Maine gardener: Falmouth gardens that feed the hungry are on the rise

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Pamela Hargest, horticulturist on the College of Maine Cooperative Extension within the Gardens of Tidewater Farms, which she oversees. Photograph by Tom Atwell

Rising backyard at Tidewater Farm in Falmouth.

Not solely greens and flowers grown for charity within the meals pantry and different charities, but in addition the acreage below its mission and infrastructure and on-site farming.

Pamela Hargest, a horticulturist on the College of Maine Cooperative Extension who has supervised work at Tidewater because the begin of the 2018 rising season, stated about 40 common volunteers do the planting, weeding and harvesting of produce from the gardens .

Hargest is the one paid worker on the gardens, which opened in 2012, so she makes use of low-maintenance methods as a lot as she will be able to.

The backyard now covers at the very least a 3rd of an acre, however doesn’t embrace a big space that’s plowed twice a yr and one other space coated with tarps that would be the gardens of the longer term. The whole property is about three acres.

“It is all about being a lazy gardener,” stated Hargest, although I could have used the phrase “skillful.” I did not see any indicators of laziness in him.

For starters, not all gardens are that far. Plowing brings weed seeds to the floor, the place they may germinate and create further work. As well as, tilling causes soil moisture to evaporate extra rapidly, which needs to be particularly averted as a result of Maine has just lately skilled dry summers.

She additionally avoids plowing when creating new gardens, opting to suppress current vegetation with tarps for a yr or extra earlier than beginning work.

The paths between the gardens are coated with donated wooden chips, and the crops are coated with straw. As well as, he and the volunteers plant crop after harvest utilizing oats and winter peas yearly. I’ve used oats as a canopy crop in my backyard, however had not heard of utilizing peas. A bit of on-line analysis means that not solely do they add plenty of moisture-retaining natural matter to the soil, however in addition they repair nitrogen from the ambiance and add it to the soil.

After I visited in late August, a big space had a crushed-stone base the place a brand new greenhouse and backyard shed would quickly be constructed and prepared to be used by the beginning of subsequent spring’s gardening season.

Hargest stated the greenhouse will, after all, be used to begin seedlings, giving the gardens a leap within the rising season. Though the greenhouse won’t be heated, it should have double-poly partitions and maintain warmth effectively.

She’s extra excited that the 2 constructions—the primary in Tidewater Gardens with electrical energy—and picnic tables put in on the identical time will present a great place to carry courses, in addition to the annual Grasp Gardener plant sale every spring. shall be held in

Hargest is worked up to draw extra folks to the gardens by courses and any variety of different occasions.

The gardens – situated at 75 Clearwater Drive in Falmouth, simply off Route 1 – are open to the general public, the place individuals are free to roam concerning the crops (considerably uncommon) are grown in addition to study gardening methods .

Probably the most troublesome factor is about Malabar spinach, which grows effectively within the warmth of summer season. Photograph by Tom Atwell

One crop that I discovered notably fascinating is Malabar spinach, whose botanical title is Bacella alba. This isn’t true spinach, which doesn’t develop effectively within the warmth of summer season. Malabar spinach does, and inexperienced makes a great summer season salad. It’s a tall vine crop and is straightforward to select whereas standing.

A lot of the meals harvested from the gardens is donated to Wayside Meals Packages in Portland, however some will go to different non-profit meals pantries. Lower flowers go to the Ronald McDonald Home and different public areas.

After I went there was a crop that volunteers had been harvesting.

Whereas Hargest’s salaries are paid for by the College of Maine Extension and the gardens obtain little cash from the college, many of the cash for the gardens comes from donations.

The land on which the backyard sits is owned by the town of Falmouth, however the college’s lease nonetheless has about 10 years left. For instance, the town gives help at any time when it could possibly, utilizing heavy gear to maneuver heavy supplies.

“They’re delighted to have us right here,” stated Hargest.

She additionally stated that Tidewater collaborates repeatedly with its Route 1 Falmouth neighbor, the Maine Audubon Society. Maine Audubon often holds courses at Tidewater, and Tidewater buys some crops from the Audubon sale.

Guests may spend the entire day fortunately at each the websites.

Tom Atwell is a contract author doing gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He could be contacted: [email protected]


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