Vegetables that grow well in Maine?

Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)March 30, 2007

I do not know very much about vegetable gardening. From what I have read it appears that not all cukes, tomatoes, squash, etc. are the same. Some do better in Maine than others. Can anyone suggest good varieties for a vegetable garden Newbie?

In my partial sun/shade garden I am thinking:





Scallions (in the sunniest section)



Any other suggestions???

In my sun garden (10 to 11 hours of sun per day) I am thinking:

Tomatoes and more tomatoes



Summer Squash

Winter Squash






Any other suggestions???

I deeply appreciate any advise on varieties you might recommend as I have very little knowledge and even less experience.

Thank you, Fred

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maineman(z5a ME)


For your sun garden you might want to consider eggplants and strawberries. Okra are doable if you start them early. We usually grow some Super Sugar Snap Peas on the fence/trellis. They tolerate cool weather.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 1:11AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

There are so many varieties to try, you just need to experiment and see which ones grow well for you and taste best. I have tried countless varieties of so many vegetables over the years, I have found it is more a matter of learning how to grow each particular vegetable in our climate rather than trying to find which variety of seed grows best. The varieties I end up choosing over and over again are the ones that taste the best to me.

How much sun does your partial shade bed get? There are no vegetables that can tolerate a lot of shade.

For success in our northern gardens (meaning having any production to speak of before our first frost), tomatoes and peppers need to be started indoors early- to mid-April. All herbs are different--some grow from seed quickly, others take more than a year. If you have questions about certain kinds of herbs, please ask.

The only hints, as far as varieties, specific to our climate here in Maine I have found is:

1. "Bell" peppers seem difficult to grow. I have tried several varieties and have never gotten more than a few smallish peppers from each plant. I now only grow "chile" varieties, such as Anaheim, Ancho, Poblano, etc. and the hot ones such as jalopeno. I have also had good luck with what they call the "Italian frying pepper", such as 'Marconi', perfect substitute for bell peppers and very productive.

2. As far as eggplant, I only grow the Oriental hybrids rather than the typical large Italian kind such as 'Black Beauty'. The orientals, such as 'Neon' and 'Ichiban' mature much faster and are more productive.

The above is really all that I can contribute as far as specific varieties that do well in Maine. Year after year I grow 'Provider' bush beans, but that is a matter of taste, plus I like how they grow long and narrow; other people in the area have just as good luck with other varieties. Most years I grow 'Opalka' tomatoes, but that is because they are really sweet and I make a lot of sauce to freeze. There are probably other varieties that mature sooner and are better for eating fresh.

So try whatever variety sounds best to you and feel free to ask as many questions here as you want!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:38AM
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The following is what grows well for me. Your milage may vary. Hope this gives you some ideas.

Pumpkin - The pumpkin that I have found the easiest to grow where I live (northern Oxford County) is New England Pie Pumpkin. Disease and insect resistant and grows like a weed. Averages about 4 pumpkins per hill. They're fairly small pumpkins. One pumpkin will make a pie.

Winter Squash - The easiest non-pumpkin winter squash that I have ever grown is Sweet Dumpling. It also grows like a weed and is fairly bug resistant. It's a stuffing squash. I personally like it stuffed with rice and vegetables, microwave for 4 mins. Excellent. THE best stuffing type squash I have ever had.

Zucchini - Jackpot grows the best for me. It's vigourous, bush type, and parthenocarpic. Parthenocarpic means that every female blossom will produce fruit even if it doesn't get pollinated. It'll just be seedless without pollination. It does get powdery mildew real bad, though it doesn't affect the fruit any.

Yellow Crookneck Squash - Horn of Planty. Very prolific. Also parthenocarpic.

Green Beans - Improved Tendergreen grows the best for me.

Cucumbers - Lemon and Miss Pickler tie for the easiest, though they don't start producing fruit till the end of summer.

Sunflowers - Black Oilseed is extremely easy to grow. Large flowers and edible seeds. For perennial sunflowers, I recommend Sunchokes aka Jerusalem Artichokes. Pretty 2-3" flowers in the summer and edible tubers.

Carrots - Oxheart grows well in just about any soil. 3-4" wide and about 6" long. The taproot doesn't split when it hits a pebble. Second easiest is Red Cored Chantenay (sp?). Third easiest is Purple Dragon.

