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
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.