- Trees, Shrubs, Roots and Vines
Trees, Shrubs, Roots and Vines
Trees, shrubs, roots and vines all intermingle, interact and cooperate with one another to make the landscape what it is—the ultimate polyculture—the model to which we aspire in our own yards. We offer the best of the best for you to create your own landscape.
In the past we’ve attempted to categorize our offerings and we were never quite satisfied. When does a small tree become a shrub? When does a large shrub become a tree? What about the roots that have vining tops? How do we categorize beautiful flowering trees that attract wildlife and produce fruit for the kitchen table? Where do we put the edible ornamentals? The ornamental edibles?
Also called Juneberry, Parsonberry, Serviceberry, Saskatoon, Shadblow, Shadbush and Shad. Folks Downeast call it Wild Pear.
Spring-flowering shrubs and small trees with blueberry-like sweet edible berries. Very hardy genus, pronounced am-uh-LAN-sheer or -she-ur. Beautiful fragrant 5-petaled white flowers are early harbingers of spring in Maine.
Purplish-black sweet berries good in pies, cobblers, jellies, jams, smoothies and cakes. Berries are about the size of a lowbush blueberry, or a bit larger, and seedier. Historically used by native peoples to make pemmican. Popular with wildlife.
Nice red-orange fall color. Thrives along stream beds as well as on rocky slopes. Tolerates partial shade, salt, pollution and wet spots but not standing water.
Considered to be self-fruitful but we recommend planting with other Amelanchiers to ensure pollination. Note: taxonomically, Amelanchiers are a point of confusion in the nursery trade where common names and even botanical names are used interchangeably. Furthermore, these plants easily hybridize with each other. We’ve highlighted salient features of each species in the product descriptions.
Asparagus officinalis. A spring staple for millennia, asparagus is thought to have originated around the Mediterranean Sea, perhaps in Asia Minor. The pharaohs, Greeks and Romans were all aware of its highly nutritious qualities and delectable flavor. The earliest known American horticultural advertisement, from March 1719, is for “English Sparrow-grass Roots.”
Occasionally non–spear-forming females will show up in a planting. Leave them be or rogue them out as you wish.
Requires fertile soil with pH 6.8–7.2 and high levels of phosphorus. John visited friends who added Biochar to their soil. Wow, were their roots beefy! Asparagus doesn’t like weed competition. Plant when you receive your order or as soon as the ground can be worked.
Plant 14–18" apart, 6–10" deep, in trenches 4' apart. Or dig your trenches somewhat deeper and fill the bottom with 4" of compost and rotted manure. Lay plants with crown up and cover with 2" of soil. Plants emerge very slowly. As young shoots grow, add soil gradually, just covering the shoots, until the trench is full. In late fall, remove dead stalks and mulch with 3" of manure.
Second summer: Add lime, rock fertilizers and nitrogen as needed. Control weeds but do not injure crowns.
Later years: Same routine but increase fertilizer. Be sure to leave some spears each year to grow stalks that will support the roots and give you more spears next year. Keep the bed weed-free and mulched heavily.
New research shows that asparagus can be selectively harvested for two weeks during the second growing season, for four weeks in the third, and a full season thereafter. We recommend caution in harvesting. Before the third or fourth season, harvest only the largest shoots from vigorous plants so the young plants can establish themselves. Uncut shoots become a light green feathery hedge, a beautiful backdrop to a flower garden. Honeybees love the dainty dangling flowers of asparagus.
Aronia spp. has gotten a lot of press in recent years as a superfruit: it has wonderful medicinal qualities, works well in a range of culinary applications and is an important wildlife plant in the native landscape.
Both red (Aronia arbutifolia) and black (Aronia melanocarpa) chokeberries are edible when cooked, but we emphasize the red as more of a wildlife and landscape plant, while the black may be a better choice for medicine and food. Black chokeberries are commercially cultivated for their high levels of antioxidants and myriad health benefits. Both species are small rounded shrubs with blueberry-sized fruit and show-stopping electric-red fall foliage.
Begins to bear fruit in its third year and increases to full yield around five years. Ripens in late July or early August. If not harvested, the berries will hang on the bushes until songbirds eat them in late winter. Will form colonies. Not particularly picky about where it grows: adaptable to wet or dry areas, sun or partial shade. Free of diseases and insects.
Evergreen trees tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but prefer a pH between 5.5–6.5. If you are planting in dry or well-drained areas, dip tree roots in Agri-gel® solution before planting to protect roots from drying out. Do not use Agri-gel in heavy clay soils or wet areas. Do not soak conifers overnight; a good dipping is sufficient.
Before planting, prune off a third of the roots. Dig a small hole or make an incision with a spade or planting bar and slip the tree in to the level it grew in the nursery, never below. Fan the roots out; do not wind them around in the hole. It is much better to prune the roots than to crowd them in the hole. Water well and pack the earth down with your feet to remove air pockets.
Young conifers need ¾–1" of rain per week. Periodic deep waterings are far more beneficial than frequent sprinklings. No fertilization is necessary in the first year. In later years you may fertilize around the drip line.