Bell Pepper - King of the North. I have found that peppers grow best when grown as a perennial. Grow each plant in a pot and bring inside in the winter. Loads of fruit the second year and every following year. If this isn't feasible, King of the North still produces adequately the first year when grown in the ground.

Herbs - Peppermint, Oregano (very invasive), Spearmint, Apple Mint, Dill, Chives, Catmint, Rosemary (take inside in the winter), Parsley, Marjoram, Monarda.

Tomatoes - By far the easiest and most dependable is Celebrity.

Scallions - Redbeard grows okay, but Egyptian Onions grow so much easier and make a passable scallion substitute.

Egyptian Onions - Egyptian Onions are very versatile and grow like a weed. They make topsets (bulbils) in the summer. Plant a topset in the late summer. Next spring the plant can be pulled up and used like scallions. If left in the ground, the plant will go dormant in August at which point the bulb can be pulled and used like a shallot. If that is left in the ground, the following summer, the plant will be mature and produce topsets that can be eaten as a garlic substitute, dried and ground to make a wonderful onion powder, or planted to start the cycle all over again.

I have three Egyptian Onion beds:
1) The "Mother" bed that I harvest the topsets for planting and eating. I do not harvest the bulbs, except for thinning, since the mature bulbs multiply. I also harvest the onion greens in the winter. Dig under the snow and cut the greens when needed. Because the greens can be cut in the winter, Egyptian Onions are also called "Winter Onions".
2) The "Scallion" bed that is replanted every year with topsets and are pulled the following spring.
3) The "Shallot" bed that is replanted every year with topsets and the bulbs are harvested the following summer. The bulbs can last up to a year or more in the refrigerator.

If you would like some egyptian onions, I could send you a few bulbs. Post a reply if interested.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 9:55AM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)


Thank you so much for the suggestion of using a fence for a trellis. I never would have thought of this. My neighbor and I share a chain link fence that runs 40 50 feet. I have always felt intimidated at the thought of building my own trellis so I have not given serious thought to growing anything that would need trellis support. You have opened up so much for me to consider. I ran out and purchased a package of Super Sugar Snap Peas today.

Might you have any other suggestions for using this chain link fence? Cucumbers? Squash?

Thank you, Fred

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:56PM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)


Thank you for putting so much thought and effort into your response. To answer your question about sun in my partial shade garden, it gets about 6 hours of sun. Most of the day it is shaded by a tall oak tree located on the south side. For this reason I have chosen to dedicate this garden to leafy vegetables.

My Sun Garden gets much more light. 10 to 11 hours a day.

I appreciate your advice that peppers and tomatoes be started indoors early. I think I will simply purchase tomato seedlings when the time is right. Your suggestion about pepper varieties is very helpful. I would like to start growing peppers indoors ASAP. Is there any place in the Portland area where I can purchase the varieties that you suggest?

> If you have questions about certain kinds of herbs, please ask.

Thank you for your kind invitation to ask about herbs. I only wish I was knowledgeable enough to ask an intelligent question. Do herbs require full sun? Can I sow them in my garden early or do I need to wait until after the last frost date?

You are very kind to offer so much advice. Thank you, Fred

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 8:43PM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)


I am dizzy with amazement at the depth of your knowledge. Thank you for suggesting Sweet Dumpling as a Winter Squash. I did not find this in my seed shopping today. I have never heard of a "stuffing-squash" but I love the idea of filling a squash with rice and vegetables and simply nuking it in the microwave. I am a bachelor, so anything that is easy works well for me. Do you know where I can buy Sweet Dumpling seeds anywhere near Portland?

You have taught me a new word and a new concept. Parthenocarpic.

Thank you for suggesting Yellow Crookneck. I found Yellow Crookneck seeds today at the new Whole Foods store in town. I could not find Jackpot Zucchini that you suggested. I found Dark Green Zucchini. All I know about Zucchini is that everyone who grows it is always inundated with more Zucchini than they know what to do with. Everyone is giving Zucchini to all their friends whenever they stop by. It seems like something that grows like a weed no matter which variety you grow.

I do want to sow Sunflowers. I have never seen Black Oilseed anywhere. Can you tell me where I might find Black Oilseed seeds? I have Mammoth and Red Sun seeds.

Bell Peppers: I will keep looking for King of the North. I have not found it yet.

Tomatoes: I am MOST excited about tomatoes. I am sure I will overextend myself and grow everything I can imagine. Then, hopefully, learn some lessons about what works in Maine and what does not. I have seen Celebrity seedlings before so I know I can purchase this variety. Thank you for suggesting this.

