By Jamie Pacheco, BTLT Programs Manager
2021 wrapped up the 10th year of growing at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG)! We had 83 garden plots rented this season, with well over 100 gardeners in our community. We started the season off rough, with the rain-gods holding back. This is challenging because gardeners needed to visit the garden frequently to keep the soil moist enabling seedlings to take root and seeds to germinate. The remainder of the season was met with regular rain, making this season overall significantly easier as plot holders didn’t have to visit daily (or more!) to keep their crops irrigated.
Pests are a perennial (pun intended) problem at TSCG. We are an organic garden, so we do not allow the use of harmful chemicals common to many pesticides as they can also harm humans and do serious ecological damage. Crop rotation, one of the best organic pest management methods, is impractical to implement at TSCG with so many individual plot holders. Crop rotation involves rotating crop families through growing spaces (beds or fields) to disrupt the lifecycle of plant-specific pests. However, with each potholder having 10’ x 16’ plots (or smaller) to grow all of their crops, soil rotation can’t be effectively implemented. This means that pests can always find the foods of their choice, and proliferate. Some crops are nearly impossible to grow at the garden, such as potatoes. We also saw an unusually strong chipmunk (aka chippie) force at the garden this season. The chippies are especially frustrating as they like to take a bite out of this plant, another of that plant, oh, and then every tomato, melon, or squash in your bed. Chippie eradication methods were put in place in attempt to combat the damage. Unfortunately, the chippies were victorious in their efforts.
The Common Good Garden (CGG), with stalwart leadership by Dev Culver, volunteer extraordinaire, had an excellent year. The CGG crew is made up of around ~30 volunteers, with a dedicated and delightful group of 10 regulars. These are the folks that make the magic happen! The CGG was expanded significantly in 2020, to around 11,000sq ft. To support this effort, the irrigated water system was expanded to these new beds. We are currently working on a winter hardy water pump to support early and late season growing, as well as winter hoop house growing. Melons, various squashes, broccoli, kale, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, onions, carrots, beans, and peaches made up the bounty of 3,177 lbs donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and Wabanaki food security efforts.
The Taking Root Plant Sale this year broke records, with ~$13,000 raised! The leadership team of Claudia Labella Adams, Mary Fox, Prentis Weiss, Ellen Maling, and Kim Bolshaw have made strategic decisions that have allowed the plant sale to be more successful every year. This was the first year we hosted the sale at the Topsham Fairgrounds, and while we learned a few things the hard way, we also saw a much improved sale flow. The perennial team, has expanded their growing space significantly the last few years resulting in nearly 700 plants grown right at TSCG for the 2021. As we wrapped up the 2021 plant season, we had ~1,000 plants in the holding and propagation beds slated for the 2022 sale. It’s going to be a good one!
This year we were also able to put in some infrastructure to support playing and connecting in the garden. The Brunswick Rotary and Coastal Rotary designed, funded, and built a pergola, play structure, and picnic table for TSCG. Now, children have a place to play while their caretakers are gardening, and all visitors, gardeners, and volunteers have a place to sit and rest while escaping the summer sun.