To make evergreens dense and compact, remove the central leader and the center bud at the end of each side branch.
- Cornelian Cherry
Cornus mas 20-25' x 15-20' Gaining popularity in the U.S., the fruits of this Old World gem have been harvested by humans for thousands of years. Bright red pear-shaped edible “cherries” set heavily in late summer. Let them fully ripen to their full sweet potential before picking. Clusters of small delicate yellow flowers cover the leafless tree in early spring for a striking show before the forsythias even think of waking up.
Long-lived large shrub with upright rounded habit makes a great edible hedge or can be pruned to a small tree. Nutritious, medicinal, high in vitamin C and good in jam, syrup, tarts, fruit leather and wine. The wood is hard and strong, once used for spears and wheel spokes. This plant has it all. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun but otherwise adaptable. Likely to bear fruit in 2–3 years.
Partially self-fertile—plant multiples to improve yields. Native to Europe and Asia. Z4/5.
Praise for Cornelian Cherry
These virtually indestructible plants, beautiful in the landscape during all seasons, annually bear obscenely huge masses of stunning and very useful fruit. What do they taste like? A cross between a sweet cherry and a cranberry, definitely tart and also definitely sweet, but with a unique, indescribable flavor. I have not had anyone taste them and not like them. Puckery when underripe, but when fully ripe, they can be eaten out of hand. When ripe on the tree they soon drop off, so they must be picked frequently. Or they can be picked slightly prematurely and ripened indoors. What about the pits? The pit is elongated like that of an olive, so hand-cranked cherry pitters don’t work at all. There’s enough meat on these fruit that squeezing the pits out by hand is productive enough to be worthwhile. But I have found a punch-type pitter with a smaller-than-usual plunger and ejection hole that works moderately well, made by Westmark of Germany. To use it you must hold the elongate fruit upright to the plunger.
Juice does not flow out of these meaty fruits, even when they have been mangled by hand-squeezing out the pits. And they are very high in pectin. A perfect jam can be made simply with 6 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. And it is delicious! Using the same sugar ratio, the fruit puréed and sweetened is great added to yogurt and spooned over cornbread or pancakes. An apple crisp with about 20% cornelian cherries is spectacular! Or substitute coarsely chopped cornelians in your favorite cranberry muffin recipe. The sweetened purée also makes an excellent fruit leather. I use frozen fruit for this, since fall is so busy, and thaw it in winter when the fireplace is going. A 200° oven is perfect for drying the leather without actually cooking the fruit. Sprinkle a little flour on parchment paper and spread the puree on that. The flour helps separate the leather from the paper. This is a fantastic snack. But I like to fold it up and use kitchen shears to cut it into raisin-sized pieces. These pieces folded into your favorite cornbread recipe make a delectable treat. Jack Kertesz says this is a match made in heaven. Personally, I think it is too good to share with the gods.
Malus spp. Both flowering and culinary Crabapples are really just apples in disguise. The only difference is the smaller fruit size. We define a crab as any apple less than 2" in diameter. Some crabs bear edible or culinary or cider-making fruit. Some have persistent wildlife fruit that hangs on the tree for weeks or even months. Others have hardly any fruit at all. The flowers, tree form and even the shape of the leaves can vary subtly or profoundly. Most are magnificent in bloom and are often ornamental year round, especially in winter when the leaves drop and the trees show off their interesting forms. Although crabs prefer full sun and deep well-drained soils of 5.5–6.5 pH, they are quite forgiving and will thrive in many locations with a little TLC. They don’t like to be drowned or starved for water, and they do need to be protected from borers, mice and deer.
• Click here for more info about apple pests.
Most crabapples require little or no pruning except when a branch is broken or you feel compelled to shape your tree in one way or another. We like to encourage each tree to assume its own unique form.
All crabapple trees need a second variety for pollination, but any different crabapple or apple blooming at the same time, within a quarter mile, will do.
- American Cranberries
Vaccinium macrocarpon. Dense low lustrous evergreen ground cover, reddish purple in fall and loaded with large red berries. Once established, makes a beautiful and edible “lawn.” Handpick or rake like blueberries before hard frost. Use fresh, freeze or store in a cool basement or root cellar for months. Bitter and alkalizing effects make it one of the most common remedies for bladder infections. An excellent source of vitamin C. Annually flooded for frost protection and harvesting convenience in commercial operations, but not necessary in home plots. Self-fertile. Native to northeastern U.S. and Canada. Z2.
Cranberries are shallow-rooted and require light acid soil (pH 4.0–5.5), preferably cool, moist and high in organic matter, similar to soil in which blueberries grow well. Will grow in dry locations. Plant them in spring once the ground can be worked in a bed or in a naturalized setting.
We no longer recommend mixing in sulfur to acidify the soil. Sulfur is slow-acting and can be added to soil surface in subsequent years if necessary. Mixing it into the soil can damage tender young roots.
Instructions for a 5x5' bed (10 plants or divisions):
For acidic “blueberry” soils: If you’re fortunate to have a site where blueberries grow naturally, clear a spot of vegetation, cultivate the soil, add some peat and sand if you like, and you’re ready to plant.
