Coffin Students Visit Land Trust’s Community Garden

120 First Graders plant seedlings for their community.

Taking advantage of recent a rare sunny day, six first grade classes from Coffin Elementary School set off on foot for Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG).  Their goal was to transplant approximately 240 squash, pumpkin, sunflower and nasturtium plants that they had seeded earlier in the spring.  With this goal in mind, along with the opportunity for outdoor, experiential learning, they dug into this task with gusto.

TSCG is located on Crystal Spring Farm, a property owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Through the Garden, the Land Trust strives to provide intergenerational gardening opportunities, increase the availability of locally grown food for area food pantries, and offer experiential gardening opportunities for the community.

With the help of a dedicated crew of volunteers, the young students transplanted all of their seedlings into the Garden. The squash harvest will be donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, while the pumpkins and sunflowers will be harvested for further study by Coffin Students in the fall.

Staff from the Land Trust, Nikkilee (Lee) Cataldo and Caroline Elliot, were on hand to give tours of the Garden, including the composting and solar powered watering facilities that are on site.  “We love having kids in the Garden!” said Cataldo. “It is import to our mission as a land trust to have young folks get their hands dirty doing something good for the community, and to just enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing community asset.”

As this school year nears its end, students were able to stay engaged in their learning while participating in a service project for their community.  First graders have spent time this spring learning about plant life cycles, plant parts, and growing requirements.  Coffin teachers appreciated the opportunity for their students to experience the next phase in the gardening process by transplanting the plants they had grown in the classroom.  Most students enjoyed digging in the dirt and finding earthworms, but eating watermelon was a unanimous success.  First grader Sylus Pillsbury beamed as he said, “This is really fun!”

FEED THE SOIL, NOT THE PLANT!! Learning from January 15th Winter Gardening Workshop

By Emily Swan, BTLT Board Secretary and Community Engagement and Programs Committee Chair.

Emily Swan

“Feed the soil, not the plant. If there’s one thing you take away from this lecture, this is it!” Master Gardener Linton Studdiford told the capacity crowd gathered to hear his talk about organic soil management in the St. Paul’s Church parish hall on a chilly January afternoon.

This may have been the most important message of the inaugural workshop in BTLT’s 2017 Winter Gardening Workshop series, but it was far from the only thing the 80 or so assembled gardeners learned about soils.

I came away with this practical trilogy of garden principles:
1. Feed the soil, not the plant.
2. To nourish soil, add organic matter.
3. Before you do anything, get a soil test!
And this amazing fact about the biological richness of healthy soil: there are more bacteria in one tablespoon of soil than there are people in Africa, China, and India!

And this fact sure to dampen the arrogance of any soil know-it-alls that may have been lurking in the hall: We only know 10% of the animal and plant species living in soil!

Linton’s knowledge of all aspects of gardening is encyclopedic, and we all came away with a much clearer understanding of the science of soil. But his practical knowledge of gardening is equally vast, based both on study and on decades of gardening experience, and I left with a long to-do list to improve my extremely humble garden and compost pile. I’ve just scrawled on my October calendar – “Don’t forget to use the mower bag to collect chopped leaves to add to the compost pile next winter!” For November – “Dig leaves into garden,” and for May – “Apply compost but don’t overtill!!” For April/May – “The time to add nitrogen is in late spring to stimulate plant growth when the soil is still cold.” And the list goes on and on.

What better time than the depths of winter to expand your gardening knowledge? Now I’m just chomping at the bit to get into the garden and put it all into practice!

The next Winter Gardening Workshop is Sunday, January 29, and will be an opportunity to learn about Permaculture from one of the region’s leading experts, Jesse Watson. Learn more at:www.btlt.org/wgw-permaculture

Botanical Explorer: Event Follow Up Information

Thank you to all of you who were able to attend the event with the Botanical Explorer. I know that I was inspired and went home with a lot of interesting ideas to contemplate!

Below are a few links I thought would be helpful. Perhaps the most important is the Review for Joseph.There is also information about a couple of food plants that can be grown in Maine, a great Maine seed saver that Joseph mentioned last night, and information about resources for growing rare seeds to collect and share in our community.

