My vacations are always better when I combine it with a trip to a botanical garden. So during a recent vacation in mid-coast Maine, I was lucky enough to also make a trip to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor, Maine (zone 5b). This was my third visit to CMBG, and I have loved each visit. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a first-class botanical garden that uses only organic methods, with an unusual devotion to our pollinators. Read on to discover their organic gardening tips.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offers ornamental gardens, a kitchen garden, water features, the best (and largest) children’s garden I have ever seen, and trails through an evergreen forest that bring you to the ocean. CMBG is the largest botanical garden in New England and one of the few botanical gardens on a coast.
How They Garden Organically
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens follows organic practices (with no certification).
Says Dan Robarts, Propagator and Horticulturist, “We follow strict organic practices to best sustain diversity of life while minimizing any potential negative impacts of cultivated garden spaces. “
Their organic methods aren’t hard and we home gardeners could mimic their processes for fantastic results. Here are the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens organic gardening tips:
- First, add compost to improve the soil (usually combined with mulch). Depending on the needs of the bed, they add a light coat to as much as 2″ every season. This also helps with weed control and water retention.
- Use an organic fertilizer. Their choice is Nature’s Source (a rebrand, originally called Daniel’s). This liquid feed fertilizer is a low-nitrogen fertilizer, with a N-P-K ratio of 3-1-1. They apply it a few times a season on select plants. To understand why organic fertilizers are better for your garden and the environment, see my post, Are Organic Fertilizers Less Effective?
- No pesticides, of course. They know their bugs, and which ones cause problems. Gardeners hand-pick the bad bugs. When necessary they bring in other predatory bugs, such as parasitic wasps. These wasps helped control the lily leaf beetle. They have also used nematodes on the lawn areas to keep grubs (and Japanese beetles) under control. For more information on nematodes, see my post, How I Got Rid Of Grubs and Japanese Beetles Organically.
- They hand pull weeds. “We would never use a weed killer because it could affect the surrounding plants or the bed itself,” says Horticulturist Sharmon Provan.
- In addition, plant smart. For example, CMBG had a large rose bed in the center of their Great Lawn. But there was a problem. All of the roses planted together were acting as a beacon, attracting Japanese beetles. So they pulled out the bed. Instead of giving up on roses, they interplant roses with other shrubs and perennials. In addition they also interplant herbs, such as lavender and oregano. These herbs attract beneficial insects like hoverflies, whose young feed on aphids–one of the biggest pests of roses.
- Lastly, know your source. Dan Robarts added, “Know your grower and what they are adding to their plants. You want to avoid chemicals.”
As a result, the gardens are vibrant, abundant, and alive with pollinators. They are gardens that are beautiful to the core. Make a trip to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to see how good organic gardening can be.
Next Post: Find out how Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens helps the bees in the post, Bee Garden Favorites at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.