March 2023 Master Gardener Volunteer Newsletter

In this issue…

From the President…

Hello, fellow Master Gardener Volunteers,

It was my pleasure to deliver two garden talks during February, both with the theme of going “Peat Free” in the garden. On Feb 14, I spoke to the Longfellow Garden Club at the Audubon Center at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. It was a repeat of the Lunch N Learn presentation, “The Problem with Peat,” that Bonnie and I first  delivered back in January of 2022. The audience was very interested in the topic and appreciated having their awareness raised about the harm caused by taking peat out of the ground. On Feb 18, in an in-person workshop at the Extension office in Falmouth, the subject was “Seed Starting Using Peat Alternatives.” This was a very practical hands-on session with a lot of specifics about using the Peat Free mixes now available commercially as well as DIY mixes based on rehydrated Coconut Coir. I couldn’t have been happier about the 100% attendance of the 20 who registered and the lively participation from the group. I hope that those reading this right now are also planning on using alternatives to peat this gardening season and raising awareness among your circle of friends.

Highlights from the CCMGA Board meeting conducted on February 13:

The Board approved the 2023 CCMGA budget with projected Income of $27,750 and Expenses of $38,450. Expenses included a $9,000 allocation to capital improvements at Tidewater which will come from our current surplus of funds. The budget also increased Seed Grant funding of your sponsored garden projects to $8,000.

Mary Wicklund spoke about an opening on the Cumberland County Extension Association (CCEA) Board.  This group makes funding recommendations at the county level for all U.Maine Extension programs including the Master Gardeners Program.  It is highly desirable to have a representative from the MG Program be a part of this group. More information about this below in the Volunteer opportunities section.

We have some important news concerning the CCMGA Annual Meeting! We have conducted meetings online for the past two years, and are very pleased to announce that we are planning to return to the popular potluck format of past years this April at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center. We’ll let you know soon when the date and agenda are finalized. I hope you will plan to attend.

Meanwhile, the gardening season has begun with the sowing of Artichokes, Onions, Parsley, Violas and Snapdragons. As the weather gradually warms and the sun strengthens, may your thoughts be of your garden.

Tom Witwicki

Welcome Ali Mediate!

Ali joined the Horticulture Team on February 1st as our new Hort/Ag Admin. She will be providing support to both the Agriculture and Horticulture Programs in Cumberland County. We are thrilled to have her! Be sure to say hi next time you stop by the office.

Cumberland County Master Gardener Speaker Series

The Soil Food Web and Plant Communication | Tuesday, March 7th, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. (Zoom)

Much has been written and said about these separate topics. There are many theories, most of which are not based on hard science. Gary Fish, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry will summarize the science behind soil health and its effect on trees, shrubs and garden plants. He will provide information about how plants communicate to each other and to the pests and pollinators that impact their survival. Registration link HERE 

Growing a Meadow for Nature in Your Backyard | Thursday, March 23rd, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. (Zoom)

Looking for alternatives to grassy lawns and the constant care and mowing they require? Andrew Tufts of Maine Audubon will be discussing the benefits of meadows and how they provide rich habitat and year-round visual interest. Registration link HERE

Save the Date: 2023 Speaker Series

  • 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 | 2 – 3:30 p.m. (In person) 
  • Saturday, June 17: Yoga for Gardeners | 10 – 11:30 a.m. (In person) Rain date: June 24

Messing Around with Hoses

After years of messing around with hoses, I’ve finally decided it is time to learn how to manage a drip irrigation system. Having committed to writing an article for this month’s MGV newsletter, and to research the topic for my own garden group, I turned to my pal Mary Wicklund at the Cumberland County Cooperative Extension for some pointers. Mary directed me to great UMCE resources including this helpful video: how to water your garden.

First, let’s tackle the topic of watering in general. Do we need to water? It depends on the weather. Most gardens need between 1.25 and 1.5 inches of water per week to thrive. In Maine, we often experience drought in July and August, peak season for both ornamental and vegetable gardens. In order to keep our gardens productive and looking nice, supplemental watering is necessary. A rain gauge is a key tool to knowing whether your gardens need supplemental watering. Get into a weekly habit of checking the gauge to know whether and how much to supplement.

Another general guideline for watering is to water deeply and infrequently, vs. frequently and shallowly. A rule of thumb is to test the soil with your fingers. Look for the moisture level (after watering) to be 5-6 inches below the surface. If it’s not, keep watering. Deeper watering encourages roots to stretch deeper for water, which makes for stronger, more resilient plants. We can also help our gardens retain moisture by mulching with organic materials. A few inches of mulch around our plants keeps water from quickly evaporating.

