Taking Root Blossoms BIG

The return of the Taking Root Plant Sale this spring (after a Covid hiatus in 2020) was a huge success, breaking records both for number of plants sold and funds raised. This fundraiser is the Land Trust’s biggest fundraiser of the year and covers all of the day-to-day operating expenses for our Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG), which includes 80 plots for community members, a large area where volunteers grow food for the clients of Mid Coast Hunger Prevention, as well as several community partnerships and research efforts.

Last Saturday morning, there were over 2,000 beautiful plants filling the Exhibition Hall at the Topsham Fairgrounds, and in just a few short hours all but about 75 of them were gone. Hundreds of community members came to the sale, with the checkout line extending through the hall by around 10 am.

But really, the most wonderful part of the morning, was the HUGE outpouring of volunteer support.

The sale is run by an amazing lead team who start their planning for next year just weeks after the sale. They oversee every aspect of the sale, from dividing and growing plants at TSCG, to bringing in and preparing donations from the community, to managing site logistics, volunteers, and so very much more. In addition to that, dozens of volunteers coordinate major areas of the sale – everything from parking to sales to trees and shrubs.

In the days leading up to the sale and on the day of, dozens more volunteers show up to move plants, set up tables, direct traffic, and the list goes on. Arriving at the sale in a crowded parking lot baking in the hot sun, visitors were greeted by smiling faces helping them find their way. The hall sported “plant experts” in yellow aprons helping buyers chose just the right plants for their yard. As you left the hall with a tray laden with plants, volunteers literally vied with one another to help you check out, while others pressed offers of help with carrying, and wagons for your load.

It’s really an amazing experience, especially when you realize that essentially every aspect was coordinated and completed by a volunteer, and every smiling face helping you with your purchase was a volunteer.

So, BTLT wants to say THANK YOU – to the community members that donated plants, to the community members that came to purchase plants, AND to the community members who have volunteered so many hours to bring the two together.

The sale isn’t “complete” when the hall is emptied, or all those roots are settled into soil. There are ripple effects that just go on and on, as the funds raised are able to support so much good at TSCG. For that we are particularly grateful.

*Photos by Burke Long

2021 WGW Pollinators

2021 WGW Pollinators

By Averil Fessenden

Here we are in a tantalizing time of year, with the light and warmth on the upswing, foretelling gardening season. Yet cold days and nights, brown and dull colors coming into sight as the snow disappears are with us as winter wanes.  What better way to tame our eagerness for the coming season, than to learn about creating a colorful and useful pollinator garden. What is a pollinator garden? It is a garden designed and planted with specific nectar and pollen producing plants in a way that attracts pollinating insects.  Dev Culver, coordinator of the Common Good Garden, offered a workshop on how to build and maintain pollinator spaces as part of the Winter Garden Workshops: Growing Literacy series put on annually by BTLT and Curtis Memorial LibraryView the workshop webinar here. 

“The Bank”, healing in garden for plants destined for Tom Settlemire Community Garden’s annual Taking Root Plant Sale.
Photo Credit: Ellen Maling

Much of our plant food, – nuts, fruits and vegetables, and many flowers depend on pollination to reproduce. Insects – bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and even ants do this essential job. They are in decline due to our hotter, drier climate, loss of natural habitat, and pesticides. We depend on these insects and thus can’t survive without them. Creating gardens and landscapes to attract and feed them is one way to maintain or increase their populations. These are colorful gardens as color is a main feature that attracts insects to particular flowers. In this virtual show we saw beautiful photos of a variety of pollinator gardens and many of their insect pollinators. 

Dev offered 8 tips for creating a pollinator garden or landscape. He suggested using native plants as they provide shelter, and food for native wildlife species, and they are well suited to local soils and conditions. Natives don’t require fertilization, and promote biodiversity and ecosystem health. Fortunately there are many native plants that thrive and bloom through the growing season, see a list by bloom month here in Dev’s presentation slides.  Native plants like lots of sun, so planting in open spaces is best. Insects are most attracted when plants of the same kind are planted in groups or bunches.  Provide a water source, such as a birdbath with rocks in itAnd we were reminded that developing a pollinator garden to its full potential takes time – a few years in fact.

2020 CGG volunteers building TSCG’s newest pollinator bed which focuses on plants that attract moths, and other less well known pollinators.
Photo credit: Dev Culver

Dev told his audience that The Tom Settlemire Community Garden had a busy and successful summer in 2020. The Common Good part of the garden yielded 4,000 pounds of vegetables for Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program with the help of 23 volunteers – both new highs. Volunteers under the leadership of Ellen Maling also have planted hundreds of perennials that will be available for purchase in the BTLT plant sale on June 5 at Topsham Fair Grounds Exhibition Hall.  