Sandy soils: Remove soil 10" deep and mix soil with 2 bales of damp peat moss. Replace mixture in bed and cover with 2" of sand.
Clay or silty soils: Remove soil 10" deep and place it around the edge of the bed as a berm. Replace the soil with a 50-50 mix of soil and peat (about 2 bales of peat). Cover with an additional 2" of sand.
Plant cranberries 12" apart, so the roots are in the peat and the sand is covering the lower portion of the stems
Remove all weeds as needed. Water the plants weekly so that the peat is moist but not saturated. Add nitrogen at a rate of ⅓–1 lb (or 20–50 lbs of manure) per 100 sq feet each year. No pesticides should be necessary.
Handpick before first hard frost when berries are red.
In late fall, cover the bed to protect the plants from the drying effect of winter winds. Use a mulch of leaves or pine needles; or cover with polyester row cover and then clear plastic; or cover with row cover and then plenty of leaves. You may want to bait for mice under row cover or plastic.
Remove mulch in early April. Protect flower buds from 28° frosts by covering with plastic during frosty nights.
Every two years partially cover the plants with a ½–1" layer of sand in spring before growth begins. This will help produce more berries and keep weeds down.
- Highbush Cranberries
Vaccinium trilobum. 8-12' x same. Also known as Crampbark. Medicinal multi-stemmed native shrub. Clusters of 4" flat white flowers in May attract beneficial insects. Quite lovely in bloom. Pendulous bunches of red berries ripen mid-October, popular with dozens of bird species. Fruit is extremely rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Although considered a wildlife plant, berries can be used for juice, jam, fruit leather and syrups—when boiling them down, don’t let the somewhat unpleasant odor deter you.
Bark is one of the most effective anti-spasmodic native medicinals. Harvest bark in April or early May before leaves emerge by running a sharp knife down the long younger stems. Make tea or tincture to relieve cramping and muscle tension of various sorts.
Tolerates dry soils that are high in organic matter, but prefers rich moist well-drained soils, sun or shade. Good for screens and hedges. Soil pH 6–7. Susceptible to viburnum leaf beetle; check with your local extension office or nursery to determine if this could be a problem. Not a bog cranberry. Native to northeast U.S. and Canada. Self-pollinating. Z2.
Sambucus spp. 6-12' x same. This amazing plant has more attributes than we can list. Dangling clusters of edible purple-black berries ripen in late summer on this broad vigorous multi-stemmed shrub. The fruit is highly nutritious and medicinal. A century ago, everyone’s grandmother knew how to make the perfect elderberry pie. Recipes for jam could be found in all the old farm cookbooks. Elderberries are making a big comeback as folks rediscover the scrumptiousness of elderberry jelly, cordial, elixir and wine. The large creamy-white flower clusters, or cymes, that cover the shrub in early summer make delicious fritters. Dry them for a fragrant wintertime cold-and-flu remedy tea. For centuries, humans have used this plant’s medicinal qualities to treat a wide range of ailments and to boost the immune system. Hippocrates is said to have called the elder tree his “medicine chest.” Birds love the fruit, and the blossoms attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Elderberry trees appear in myths from days of yore, thought to possess magical and protective powers. Very disease resistant, no major insect problems. Elderberries are low-maintenance and easy to grow. With a little attention, they will provide strong yields of fruit for several decades. Considered self-fertile but multiple plants will improve fruit set—it’s okay to mix species. Z3.
Best grown in rich soil with a pH of 5.5–7.5 but are adaptable to a variety of soil types. They love compost! Add compost to the hole at the time of planting and every spring after that. They prefer moist soil but will tolerate poor drainage and temporary flooding. On the St. Croix River, we’ve harvested elderberries from the canoe! Plant in full sun. Susceptible to borers when weeds are allowed to crowd the base. Control weeds by mulching with a thick layer of hay, leaves or woodchips. Aggressive weeding around elders will disturb their shallow roots and risk injury to the plant.
Pruning: American Elder, S. canadensis: In spring, while plant is still dormant, prune away any weak, broken or dead canes. New canes will emerge. Fruit is produced on both new and old wood but best sets are on one- and two-year canes. Periodically cut out the oldest wood. Alternately, some people prefer to cut elders back to the ground each year and treat them like herbaceous perennials. These plants will produce fewer but larger fruit clusters.
Western Elder, S. caerulea: Do nothing, or remove dead canes as needed.
European, or Black, Elder S. nigra: Fruits on second-year wood. We offer these two species occasionally.
Before cooking, remove elderberries from their stems. This can be done while the berries are fresh or frozen. We pick and pack entire panicles of berries into plastic bags and put the bags in the freezer. Once frozen, remove and whack the bag with a stick. The berries will easily fall from the stems. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and the berries will roll out. Freezing will not damage the fruit.
Calluna vulgaris Magical, mythical and medicinal evergreen groundcover features a spread of flowers in late summer ranging through the colors of the rainbow. Colorful foliage in autumn. Each year we vary our selection but always offer the hardiest varieties proven to flourish in northern climates.