Finally, if you enjoyed the free program, please consider becoming a member of BTLT and CREA so we can continue to make these events possible.

————

Critique The Botanical Explorer
Visit www.greatgardenspeakers.comand post a review of last night’s presentation to help Joseph get to other communities like ours around the globe. Scroll down below his list of topics, and you will see Rate This Speaker in orange. It just takes a few moments and is an important way to say thank you!

Kajari Melon, Baker Creek Seeds
Remember this stunning beauty that Joseph mentioned might be a good candidate for growing in Maine? With a growing season as short at 70 days, maybe! Let’s try…
You can get seeds here: Baker Creek Seeds

Will Bonsall, Khadigar Farm
A great Mainer doing important work protecting the diversity in our food system. Through his Scatterseed Project, a great deal of  the seedstock of vegetables, legumes, small grains, and tree fruits, which we are able to grow in a cold Maine climate, are still able to be acquired because of Will. Read more HERE or watch the VIDEO. (Jo Josephson photo)

Sunchoke
Also known as the Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, is a North American native that grows well in Maine (some might say too well!). The tuber is harvested in the spring and has a mild flavor and texture like a potato. Read more about the sunchoke HERE and place an ORDER through Fedco.

Are you interested in growing rare and heirloom seeds for community?
Would you like to get involved in growing rare seeds and saving them for wider distribution? Get in touch! We have community garden space that could be perfect for this type of effort and we would love to help make it happen! Contact Lee Cataldo any time or call 729-7694.

Thank you for another successful Plant Sale!

To all the generous and helpful Tom Settlemire Community Garden volunteers and community members who made donations that contributed to the fantastic success of the Fifth Annual TAKING ROOT PLANT SALE: Thank you! Thank you, one and all.

We were once again so fortunate to have a spectacular community building Taking Root Plant Sale…..initial accounting reveals at least $6,000 raised in support of this “community gem” (as one volunteer stated) the Tom Settlemire Community Garden!

So many generous folks contributed to make this success:

  • Bonnie Studdiford and Claudia Adams, co-chairs of the Taking Root Plant Sale Planning Team
  • All the committee chairs and their crews
  • Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program Staff
  • Master Gardeners
  • Plant donors/diggers/potters
  • Flyer/poster/banner distributors
  • Bake/book donors/volunteers
  • White Elephant/ volunteers
  • We Compost It!
  • Set up/break down crews
  • Label/sign makers
  • The Masons,particularly Frank Hilton.

And of course our loyal customers who came and bought……

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.

Stay tuned and we hope you will again help with next year’s sale.

 

Missing your garden? Winter Garden Workshops will build your skills, even if you’re not getting your hands dirty.

NEWS RELEASE January 4, 2016

 

Our  Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) does not let winter in Maine stand in the way of conversations about gardening. This year is no exception – the fifth annual Winter Gardening Workshop series begins this Sunday, January 10, from 2:00 – 3:30 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at the corner of Pleasant and Union Streets in Brunswick.

The series is appropriate for gardeners of all levels including beginning and novice gardeners.  Workshops focus on organic gardening methods and cover a wide range of subjects. This year topics include growing vegetables in Maine, selecting native woody plants, growing small fruits, pruning techniques, and gardening without aches and pains.

You can see the full schedule below, or here: www.btlt.org/gardening-workshops/ 

The series has been consistently popular, regularly attracting 70 to 100 people to each workshop.

Angela Twitchell, the Land Trust’s Executive Director, says of the workshops, “People just love this series. The consistent large audience shows a real hunger in the community for access to gardening expertise, and we are happy to be supporting this need in our community.  We continue to seek out creative, relevant topics that attract new participants, and have value for regular attendees.”

The first five workshops, held several Sundays January through March, are open to everyone with a suggested donation of $5.

As in the past, the final workshop on March 20nd is a fundraiser for the Community Garden.

At this year’s fundraiser, the Land Trust welcomes Tom Atwell, long-time garden columnist for the Portland Press Herald (PPH). He will be talking about some of his favorite old and new plants, and everything Maine-garden.

