February 2023 Master Gardener Volunteer Newsletter

In this issue…

From the President…

Hello fellow Master Gardener Volunteers,

After the recent late January snowfall, it now really feels like mid-winter. What better way to get your mind on Spring and the growing season than to start planning for the 2023 CCMGA Annual Plant Sale! Bonnie Barthmaeir kicked off this year’s activities on January 20 with a meeting of the Plant Sale coordinators. Everyone at the meeting was energized to make this year’s event even bigger and better than last year. The Tidewater venue is clearly a winner for us, with last year’s record breaking crowds and sales. Improvements in pedestrian and traffic control to handle the crowds were talked about. Much of our inventory of veggies, annuals, dug perennials and natives sold out quickly last year, so we’ll be trying to increase our available stock. The very popular big tent will be used again this year as well as using the newly constructed greenhouse for additional display space. We’ll be marketing the event with an email campaign leveraging our ever expanding email list. Of course, a successful sale will depend on having enough volunteers on hand. The Memorial Day weekend date may prove an obstacle for some, but please mark your calendars for some sociable fun either the day before on May 26 for setup or the day of the sale.

Another way for a gardener to get through the cold dark winter months is to continue gardening indoors. It doesn’t take much space or investment to grow microgreens on some lighted shelves. Did you know that microgreens contain seven times the nutrients of mature plants by weight? My wife Nancy and I began our microgreen growing following a class by Pamela Hargest in 2018. Our setup consists of 2X4 metal shelving with 4 shelves lighted with 4 foot LED fixtures. This gives us enough space to take cuttings every day to add to our salads, soups and stews. I also find the twice a day routine of “tending” the trays to be very enjoyable. Our favorite varieties for ease of growing and taste are Radishes, Broccoli, Mustard Greens, Sunflowers, Peas, and Salad Mix. And when it’s time to start seedlings inside for spring planting, we leverage the same setup. So my free advice (and worth every penny) is to give microgreen growing a try.

Are your seeds ordered yet? Wishing you a healthy and active winter season.

Tom Witwicki

Cumberland County Master Gardener Speaker Series

Seed Starting with Peat-Free Mix
Saturday, February 18 | 2 – 3:30 p.m.  Falmouth Extension Office (75 Clearwater Dr, Ste 104)

Master Gardener, Tom Witwicki, will conduct an in-person “master class” on starting and growing your own seedlings from germination to transplant using Coconut Coir as a replacement for peat in the starting mix. Tom will discuss the best pre-mixed formulations to achieve optimal germination and growth as well as DIY mixes you can make yourself. Seed starting using traditional starting cells as well as soil blocks and multi-row seeders will be demonstrated. Start-to-finish process walkthroughs for a sample of varieties of vegetable and flowers will be performed. Other topics covered will include watering techniques, humidity domes, indoor lighting and ventilation, heat mats, lifting seedlings and use of cold frames. Registration Link: HERE

Save the Date: 2023 Speaker Series

  • Tuesday, March 7: The Soil Food Web and Plant Communication | 5 – 6:30 p.m. (Zoom)
  • Thursday, March 23: Growing a Meadow for Nature in Your Backyard | 5 – 6:30 p.m. (Zoom)
  • Thursday, April 6: Propagation | 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (In-person) 
  • Thursday, April 27: Opening the Garden in the Spring | 5 – 6:30 p.m. (Zoom) 
  • Saturday, May 13: Ornamentals |  10 -11:30 a.m. (In person) 
  • Saturday, June 17: Yoga for Gardeners | 10 – 11:30 a.m. (In person) Rain date: June 24

Seedlings growing in trays in a greenhouse

2023 Calendar Raffle

Master Gardeners, get ready for the online sales of the 2023 Calendar Raffle! How about a seasonal wreath or 20 pounds of bird seed and a birdfeeder? A yard of compost delivered to your door? Hand-knit wool socks? A 90-minute float? Dinner for two at the Seaglass Restaurant? Please start thinking about how to encourage online sales of the calendar through social media and word-of-mouth; start thinking about what businesses you know that might provide a donation or a service. We did a fantastic job last year selling raffle calendars and we raised over $5000 for seed grants. Let’s sell even more this year! We can do this! Any questions, suggestions, donations, please email Barbara at catzrul1@live.com or Richard at 1961rangerrich@gmail.com.