Revered in the British Isles, important medicinally in teas, honey, liniments and ointments. First fermented a few thousand years ago, used in gruit, ale, and might be the original ingredient for the first whiskey. Branches used in thatching, bedding, basketry, rope-making, broom-making and even insulation. Flowers attract bees, butterflies and moths, especially when planted in masses or as low-growing hedges. Heather honey is highly prized for medicinal benefit. Recommended as a groundcover, for rock gardens and edges of paths—or for opening the portals to the fairy world! Native to the dry forests, heaths and bare grounds of Britain and Ireland. Z4.
Requires acidic soil and full sun to partial shade. Plant about 18" apart each way and let it spread. Mix peat into the soil to lower the pH if necessary (see planting instructions for cranberries and blueberries), but heather does not tolerate wet spots as cranberries and blueberries do. Does not like high fertility. Shear every April for best bloom.
Humulus lupulus. Beautiful twining vine covers a trellis, archway or the entire side of a barn. Our favorite live awning to shade out the summer sun. Green lobed leaves, bristly stems, and insignificant greenish flowers, followed by the hops: papery aromatic cone-like strobiles used medicinally and in brewing for over 1000 years. John Christopher recommends the strobile tea as “a powerful, stimulating and relaxing nerve tonic.”
For brewing, there are basically two types of hops. Aroma hops have a lower percentage of alpha acids and are used for flavoring, finishing or conditioning brews. Bitter hops have more alpha acids and are used to impart bitterness.
Tolerates shade, adapted to most well-drained soils. Dies back to the ground in fall and rebounds more vigorously each year. Plant it where you want it because it really takes over. No serious pests or diseases. Native to Eurasia.
Refrigerate slightly moistened rhizomes in a plastic bag until planting. Hops prefer full sun and rich light well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5–8.0. As soon as soil can be worked in spring, till to create a weed-free area. Dig holes about 1' deep and at least 3' apart in rows. Add manure, compost and other slow-release organic fertilizers. Plant 2 rhizomes per hole, horizontally with the buds pointed up and cover with 1–2" of loose soil. The first year the hop plant requires frequent light watering and mulching.
Hops grow vertically, with lateral sidearms extending from the main vine and producing cones. Vines may grow up to 25' in a single season, and do best if they are trained onto strong twine 12–30' high, supported by a trellis, wire, pole, tree branch or south-facing building. When the young vines are about 1' long, select the 2 or 3 most vigorous vines per hill and remove the rest. Gently wrap the vines clockwise onto a string. Once trained, the vine will guide itself.
Pick the hops when they are papery but still slightly sticky and filled with yellow powder. Harvest dates will vary with the variety and climate. Because most hops are produced out of reach from the ground, it is safest to lower the vines in order to pick the hops. Dry hops thoroughly before use. Spread on screens in a dry attic, they will dry in a few weeks. Dried hops freeze well.
Cut the vines back to the ground after they have been killed by frost. Each spring apply a hearty topdressing of manure and compost. To help control vigor, prune roots by cutting a 2–3' circle with a shovel around the base of the plant in spring.
Actinidia spp. Productive twining vines climb 20' or more and produce delicious kumquat-sized kiwi fruits in late summer, so delicious that you might not be able to stop eating them! Unlike supermarket kiwis, the skin is smooth and edible. The longer they ripen on the vine, the sweeter they become. Easy to grow in rich well-drained soils. Will begin producing in 5–9 years. Mature plants may produce up to 100 lbs of fruit. Once vines are established, adequate pruning (see directions below) will significantly increase yields. No significant pest or disease problems.
Both male and female plants required for fruit. One male will usually pollinate at least three females of the same species. The females bear the fruit. We offer two species. Arguta ripens around mid-September, has large fruit and is more vigorous than kolomikta. (Argutas can just about pull down a tree.) Kolomikta ripens around mid-August, has small fruit and is less vigorous but more cold-hardy than arguta and should thrive even in the northernmost districts. Both species are native to eastern Asia.
Kiwis are dioecious vines, meaning male and female flowers are on separate plants, so you must plant a male plant to pollinate the fruiting female plants. They are extremely vigorous and require a rugged trellis or arbor and heavy pruning. Plant vines 10' apart each way in moist but well-drained soil. Kiwis are adaptable and tolerate a wide range of soil types (pH 5.0–6.5). One male will pollinate several females as long as they are within approximately 30' of the male. Although the vines are quite hardy, the flowers and foliage are frost sensitive. Planting on a northern exposure will delay budding in spring and reduce risk of frost damage. Protection from winter winds and intense winter sun is also recommended. Mulch with hay or wood chips. On poor soil fertilize with compost annually.
On a trellis: Train a single trunk to the trellis wires and then train two permanent 7–10' cordons (arms) off the trunk. Each winter remove at least 70% of old growth, leaving a dozen or so one-year-old laterals. The coming summer’s fruit will develop on fruit spurs growing off these one-year-old laterals.
Summer pruning may be required to keep extremely rampant vines from choking out your farm.
On an arbor or gazebo: Once established, prune 70% of the old growth each year and leave some new canes for this year’s fruiting. The Pruning Book by Lee Reich is an excellent reference for pruning kiwis.
