ANSWER: Be careful not to overdo the lime in your effort to remedy the acidity issue or you can actually create an opposite problem — making your soil too alkaline — and you still would have a difficult time growing your plants. Check your soil’s pH levels at different places in your garden and strive to be as close to neutral 7 as possible. 

If you find your soil is still acidic even after the lime treatments, then you can try adding ashes from natural woods collected from your (or somebody else’s) woodstove to the soil. In addition to helping with the pH level, it also adds an important nutrient — potassium — which helps promote flower and fruit growth. Adding Compost to your garden can also help to regulate the soil pH and provide valuabel nutrients to encourage plant growth. It’s important to test the pH of the compost you’re adding first, though. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers labratory services at reasonable prices. Check them out at They are also a great source for advice on problems you might face while attempting to garden.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Families in Maine have the opportunity to host a student from France for a Vistas in Education three-week exchange this summer. The students, ages 12-18, will arrive June 30 in Portland and return home July 21. They have all studied English, though their skills will vary. For many, this will be their first trip to the USA.

Students are selected to come to the USA on the basis of maturity, adaptability and sensitivity to other cultures. They must be in good health and are fully covered by VIE’s comprehensive insurance plan.
Host families provide room and board and transportation to/from the airport. Families are asked to include the French student in everyday family life, like routine outings, such as shopping, visiting relatives and local sightseeing, as well as any special activities the family might plan, and introduce them to friends and community.

Is hosting for you and your family? Many families have a desire to learn more about French culture. Some wish to give a young person the opportunity to experience life in the United States. Whatever the reason may be, your family will enjoy the rewards of sharing your lives and culture with a French student. Opening your home for two or three weeks can be just the beginning of a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Students and families will be matched by May 1, allowing you to get to know each other before June 30. For more information and/or a hosting application, contact Maine hosting coordinator, Anne Smith at 207-462-8757 or email [email protected] Visit to learn more about VIE programs. — Anne, Oxford.

Use the QR code to go to Sun Spots online for additional information and links. This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can be emailed to [email protected], tweeted @SJ_SunSpots or posted on the Sun Spots Facebook page at This column can also be read online at We’ve joined Pinterest at

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