carrying pollen from male flowers to female flowers. Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are also bee-pollinated. …

The cultivation of June-bearing strawberries through the year

By Reeser Manley on March 09, 2012, at 2:17 p.m.
This is the last of three columns devoted to the cultivation of June-bearing strawberries. The first two columns, “Getting started with June-bearing strawberries” and “Recommended varieties of June-bearing strawberries” can be found online by Googling my name and these titles. We think of strawberries as a perennial crop, at least …

Recommended varieties of June-bearing strawberries

By Reeser Manley on March 02, 2012, at 6:16 p.m.
If you are interested in growing strawberries, specifically the June-bearing varieties, last week’s column got you started in terms of site selection and preparation, as well as planting. Perhaps you have already ordered your dormant crowns for planting in April. If not, I can offer the following variety recommendations from …

A new gardener’s guide to choosing vegetable varieties

By Reeser Manley on Jan. 20, 2012, at 5:08 p.m.
What is the best summer squash variety for a Maine garden? While there are lists of recommended varieties of every vegetable that can be grown in Maine, if I really want to know which variety will grow trouble-free in my garden or which variety has real flavor, I rely on …

Include heirloom vegetables in your garden this year

By Reeser Manley on Jan. 13, 2012, at 1:50 p.m.
The new year brings catalogs by snail mail and email invitations to online catalogs, each sender hankering for a fraction of my seed money for 2012. I know something about the business of selling garden seeds. My first paying job in horticulture was with the George W. Park Seed Co. …
Aphids can form large colonies on garden plants, as in this photo of aphids on swamp milkweed seed pods, but they seldom do serious damage to the plant. And they attract predatory insects which control many different herbivores.

Managing garden herbivores, Part 3: cutworms and aphids

By Reeser Manley on Jan. 06, 2012, at 7:14 p.m.
Cutworms, the larval (caterpillar) stage of several species of night-flying moths, are a major herbivore in Marjorie’s Garden each spring, cutting down unprotected young transplants at or below the soil surface and devouring seedlings before they break through the soil. As with all garden herbivores, understanding the life cycle of …

Managing garden herbivores, Part 2: Japanese beetles

By Reeser Manley on Dec. 30, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.
Second in a series for new gardeners on managing herbivores in the garden, this week’s column focuses on the Japanese beetle, a non-native leaf-munching insect that is here to stay. Some gardening seasons, such as the one just passed, will be worse than others in terms of sheer numbers of …

Here’s the latest word from gardeners in the slug wars

By Reeser Manley on Dec. 23, 2011, at 7:28 p.m.
This column, the first of a series on managing herbivores in the chemical-free garden, is part of a larger series of columns devoted to helping new gardeners. This seems a fitting task for the winter months, allowing the novice gardener time to gather ideas and materials. In June 2009, a …

A vegetable crop planting guide for new gardeners

By Reeser Manley on Dec. 16, 2011, at 1:55 p.m.
On Oct. 5, I cut the garden’s last three summer squash. They came from a small bed of plants sown in early August, plants that produced double handfuls of yellow crooknecks in late September, enough for the family with extra to give away. A hard frost hit that early October …

Planning what to grow in your first vegetable garden

By Reeser Manley on Dec. 09, 2011, at 11:17 a.m.
I sit in front of the wood stove on many snowy January evenings and browse the seed catalogs that come in the mail that time of year — Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Comstock Garden Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds and so many others — and I want to grow ten times …
This photo shows some of the raised beds in Marjorie’s Garden this past early summer, including beds growing raspberries, trellised cucumbers, potatoes (covered with a row cover to exclude potato beetles), and highbush blueberries. The walkways had just been mulched with wood chips.

Looking ahead: Tips on planning your first vegetable garden

By Reeser Manley on Dec. 02, 2011, at 11:11 p.m.
For gardeners throughout Maine, the long wait begins. Garden tools lean against the basement wall as seed catalogs pile up on the writing table. Thoughts turn to the year ahead and, for some, to starting their first vegetable garden. As a would-be vegetable gardener, the first decision is where to …

Can growing vegetables really save you money?

By Reeser Manley on Nov. 25, 2011, at 3:33 p.m.
Can I lower my food costs by growing vegetables in a home garden? This is a simple question with anything but a simple answer. Before bringing in all of the complicating factors, we can look at this question in its simplest form: Will organic vegetables grown in a home garden …