- Kousa Dogwoods
Cornus kousa. 20-30' x same. One of the most eye-catching flowering trees in late spring when layered with milky-white starlike flowers. The true flowers are actually insignificant compared to the large white bracts that last up to 6 weeks in full bloom. Vase-shaped horizontal branching can be pruned to a tree or shrub form, an ideal specimen for any garden. Later in summer pink golf ball-sized fruit dangle plentifully from the branches. The skin has an unpleasantly coarse texture but you can squeeze the creamy sweet white flesh right into your mouth—just be sure to spit out the pit. Taste reminds us of pawpaw. Dark green glossy leaves have few pests or diseases and change to red in fall. Used in the North as an alternative to the iconic southern dogwood tree C. florida. Tough and low maintenance. Adaptable to sun or shade. Prefers light well-drained soil. Native to Asia. Z4.
Syringa Lilacs have been a fixture in the New England landscape for generations. More often than not, when we find old apples trees, the ancient lilacs are not far away. The large rambling suckering shrubs continue to flourish each spring long after the buildings have disappeared and all that remains of homesteads are the remnants of stone foundations. Why were the lilacs always planted just outside the kitchen door? On cold winter mornings, husband or wife would clean out the wood stove and sprinkle ashes on the icy path to the backhouse. Or maybe the path to the wood shed or the clothesline. Over the years, the earth outside the kitchen door became saturated with lime. Lilacs love alkaline soil.
In the landscape, lilacs are excellent alone or in hedges. Deep green glossy heart-shaped foliage looks good from spring through fall. Intensely fragrant blooms in May over a period of several weeks. Hundreds of varieties have been developed over the ages. Flowers range from singles to doubles, pure white to the deepest purple, not to mention pinks and reds and lavenders of every persuasion. Ornamental, edible (frittered flowers à la elderberry), medicinal and a great Mother’s Day gift.
Lilacs are adaptable, easy to grow, nearly indestructible and practically maintenance-free. Plant them in a well-drained location in moderately rich soil. Sandy gravelly loam is perfect. They prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. We suggest planting them with a shovelful of wood ash or lime, then add another shovelful of either one every three years. A yearly mulch of manure or compost will encourage spectacular annual blooming. Pink, lavender and blue lilacs color up best in soil with a neutral pH.
How to prune lilacs
If you choose to prune your lilacs, do it right after flowering. Late-season pruning removes next year’s buds. As the plant matures, prune off a quarter of the new suckers and the oldest growth (a few main stems each year). Some growers prefer to keep the plant low and bushy. Do so by “topping” it off every year: prune any upright branch back to a junction with a lower branch. Others prefer a tall tree-like form. Our friends Philippe and Danielle have let theirs soar to 8' or more, removing the lower branches and creating a magical walkway in the process. Lilacs are more than willing to cater to your own personal vision. Have fun! No need to cut off spent flowers except for appearance.
Why isn’t my lilac blooming?
Too shady: lilacs need sun to form blossoms. Over-pruned: pruned too late, removed buds. Also, some plants respond to excessive pruning by putting their energy into vegetative growth instead of flowering. Too wet: lilacs like well-drained soil. Over-fertilized: lilacs will bloom well without assistance. Too much fertility can lead more vegetative growth and inhibit bud formation.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea Also called Foxberry, Cowberry, Mountain Cranberry. Vigorous shallow-rooted spreading groundcover is related to blueberries and cranberries. Bright red glossy nutritious fruits are slightly smaller than lowbush blueberries. Tart until dead ripe, then has excellent flavor, richer and less astringent than cranberries. Can be eaten fresh but primarily used in sauces, jams, syrups, fruit leathers, juices and wines. Stores up to 2 months in the fridge. Small shiny dark green foliage is quite lovely. Adorable tiny bell-shaped white flowers in spring attract a plethora of pollinators. Extremely popular in Scandinavia and now catching on in the U.S. If you’ve got good soil for blueberries, try these. Ripens in late summer but is best after a frost. Harvest by hand or with a blueberry rake. Will produce 1–2 lbs per plant depending on the variety and can produce for up to 20 years. Prefers full sun and poor sandy acid (pH 4.5–5) soils. Plant 12–18" apart in rows 3–4' apart. To ensure good fruit production, plant more than one variety. Native to the colder northern hemisphere. Incredibly tough and very hardy. Z2.
Morus spp. Sweet flavorful purple-black 1" blackberry-like fruit is delicious fresh, in sauces, pies, fruit leather or smoothies. What fruit you don’t pick, the birds will. Great tree for viewing a huge variety of birds up close. Plant it next to the chicken pen where it will rain chicken feed into the yard for several weeks, or put down a sheet to collect the fruit as it falls.
Dense round-topped tree is one of the last to leaf out in the spring and one of the first to set fruit. Ripens in mid-July and continues for several weeks into late summer. Fast growing, even in poor soils. Prefers moist well-drained soils but otherwise adaptable. Full sun to partial shade; withstands pollution, drought, wind and salt. Z4/5.
