Even with wet and rainy weather impacting crops and canceling numerous volunteer workdays, things are still growing and blooming over at the Tom Settlemire Community Garden. Wander over there on a sunny day as we head into September, and you will be greeted with bird songs and a rainbow of vibrant petals. As you make your way through the plots you will see the variety of things growing and the diversity of pollinators buzzing about. Along with flowers, plotholders are growing everything from tomatoes to kale to leeks to squash. Moving from plot to plot can sometimes feel like flipping through a colorful seed catalog. Some plotholders have even taken on challenges this year growing artichokes and even okra!
In the Common Good Garden (CGG), hundreds of pounds of produce have already been sent over to the food bank at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, with hundreds more pounds still in the ground awaiting harvest. As CGG volunteer Judith Long reminds us though, “Gardening is not for the faint of heart. Something, usually weather-related, intervenes to mess up the best laid plans.“ With all the rain and cool weather this season we experienced the development of a ‘pink root’ fungus throughout the onion crop that CGG volunteers were able to identify with assistance from MOFGA and the UMaine Cooperative Extension. While the onions are still fine for eating, they didn’t develop to the sizes we were hoping for and are not able to be stored long term. Despite this challenge with the onions, volunteers are already plotting a new plan for onions next season, as Judith puts it:
“You can’t keep enthusiastic gardeners down for long!”
Additionally, we grew buckwheat as a cover crop in one section of CGG to give the soil a rest and help restore nutrients. Not only is buckwheat easy to till back into the soil, but it also produces a beautiful flower that the pollinators love. The Common Good Garden is always a fun experiment, and we are so lucky to have such an incredible group of volunteers this season. Anyone is welcome to join us to lend a hand, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-10:30am (unless it’s raining). No gardening experience necessary!
While the CGG crew has been toiling away in the soil, the newly formed TSCG Workgroup (AKA the ‘Garden Committee’) has also been busy working on projects in the Garden and planning events. Our first event earlier this season was a Pest Management Workshop with Anna Markow and Charlotte Thurston from Whatley Farm. Garden volunteer Stephen Hall described this workshop as “information packed,” and was excited for what he learned about the benefits of parasitic wasps and companion plants. Plotholder Barbara Murphy hosted a Pollinator Workshop focused on the many benefits of planting flowers in the vegetable garden to attract pollinator insects. Barbara was thrilled that as the group walked through the Garden during the workshop “bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and birds put on a show demonstrating how colorful annual flowers and the blooming native perennials attract these pollinators.” Barbara is expecting that those who attended the workshop will be planting more flowers next season. We have a few other events in the works for the fall and plenty of fun ideas for next season for how to bring Garden community members together and share knowledge.
While we have plenty of volunteers who show up regularly to help out in the Garden, we also have had several volunteer groups from the community join us this season to help tackle some larger projects. A group of students from Harpswell Coastal Academy helped tend to the peach and apple trees in our orchard early in the season. Groups from Wright Pierce, an engineering firm, and Blue Marble Geographics, a software company, also had some fun team bonding in the Garden helping us to construct our new raised beds.
We love the chance to bring new community members into the Garden, so if your organization would like to join us, reach out!
If you haven’t stopped over at the Garden this season, we invite you to come by! All members of the community are welcome, just please remember to stay on the paths, look but don’t touch, and leave your dog friends at home.