Vegetable gardens can be planted throughout North America, including in cooler New England climates like Maine. Specific regional gardening strategies and tips, like getting the soil to warm up faster, can help a Maine gardener get the most out of a backyard plot.
Specific varieties of common vegetable species thrive in Maine's climate and soils. Grow such varieties for a lower-maintenance gardening experience. Examples include Fortex and Provider cultivars of green and pole beans; Tuxedo and Luscious varieties of sweet corn; and Big Beef and Ultrasonic tomatoes. The University of Maine has a full list of recommended vegetable varieties for the state's gardens.
USDA Hardiness Zones
Horticulturalists often categorize plants by the USDA hardiness zones in which they can survive. The University of Maine divides the state into eight separate hardiness zones ranging from 3A to 5B. Knowing what zone is predominant in your area can help you choose the right plants for your landscape. Northern and interior Maine ranges from 3A to 4A. The climate warms up as you approach coastal Maine, which lists as a 5B zone.
Growing Season Extensions
Maine's gardens are prone to frost. Because most types of vegetables are very sensitive to cool weather, this results in a very short growing season, according to the University of Maine. The university suggests using plastic mulch to insulate and warm the soil, thereby letting gardeners sow seeds earlier and harvest later. Many garden stores and nurseries sell plastic mulching sheets. Stretch the sheet over the bare garden soil, then cut holes in the plastic where you want to sow seeds or plant vegetable seedlings.
Maine's cooler soil temperatures makes phosphorous less available to hungry plant roots, according to the University of Maine. This can cause poor fruiting in garden vegetable plants like cucumbers and tomatoes. The university suggests using a starter fertilizer before planting your garden. Such fertilizers are specially formulated with a higher proportion of phosphorous--the middle number in a fertilizer's labeled nutrient ratio (e.g. 15-30-15)--to give new plants the boost they need.
Well-drained soils warm up faster than poorly drained soils like clay, according to the University of Maine. Poorly drained soil can further shorten Maine's already brief vegetable growing season. Amending the soil heavily with organic material, such as aged compost, can improve the soil's drainage and lead to a longer growing season. Use enough matter that the soil texture is loose and crumbly to the touch.