Started the new garden. Think I'm gonna like Maine.

adirondackgardener(Western Maine)April 16, 2008

After a year in Maine, trying out a new job and finding a house, I'm finally getting my hands into the soil.

I thought that all the snow we had would put starting the garden off until May but the snow melted quickly this week with only a few patches in some shady parts of the garden still covered in snow. It was a happy surprise to find not a lick of frost in the ground.

Since the snow began to fall the day I moved in back in December, I hadn't been able to put a fork in the ground to see what my soil is like. I'm happy to find that I've got a nice, friable sandy loam, very well drained. So well drained that a couple of days after the snow melted, I was able to go out with the little Mantis tiller and start ripping the sod. I had expected a mud pit when I first stuck the fork into the soil earlier this week but instead, found soil ready to work.

The little Mantis is not the work-horse my dearly departed Troy-bilt was but it got me off to a good start on the garden tonight by tilling the top few inches in one end of the garden to start killing off the sod. I use a raised bed system (like the French Intensive and Bio-Intensive methods) and double-dig my beds. I'm cheating by using the tiller to break up the sod but believe I'm keeping with the spirit of the system by shallow tilling only, followed by double-digging and keeping the soil layers intact. After this season of starting a large, new garden, I may never need the tiller again. My last garden back in the Adirondacks was worked entirely by hand.

Anyway, got lots to do to get the garden soil in shape, the fence up and build the chicken coop and run. A lot of work, but I think I'm going to like it here.


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Congratulations, as someone with hard, nasty red clay, I'm so jealous but very happy for you! I'll be using a pick-axe in July to break the soil because it'll be so hard, while you'll still be able to dig w/a shovel. As someone who is considering a move to Maine in the future, could you give me a general idea what town you live near, or even the county you are in if you don't want to give too much information. I'm really not a stalker or anything, just want to check out areas that I know will be good gardening spots for my future move!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:11PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

I'm in Oxford County, just south of Bethel. Lots of good, sandy soil here and good neighbors.

In another thread, I think you said you also were from Northern NY. I think you'll like Maine. Any horror stories you may hear about how "people from away" are treated are untrue. (We use to spread similar stories to keep people from wanting to move to the Adirondacks even though we were as friendly as can be.)


    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 9:35AM
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Yes, you're right, I was from Northern NY. People up there can be unfriendly to outsiders, too, especially those who want to tell everyone how to do things better... you know the type I mean!

Have to look up Oxford County on the map, not too familiar with that part of Maine. But the soil sounds wonderful, have a great garden this year!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 4:35PM
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transplanted2scin07(7b upstate SC)

You know, it's funny. I just happened to check the Maine forum tonight to see what was growing after the long winter you guys had.
I moved last summer from Maine to "red clay country" (I'm in upstate South Carolina)- and here's some one else in "red clay country" thinking of moving to Maine!
I grew up in Lisbon Falls (Androscoggin County) and the soil was a silty clay loam in the garden. After marriage, I settled in Standish (Cumberland County)where the soil was gravel. And now I have red clay. It seems no matter where you go, the soil needs to be improved unless a gardener lived at the property you bought.
Wayne, I'm glad you like your new home and the Maine people. You're in a neat area of the state. Be sure to check out McLaughlin Gardens in South Paris.
To Red_Clay_Soil, let me know if you need the name of a real estate agent.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 11:29PM
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mscratch(z6 S.E. Mo.)

I am also a transplant to Maine and I am not adjusting very well to the harsh winters and short growing seasons.. actually, it's ironic as my old midwest ways seem to keep the locals amused and they wonder what I will do next in my gardens and yards so I am a source of I am told alot that certain things won't work and I just replay, "yea it might".. such as the raised veggie beds, they do work! and the row covers work.. I guess it's all those "new fangled" ideas that make me an I would take the red clay, the heat, and the humidity anyday in exchange for your taking the oil heating and the dreary , long, long, long, winters.. just homesick I guess.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 8:25AM
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zengeos(5 Maine)


the long winters are your time to plan out next years garden..l.order seeds, start 500-1000 or so plants indoors and 100 containers winter sown!!

April and May are your time to look outside at the winter sown containers sprouting, the 9" tall pepper and tomato and 13-16" tall tomatillos growing on the plastic covered front porch and wonder what have you gotten yourself into??!!!??

oh wait...that's me!!!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 10:37PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

Sandi, I go to the McLaughlin Gardens for an occasional lunch-time break. I work nearby, which is what brought me to Maine.

I'm thinking you're right about all Maine soil needing improving , both from the posts I've read here and what I discovered in my new garden. Getting deeper (literally) into my garden's soil, I found a thick layer of stones about the size of potatoes about a half foot below the surface. I believe I have my work cut out for me. I live on a narrow ridge cutting across some low flats (I think the locals use the term "whalesback." I think at the end of the last Ice Age, receding glaciers decided to play a trick on future gardeners by laying down this layer of stone and covering it with a few inches of the nicest and most deceiving of sandy topsoil.