Your understanding of onions is other-worldly. How the heck does one ever acquire such knowledge and proficiency? I did not understand much of what you said but I deeply appreciate your efforts to educate me about onions and scallions.

As a Newbie, all I know about vegetable gardening is the hope that you plant a seed and at some point something appears that you can eat.

Thank you so much for your offer to send me a few bulbs. You are too kind. Yes, absolutely I would love to have some Egyptian bulbs. Thank you.

Fred Christman
154 Clark Street
Portland, ME 04102

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 10:21PM
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maineman(z5a ME)


""Bell" peppers seem difficult to grow. I have tried several varieties and have never gotten more than a few smallish peppers from each plant."

I have had pretty good luck with "RedStart" from Stokes, because it's one of the earliest red bells. I also start it very early under lights and they usually have small peppers on them when I set them into the garden.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 11:44PM
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maineman(z5a ME)


"Might you have any other suggestions for using this chain link fence? Cucumbers? Squash?"

I don't know of any squash that are good on fences, although there may be some, particularly in the winter squash category. Most summer squash now days have a bush plant habit.

Cucumbers will take to the fence well. Here in Maine, cucumber beetles transmit bacterial wilt, so be prepared to stagger-plant cucumbers at several different times and keep the plants well separated on the fence, so the bacteria don't move from one plant to another.

Pole beans are one of my favorite fence climbers. In fact, I've quit planting bush beans, because I don't like to bend over to pick them. Fortex is perhaps the best tasting variety, but the earliest by far is Kwintus from Park's.

Last year I had good luck planting a single Fortex bean under lights in a big pot (I use the bottom parts of 2-liter soft drink bottles) a few weeks before plant-out time. It was beginning to vine at our safe no-frost date of Memorial day, and that single plant spread over a good area of the fence and produced several "messes" of tasty green beans. I plan to repeat that this year with a dozen or so pots. Green beans germinate poorly in cold soil, and our soil is still on the chilly side the last week of May and the first week of June, so the early start indoors seems like a good idea to me.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:32AM
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I'm not sure where you can buy Sweet Dumpling seeds locally, but there are several seed catalogs and websites that sell it. To cook a stuffed sweet dumpling (also works with acorn squash), first break off the stem. Cut the pointed end off and scoup out the seeds. Stuff the squash with rice, vegetables, or whatever and put the pointed end back on top. Microwave on high for 4 minutes for a 4" dia squash, longer for larger sizes. The skin will peel clean right off after it is cooked, so virtually no waste.

Seeds of Black Oilseed Sunflower are usually sold by the pound by seed companies that supply to farms. It is one of the most commonly grown cultivars of edible sunflower seeds. As the name suggests, it is also grown for it oil. Small packets are sometimes hard to find. We just bought 40 lbs of seed, so we have plenty, and I'll send you some when I send you the egyptian onion bulbs.

I wouldn't call myself very knowledgeable, though several generations of farmers before me does help.

I plan on visiting relatives sometime next week. They live near a post office. I don't, so I'll probably wait till I visit them before I get the stuff out to you. In return, I ask only that you help out another newbie who may need your help sometime in the future.

nwl at mail dot com

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:36AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

MM, thanks for the tip re: Red Start. Perhaps I could persude you to share a few seeds? I have lots of other seeds and plants to trade.

Fred, if you are buying transplants, come down here to Green Mountain Transplants on Rte 111 in Arundel. It is actually just past the Biddeford line--take the Bidd. exit from the turnpike, turn right, go past the new Target, Home Depot, etc. then about 3/4 mile, GMT is on the right. It is also an Agway store that may have your sunflower seeds. GMT is primarily a mail-order seedling and perennial/annual starts business. They usually open their greenhouses to the public on May 1, after they have mostly finished shipping to their customers. They have a wide variety of tomatoes, hybrids and heirloom, as well as peppers. Also herbs, which may be easier to grow from transplants than seed. Each seedling is only $1.25 or so, or less.