In a recent PPH article, Atwell wrote, “Cultivating your mind can be as rewarding and productive as cultivating your garden. Plus, what you learn at lectures and programs during the cold dark days ahead can make you a better gardener when the long, hot days of summer arrive.”

The fundraiser is $10, and tickets can be purchased online at www.btlt.org/events/get-your-maine-garden-on/

TSCG was started in 2012 by the Land Trust at Crystal Spring Farm to provide intergenerational organic gardening opportunities, provide locally grown food to alleviate hunger in the community, and offer experiential gardening education. Founded in 1985, the Land Trust has completed 40 projects preserving over 2,300 acres of vital natural areas and an array of community building programs such as TSCG Garden and Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm.

 

January 10 

Growing Vegetables in Maine

Linton Studdiford, Master Gardener

A discussion of vegetable growing in the Mid-Coast Area:  best varieties, when to plant, seed sources, winter growing inside, and more.

January 24

Selecting Native Woody Plants for Your Home

Justin Nichols, local ecological gardener and former horticulturist at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Learn more about using native woody landscape plants, in particular, how to grow with an emphasis on insect and pollinator relationships.

January 31

Growing Small Fruits

David Handley, Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Discover some of the home gardener’s methods and secrets for growing small fruits: blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.

February 21

Gardening Without Aches and Pains

Ellen Gibson, Educator for the Maine AgrAbility Program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

A presentation on tools and techniques to help you garden while avoiding joint, muscle and back pain.

March 6

Basic Pruning Techniques

Tim Vail, Arborist

This will be a hands-on workshop (weather permitting). 

There will be demonstrations of various types of pruning cuts and discussion of how and when to prune herbaceous and woody plants

March 20 ~ Fundraiser

“GET YOUR MAINE GARDEN ON”

with Tom Atwell, Mr. Maine Garden Himself

~ A TSCG Fundraiser ~

Tom is the author of the Portland Press Herald’s Maine garden column since 2004. 

He will discuss what is new and exciting for the garden in 2016: new vegetable varieties, perennial and annual flower introductions as well as new and tried and true plants.

PPH: This winter, growers should cultivate their minds

This week the Portland Press Herald ran a great article about building your gardening skills all winter long. It featured our own Winter Garden Workshops – a series we hold as part of the educational component of the mission of our Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG).

Also, this article is by Tom Atwood – who will be speaking at our March 20th workshop – an annual fundraiser for TSCG. You can learn more about the fundraiser and buy tickets at: www.btlt.org/events/get-your-maine-garden-on

This winter, growers should cultivate their minds

Brush up your gardening skills with some of the many local offerings.

BY TOM ATWELL

MAINE GARDENER
Posted

Cultivating your mind can be as rewarding and productive as cultivating your garden. Plus, what you learn at lectures and programs during the cold dark days ahead can make you a better gardener when the long, hot days of summer arrive.

Garden clubs, public gardens, land trusts, garden centers and other organizations bring in speakers to help their members grow, to attract new members and, in some cases, to make money. Whatever the reason, all give you an excuse to get out of the house.

The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust is offering a class at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 that I wish I had taken decades ago: “Gardening Without Aches and Pains” by Ellen Gibson of the Maine AgrAbility Program, jointly run by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Goodwill and Alpha One. It’ll be held at St. Paul’s Church in Brunswick.

Gibson said Maine AgrAbility has a federal grant to help workers in the farm, fishing and forestry industries prevent and overcome disabling injuries. She also presents a program called “Gardening Forever,” which advises gardeners to, among other things, stretch before gardening, vary tasks so they aren’t making the same motions for long periods of time, and build raised beds, about 36 inches high, that can be used by people in wheelchairs.

“I love giving that program,” she said, saying she will be speaking on the topic April 18 at Lakeside Garden Club in Bridgton and May 12 at Walnut Hill Garden Club in North Yarmouth. Gibson can be reached at ellen.gibson@goodwillnne.org.

