This story was initially printed in October 2019.
Once I moved to Bangor final winter, I had no thought the place I used to be going to backyard within the spring. My second-floor condominium on the outskirts of Little Metropolis was sunny sufficient to develop seedlings, however the “yard” was used as a shared driveway. I finagled a container backyard set-up on my out of doors stairs, however I had grander gardening desires than the area allowed. So, for the primary time, I made a decision to enroll in a raised mattress backyard within the Bangor Neighborhood Backyard.
Although I had by no means participated in a group backyard, I knew about a few of their advantages. A 2012 research on the College of Pennsylvania discovered that greening vacant heaps in Philadelphia with group gardens could scale back crime within the space surrounding the lot. Except for the common bodily and psychological well being advantages of gardening, a 2013 research confirmed that group gardens enhance meals safety and enhance fruit and vegetable consumption of their members. Households additionally reported feeling nearer after working in group gardens collectively.
I leased my 32-square-foot patch of inexperienced within the Bangor Neighborhood Backyard on Essex Avenue from the Bangor Parks and Recreation Division. Earlier than that space was a group backyard, the land served as a dump, a Navy Reserve Middle after which a vacant metropolis lot. The empty blacktop was stuffed with 56 raised beds in 2011. Now, the backyard boasts over 200 raised beds — and, this 12 months, considered one of them had my title on it.
Over the course of the season, I grew cherry tomatoes, peppers, kale, spinach, radishes, nasturtium, basil, cilantro and inexperienced onions in my raised mattress. Greater than that, although, I befriended the charming denizens of the group backyard. The pre-teen who lives subsequent door to the group backyard would bike over to assist me pull radishes when she noticed me drive in. Byron Hale, the backyard’s volunteer property supervisor, was all the time there to talk after I went to weed and water. These days, he has been texting me updates about his prized pumpkins as he prepares to compete within the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta.
The group backyard helped me really feel extra at dwelling in my new metropolis. Now, winter is coming and it’s time to put my raised mattress to mattress.
Studying to attempt
Earlier than I headed over to the Bangor Neighborhood Backyard for one final time this season, I mentioned find out how to put together a raised mattress for winter with Kate Garland, horticultural specialist on the College of Maine Cooperative Extension.
We went over the significance of tending to a backyard plot earlier than the winter. Not solely does it assist stave off illness within the season to come back, however it additionally reduces the chores it’s important to do come spring if you end up excited to plant.
Kate reviewed the fundamental steps with me: eradicating the final remaining harvest, eradicating lifeless crops, weeding, including compost, planting cowl crops or including mulch, caring for perennials, planting overwintered crops and including season extenders.
Kate additionally beneficial taking a soil pattern from the raised mattress now as an alternative of within the spring. The cooperative extension is much less busy within the fall, and having the outcomes early offers you extra time so as to add the required amendments earlier than you plant within the spring.
Kate’s suggestions offered a useful roadmap, however I puzzled how her directions would differ in a group backyard setting. In keeping with the Bangor Neighborhood Backyard membership settlement, everlasting constructions are usually not allowed on plots, in order that dominated out organising hoop homes or different season extenders for subsequent 12 months. I additionally didn’t plant any perennials as a result of, in line with the identical bylaws, group gardeners should take away all plant supplies from their raised beds on the finish of the season.
This, after all, made me marvel — would I be allowed to plant garlic in my group backyard plot to overwinter? May I sow a canopy crop?
I didn’t know the solutions, however I knew who would: I referred to as Byron up and requested him to satisfy me on the group backyard on a wet Wednesday morning. He excitedly agreed.
A attempting expertise
One benefit of getting ready a group backyard plot for winter is that they typically present the important supplies. The Bangor Neighborhood Backyard is absolutely outfitted with high quality compost and instruments ( Byron did enlist me to assist with one other winter backyard prep activity in a couple of weeks: device cleansing). Simply because Byron is a pal, he additionally picked up some oats to make use of as a canopy crop, garlic to overwinter and a mail-in soil pattern field from the cooperative extension. I suppose that answered my lingering questions.
Then, we started working.
We began by harvesting the remaining crops. I forgot my basket, however Byron had some plastic grocery baggage that we had been capable of repurpose. The harvest was hardly bountiful — a couple of skinny scallions, some misshapen radishes, half-ripe cherry tomatoes and stumpy curly kale.
Then, we eliminated the lifeless crops. The basis constructions stunned me: my peppers barely went beneath the floor, however my tomatoes reached all the way in which throughout the mattress. Byron teased (with purpose) that it was as a result of I didn’t water my crops sufficient. The tomato roots, he defined, had been desperately looking for water. I promised him I’d do higher subsequent 12 months.
Byron and I additionally eliminated the rotting tomatoes that had dropped off my crops and into the soil. Embarrassingly, there have been many. I had lots of tomatoes cut up and fall (as a result of aforementioned underwatering). I used to be fairly lazy about disposing the stays as a result of I used to be busy with the summer time’s bumper cherry tomato harvest ( very like my boss — and fellow group gardener — Sarah Walker Caron).
Subsequent, each gardener’s favourite activity: weeding. As Kate defined, weeding is essential this time of 12 months as a result of that is when weeds will set seed. Byron identified some sneaky weeds sprouting across the base of my mattress and between the splits within the wooden. I completely would have forgotten them in any other case.
After all of the weeds had been gone, we added the compost. My wheelbarrow dexterity is poor, so Byron introduced the compost over from the communal pile. He poured it over my raised mattress — sufficient for a two-inch-thick layer of compost unfold over prime — and we blended it in.
Then, we took soil samples from across the mattress, blended them collectively and shoveled them into the mail-in field. I advised Byron I’d let him know after I received the outcomes. He confirmed me among the amendments that I’d want after I be taught what my soil is lacking, however group gardeners are required to offer their very own amendments.
After that, we picked a little bit nook to plant cloves of garlic to overwinter for harvesting within the spring. Byron jogged my memory to enroll in the identical group backyard mattress subsequent 12 months (if you already know which plot is mine, I implore you, don’t steal my garlic). I planted the cloves, watered them in and coated the realm with a straw mulch.
Lastly, we scattered a canopy crop over the plot. Byron picked oats as a result of he is aware of I’m a forgetful (and generally, I’ll admit, lazy) gardener. Oats die again in the course of the winter, in order that I can’t must clear the crops within the spring, as with different cowl crops like winter rye.
Lastly, we had been accomplished. After a little bit teasing, Byron admitted that I had accomplished a reasonably good job for my first 12 months within the Bangor Neighborhood Backyard.
My tried-and-true takeaways
Getting ready a raised backyard mattress for winter is a time dedication — albeit, a crucial one if you wish to have a productive season the next 12 months. Be sure to have the entire crucial supplies earlier than you begin, and plan to commit not less than two hours to the method.
I like to recommend enlisting an skilled gardener — and pal — to information you should you can. Many group gardens will even maintain fall clean-up days the place you may get suggestions, tips and — should you’re like me — a little bit little bit of assist maneuvering a wheelbarrow.
Getting ready a group backyard plot for winter is barely totally different than getting ready a raised mattress at dwelling. The group backyard could give you among the crucial supplies and instruments, however you’ll want to overview the rules or member by-laws on your group backyard earlier than you begin.
Plus, at a group backyard, they will even maintain you accountable to getting ready your mattress for winter. Bryon despatched an e mail out to all group backyard members reminding them to organize their beds for winter quickly after we completed mine.