Pollinator Gardening was a workshop in Growing Literacy, the winter gardening series that is sponsored jointly by BTLT and Curtis Memorial Library. This collaboration is supported by Camden National Bank – we extend our appreciation. Working together, Local Business, Library and Land Trust make a valuable contribution to our community.

 

 

Winter Garden Workshop Recordings Now Available

We had a great line up of Winter Garden Workshops this year, thanks to our partnership with Curtis Memorial Library, our sponsors Camden National Bank, and all our great speakers.

You can now see videos of all the presentations HERE.

Topics included:

Gardening for Small Spaces, Kate Wallace, Resilience Hub

Kate Wallace is the Programming Director and PDC Facilitator of the Resilience Hub. She facilitates educational experiences, Permablitzes, and designed permaculture systems for clients both independently and through the Resilience Hub. Join Kate to learn all about how to maximize your use of a small garden space. Don’t think you have enough room to grow a tree, vine or tubers? Think again! Let Kate show you her favorite proven tricks.

Food Forest Gardening, Aaron Parker, Edgewood Nursery

A food forest is a way of laying out a landscape to mimic a natural forest, providing food and other human needs with a minimum amount external inputs and maximum benefits to wildlife and the greater environment. Join Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery to learn how to better mimic nature to increase the productivity of your plot. Incorporate more perennial foodstuffs, work less on maintenance and reap the benefits of a system that works in harmony with nature’s natural cycles. his workshop will introduce the concepts of ecological niches, analogs, and resource partitioning so you can design your own home scale food forest. To help you implement your design we will also cover best practices for starting a food forest and recommended species to plant. 

Pollinator Gardening, Dev Culver, Common Good Garden Coordinator, TSCG

Join Dev, Common Good Garden Coordinator for BTLT, to learn about the lesser known pollinators, such as moths, the importance of pollinator gardens, what plants attract pollinators and how to manage pollinator gardens to do the least harm to the pollinators themselves.

Gardening for Plant Based Diets, Dave Asmussen, Blue Bell Farm

There are many reasons for choosing to follow a plant–based diet, whether they be humane, environmental, or health oriented. Learn how to grow the types of foods needed for a well rounded diet. Hint: it involves beans! After adventures far and wide through several states, homesteads and farmland, David Asmussen & Meredith Eilers were excited to put down roots in Bowdoinham in 2013 where they grow diverse vegetables, berries and other perennials such as nut crops. Dave is a graduate of MOFGA’s Journey-person program and is proud to be farming on land with an agricultural conservation easement through the Maine Farmland Trust.

This Year at the Common Good Garden

By Lily Hatrick,
Brunswick High School Student and 2020 Common Good Garden Intern

In an ongoing effort to support food access in greater Brunswick, the Common Good Garden (CGG) was able to donate 3,779 pounds of organic produce, despite Covid, a drought, and crop loss. The CGG, started in 2012 in partnership with Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), is part of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG), run by the Brunswick-Topsham Landtrust (BTLT). In order to grow this food they depend on the engagement of TSCG community volunteers to plant, grow, care for, and harvest crops. 

BTLT is a land trust that protects land in the Brunswick and Topsham area. They own Crystal Spring Farm and also run one of the largest summer farmer’s market in the state of Maine. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program is a food access program that has been working in our community for nearly thirty years. They serve around 7,000 meals a week to people in need. 

Over the course of the gardening season, the CGG had many accomplishments:

  • The largest amount of produce to date was donated to MCHPP through the CGG.
  • The volunteer crew was strengthened by a group of high schoolers and an internship position was created that high schoolers will be able to apply for in future years.
  • Overall, the number of volunteers was also much larger this year than it has been in years past. This larger crew was able to tackle expanding the garden. 

This season yielded the largest amount of produce donated to MCHPP to date. It was not an easy road to this accomplishment, as any member of the volunteer crew would tell you. There were both late and early frosts and some seedlings did not make it. The crew approximates that between 400 to 1,000 lbs of produce were lost. This summer was a very dry one, with exceedingly warm temperatures and little rainfall.

“There were times I would water a row and have to stop to go fill up the watering cans and come back and not know where I had already watered because it dried up/soaked in so fast!” says Jen Kennedy, CGG volunteer. Her help on the weekends was especially important because “we couldn’t rely on mother nature” she added.

This year’s volunteer crew leader Dev Culver also noted that “In the early part of the season the lack of rain along with issues with the irrigation system stunted the initial growth of the onion crop.” The volunteers had to deal with both a lack of rainfall but also faulty irrigation, making hand watering the only dependable option. Culver feels that, “Without the extra hands that we had, I don’t believe we would have been able to keep up with the lack of rain.”