Other Brunswick Topsham Land Trust programs, all at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s, include growing vegetables by Linton Studdiford, Master Gardener, on Jan. 10; native woody plants for your home by Justin Nichols, an ecological gardener and former horticulturist at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, on Jan. 24; growing small fruits by David Handley, extension educator, on Jan 31; basic pruning techniques by arborist Tim Vail on March 6; and me on old and new plants I like on March 20. The requested donation for most of the talks is $5.

Merryspring Nature Park in Camden (merryspring.org) has talks at noon most Tuesdays, and while not all of them are about gardening, they all involve nature and would interest gardeners. Admission is $5 for non-members.

Noah Perlut, an associate professor at the University of New England in Biddeford, will discuss gardens and wildlife as biological control on Feb. 16.

Perlut said the genesis of the program was when Eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne illness, was first confirmed in York County. To get rid of mosquitoes, the university staff proposed spraying. Since the campus is surrounded by water, that plan was rejected.

Instead, faculty and students added habitat for those birds and bats that prey on mosquitoes and put in plants, such as bee balm and citronella, that repel the bugs.

“A lot of the plantings were done in pots and put in high-traffic areas, and they become more effective when engaged and brushed upon,” Perlut said. “One Master Gardener came with an ingenious idea and planted cherry tomatoes in the center of the pots.” The idea was that the mosquito repellent plants would be touched more often when passersby picked tomatoes.

Other interesting-sounding topics coming up at Merryspring include cultivating mushrooms, with Jon Carver on Feb. 2; starting a garden from scratch, with Sharon Turner on March 8; learning about new plants, with Hammon Buck on March 15; and planting and pruning fruit trees, with Renae Moran on March 22.

McLaughlin Garden in South Paris (mclaughlingarden.org) and its affiliated Foothills Garden Club offer free programs at 4 p.m. Wednesdays (with free tea at 3:30 p.m.) beginning March 2, when Mark Silber, formerly with Hedgehog Hill Farm in Sumner, will speak on “From Seed to Harvest, from Harvest to Seed.” Other topics include Donna Anderson, McLaughlin executive director, on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 9; Edith Ellis on gardens of the Northwest on March 16; Peter Kukielski, formerly of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in New York City, “Rethinking the Rose Garden” on March 23; Jeff Dunlop on Siberian irises on March 30; and Gary Fish of the Maine Board of Pesticide Control on yardscaping on April 6.

The state’s garden clubs offer many programs. Among the busiest is the Belfast Garden Club, which is offering a very interesting talk, “Gardening in Tune with Nature,”on Feb. 23. The instructors are Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto, and the class begins at 6:30 p.m. Find the full list of talks at belfastgardenclub.org.

St. Mary’s Garden Club at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary, 43 Foreside Road, Falmouth, will offer Kyle Fletcher Baker of Plainview Farms on seed-starting at 11 a.m. Jan. 11, just as you will be starting some of your seeds for 2016. The fee is $5 for non-members.

Plant societies also have good programs. The Maine Iris Society will present Jan Sacks of the Joe Pye Weed Garden in Massachusetts on species iris at 1:30 p.m. March 13 at Woodfords Church, 202 Woodford St., Portland, and will have flower show judges talk about making arrangements with irises on April 9 at the Methodist Church on Park Avenue in Auburn.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (mofga.org) will hold classes on growing your own organic garden in adult education programs all around the state. The classes are planned for 6 to 9 p.m. April 6, for a fee of $5, but schedules and costs may vary so check the website for the program nearest you.

MOFGA’s seed swap and scion exchange, free and open to the public, will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 20 at its headquarters in Unity. In addition, the group has two classroom spaces booked throughout the day at the Agriculture Trades Show in Augusta on Jan. 12.

The Agriculture Show – although not the MOFGA part of it, extends Jan. 12-14, and other organizations put on many informative programs during the show.

Also drop by your local garden center. Most have been so busy through the Christmas season that they haven’t yet set up their schedules for January through March, but they will soon.

I know this list is daunting. But my purpose is to keep you from curling up on the couch with books and catalogs and slowly getting a case of cabin fever.

Get out and meet some fellow gardeners and learn something. April will get here soon.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or attomatwell@me.com.