Many of us are crazy about mushrooms. We love hunting for them in the damp forests during spring and fall, cooking them, tincturing them or just admiring their mysterious beauty. People have cultivated mushrooms for thousands of years. Around a century ago, American seed catalogs offered mushroom spawn bricks for 30¢ each, right there between the melons and the mustard.
We’re excited to collaborate with North Spore Mushrooms to offer the following selections for you to get started on your own fungus garden. These products are all Maine-grown without pesticides and on natural substrates.
You can purchase varieties as plug spawn or sawdust spawn. All can be refrigerated until you are ready to start growing. Detailed instructions will be sent with your order and can be downloaded here as a pdf. We also have a comprehensive FAQ section below that will get you off to a good start. If you’re a beginner, consider starting out with a kit.
Plug Spawn are small wooden dowels colonized by mushroom mycelium. 50 plugs will inoculate a single 4' long, 4" diameter log. Drill 5/16" or 8.5mm holes into your log, hammer in the plugs and seal the holes with wax. Plugs are an excellent choice for beginners. Plugs come in batches of 100 or 500, as well as in our Mushroom Kits.
Sawdust Spawn is hardwood sawdust colonized by mushroom mycelium. Each bag contains 5½ lbs of inoculated hardwood sawdust, enough for about 25 logs. Drill 7/16" or 12mm holes in your logs, pack the sawdust using an inoculation tool and seal with wax. Can also be grown on hardwood sawdust in your garden paths. Good for commercial mushroom growers. Note: Only Wine Cap can be grown on hardwood sawdust in garden beds. All other types must be grown on logs.
The varieties we list will fruit best on hardwood logs or sawdust. Recommended log species are listed below.
For most varieties of mushrooms, we offer the following options:
- Plug Spawn, bag of 100 or 500 (bag of 100 in our Mushroom Kits)
- Sawdust Spawn, 5½ lb bag
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get my order now or do I have to wait until April?
We ship spawn in April, during our regular trees and plants shipping season. The spawn supply is produced over the winter and is ready in the spring. Inoculating logs in spring optimizes success, especially for beginners and here in the cold North. We recommend you cut your log while it is still dormant and inoculate in the spring.
What kinds of trees can I cut for growing mushrooms?
Oak and Maple are preferred; they are very dense and offer a lot of nutrition for a longer sustained fruiting period. Poplar also works well with Oyster mushrooms. You can try a wide range of tree species including beech and birch, but you may get varying yields. Generally, poplar and other soft hardwoods will colonize faster and produce mushrooms sooner but don’t yield as much overall, or produce for as many years. Regardless of species, cut only living, disease-free wood.
There are different strains of mushrooms, and the suggestions for types of logs are based on North Spore’s particular strains.
||alder, ash, beech, hickory
||oak, maple, poplar
||alder, beech, birch
||oak, maple, poplar
What size should the logs be?
Any size logs will work. You can use branches or saplings, if that is what you have available. Small-diameter wood will colonize faster, but will not produce for as many seasons as a larger log.
You don’t want the logs to be so large or heavy that they are difficult to use. For drilling methods, a 4-6" diameter with a 3-4' length is ideal. For the totem method, they can be a up to a foot (or more!) in diameter, and 12-18" high.
When do I cut the logs?
The best time to cut is before the trees have budded out and the bark is still holding fast to the trunk. Fully leafed-out trees can also be cut for logs, if you’ve missed the dormant-tree window.
Then, wait at least a week before inoculating, but get it done within a month—long enough to allow the cells in the log to die but not long enough for the log to dry out, or for other competitor fungi to become established.
Do not cut logs in the period between bud swell and leaf-out.
Do not use logs cut last year.
What if I buy spawn and can't get around to inoculating in the spring?
Store the spawn in the fridge and do it during the summer. Just be sure that you harvest your fresh log within a few weeks of inoculation. Avoid cutting logs during leaf-out. Dormant trees and fully leafed-out trees make the best logs.
What kind of yield can I expect?
Around two pounds per log per year is pretty typical, but this can vary quite a bit depending on the weather conditions, log size, wood type, whether or not you force fruiting, and other factors.
How long will it take from inoculation to harvest?
Mushrooms need cool wet weather to fruit, and growth slows in the heat of summer. With spring inoculation, it’s possible you may get your first flush of mushrooms in autumn, but more likely it will take a full year until you see your first fruiting.
How often should I water my log?
Logs stored in shady outdoor locations close to the ground generally retain enough moisture to colonize fully without watering. During especially dry periods, watering may be necessary but most of the time no supplemental watering is needed. Don’t let the log dry out but neither should you overwater it. It’s okay to water the log to force it to fruit, but most growers wait until the log fruits once naturally before starting to force fruit.
What tools do I need?
- For plug spawn, you’ll need a drill with a 5/16" (8.5mm) bit to make holes in the log, a hammer to drive the plugs into the holes, and wax to seal the holes.
- For sawdust spawn, use a drill with a 7/16" (12mm) drill bit, and an inoculation tool to pack the sawdust into the holes. You can insert sawdust by hand, but an inoculation tool greatly speeds up the process and packs the sawdust more densely.
