So far, we are lucky to have wiped out the browntail moth infestation in January, and we managed to get the garden planted in spite of a very cold and rainy spring. The sorrel has the largest leaves we've ever seen, and it is the first fresh green of the season. The garlic looks terrific! I even pruned the blackberries and raspberries before everything thawed out.
What challenges did or does your project face?
Browntail moths are the biggest challenges in MidCoast Maine, and they are dangerous. The cold weather, a trip to Missouri for my mother's 100th birthday, and a terrible case of bronchitis slowed us down, but we are bouncing back! Also, Veterans Way is not on GPS, so I tasked our legislator with pleading with the Gods of GPS to be included. We also lost a plum tree, a grape, and most of the perennial herb bed to winter kill.
How are you working to overcome them?
I suited up in January and lopped off 16 browntail colonies and disposed of them safely. With the SeedMoney grant, we applied several scoops of compost, a variety of soil amendments, and purchased seeds (plus received donated seeds from Pinetree Gardens) to start hundreds of seedlings. We JUST got the main tomato crop and the cucurbits in the 32 raised beds. We are also working on recruiting more volunteers, and we hold an annual Volunteers BBQ in the Grape Arbor in the back garden. The plum will be replaced with a couple of pears for our edible forest, and the herbs have been replanted.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
The main lesson was in dealing with browntail moths. Browntail moth hairs are like microscopic, venomous porcupine quills that can cause a severe rash. It's best to deal with them in the winter, when they are dormant. Spinosad will put them down and help prevent recolonization, but a blowtorch or loppers are effective, as long as you protect your skin and face. They MUST be destroyed safely. The hairs can linger for up to 2 years!