Friday, April 19, 2024

Raymond Community Garden prepares to kick off growing season

By Kendra Raymond

With spring well underway, many Mainers are developing a case of spring fever. This usually includes migrating outside, the smell of food grilling, people walking in neighborhoods, and sounds of motorcycles hitting the roads. As the risk of the last frost approaches, traditionally around Memorial Day weekend, Mainers look forward to planting flowers and vegetables in home gardens.

A portion of the Raymond Community Garden during the
2023 season is shown. The sunflowers are repeat
residents of the garden and re-seed themselves every year.
While some property owners are lucky enough to have perfect soil and light requirements, others face growing challenges in their yard. Thankfully, Raymond residents are fortunate to have access to the Raymond Community Garden right at their fingertips.

The Raymond Community Garden was started about 10 years ago with the help of federal stimulus funds. It has grown from a tiny plot beside the Raymond Village Library to a sizeable area where community members can gather. The garden provides green space for residents of all ages to enjoy, learn, and work. Best of all, a significant portion of the crops grown are donated directly to the Raymond Food Pantry.

Garden Coordinator Linda Pankewicz says that the RCG employs a type of sharecropper rule where one row of each gardener’s plot provides vegetables for the food pantry. Many gardeners grow garlic, pole beans, onions, and tomatoes to donate. However, creative crops are welcomed and encouraged.

The garden is part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Hunger Project. The Cooperative Extension donates seedlings and Raymond resident Nate Rand donates his time to grow tomatoes and pole beans to contribute to the food pantry.

The Cooperative Extension says that the community garden contains both rental plots and a large common plot. The produce grown in the common plot is donated to the food pantry and provides quality, healthy food for families that need it.

For a nominal fee of $15, residents can purchase a plot to use for the season. Plots are about 12- to 15-feet square. It is common for residents to purchase a double plot. Garden coordinator Leigh Walker manages the plot purchases and oversees activity at the garden.

“Some people have a shady yard, like me, so the garden provides a great place to grow,” Pankewicz said. “Other residents may face challenges on their property such as soil quality concerns while others may have a heavily wooded property, extremely wet or dry soil. Let’s not forget the social aspect, a visit to the garden can put you in touch with neighbors and even some new friends.”

Pankewicz said that the garden area is maintained by volunteers with the Cooperative Extension, but additional helpers are always welcome. She explained that the garden area consists of two sections, the Children’s Garden with the pergola nearer the library and the back section of the garden, located on property owned by the Plummer family and used through their generosity.

The community effort doesn’t stop there. A local summer camp is a member of the garden, providing opportunities for kids to learn about gardening. The camp donates their yields to the food pantry, further continuing the enriching experience as campers learn about the importance of community involvement through volunteering.

The Raymond Community Garden is committed to being friendly to the environment requiring that all plots must be organic and chemical-free, said Pankewicz. Water conservation is also encouraged by using mulch and provided rain barrels.

Sunflowers are abundant in the garden and are well-established through re-seeding, especially in the Children’s Garden. “The original sunflower seeds were planted by the children attending a special program on the Native Americans who lived in the area.

“The sunflowers growing now are all from the original planting, but garden members have sometimes added their own varieties,” said Pankewicz.

The Raymond Community Garden is located next to the Raymond Village Library at 3 Meadow Road in Raymond.

To learn more about purchasing a plot or volunteering at the Raymond Community Garden, contact Garden Coordinator Leigh Walker through the library at 207-655-4283, or feel free to drop in. An information board is located at the entrance to the garden and provides pertinent information as well.

Community Garden updates are available on the Raymond Village Library website at: and on the Raymond Village Library Facebook page. <

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