As far as finding seeds, I think you'll find that you can get much better selection and more varieties of seeds from the catalogs vs. off the racks in the stores. Try Johnny's, or Pinetree Seeds, both located here in Maine and online. Request a catalog and you'll be on their mailing lists for next year, so you can order your seeds ahead of time. It may be possible to order some seeds you want online right now and receive them in a short period of time, I have had very quick shipping with Pinetree.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 9:14AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


Email me your postal address. I think I still have a few seeds left over in a RedStart packet that I purchased back in 2005, and some of them might still grow. They grew OK last year. I'll split them with you. I won't need anything in return, because this year I am focusing most of my growing space on my hobby of breeding zinnias. Some of my last year's zinnia crosses are germinating under lights right now.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 3:30PM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)


Your seeds for Egyptian Onions and Black Oilseed Sunflowers arrived today. Thank you so much. I am very excited. When should I plant them?

Thank you, Fred

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 7:43PM
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paulaj(z5 ME)

May I suggest leeks too? I have a permanent bed set aside, with walls made of planks and cinderblocks. I take the soil out and use it elsewhere after harvest, then fill in with compost as the new leeks grow.

Lots of good info here! I never thought much about Egyptian onions; now I'll try them. MM, I love Fortex pole beans too. Thanks for the early-growing tip. I have a sprouted seed (germination test) and will put it in a pot.

I grow mostly New Ace Bell Peppers,and get a great yield. You need to protect them when they are planted out. I warm up the soil with black plastic, and put a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut out(sometimes the top too depending how warm it is) over each plant. If your peppers are not producing, they may be dropping their blossoms. They need calcium. A bit of bone meal at the base of each plant will help them keep their blossoms and flourish. I just finished the last freezer pot of peppers from '06. It may be late to start peppers now? They need bottom warmth and up to two weeks to germinate.

I love Sweet Dumpling squash too.

Last year I had good luck with corn. But it was amazing how borers appeared out of nowhere.

It's good to have a little garden talk. What weather!

In mid spring I often travel to Connecticut on business. I always stop at a greenhouse and pick up seedlings. The greenhouses around here are not far enough along for me on most plants. You probably have better stocked ones in southern Maine.

If I don't know a variety of veg I just look at the sowing-to-harvest days on the seed packet.

Good luck with your new garden!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 9:33AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


"I love Fortex pole beans too. Thanks for the early-growing tip. I have a sprouted seed (germination test) and will put it in a pot."

Now is probably too soon to start them. Pole beans grow rather fast, and I think it would be better to start them inside sometime during the month of May. In my previous successful experiment, I planted the seed May 20th and set out the vine in the first week of June. I helped it start on the fence by carefully twining the vine a turn or two around a vertical wire of the fence.

I think pole bean vines would be difficult to manage indoors by the four-week point. This year I plan to experiment with starting dates ranging from about the first of May to May 20th, and tempt frost by setting them in the garden from the middle of May onward.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 1:05PM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

MM, the Red Start peppers have sprouted!

I've never started beans indoors before (besides the class project my daughter did in 1st grade), but Provider supposedly can be planted in cooler soil than other beans.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 8:16AM
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maineman(z5a ME)


I'm glad to hear they germinated. I haven't planted mine yet, but I guess I will soon.

I'm kind of curious to see how this Nor'easter is going to develop. It's interfering with my work on the foundation preparation of our new lean-to greenhouse.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:49AM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)

Paula, Thanks for the great idea of protecting peppers with milk jugs. And bone meal suggestion. I started bell peppers indoors and have a good number of 3 inch seedlings so far. I also appreciate your advice to make sure the soil is warm.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 6:44PM
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okay I know this is last years posts but hoping some of you are still around and will help a fellow mainer who wants to start a veg. garden. I have wanted one for years and finally have a house with a big yard. I am wondering when is the best time to start preparing.. I am printing off all the other posts to help me with remembering things but if you ahve more you can offer I would greatly appriciate it. I am excited to get started and hoping the kids will be excited as me and actually try some new veggies. thank you from a midcoast mom of 3

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 8:17PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

Vielchen, I had beautiful peppers last least 4 per plant and 6-8 on some plants. They were only medium size for the most part though...3-4 inches across, but certainly nice enough size for me! A purple pepper was especially productive! I planted them next to tomatoes and beets in raised beds.

Popped them in the ground around June 1 last year.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 1:55AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

zengeos, do you remember what variety peppers you grew?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 6:30AM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

not offhand, my sister gave me the seedlings that she grew from seed last year. Likely heirlooms as she focuses on heirloom tomatoes and peppers.

This year I am growing peppers and tomatoes from seed myself...a mixture of colors...mostly bell peppers.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 8:38AM
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