Our garden is part of the of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Backyard Locavore Day next weekend — Saturday if it doesn’t rain hard; Aug. 12 if it does.

It all began in February when Diana Hibbard, a home horticulture coordinator with the extension, sent me an email thanking me for writing about extension projects in the past.

And, oh, yes, would I be willing to be part of Locavore Day? I asked Nancy what she thought, and her response was: “If our garden isn’t in decent shape by then, it never will be.”

Hibbard was smart to ask in February. We hadn’t done anything in the yard since we raked our leaves in November, we were well rested and actually looking forward to gardening season, and we didn’t know — although, living in Maine, we should have — that every weekend in the summer would be booked up with visitors, visits to other places or other events. 

We have been working, when we have spare time and no visitors, on making our gardens look perfect (or at least better then they normally would look in August). We’ve recut garden edges, and put down six cubic yards of mulch.

Nancy has plans for more mulching, but we’re having overnight company several times before the garden tour, so her plans may go for nought. 

We’re also thinking that we may have to resort to the old landscaper’s trick of sticking in some flowering plants at the last minute. So, if Hibbard had asked in June, the answer would have be a resounding “no.”

Hibbard stressed when I saw her at a Maine Landscaping and Nursery Association meeting a few weeks ago that Locavore Day is different from most other garden tours.

First, the emphasis is food production, which means that the owners do all of the work in most of the gardens and that the gardens do not have to be perfectly neat.

Kate McCarty, a food-preservation specialist for the extension in Cumberland County who is also working on the event, goes along with that.

“We aren’t going to tell the hosts to weed their gardens or anything like that,” McCarty said, “but we assume they will be doing that anyway.”

Yes, Nancy and I have been part of garden tours before, but they were both local events. We were part of a Cape Elizabeth Garden Club tour, but we knew all the members, and most of them had been here before. And we were part of a tour run by the Cape Elizabeth Recycling Committee, but the focus was on our compost bins.

But because this tour is bigger, we expect more people, and we won’t know most of them.

Regular readers of this column  may recall that one of my goals this year was to do a better job  of weeding. I did a better job until about a month ago, when the raspberries started ripening. And picking raspberries is a time-consuming job.

Nancy has been picking up the slack, and raspberry production is beginning to slow down. As I write this, we have two weeks until Locavore Day. Barring disaster, we won’t be embarrassed by weeds on the day of the show — although I do not promise that we will be weed-free.

Anyway, come out and see us. It should be fun.

McCarty said there is a wide variety in the 13 different Cumberland County sites.

“There are several small, intensively planted suburban lots, which is what I think people are most attracted to,” she said. “We do have some more groomed places in Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, but they still focus on edibles — all of the gardens on the tour focus on edibles

“There are bigger lots in Yarmouth and Windham. Someone even created a garden of small plants with a train running through it.”

Each garden on the tour will offer a sample of locally produced food, and Master Gardeners and volunteers will provide information about food preservation and other aspects.

Tickets are $10 in advance at umaine.edu./cumberland/programs/backyard-locavore-day, at 781-6099 or at the extension office at 75 Clearwater Drive in Falmouth.

Tickets cost $15 the day of the show, but McCarty said that with 13 gardens from Brunswick to Cape Elizabeth, people will want to plan their route and decide which gardens to see. Proceeds benefit Master Gardener demonstration gardens.

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 at:

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