2023 Norm Steele Seed Grant Recipients

Norm Steele was in the first Cumberland County Master Gardener Class – the Class of 1988.  For 25 years, Norm’s passion for helping others was demonstrated with countless volunteer hours and an estimated 12,000 pounds of produce donated to the Maine Harvest for Hunger Program. Norm passed away in June 2013, leaving an amazing legacy. The CCMGA has named the Seed Grant Program in his honor because Norm exemplified what it means to be a Master Gardener Volunteer: he taught, inspired and shared so much with so many.

Seed Grant Projects are funded through the efforts of the Annual Master Gardener Plant Sale and our Fabulous Calendar Raffle. The Plant Sale and the Calendar Raffle represent a  colossal fund raising effort, requiring many volunteers and months of intense planning. And it all happens on the Last Saturday in May, 8 am till noon.  Please join us for the fun and the fund raising. May 27th at Tidewater Farm Falmouth Maine. 

The Cumberland County Master Gardener Seed Grant Committee is proud to announce the recipients of the 2023 Norm Steele Seed Grant Award. This year the committee received 13 applications – and awarded over $8000.00 in Seed Grant Funds. The 2023 Seed Grant Gardens are stretched across the county. They are fun to visit, instructional, and offer a sweet taste of Maine. Pleased to present: 

Yarmouth Community Garden MG: Don Hodgson, Mary Wicklund
St Mary’s Children’s Garden – Falmouth MG: Bobbi MacCallum
Spring Point Children’s Garden – SMCC in So Po MG: Laragh Kavanaugh
Sagamore Village Food Pantry Gardens – Scarborough MG: Allen Cronan, Pam Lanz
Ronald McDonald House – Bracket St Portland MG: Nicki Griffin
Raymond Community Gardens 5 Meadows Rd Raymond MG: L Pankewicz, L Walker
New Gloucester Library Children’s Pollinator Garden MG: Noreen Williams
Gorham Middle School Garden MG: Heather Whitaker
Curtis Memorial Library Children’s Garden – Brunswick MG: Noreen Williams
Casco Bay Dialysis  Garden – Westbrook MG: Donna Bird
Accessible Gardens for the Bridgeton Community Gardens MG: Nancy Donovan
Master Gardener Volunteer and Teacher, Heather at the Gorham Middle School Gardens

Think Spring! Think 2023 Cumberland County Master Gardener Plant Sale

Memorial Day Weekend: Saturday, May 27th 8 AM – Noon
Tidewater Farm: Farmgate Road, Falmouth, ME

The Cumberland County Master Gardener Plant Sale is an annual event held at Tidewater Farm, the home base for the University of Maine Extension in Falmouth. Besides being the largest fundraiser for our organization, the plant sale affords us an opportunity to showcase the gardens at Tidewater Farm, provide individualized gardening tips and plant information to our patrons, and partner with local organizations, such as Garbage to Garden and The Wild Seed Project, to promote sustainable environments.

Our plant sale offers a wide variety of items. Conlin’s Greenhouse donates locally-grown annual flowers; Winslow Farms supplies a selection of organic vegetable plants chosen for Maine’s unique growing season. A variety of annual and perennial herb starts are provided by the horticultural students at the Portland Arts and Technology High School. Also included are hundreds of perennial plants lovingly dug from master gardeners’ very own backyards, and a hand-picked collection of native plants. All rare finds, hardy and priced right for our discerning patrons.

The event offers the opportunity to shop with an expert, listen to a pop-up lecture on soil amendments, rummage through a variety of gently used garden tools and paraphernalia, or tour the awesome gardens of Tidewater Farm. Coffee and fresh baked goods are available at the food concession.

Our plant sale has grown exponentially over the past 5 years. We are strengthened by the recent trending interest in backyard gardening – the nation’s #1 pastime. We have exceeded our wildest imagination with profits soaring from $5,000 in 2018 to $20,000 in 2022!!! It is a colossal effort, requiring many volunteers and months of intense planning. The Cumberland County Master Gardener Plant Sale provides the funds to support our Seed Grant Program and Special Projects. And it all happens on the last Saturday in May (May 27th) 8 a.m. till noon.

Bonnie Barthmaier

Packing plants for the Master Gardener Plant Sale
Master Gardender Plant Sale 2023 will be on May 27th from 8am-noon. (Photo by Pamela Hargest)

Tween the Seasons

By Richard Bicknell

I received an email a few days ago mentioning winter being a time between seasons, and that got me thinking.

