Taking Root Plant Sale Another Springtime Success!

Saturday June 4th, we hosted our annual Taking Root Plant Sale at the Topsham Fairground’s Exhibition Hall. Folks began to line-up around 8:15 am to get first dibs on the selection of over 2,000 plants available for purchase. The variety this year was stunning with dozens of categories to choose from including perennials, annuals, herbs, vegetable seedlings, trees, shrubs, flowers, shade, sun, and more!

This Plant Sale is our biggest fundraiser of the year and covers the day-to-day operating expenses for the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG), which includes 80 plots for community members, the Common Good Garden where volunteers grow tons of food for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention, as well as several community partnerships and research efforts.

The Plant Sale is run by an amazing lead team who start their planning for next year just weeks after the Sale. They oversee each aspect, from dividing and growing plants at TSCG, to bringing in and preparing donations from the community, to managing site logistics, volunteers, and so much more. In addition to that, dozens of volunteers coordinate major areas of the sale – everything from parking to sales to trees and shrubs. Dozens more volunteers help on the days, and even months, leading up to and on the day of the sale helping care for, move and tag plants, direct traffic, help with check-out, and assist customers pick out just the right plants for their yard. It’s really an amazing experience when you realize that essentially every aspect was coordinated and completed by 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.

And to everyone that joined us last Saturday: Thank you! Your efforts resulted in roughly $13,000 raised for the Tom Settlemire Community Garden.

So many generous folks contributed to make this success:

  • All the volunteer committee chairs and their crews
  • Bath Garden Club
  • Big Top Deli
  • Butchers and Bakers
  • Coast of Maine Organic Products
  • Hannaford
  • Little Dog Coffee Shop
  • Marebrook Farm
  • Medomak Valley Highschool Horticulture Program
  • Moose Crossing
  • Portland Radio Group
  • Portland Pie
  • SweetFern Garden Design
  • UMaine Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners
  • Urban Garden Center, Topsham
  • Warmings Market
  • WCME
  • Whatley Farm
  • Each and every wonderful volunteer who helped along the way
  • And of course our loyal customers who came and purchased plants!

We hope this sincere thank you reaches everyone who helped. We’ve already begun planning next year’s sale and as always hope to improve it based on our experience and folk’s observations and suggestions.

Master Gardener Volunteers Dig In at the Common Good Garden

Earlier this month, a small group of Master Gardener volunteers joined us in the Common Good Garden as part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Work Day. The Common Good Garden is a section of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden that is run by Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust staff, alongside a dedicated group of volunteers, growing produce for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program

Common Good Garden volunteer Judith Long led this group of Master Gardeners along with Common Good Garden volunteers Harriet and Hope. They dug in, prepping the carrot bed, getting the beds laid out, the soil turned, and getting several rows of carrot seeds planted in the ground. Some of these carrots have already sprouted! An incident with the water system didn’t deter this group from finishing their work who showed resilience, creativity, and persistence on the hot and sunny day they spent working in the garden.

We are so grateful to have Master Gardener Volunteers join us in the Garden and grateful to our dedicated group of Common Good Garden volunteers who have a passion for keeping our community fed. If you are interested in volunteering in the Common Good Garden, you can learn more here.

Big thank you to all who helped out!!! We couldn’t do it without you.

Photos by Judith Long.

Bowdoin Ice Hockey Team Lends a Hand in the Garden

As part of Bowdoin College’s Common Good Project, members of the men’s ice hockey team joined us last week for three hours on a beautiful sunny day in the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, helping us prepare for the start of the growing season. Volunteers are a critical part of keeping the Community Garden going and growing. Group work days like this are incredibly valuable as they help us tackle lots of bigger tasks at once!

The hockey team split up into several groups to take on projects around the Garden including tending to the new peach and apple trees in the orchard, weeding and prepping the Common Good Garden beds, helping BTLT volunteer Ellen prepare the for the upcoming Plant Sale, working with Dave Brooks of Brooks Hydro Logic on some repairs to water system tanks, and a problem solving duo got to work on some repairs to our raised beds! While helping the Garden get off to a great start for the 2022 growing season, the team also got to learn a thing or two about gardening and the hard work, dedication, and thoughtfulness that goes into keeping TSCG a thriving community space.

A big thank you to the Bowdoin ice hockey team for lending their hands to the garden. We are so glad that the team had a blast and we hope to have them back soon as volunteers or visitors in the Garden!

New Mainer Garden gets a New Shed!

Rarely has BTLT seen such an outpouring of support for a new program as for the New Mainers Garden. This spring, that dramatic community support continued when Brunswick Coastal Rotary and Topsham Expresso Rotary (and friends) came together to build a much-needed garden shed for the project.

“Everything needed for the New Mainer’s garden has been stored in the back entryway to our office, and it wasn’t good for the equipment, nor was it very convenient for entering the building,” said BTLT Associate Director, Lee Cataldo. “This shed is going to make the whole project more sustainable for everyone!”

