Biddeford Community Gardens plans new plots at Rotary Park. Courtesy Photo

BIDDEFORD — This is the time of year that people who like to grow things, from flowers to vegetables to berries, start getting a little impatient. It isn’t spring, but it feels like the time one can start seedlings indoors, and looking ahead to planting and turning over the rich earth is getting closer.

Biddeford’s growing season will be blooming this year, when Biddeford Community Gardens embarks on a couple of new projects.

At Rotary Park, BCG plans two types of community gardens this year — the first, an in-ground garden where people will plant, tend, weed and pick the bounty together as a community victory garden.

The second, said BCG Coordinator Holly Culloton, is a plan to create 24, 4 foot by 10 foot raised beds, as funds permit.

Gardening is one of the country’s most popular pastimes. In an April 2014, story, PRNewswire reported more than 5 million households were planting, driven by millennials’ interest in edible gardening. The edible gardening category, which includes vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and berries, hit a six-year high in both participation and spending that year.

During the coronavirus pandemic, gardening became even more popular, according to an April 21 Associated Press story, when Burpee Seeds, an online, catalog and retail supplier, reported business had doubled during the pandemic. People gardened to get outside and breathe in fresh air, for exercise, to enjoy the food they grew, and as a hobby at a time when travel was deemed unwise, according to the National Gardening Association.

Biddeford has had community gardens since the 2010s, beginning with the building of a six-raised bed children’s garden in the corner of the city-owned Pierson’s Lane Playground in the Bacon Street neighborhood, according to information on the BCG website.

Later, a garden at Williams Court and the Mission Hill Community Garden were created.

“We’ll start to prepare the soil for planting this spring,” said Culloton of the planned in-ground garden at Rotary Park. They’ll apply woodchips, seaweed and more to enrich the soil, and then prepare to plant this spring. “We’ll start small, with pumpkins, squash,” and the like as first year crops, she said.

BCG has applied for a grant from the Maine Community Foundation for supplies to build the second garden at Rotary Park, the raised bed garden. They’ll find out in May if that is successful and if not, will seek donations. The plan for the raised beds is to build the boxes in June, if funded.

“I think there’s a will,” she said.

The raised beds gardens are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with priority given to those who live in the neighborhood, said Culloton. Applications will be available on the BCG website after May.

Recreation Director Carl Walsh gave a presentation on the new plans to the Biddeford City Council at a recent meeting.

“Essentially, everyone is supporting this,” he said of the BCG expansion plans, which also includes additional community victory plots at Williams Court.

“This is something the Recreation Commission recognized as a great addition to the community,” said Walsh. “We look forward to working with them.”

Mayor Alan Casavant said he’d toured the gardens last summer.

“I was really impressed; it makes sense to me,” he said.

Councilor Amy Clearwater asked if the raised bed gardens were getting good utilization, and said she knew  the answer would be in the  affirmative.

“This is a win, win, win, for the community,” said Clearwater.

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