When we water, there are three basic ways to handle it. Watering by hand with a watering can or hose can be very effective and works well for those with small garden spaces or plenty of time to spend on watering. Direct the water to the base of the plant to avoid wetting the foliage, and water early in the day, so any wet foliage can dry. This helps keep plants protected from pests and diseases.

Sprinkler systems are a second popular way to water, one I have often used. In my research for this article, I’ve learned that sprinkler systems are best for broadcast watering, such as when starting a lawn from seed. However, when what you need is to get water to the roots of a vegetable patch or perennial border, sprinklers are substantially less efficient than either hand watering or drip irrigation. Less of the water gets where you really need it (at the roots of the plants). Sprinklers can also interrupt other gardening tasks (how often have I dodged and weaved between sprinkler patterns to move my tools and equipment?).

So let’s talk about drip irrigation, also sometimes referred to as trickle irrigation. Another UMCE resource, this guide to the benefits of trickle irrigation, provides some pointers on this method. Drip irrigation is significantly more efficient (using 30 to 70% less water) than other methods, which to me is a very compelling argument. Additionally, once installed, it reduces chore time for the gardener so we can focus on other, perhaps more fulfilling, jobs. Finally, drip irrigation is super effective at getting the job done, by delivering water directly to the roots of the plants we are targeting.

Last summer, as drought ticked on, I couldn’t bear to let new trees and shrubs suffer nor to lose the investment I had made in those plants. My raised bed vegetable garden showed the effects of drought despite periodic supplemental watering. I did my best to water early and deeply, but a full time job and family obligations meant I wasn’t always timely with my efforts. And when the weekends did roll around, I definitely spent more time hauling hoses, messing with sprinklers, and hefting watering cans than I cared to. I committed to researching drip irrigation and making a plan to tackle installing a system this coming summer. 

After a few hours of research, I am convinced that a drip irrigation system is worth a try. I’m still intimidated by the set up challenge, but I’ve found many helpful tutorials on YouTube, especially this one, which I will use to guide me. I’ll take the advice offered in the UCME “how to” video I mentioned above, and invest in a starter kit, available at several retailers. Fedco offers a kit for $120.50. A similar kit is available at Johnny’s for $150. offers a vegetable garden kit for $149.40. One tip that sticks with me from my research is that it is advisable to stick with one vendor for irrigation supplies, to ensure parts and pieces are compatible if you add to your system over time.

So, I’ve made my new year’s resolution to stop messing around with hoses, and I’ve done the work to research the approach. Since it is still too cold to get the work done, I have several more weeks to plan and fret. Check in with me in May to see how it is going!

Shannon Banks

2023 Calendar Raffle

Master Gardeners – It’s getting closer to the launch of the online sales of the 2023 Calendar Raffle!
Dinner for two at the Seaglass Restaurant?!
A family membership to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden?!
Fancy mushrooms from Tripping Gnome Farm?!

Please start thinking about how to encourage online sales of the calendar through social media and word-of-mouth.

We did a fantastic job last year selling online raffle calendars and we raised close to $5,000 for seed grants.

Let’s sell even more this year! We can do this! Stay tuned for the link to the 2023 Raffle…Coming soon to a device near you!

If you have any questions about the calendar raffle, reach out to Barbara: and Richard:

Upcoming Events

Volunteer Opportunities

  1. Cumberland County Extension Association is looking for volunteers to support the work of the County Extension office. The CCEA oversees the county funds and helps to promote Extension programming in their respective circles, community and municipality. The board meets 10 times per year, typically on Wednesdays from 5:30-7:00 pm. A typical CCEA term is 2 years and starts in the fall. For more information, visit our website: or contact Sarah Davenport at
  2. Do you love spreadsheets and organizing? As we head into the warmer months, the office receives numerous requests for speakers. I’m looking for a MGV to help create a database of MGVs who are interested in speaking or presenting to organizations. This could be done using a Google form or other method to gather information such as MGV names, topics of interest, availability, and more. Contact Mary at

If you have a volunteer opportunity you’d like to share, please send Mary an email at

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 through 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.

The Cumberland County Master Gardener Volunteer Newsletter is edited by Clarissa Brown and Annika Schmidt.
If you would like to submit an article or help with any aspect of the Newsletter contact AJ Cornell, the newsletter coordinator.