One project from the last garden season (spring, summer, and fall) comes to mind. A little over a year ago, we had a generator installed (not the project); while it does keep the power on during wind and ice storms, it’s not the prettiest thing. I got rid of several hundred square feet of lawn (mostly hoe and rake work) with the intent of

planting natives and turning the area into a meadow. My wife and I decided between us that a meadow would be much nicer and unquestionably more visually appealing.

After clearing the area, I planted some “stuff”; some plants were store-bought, some transplanted, and some grown from seed on my back porch. When spring comes, I look forward to two or three species of goldenrod, golden alexanders, blue iris, strawberries, several species of asters, nodding onion, red columbine, rudbeckia, blue vervain, snakeroot, blue-eyed grass, little bluestem, and probably a few things I forgot I had planted.

Having a healthy, vibrant garden (or several of them breaking up the expanse of grass all around my yard) is a full-on invitation for my local neighbors to stop by and visit. I look forward to seeing many bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, and other pollinators flitting around. They will be joined by hummingbirds, finches, sparrows, mourning doves, crows, and maybe turkeys. Where the birds go, chipmunks and squirrels (gray and red) will follow, looking for handouts (dropped seed). I will keep bird feeders out of the area as we had a bear come through last fall and destroy all our feeder poles and several feeders (I just thought raccoons were bad). 

So, here I am ‘tween one season and the next, thinking about how much work it was (even though my back still hurts from all that hoeing, it was fun work) and what a joy it will be to see it all come to fruition in a few months.

Pink peony flower
Pink Peony Flower (Photo by David Elliott, Master Gardener Volunteer)

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, February 1: Diversify Your Lawn | 7 – 8:30 p.m. (online) Free
Thursday, February 9: Native Ground Covers | 1 – 2 p.m. (online)  $12 – $15
Tuesday, February 21: How to Identify and Remove Invasive Species | 7 – 8:30 p.m. (online) Free
Thursday, February 23: Flowers for Cutting in the Home Garden | 6 – 7:30 p.m. (online) Free – $20

Volunteer Opportunities

2023 Cumberland County Master Gardener Annual Calendar Raffle Needs Volunteers

Every year we ask MGVs to contact local businesses, artists, organizations, restaurants and others to contribute a prize for the annual calendar raffle. Last year we realized almost $5000 from raffle sales for the Seed Grant Program; in 2023 $8600 will be awarded to Seed Grant Recipients. This won’t happen without your help so we really need you to continue to reach out to any supporter you have worked with in the past.

This year presents a new twist in the process – we have developed a list of potential contributors and we are asking for MGVs to contact ONE of these and follow through with a commitment to a raffle prize. You don’t have to find a donation; we will tell you who to contact, and provide you with all the information necessary to make your donation requests successful. We really need your help!

If you plan to contact a donor you worked with last year or if you are interested in being assigned someone or someplace to contact, please let us know ASAP. Thanks!

Barbara Dee catzrul1@live.com

Richard Bicknell 1961rangerrich@gmail.com

Cumberland County MGV Newstetter 

Looking for ways to put in some MGV hours during the winter months? The Cumberland County Master Gardener Volunteer Newsletter is looking for contributors. The newsletter is a tool for all to use and we are looking for new contributors to write articles, compile volunteer opportunities, compile monthly event listings, and more. We are always open to comments and suggestions as to what you would like to see in this newsletter. If you would like to get involved, reach out to AJ Cornell at jane.andrea@gmail.com

Have a volunteer opportunity you’d like to share? Please send Mary an email at mary.wicklund@maine.edu.

Reporting MGV Hours and Produce Donations for 2023

Thank you to everyone who has been reporting their hours so far this year. This is a friendly reminder to report your volunteer hours here: Reporting Master Gardener Volunteer Hours (bookmark this page!). MGVs have until the end of the year (December 31, 2023) to complete their annual requirement of 20 hours or 40 hours if you are currently working on your certification.

If you are donating produce this season, please report the number of pounds donated here: Cumberland County Maine Harvest for Hunger Donation Report Form.


Do you need more CLYNK bags? CLYNK bags can be picked up at the office Monday thru Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm. Our account grows steadily and the money supports Cumberland County Master Gardener projects. Collect your returnables in one of our designated CLYNK bags, drop off at your local Hannaford and help us grow our Seed Money.