Edible Forest Garden Manager


Topsham Public Library
25 Foreside Road
Topsham, Maine 04086

Contact: Sarah Wolpow at sweetferngarden@comcast.net or 721.0941

Date: August 24, 2018

A few years ago a group of volunteers, plus myself, installed an experimental “Edible Forest Garden” (EFG) in two sites at the Topsham Public Library.  The idea is to use the same ecosystem structure that is endemic to your area (here, mixed conifer/hardwood deciduous forest), but replaces the usual plants with food plants.  Ideally, this new ecosystem will function as a normal ecosystem without requiring watering, weeding, mulching, etc. In addition, it will provide all the usual ecosystem services of a forest (e.g., cleaning water and air, sequestering carbon, providing habitat, etc), while also providing food for people and wildlife.  Some believe that growing food this way, rather than on labor-intensive monoculture fields with few ecosystem benefits, may prove to be the way of the future!

Sounds great, but there are issues arising for us in these early years of plant establishment. Invasive bittersweet is popping up, a nearby stand of native sumac is sending in aggressive runners. Should we pull them while the edible fruit/nut trees get established? What about those weeds we can’t ID? Are those okay?

We need help figuring out how to manage this project!  The Resilience Hub in Portland has several similar plantings in the Portland area and offer many ways to get involved and learn how it’s done.  We’d love for a new (or old) MG to find out more about EFGs and help us manage ours. It is completely okay to have no prior knowledge about EFGs. Learn with us! I am an MG, am certified in Permaculture design, and have my own gardening business. I would be more than happy to mentor anyone taking on this task.

  • Q: What are the educational benefits of this project and for what age group?

A: Educational benefits are to learn how to grow food in a way that is sustainable and healthy for the planet.  Any age could learn from it.

  • Q: Specifically, what tasks are to be completed?   

A: ID what is growing in the gardens now (we know what we planted, but a lot of other things have arrived uninvited!) and decide how to manage the new arrivals.  What should we pull? Thin?  

  • Q: How large, in dimension, is this project? (if applicable)

A: We have two plots of approx 50’ x 20’ each.

  • Q: What is the quality of the soil? (if applicable, a soil test may be required)

A: Typical forest soil.

  • Q: Does the organization have the necessary materials and resources (plant materials, soil amendments, structures, etc.)?

A: There is no budget for this project… but it’s a management project, not an install, so this should not be a problem.

  • Q: Can the organization provide the necessary tools?  If not, what tools should the Master Gardener bring?

A: There are some tools on site.  

  • Q: If ongoing maintenance is required, is the organization capable of providing it?

A: Volunteers are currently doing a minimal amt of maintenance… but there is some interest in this project and if a work day is needed, there would probably be volunteers available.

  • Q: What is the timeline for this project?

A: Ongoing, but any help at any time would be great!