August 5, 2012

Maine Gardener: Trimming, weeding, cutting – getting ready for the Backyard Locavore Tour

By TOM ATWELL

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.

GARDENS ON THE TOUR

BRUNSWICK: Large herb garden, four vegetable gardens and small orchard. Preserving topic: herbal vinegars and dried herbs. Gardening topic: native plants. Food sample: herbal vinaigrette and vegetables.

CAPE ELIZABETH 1: Large vegetable garden, container gardening, flower garden and compost bins. Preservation topic: root cellaring. Gardening topic: how compost happens. Food sample: Maine applesauce.

CAPE ELIZABETH 2: Seaside front-door herb garden, companion planting, edible landscape. Preservation topic: drying herbs. Gardening topic: pruning woody plants. Food sample: dried herb dip.

FALMOUTH 1: Organic garden, berries, raised beds, decorative deer fence. Preserving topic: low-sugar jams and jellies. Gardening topic: deer ticks. Food sample: angel food cake with low-sugar strawberry jam.

FALMOUTH 2: UMaine Extension Office, 75 Clearwater Drive. Ticket sales. Canning demonstration. Food sample: Low-sugar blueberry jam.

FALMOUTH 3: Tidewater Farm, new gardening beds. Gardening topic: Maine Harvest for Hunger program. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., live sheep and spinning demonstration.

NORTH YARMOUTH 1: Chicken coop with laying hens, vegetable gardens with perennials. Preserving topic: relish and chutneys. Gardening topic: the difference between a weed and an invasive plant. Food sample: zucchini relish.

NORTH YARMOUTH 2: Raised beds, season extension with hoops and lasagna (sheet composting) gardening. Preserving topic: pickling. Gardening topic: how to extend the season. Food sample: dilly beans.

PORTLAND 1: Small organic farm with bees, chickens and greenhouse. Preserving topic: freezing fruit. Gardening topic: beneficial insects and spiders. Food sample: rhubarb lemonade.

PORTLAND 2: City soil conditions and growing organic fruits and vegetables. Preservation topic: canning salsa. Gardening topic: testing soil and what to do if you have lead in your soil. Food sample: salsa and chips.

PORTLAND 3: Miniature plants in small garden with train. Preserving topic: canning. Gardening topic: seed saving. Food sample: beet bruschetta.

WINDHAM: Organic vegetable gardens and raised beds, chickens and guinea fowl, small farm market. Preserving topic: freezing vegetables. Gardening topic: how to contribute to a food pantry. Food sample: veggie chili.

YARMOUTH: Cultivated and wild fruits, edible plantings on a shed roof, goats, chickens and greenhouse. Preserving topic: drying fruits and vegetables. Gardening topic: egg production and adding berries. Food sample: fruit leathers.

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:

tomatwell@me.com

 

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