Saffron crocus in a demonstration plot. Credit: Courtesy of Kathryn Hopkins

At this time of year, gardeners are ordering their seeds and planning their gardens in anticipation for the growing season. As you start to plan your garden, you might want to consider mixing it up and trying something that you haven’t grown before.

Here are 8 unconventional crops that are possible (though perhaps challenging) to grow in Maine that you should consider trying this growing season.


Herbalist Kathi Langelier of Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary gathers flowers to add to her iced tea blend. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

The plant used for most types of tea, Camellia sinensis, is primarily grown abroad and prefers mild climates with ample rainfall and well-drained, acidic soil. You can attempt to grow Camellia sinensis in Maine if you are up for the challenge, or you can opt to grow one of the many herbs that make delicious herbal teas and thrive in Maine’s environment. Here’s what you need to know about growing your own tea in Maine.


Aroostook County Hops plants. Credit: Courtesy of Aroostook Hops

Hops are the green, pinecone-shaped flowers of the hop plant that are used to flavor and stabilize beer. Hops can be challenging to grow, but it is possible to do so in Maine. Plus, if you are successful, you can brew your own homegrown hoppy beers.


Fibers from a luffa gourd. Credit: Courtesy of Brooke Isham

No, not the plastic puffs — the natural sponges that inspired them. Luffa sponges actually come from two species of gourd: Luffa acutangula, the angled luffa, and L. cyclindrica, the smooth luffa. It is possible — though somewhat difficult — to grow these natural sponges in Maine, if you are willing to put in the effort and want a more sustainable, natural beauty routine.

Carving pumpkins

Customers choose pumpkins on Halloween at a pumpkin farm in Wilanow, near Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. Credit: Czarek Sokolowski / AP

Maybe you have grown squash to use in the kitchen, but have you ever had the chance to grow your own jack-o-lanterns? Think towards fall and try growing your own carving pumpkins this year.

Edible flowers

Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, holds the beginnings of an early afternoon salad at his Scarborough home. He harvested the leafy greens and the edible Nasturtium flowers from his own backyard for the dish. Credit: Seth Koenig / BDN

Growing edible flowers is a great way to make your salads, baked goods and other treats a little fancier. Plus, many edible flowers will attract pollinators to your garden and help your other favorite crops to flourish.


Oyster mushrooms are growing out of coffee cans in a medium of coffee grounds and cardboard after a simple process that takes two to three months. Credit: Courtesy of Mike McNally

Ok, it’s not a crop you would put in your garden, per se, but growing mushrooms at home is easy and economical. You can even grow mushrooms in a coffee can. Once you get started, you can also learn how to prepare all the different types of interesting locally-cultivated mushrooms in Maine.


Saffron crocuses separated from their stigmas and styles. Credit: Courtesy of Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani

Throughout New England, growers have hopped onto the world’s most expensive spice, saffron. Believe it or not, you can reach out to these networks to get some crocuses for yourself and grow your own saffron in your home garden.


Glendarragh Farm Lavender in Appleton. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Fragrant lavender has been an increasingly popular crop in Maine. Lavender is a beautiful flower to grow, especially if you like to craft with the relaxing fragrance. Here are the basics of growing lavender from seed.

Changing up what you grow is one of the ways to keep gardening interesting every year. Get a little creative this year in the garden — you never know what spring might bring.

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