Another obstacle that the members of the volunteer crew had to overcome was the pandemic. All volunteers wore masks and gloves for all of the work sessions and all tools were disinfected once they were done being used. The masks may have made the hot days hotter but, the hurdle united the crew even more.

The pandemic had a silver lining: The core group of volunteers expanded. Dev Culver remarked that the pandemic brought more people to the garden instead of keeping people home. “There were more volunteers available and interested in working on the CGG mission because the pandemic cut down on the availability of other activity options.” Kennedy found that she had more “free time” and wanted “a way to get involved in the community and volunteer” during this pandemic. Kennedy was not alone in this feeling as the volunteer crew grew this year.

In addition, the crew was joined by four high schoolers this year. 

As schools closed in the early spring, the CGG was blessed by having several Brunswick High School students dedicate some of their free time to volunteering in the garden. Ultimately, they were able to create an internship with BTLT which hopefully means that a connection between TSCG can continue to grow for years to come.

Lydia Blood, Fiona Edmonds, Kate Shaughnessy, and Lily Hatrick became members of the core crew. Although none of them had prior knowledge, Culver notes that “their collective enthusiasm and willingness to work hard regardless of the assignment made the experience of volunteering so much more fun and rewarding.” Longtime volunteer and CGG cofounder Judith Long said it was a “pleasure” to be joined by the high schoolers. 

This year was different from years past in other positive ways, too. The CGG has four main beds as well as a large back garden that was newly cultivated by CGG this season.

The addition of the back garden doubled the growing space for the CGG, adding about 5,000 square feet. The entirety of it had to be turned, mulched and prepared so that crops could be planted. 

Not only did the poundage increase with this new area, the type of produce expanded as well. Culver says that the back garden “changed the original intended focus on storage crops and resulted in a markedly expanded crop variety.”  In this garden the crew grew tomatoes, melons, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, and some squash. The back garden alone produced 681.7 lbs of the total produce donated. “None of these additional crops would have been possible if the CGG effort had remained anchored in the four front garden beds during 2020.” The CGG was also blessed by the donation of many seedlings, including from BTLT business partner Whatley Farm.

Because of the enthusiasm and grit of this year’s volunteer crew, the CGG was able to take on some new projects in addition to the expanded Common Good Garden. This year a pollinator garden and a hoop house were added to TSCG, and a plastic mulch experiment was conducted in the tomato bed. The pollinator garden serves as a pollinator-attractor bringing in insects such as bees and butterflies, but also moths, birds and bats. The hoop house has long been something that the volunteer crew wanted to tackle, but in prior years hasn’t had the resources.  The hoop house will allow the Common Good Garden to produce early and late season greens for MCHPP, something they historically have not had access to.

MCHPP Foodbank Manager Ryan Ravenscroft says, “the Common Good Garden volunteers do an amazing job growing great produce for MCHPP to distribute within the community. We are very excited for the timely growing capacity the hoop house will provide, allowing the volunteers to grow much needed and appreciated greens and other produce during the shoulder seasons.” Culver and the crew are using kale plants this winter as a trial run and  plan to expand the contents of the hoop house in future years. 

In a stressful and scary year, the CGG and its crew were able to find some calm and fun moments while gardening. With the overarching goal of donating as much fresh and organic produce as possible, they worked with tricky weather and COVID precautions to make this year as successful as possible. Their multigenerational energy fueled a great season; one where the garden was able to grow and expand. The expansion led to more produce donated. The larger number of regular volunteers allowed for both a pollinator garden and a hoop house to be built. Both of these will be incorporated at the TSCG for years to come. The volunteer crew of the CGG had a great time this summer and cannot wait to do it all again next summer!

 

BTLT in the News, “Redevelopment authority seeking input on uses for 144-acres on former base”

Recently, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority put together a survey to gather public input on the future use of 144-acres on Brunswick Landing. The survey closed recently, but you can learn about the plans and the project at the article below.

BRUNSWICK — The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority is trying to decide what to do with 144-acres on the west side of the former Navy base and is seeking public input.

The parcel, which includes a cranberry wetland, a radar tower, abandoned military bunkers, airport access roads, a quarry and land formerly part of the town commons, was originally part of a roughly 275-acre area given over to Bowdoin College for educational purposes in 2006.

But according to Bowdoin spokesperson  Doug Cook, the original terms of the agreement required the college to make “substantial investments in new facilities on the former naval air station land by the year 2020.” Instead, the college made an outright purchase of about 13 acres last year. The Navy conveyed the remaining land back to the redevelopment authority, which is overseeing revitalization efforts at the former base, now renamed Brunswick Landing.

Click here to read the rest of the article!