Gardening is not for the faint of heart…

“Gardening is not for the faint of heart,” says Judith Long, a Common Good Garden volunteer at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. But she also says that despite the challenges that arise throughout the growing season, “you can’t keep enthusiastic gardeners down for long!”  

Volunteers Suzanne, Dev, Harriet, Molly, and Claudia washing carrots

In the Common Good Garden (CGG), a section of the Tom Settlemire Community Garden (TSCG) used to grow fresh produce for Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), volunteers gather twice a week. Throughout the season in four large garden plots, they cultivated carrots, butternut squash, onions, and experimented with a cover crop of buckwheat. Dedicated volunteer Hope Mahoney summed up our work this season: “We fussed over the onions, encouraged the squash, and celebrated the carrots – and each week went home tired and dirty. It was another great season at the Garden.” We are thrilled to share that we donated a total of 1,548 pounds of produce to MCHPP this season!  

Despite the best laid plans, challenges can always abound in a garden, especially when weather and climate change can add an element of unpredictability. After planting over 6,000 onion seedlings in April, a season of seemingly endless rain brought pink root fungus to the crop. Still edible, but no longer able to be stored for a long shelf life, volunteers made quick work of harvesting and cleaning all onions to send over to MCHPP’s kitchen to be processed and made into soup. There is always a creative solution!  

Hope, Molly, Stephen, Judith, Ron, Suzanne and Dev with squash

A leader in the Common Good Garden, Barbara Murphy, noted how impressed she was this year with the dedication of the volunteers. As Barbara noted, there is “the wonder of being able to see the full circle of plant life — from seed to seedlings to harvest” that can lead to volunteer investment. Each workday, up to a dozen volunteers would join, ranging in age from teenagers to retired folks in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. The volunteers included local gardeners, plot holders at TSCG, high school students, New Mainers, and even a recent Bowdoin College graduate who was researching community gardens with the hope of starting one at the school where she teaches in North Carolina. 

Molly McGrath and her 13-year-old son Owen joined as new volunteers this past summer. Molly shares that when they joined, they knew they would have a chance to “dig around in the dirt, but didn’t expect to get to see bluebirds, learn about irrigation, laugh at carrot shapes, and make such good friends.” They are both planning on returning to the Common Good Garden again next season.

Molly with a wagon full of squash

Kurt, Sandra, Tina, Rob. and Chris harvesting carrots

Rebecca Dorr was another volunteer new to the Common Good Garden and shared her experience of the “joy to just sit in the earth side by side and plant carrot seeds for hours.” Moving from a more rural area of Maine to Brunswick this past year, Rebecca describes that she was “desperate” to get her hands in the soil and felt welcomed into the CGG community.  

On a chilly, misty morning in mid-October, the Common Good Garden volunteer team finished cleaning up the garden and sat down around the picnic tables at TSCG. Coffee, donuts, and plenty of laughs were shared as we discussed the successes and challenges of the season. When asked who was planning on returning to volunteer next season, everyone at the table raised their hands. 

When we said our goodbyes, it felt like we were parting ways for our winter hibernation, preparing to remerge in the spring to grow together again. But gardening is a year-round practice, even in a place like Maine where the growing season is so short. Wheelbarrow repairs continue, new maps are being drawn up for the next crop rotation, and plans are being laid for starting our own onion seedlings for next season. At TSCG we feel so lucky to have such an incredible group of volunteers dedicated to growing produce to support food security efforts in our community. We hope that you will be inspired to join us in the Spring!  

Kurt, Suzanne, Chris. Judith. Molly. Harriet. Stephen, Barbara. Ruth, Ron. and Claudia on the final workday of the season