Belfast Garden Days culminates at THMS garden

By Annadeene K. Fowler | Sep 09, 2012
Harvest time at Troy Howard Middle School Garden.

Belfast — Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days culminates its tour season at the exciting Troy Howard Middle School Garden, 173 Lincolnville Avenue, Belfast on Friday, Sept. 14. There will be student-led tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. of the gardens including greenhouses, outdoor pizza oven, solar kitchen and farm stand, which will be open until 4 p.m. Tickets for the Open Garden Day can be purchased at the garden for $4. Proceeds benefit Belfast Garden Club’s civic beautification projects.

At the height of the harvest the vivid colors of late-summer sunflowers, zinnias, gladiolas, scarlet runner beans and morning glories pop against the clear blue sky, and over 100 varieties of vegetables burst from every corner of the 1-acre Troy Howard Middle School Garden. The student garden project started in 2001 as an addition to the curriculum, and now produces several thousand pounds of organic vegetables, herbs and flowers annually. The crops are used in the school cafeteria, sold to the community at the student-run farm stand, wholesale at The Belfast Coop and donated weekly to The Belfast Food Kitchen.

Garden tasks and projects integrate into school subjects across disciplines and learning styles, encouraging active learning and healthy living. Garden coordinator Jon Thurston provides steady and enthusiastic guidance working with students to learn about food history and origin, the best science practices for growing, harvesting and processing vegetables, and experimenting with unusual crops.

Last school year’s 7th grade students were challenged to calculate the area of a portion of the garden, and to plan how to lay out raised beds most efficiently in the space while leaving enough room to walk around each bed. The winning design was implemented and visitors will see the results brimming with greens, bush beans and tomatoes. Another portion of the garden was designed and planted by the students in a geometric pattern and experiments with a

chem-free method of pest control; squash plants sprawl out below the sweet corn creating a prickly blanket that raccoons dislike walking on- keeping them from eating the corn crop! Cooking and eating are a key part of the THMS Garden Project as well. A recently installed solar kitchen is complete with gas stove, water system, table and counter space, and radiant floor heating. Students helped build solar panels and recycled soda can solar collectors, which make it a cozy place to be most times of the year. Wood fired pizza, garlic pesto, and steamed tomatillo green salsa have been recent garden culinary favorites.

Back in the garden; zucchini, heirloom tomatoes and giant Rouge Vif D'Etampes pumpkins plump up for entry in the Common Ground Country Fair vegetable contest where the students often win blue ribbons. In these first weeks of school artichokes, onions, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, muskmelon, greens and more will be harvested and many varieties of beans will be shucked for Garden Week in the cafeteria where all meals will be comprised of food grown onsite!

On the day of the tour the farm stand will be open so that visitors can take fresh vegetables home with them. The regular hours for the farm stand this fall will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 to 4 p.m. (Look for open garden stand sign at bottom of school driveway). Wheenchair accessable.

Directions: From Main St. Belfast travel up the hill to a left on Lincolnville Avenue (which turns into Route 52); Pass Hannaford and cross Route One, THMS will be just after the YMCA on your right. Park in the back by the big greenhouse.

Next: Belfast Garden Club invites the public to attend the grand re-opening of the newly renovated Chapel at Grove Cemetery on October 12. The afternoon will include tours of the Remembrance Garden, Chapel and cemetery as a special fundraiser for the restoration of historic cemetery features. Join Megan Pinette, President of the Belfast Historical Society, for tales of early prominent Belfast families. She will conduct tours at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The $5 admission charge (no Open Garden tickets for this garden please) includes refreshments and tours.

For more information call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, email belfastgardenclub@gmail.com, or visit www.belfastgardenclub.org

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