Update from the Community Garden

BTLT in the News, “Local organizations step up to help feed people in need during pandemic”

The midcoast Maine region is home to a particularly high density of farms and organizations committed to promoting food access. Over the past months, a number of

Volunteers at Growing to Give at Scatter Good Farm in Brunswick harvest, pack and donate hundreds of pounds of fresh, organic produce to send to local food banks each week, but Farm Manager Theda Lyden worries it’s still not enough.

Once the coronavirus pandemic hit and thousands of Mainers lost their jobs, Lynden and the others at the nonprofit farm immediately felt an urgency to get more food into the system.

Since March, the weekly haul has been steadily increasing as the growing season has progressed, Lyden said. Last week, 735 pounds of vegetables were harvested and distributed across Cumberland, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties. It’s starting to feel like they’re making a difference, she said.

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BTLT in the News, “Local organizations promoting food access with seedlings”

The midcoast Maine region is home to a particularly high density of farms and organizations committed to promoting food access. Over the past months, a number of local farms, along with the Merrymeeting Gleaners and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT), have been working together on an ambitious project to collect and distribute hundreds of seedlings to dozens of food access programs across the southern midcoast region. The project is already proving hugely successful, with thousands of plants having been distributed. In time, these seedlings will mature in various gardens around the region and yield significantly more food per unit than redistributing already grown vegetables.

“We hadn’t done much seedling donation before this year,” said Ben Whatley, co-owner of Whatley Farm, one of the farms who has taken the lead in donating seedlings. “It was always just excess produce going through… when we’ve had the gleaners out to glean the crops on the fields. [Gleaning seedlings] was a new idea [for us].”

A few months ago, Whatley reached out to Kelly Davis (gleaning coordinator for the Merrymeeting Gleaners) and Jamie Pacheco (program manager at BTLT) offering to donate a variety of excess vegetable seedlings. Pacheco and Davis contacted a network of partner organizations in the area to gauge interest, with the Merrymeeting Gleaners managing the logistics and distribution. The response was rapid and enthusiastic.

“Seedlings aren’t really something we’ve gleaned before, but [Whatley] reached out to us asking if we could use the seedlings and I was like ‘OK, let’s try it,”’ said Davis. “I put an email out to all our partners and I got an overwhelming response—within half an hour, I had to stop taking requests!”

Since that initial proposal, about 2,000 seedlings have been distributed to a wealth of organizations in the midcoast Maine area, with Milkweed Farm, Six River Farm and Goranson Farm also contributing seedlings.

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Pollinator Project at the Community Garden

What a difference two months can make…

Rainbows and Reemay at TSCG!

TSCG updates!

Red Tomato Mulch Experiment in CGG

Red Tomato Mulch Experiment in CGG
By: Lily Hatrick

The volunteers of the Common Good Garden (CGG), under the leadership of Common Good Garden Coordinator Dev Culver, are trying a mulching experiment on the tomato plants this season.

The tomatoes were planted in rows with a PVC pipe structure built to prevent the tomatoes from resting on the ground. After planting the tomatoes, a Master Gardener Volunteer and CGG volunteer, suggested using red “mulch” as it is beneficial for improving the growth of tomatoes. It was a bit tricky to install the red “mulch” after the tomatoes were already in the ground, but the challenge was taken up by the volunteer work team.

Researchers at Clemson University report that red “mulch” has a measurable impact on tomato plant productivity. Red “mulch” reflects sunlight back onto the tomato plant amplifying the green light spectrum. Amplifying the green light spectrum encourages tomato plants to grow leaves faster and in turn provides an earlier and larger fruit crop. The light reflected onto the plant triggers the release of a specific plant protein. This protein causes the crop yield to increase and reportedly makes the tomatoes even more delicious.

Mulch has the added benefits of suppressing weeds that compete with plants for nutrients, creating a warmer soil environment and increasing water retention decreasing the need for frequent watering. To test the impact of red “mulch”, the volunteers have one row of tomatoes set up using black plastic cover.  This row will serve as our control group in this experiment. Next time you are at the TSCG, drop by and take a look at the red “mulch” experiment.

Lily Hatrick is a rising junior at Brunswick High School (BHS).  In April she joined the team of volunteers that farm the Common Good Garden at TSCG.  Lily and Dev are working together to develop Lily’s volunteer time into an experiential learning program supported by BHS.

Experimenting in the Garden

TSCG Progress!