Ken Farley of Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, Rebecca Cote of Apex Youth Connection and Biddeford-Saco Rotarian Bill Kany assemble a raised bed garden box that will be among 30 placed at Rotary Park for the next growing season. They were among representatives of a number of groups and individuals who lent their time to help build on a recent day. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD – How does your garden grow? Well, it grows – commencing with the building of raised garden beds – with help from some organizations and individuals.

That is what happened one day last week, when folks from Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, young people and leadership from Apex Youth Connection, Learning Works, a representative from Biddeford Adult Education and a couple of members of the Biddeford Iraqi community came together to build 15 of 30 raised-bed boxes that will be placed at Rotary Park.

The new raised bed garden is part of Biddeford Community Gardens, and of an expansion that also includes an inground garden as well, said BCG director Holly Culloton.

The garden beds will be available for rent. Typically, said Culloton, BCG charges $35 annually, considers barter and has offered beds for free.

“We may look at a ‘suggested donation’-type of rental fee with this garden,” 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 around Rotary Park.

It was a steamy, humid 85 degrees and sunny on a recent Tuesday when the volunteers gathered to build the boxes.

And while it was hot work – any work would have been hot on such a day – the theme was to pitch in and get it done.

“You find a day when people can do things and you do it,” said Rotarian Ken Farley.

“I was happy to get outside,” said Rebecca Cote of Apex Youth Connection. “I’ve been in the office on Zoom meetings all day.”

Among those helping were Imam Hussein Yasari and agriculturalist Raad al-Saadoun, who once worked for one of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates. They were measuring and cutting woven mesh hardware cloth to line the raised bed boxes – which deters critters from digging underneath to reach the tender plants.

Imam Hussein Yasari and Biddeford Community Gardens Director Holly Culloton share a smile as they measure and cut mesh hardware cloth to line raised bed gardens at Rotary Park on a recent day. Tammy Wells Photo

Members of the Iraqi community, many of whom live nearby, have expressed interest in community gardening at Rotary Park since it was first mentioned as a possibility a year or more ago.

The inground garden at Rotary Park was created and planted earlier this year, and soon, said Culloton, volunteers will plant buckwheat on the plot as a groundcover.

The 4-foot wide by 8-foot long, 2-foot-high raised beds will contain a layer of brush, wood chips, seaweed and then be topped off with a 50/50 soil mix, she explained.

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

Culloton said two grants, at $5,000 each, made the Rotary Park project possible; one from the makers of Arnold Bread, attained through the nonprofit seedmoney.org and the other from Maine Community Foundation.

Gardening has grown in popularity during the pandemic, according to the National Gardening Association.

“Victory Gardens during WWII supplied homes with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs, and Pandemic Gardens today can do the same,” noted the NGA. “Gardening also gets you out in the fresh air, adds positive energy into your life, gives you something fun to do, and gives a new activity that the whole family can participate in.”

There are community garden plots n a number of communities, including Saco and Kennebunk, among others.

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