In the news: Congolese gardener puts down roots in Brunswick

Enock Mukadi, 21, in his plot at the Land Trust’s Tom Settlemire Community Garden at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick (Walt Wuthmann photo)

BRUNSWICK — Enock Mukadi spent the first 20 years of his life in a town called Mwene Ditu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He spent the last year in Brunswick, where he has found a way to make sense of the change in the community garden at Crystal Spring Farm.As the sun beat down on Tuesday afternoon, Mukadi walked through his two plots at the garden, pointing out and identifying the vegetables he was growing.

“I have spinach, carrots, Chinese cabbage, potatoes, red onions,” he said. He used to grow collard greens, but they were eaten by beetles. He replaced them with kale, which seems to be faring better.

Mukadi gets his seeds from the Tom Settlemire Community Garden, which was set up four years ago by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. He is one of 70 people who farm the garden’s 82 plots.

Under a row of tomatoes, Mukadi sifts through the leaves and stalks, removing little beetles by hand and crushing them. Community garden “master gardener” Prentiss Weiss has taught him how to identify Maine pests, as well as organic ways to repel them, like using a spray made of Neem oil, a natural repellent.

That system is not 100 percent effective, however, so sometimes the beetles must be taken on in hand-to-hand combat.

“Some of these tomato plants, my English teacher gave me,” Mukadi said. Mukadi is about to finish classes at Merrymeeting Adult Education, and then start summer courses at Southern Maine Community College.

English is just one of the five languages Mukadi speaks; French, Swahili, Tshiluba, and Lingala are the others. He also says he has learned some Spanish and Thai from friends at Merrymeeting.

“Every time I start to learn a new language I get excited,” he said. He practices Spanish using an application on his phone, and described each language as a “new world.”

In this new world of Maine, there are some practical things that affect his gardening.

Mukadi said Maine’s windy days and cold temperatures have been a challenge for his vegetable growing.

He has insulated his potato plants with straw to keep the soil warm warm, and so far, it seems to be working. The plants stand knee high, with green leaves pushing up through their straw protection.

Even though the weather and pests are new, some of the vegetables he grows are not.

In another part of the garden, garden coordinator Corie Washow has set aside a plot for Mukadi to plant and experiment with African seedlings.

“We knew that Enock had brought some seeds from Africa and we had some open space,” she said.

Mukadi has started to grow winter squash, sorrel, amaranth, and African eggplant. “(The eggplant) is very bitter,” he said. “You need to cook it. You couldn’t eat it in a salad.”

Although Mukadi is the main caretaker of his plots, he said on Saturdays some of his brothers and sisters, as well as his mother, come out to help tend the plants. His sisters are making some signs about the vegetables so they can be “a kind education piece for the community,” Washow said.

Washow also said if the vegetables “take off,” the garden will save the seeds to grow again.

Mukadi said everything he grows will be quickly eaten by the 11 people in his family.

Mukadi has three brothers, and six sisters. They all moved to Brunswick last year after his father, who had been living in Portland for the past five years, found a house here.

“He tried to find a big house for a big family,” in Portland, Mukadi said. But he ended up finding one in Brunswick, near Cook’s Corner.

In the beginning Mukadi worried that wasn’t a good thing.

“At first we were all alone in that house,” he said. “We could see cars moving all around us, but no people.”

But now, Brunswick is a “community,” he said.

His siblings go to the local schools, and are always out in the neighborhood with friends, he said.

“Sometimes you have to leave things behind to go forward in life,” he said. “If you have ambitions, you need to sacrifice.”

Mukadi said he wants to get his bachelor’s degree, and then work for the United Nations, travelling and doing development work in countries like Congo.

“In Congo, things always change,” he said. “When presidents change, all things, like the military, change too.”

He said he has found peace in Maine, where the economy is “stable.” “Maine is good for me, I like a quiet place,” he said.

Looking down at this African eggplant sprouting from the soil, Mukadi said he didn’t initially think that his African seedlings would grow at all.

“Coming from this very hot place to this world that’s not very hot, a place that’s very strange, cold, and windy … I thought they would not come out,” he said.

But they have, “and they don’t complain about the weather,” he added.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net.