Still, I've turned worse into productive gardens.

But, I guess I'm luckier than some transplants here since I moved here from a somewhat colder climate with an even shorter growing season. That prepared me for the Maine climate (I hope.)


    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 8:45PM
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Well, Maine might have long, cold winters, but they have something severely lacking in the central part of North Carolina -- RAIN! Last year we suffered for almost 3 months without a drop of rain (July-September) and things were so dry it was like the deserts of New Mexico or Arizona (except the plants/trees haven't adapted too well yet to the new climate conditions). We've had a little rain so far this spring, but are still down over 12" from the average, and we're heading into the traditionally dryest part of the year.

And I also find myself missing something as silly as rocks & stones. They are almost non-existent in North Carolina, you have to buy pallets of them at the garden centers if you want to build a rock wall or patio. After growing up on a farm where every spring we spent a week or so picking rocks out of the newly plowed fields, and pretty much hating them after all that work, I miss them and would love to have a stone path or walkway, or a stone wall again.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 8:59AM
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I grew up in NH (MWV) and know well what is said about long, cold winters and lean soil. I am easily 1-2 zones warmer here and there are virtually NO blackflies (but plenty of mosquitos and deer ticks). The lean, rocky, marginal character of the soil isn't greatly different though.

I am a devotee of double digging! I've done every single bed on our property (there are 9-13, depending on how I count them). It was pretty tough work, but that was nearly 15 yrs. ago and in all the years hence lifting, dividing, and reworking the beds has been a dream. The helpmeet uses the same principles in his vegetable garden as well as the close planting advocated in the French intensive method. Works slick.

Maximizing your physical effort in minimal space and then using it for maximum productivity is precisely what the Yankee character is all about!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 3:41PM
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You don't have to have a short growing season just because you're in Maine. A large portion of Maine can start planting in April (some lettuces, spinach and other greens and peas are commonly planted in April) and continue to harvest into November (some lettuces, spinach and other greens, cabbage, Brussels sprouts come to mind). You can over winter spinach under straw for early spring harvest and keep greens going most of the winter in a cold frame.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:24PM
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transplanted2scin07(7b upstate SC)

Wayne, you have a great positive outlook! I can see you'll do just fine.
I remember well harvesting a large crop of rocks every Spring and cursing while I was doing it. Makes me laugh now. I had to create a "Rock Garden" just to find a use for them all.
Enjoy your time in the garden.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 2:19PM
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Hi Wayne,

Just had to say hi as I grew up in West Paris in Oxford County. It is a gorgeous area and made for good gardening when I was a kid-- we always had a huge veggie garden. I worked at the Norway Library through high school and still go to my childhood dentist over there, although now I live in the midcoast area. I've lived all over Maine (Greenville, Presque Isle, Belfast, Sidney) and a few other states and hope I'm home for good now. Good luck with your gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: Henbogle

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 7:08AM
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maineman(z5a ME)

Hi all,

Better black flies through genetic engineering!


    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 1:44PM
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maineman(z5a ME)


Thanks for the link to the blog. I bookmarked it in my Favorites.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 1:48PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

Well, a rainy day and time to get back to the forum.

Thanks for the encouragement, all. Hi Mabel. West Paris is a pretty friendly place, judging from all the folk who stop by to talk gardening or strangers who see me in the General Store and comment on the garden. (I do spend a lot of time out there and the garden is right on the road so the "new guy with the garden that moved in over at Mrs. L's house" has become a topic of conversation around town, I'm told.)

Thought I'd take a couple of minutes and post some pictures that I posted earlier on another forum I participate in. The garden is progressing pretty well and I'm generally happy with what got done this first year thought there is a whole lot of room for improvement and better planning. (I do tend to be overly critical of my own work, although too forgiving of other's. A bad trait for an engineering manager, I suppose, but that's me, I guess.) I did manage to get most of the weeds in check these past couple of weeks, so that's something to crow about.

I centered the garden between two Red Maples and around the enormous lilac that falls dead center between them. Here's some views taken a few weeks ago:

The west side:
Finished the fence and only a little of that soil is still unplanted. Fall crops like kale and late snap peas will go there.

One of the broccoli beds: (harvesting every day now!)

And the east side:

Following is a picture of the lilac that is at the core of the garden, taken earlier in the season. As I worked on the east side of the garden, the first half I focused on, the breeze from the west made the scent a constant fixture. I'd like to eventually cut it back to about 2/3rds its current size to make it a little less overwhelming and a little less shade-casting. This is where the main gate on the road-side will be. I still haven't gotten around to building a proper garden gate, but that is on top of my (ever-growing) wish-list.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 9:44PM
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I didn't realize you were living in West Paris! What a hoot. My dad owned the old West Paris Hardware store on Main Street near the bridge. Years ago, now....

Your garden looks great, very impressive for year #1!

Here is a link that might be useful: Henbogle

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 11:54PM
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