Community garden advocates Holly Culloton and Pam Carr pause for a photo at the Biddeford Farmer’s Market on a recent Saturday. They, along with fellow Master Gardener volunteer Tracy Chaplin, hope to expand the community gardens at Williams Court Park and Mission Hill this season so more residents can get involved. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Like many who live in and around Biddeford’s downtown, Staci Ouimet didn’t have room for a garden.

But last year she signed up for one of the eight garden spots at Williams Court Park and harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and more. She said she can’t wait to get back at it again.

“Gardening is the most awesome thing in the world,” she said by telephone earlier this week.

Those involved with the Mission Hill Community Garden,  the name of the committee that oversees Biddeford’s community gardens, hope more people than ever will get to grow vegetables and herbs on city plots this year.

Currently, the city has the eight gardening spots at Williams Court Park and 30, 3- by 8-foot plots at Mission Hill Community Garden, on Biddeford Housing Authority property.

Staci Ouimet of Biddeford discovered her love of gardening last season at the community garden at Williams Court Park and can’t wait to plant again this year. Community garden advocates are hoping to expand the number of gardens there this season by 20 beds. COURTESY PHOTO

Holly Culloton, who is on the Mission Hill Community Garden committee, said this year’s goal is to add 20 more plots to the Williams Court Park, so more people can grow.

She and Tracy Chaplin, who is also on the committee, have approached the city in their quest to expand the garden at Williams Court Park and they are waiting for what they hope will be a favorable response.

The Mission Hill Community Garden appeals to those who live in the age 55 and older apartments on the site of the former St. Andre’s School and convent, and to new Americans who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the area, said Culloton.

The Mission Hill garden was created with help from the community in the form of goods and services and $2,500 in cash from area businesses. The city cleared the lot, local contractors saw to it there was water at the site, and young people from Learning Works built the forms for the raised beds.

This year, gardener Pam Carr, who is continuing to grow seedlings for the Kids Can Grow program, is also growing some for the community garden effort.

Culloton said she and Chaplin, a fellow Master Gardener volunteer,  didn’t know how many of the garden beds would be snapped up by people wanting to grow – but they were all spoken for within a couple of weeks.

Chaplin said he’d like to see more community garden sites in the city.

“We want to reach the folks who don’t have access to gardens or don’t have the means to garden through knowledge or finances,” said Chaplin, a lifelong gardener.

“I used to follow my grandfather around in his garden, I’ve always had a passion for it,” he said. Now, after 24 years as a videographer, he’s formed a landscape and gardening company with a business partner.

As well as Williams Court Park and Mission Hill Community Garden, there’s also a children’s garden at Pierson’s Lane, where master gardeners will provide staff on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the season to answer gardening questions. A clean up of the children’s garden and playground is planned for 1 to 3 p.m. on April 20.

In addition to Biddeford, community gardens are located in several York County communities. Waterboro has had one adjacent to the Town Office for the last several years, the Mousam Way Land Trust is establishing a new, 24-bed  community garden in Springvale this season and there have been community gardens in Saco for some time.

Culloton said those interested in a garden plot should check out the Mission Hill Community Garden Facebook Page. There is no fee associated with having a garden space.

Ouimet is eager to get started.

“It’s the best thing in the world, to have your own garden and harvest it yourself,” said Ouimet.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or twell[email protected]

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