- If you are inoculating many logs, instead of using a drill, you can put an adapter that takes a drill bit onto your angle grinder to help the work go more quickly and easily.
- Seal the holes with hot wax (cheese wax, food-grade paraffin wax, beeswax) to prevent both dehydration and contamination with other, unwanted fungal species. Do not skip this step!
- The totem method requires no special tools aside from a saw to cut the log. Wine Cap mushroom also needs no tools.
How long can I store mushroom spawn?
Plug and sawdust spawn will store for six months to a year in a refrigerator.
How many plugs do I need for one log?
100 plugs will do 3-4 logs; the drill pattern does not need to be perfect.
How many years will a log produce mushrooms?
Two to four years, on average; varies by type of wood, size of log, whether or not it’s forced, rainy/dry balance, etc.
How do I choose plugs vs. sawdust?
Plugs are very resilient but are slower to colonize. Plugs require only a drill and hammer for tools, and are economical for smaller projects. Sawdust colonizes drilled logs about 30% faster than plugs. They’re good for larger projects, but an inoculation tool is recommended, along with other tools.
The totem method, using sawdust, is good for urban settings or other locations without access to a forested or shady area. No special tools are needed.
Can Wine Cap be grown using drill or totem methods?
No, the Wine Cap only grows on substrate that is already broken apart, like sawdust. It’s best in garden path areas or other places where beds of sawdust, wood chips or straw can be maintained.
It’s okay for the log to freeze over winter?
Yes, logs are fine outdoors in winter. A blanket of snow helps protect the logs from drying out.
Is it okay to inoculate one log with multiple types?
No, use only one species of mushroom per log. Multiple species will compete with each other and produce poor results.
Will Hemlock work for the Reishi?
No, not for the strain of Reishi that we are offering.
Are cultivated mushrooms the same size as their wild counterparts?
What kind of pests can I expect on my mushrooms?
Sometimes mammals like deer or squirrels may take a nibble or two out of mushrooms but generally they don’t devastate a crop. Occasionally you may find some insect damage. Just cut out that part; the rest of the mushroom will be fine.
The Cornell extension website hosts a lot of information on cultivating mushrooms, including short instructional videos.
Click here to view a short video from Cornell on inoculation.
Click here to download a pdf from Cornell with lots of good info on how to inoculate shiitake logs.
Quercus spp. Many oaks are native to New England. They are generally divided into two groups: the reds and the whites. The reds have pointier leaves and the whites have rounder ones. Most of them make absolutely breathtaking shade trees, having the capacity to provide a major presence in almost any landscape. All can be categorized as both edible and medicinal. The strongly astringent inner bark, foliage and acorn caps are all medicinal. Most importantly however, acorns were an extremely important human food source for thousands of years. All acorns are edible, both reds and whites. (For detailed instructions on acorn processing, see Samuel Thayer’s book, Nature’s Garden.) Oaks are monoecious so you need only one to get fruit.
Rheum rhabarbarum. Early Summer. Famous for pie and wine, but also good in sauce, bread, juice, soup or cooked with meat and fish. Rhubarb’s clumps of juicy acid leaf stalks were once a staple food. The root is a toning purgative herb traditionally used every spring for thousands of years. There are dozens if not hundreds of rhubarb varieties. May have originated in Siberia and been carried across Asia on the Silk Road to Turkey and then into Europe. Victorian cookbooks included rhubarb compotes, fools and charlottes. Eventually brought to North America through the efforts of Ben Franklin and John Bartram. Low-maintenance, will continue through summer if flower stalks are removed and new leaves allowed to grow. Water during dry spells for extended season. Plant crowns 2–4' apart in rows 3–4' apart. Add compost. Leaves are not edible. Z3.
Plant the top of the root division level with the surface in well-prepared well-drained rich slightly acid soil (pH 5.5–6.5). Add a bushel of well-rotted manure or compost under each crown. When plant is established, fertilize liberally with manure and balanced garden fertilizer or compost every spring, as it’s a heavy feeder. Harvest for 4 weeks 2 years after planting. Thereafter you can harvest for 8–10 weeks each year. Never remove more than two-thirds of the stalks from a plant.
Every 10 years or so, divide plants in early spring, leaving about a third of the crown in place. Cut up the remainder into fist-sized pieces and replant.
Rosa spp. For millennia, humans have been beguiled by the rose. The first cultivation of these flowers dates back more than 5000 years in China. Fossil records suggest that roses may have been around for more than 30 million years. Regarded as the ultimate icon of love, grace, beauty and elegance, roses continue to be the subject of art and poetry. Native to temperate regions throughout the world.
Roses have long been used in medicine, food, tea and essential oils. In the first century, Pliny the Elder recorded more than 30 uses of rose medicine. Rose leaves, petals, hips and roots all have medicinal properties to treat a range of disorders from wounds to stomach problems. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C and make a wonderful “rose apple” jam; rose-petal elixir calms the nerves and lifts the spirit.