This shed will be a place to keep the tools, hoses, and other supplies for this small community garden, created for and managed by Brunswick Landing’s New Mainer community.

Over the winter, Lucy Lloyd of Brunswick Coastal Rotary reached out to BTLT to see if perhaps there was another project they might collaborate on – after the Rotarians designed and built a pergola and swing for the Tom Settlemire Community Garden in 2021. It all came together perfectly – the Rotarians were hoping to find a way to support the New Mainers, and BTLT really needed help constructing a shed. The material costs were covered by remaining funds from the 2021 crowdsource effort.

The Rotarians, BTLT, and the New Mainers look forward to celebrating the new shed and the Garden with a small potluck in June.

A huge thank you to all the Rotarians and many donors who made this project possible!

Another Great Season!

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.

BTLT Agricultural Programs Coordinator Julia St. Clair and TSCG Volunteer Dev Culver

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.

Soil Care in the Common Good Garden

By Jamie Pacheco, BTLT Programs Manager

At the end of the 2020 season Dev Culver, Common Good Garden volunteer leader, pulled soil samples from the majority of the beds used for growing in the Common Good Garden. Soil tests indicated that the 4 plots with the most use have extremely low levels of nitrogen, mid range micronutrient levels, and mid range organic matter levels. The new section of the Common Good Garden has more available nitrogen, and to some degree more organic matter, however these plots also had mid range amounts of most other nutrients.  

This year, Culver, and the rest of the volunteer crew who farm the Common Good Garden at TSCG, cover cropped one of the 8 beds that are used for growing food for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Cover cropping is an important tool for adding nitrogen back into the soil, breaking plant and soil disease cycles, and building soil hummus. Oats were used, which will winter kill, allowing us to plant the bed in the 2022 growing season. The 2021 soil tests should show more organic matter and higher nitrogen levels going into the 2022 season.

Delaney Bullock, Bowdoin College student, ran a soil fertility growing trail in one of the beds of the Common Good Garden at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. Bullock’s project was part of an independent study, and was overseen by the Merrymeeting Food Council who partnered with BTLT to gain access to growing space for Bullock. The growing trial compared crop growth grown alongside seaweed and green crab emulsions. Click here to read more about the trial! This section of the garden should show higher levels of organic matter and trace minerals in the 2021 soil test. Ocean products are a great source of trace minerals because they are abundant in ocean ecosystems.

We highly recommend that plot holders test their soil and modify the soil management practices based on the findings of their soil tests.

Thank you Julia!

Julia St. Clair, Jamie Pacheco, & Lee Cataldo at the BTLT Farmers’ Market this fall

Though this entire year has been a time of gratitude, we’re entering the season where giving thanks becomes even more prevalent. With the Farmers’ Market season coming to an end and the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) closing up for the winter, it is high time we thank our incredible Agricultural Programs Coordinator Julia St. Clair for all of her hard work!

Julia started with us in May, quickly plunging into our busiest time of year for agricultural programs. She hit the ground running with confidence, kindness, and determination. She brought with her a wealth of knowledge from her experiences on organic, permaculture, and commercial farms and community gardens across New England and abroad. Julia’s photography and community outreach skills shined brightly though her masterful work with social media – her weekly highlights of vendors and products enticed folks to attend the Market each week and her real-time stories on Saturdays show-cased just how vibrant, musical, and fun the Market truly is. Her engagement ideas of running an Instagram giveaway and photo frame were both big successes! Julia also initiated a kids table at the Farmers’ Market, for kiddos of all ages to join in the celebration of local food.

Though this was a particularly challenging year with a surprise move of the Farmers’ Market back to Crystal Spring Farm and the implementation of a new water system at TSCG, Julia not only masterfully handled the logistical tasks at hand, but made many friends along the way. The annual end-of-market survey that we send out to vendors had overwhelmingly positive responses!

Here’s what some market vendors had to say about Julia:

“Julia’s good humor and attention to detail have been appreciated as we continue to navigate the complexities of the pandemic amid changes to the market location and ongoing customer safety concerns. Julia has reminded us all why we love Farmers’ Market and what continues to make BTLT’s Market so special.”

“We love her enthusiasm, sense of humor, and the great energy she brings to the Market.”

Julia has done a fantastic job of maintaining order and being approachable, friendly and responsive to both vendors and customers. I’ve really appreciated having her join the BTLT staff and her thoughtfulness in communication with vendors.”

Excellent, friendly, intelligent, clear management. Julia is outstanding in that role!”

Julia, we thank you for all your hard work these past few months! Your contributions, perseverance, passion, and communication were much appreciated and we look forward to another great season in 2022.

Tom Settlemire & Julia St. Clair at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden Plot Luck

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.