Each year, we aim to offer a diverse selection of unusual and antique varieties. If your favorite is not on the list this year, we may offer it in the future. Unlike hybrid tea roses, these roses are all vigorous, cold hardy, and on their own roots rather than grafted. Many of our rare varieties are propagated and grown without pesticides at Corn Hill Nursery in New Brunswick, Canada. The antique varieties grow slowly compared to newer hybrids and tend to be more difficult to propagate. You may notice that some of these roses have small root systems and little top growth. Don’t be put off by their small size—it’s just the nature of these old varieties. We can attest that they perform just as well as the others.
Roses grown in Europe before 1800 are referred to as “Old World” roses, including the cultivars of Rosa gallica and R. alba. Their pink color ranged from the deepest dark purple of ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ to just a faint blush of pink like that of ‘Chloris.’ There were no reds among these antique roses and, though rich in fragrance, they bloomed only once per season. In the late 1700s red roses with repeat blooming tendencies were introduced from China, shifting the focus of rose breeding toward those traits. Demand for the aromatic and medicinal qualities of the Old World roses declined, supplanted by flowers that lasted long through the season. The hybrids created since the 1820s are called “modern” roses and are much more commonly seen in gardens today.
Rosa gallica is considered the oldest rose and still grows wild in some places in the Caucasus, the mountainous region between the Black and Caspian seas, where it originated. Its exact origin is unknown but it can be traced back fourteen centuries when it was considered a symbol of love by the Persians. Most modern-day roses are presumed to be descendants of the gallicas. The aromatic petals hold their scent better than any other rose and have long been considered medicinal. This species contains hundreds of different cultivars, some very similar and others unique. Most have similar compact shrub habits and are generally very hardy. Most modern-day roses are presumed to be descendants of the gallicas
Rosa alba is almost as old as gallica and is also believed to have travelled west from the Caucasus with the Greeks and Romans. Many of the alba cultivars were bred in the 1800s in Europe. Though they flower only once, they should not be overlooked, as their beauty and fragrance are unparalleled by any modern rose. They are considered “tree roses” with tall canes that can be trained to fences, pillars and stonewalls, like climbers. Unlike many roses, albas bloom on old wood—if pruned too heavily, they can take years to flower again. Like heirloom apples, they are actually more disease resistant than many of the modern hybrids.
Roses prefer full sun (at least 4–6 hours per day) and a pH of 6.0–7.0. Space them 4–6' apart. They will do well in most well-drained soils with a good amount of organic matter. In locations with poor drainage, add gravel at the bottom of the planting hole, or build in drainage. Pick a site with good air flow, but avoid sites with cold northwest winds. Avoid
Plant roses as early as soil can be worked. Most roses’ roots don’t spread beyond the original hole, so dig a bushel-sized hole, as deep as 2' or more. We recommend a bale of rotten hay in the bottom of the planting hole. Mix soil with liberal quantities of well-rotted manure and compost. Add a coffee-can full of rock phosphate or bone meal.
Soak roots in water overnight or up to three days before planting. Prior to planting, prune roses back to 3 canes, 2–5" tall. Plant them 1" below the level they were in the nursery. Add water as you fill in the hole to puddle it in. Mound soil around branches to prevent them from drying out, and to encourage buds to sprout. As the buds open, pull back the soil to the correct level.
Shrub roses and climbers will require little pruning in later years. Any pruning should wait until after the forsythia blooms. Remove dead or broken branches, and periodically cut out the oldest wood. Keep roses well mulched to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Add 2 shovelfuls of composted manure to each crown late in the fall.
Old World gardeners claimed the fragrance of roses was enhanced by spreading the remnants of the teapot in the soil around the rosebushes. People sometimes applied lard drippings like fertilizer and other times placed a block of lard in the hole during planting. Gardeners of today often perk up their roses with Epsom salts.
Salix spp. The genus Salix comprises hundreds of different species of plants most commonly called willows but sometimes called Osier or Sallow. Willows grow all over the world. Some are towering specimens, like the weeping willow. Others are short scrubby bushes, like some willows growing in the arctic: only two feet tall but 100 years old! Uses include ornamental landscaping, shade, basket-making, erosion control, timber, fuel and medicine. All parts, especially the bark, contain salicin, used for relief of pain and fever for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. Aspirin is a synthetic analog of salicin. Willows feed local wildlife, insects and birds. We plant them near the orchard to provide early season forage for our native pollinators. All prefer sun and loamy wet soils, but are adaptable, easily transplanted and fast growing.
Ilex verticillata. Also called Black Alder, Fever Bush, Possumhaw, Swamp Holly and more. Deciduous suckering medicinal holly with clusters of upright stems. Best known for profusions of bright red ⅜" berries which stand out after the leaves fall—they keep their color all winter, spectacular against the snow. A staple of the Maine landscape, providing late-spring forage for birds. Lustrous deep green leaves retain their color long after they’re cut for decoration. Richly foliated, but open enough to display interesting branching structure. Excellent fall wildlife forage plant. Leaves used for tea and tonic, astringent bark used in herbal medicine.
Tolerates dry conditions but prefers moist or wet acidic soil, even standing water. Sun or partial shade. No serious pests or diseases. Male and female plants required for fruit, which is produced on female plants. Plant males within 30' of females. Native from midwestern to eastern U.S.