The arrival of spring is very quiet in Maine. It took me a couple of years to recognize and appreciate the swelling of catkins, the blossoming of fuzzy pussy willows and the blushing reds worn by deciduous forests as the red maple flowers start to bloom. The scent of the sea awakens the senses as the water warms and the rockweed is revived after a long winter freeze. Native flowers start to emerge, but we have to look very closely at the tiny leaves which emerge donned in purples and reds, camouflaged against the soil. This is the fourth year we have started growing our native plants from seed, and the first wave of plants are now established, sending out new tendrils of growth underground to fill in available space. Finally the plants are able to establish ground and deter weeds on their own! Last fall, new seeds were sown in the gaps created by a final weeding of the flower beds. As the first seeds start to germinate, we are mindful to keeping these areas of slow growing seedlings well weeded until they too gain a foothold. Spring snow will still occasionally blanket the earth, and the added moisture encourages these natives to burst forth in May despite the cold in April.
We are on lockdown in Maine as we try to ‘flatten the curve’ of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Early on, we recognized the broader impacts of food insecurity that is being faced now and will unfold over the short season in Maine. Over the winter, we grew lots of vegetables in the greenhouse and now it is time to harvest some for our kitchen and more to pass on to our local food pantry. We have made it our goal to share something fresh from the garden every week during food box distributions through the seasons. Last fall, the Blue Hill Garden Club under the leadership of Peter Leonard (Grandpa) started a new public garden on Tenney Hill in the town of Blue Hill. Little did we know just how important this new space will be in providing fresh nourishment for our neighbors. Working with the Downeast Gleaning Initiative, Healthy Peninsula and the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we are not only growing food for free distribution to the members of our community in greatest need, we are developing a platform for education on seed saving. The run on seeds this season has sparked great interest in saving seeds. We are trying out several ways to share how to save seed, why it is important and provide a platform for exchange and preservation of seeds for future growing season. For now, we are clearing out the greenhouse to fill it with seedlings that will be planted in the public garden later in the spring.
Spring arrives quietly in Maine. In lieu of colors that burst forth vibrantly in more southerly parts of the country, spring arrives through smells emerging from the sea, the softening of ground and a gentle ease as the freeze starts to thaw. Sap starts running as trees prepare to set forth their leaves, and there is a subtle shift in the palette of the landscape as the tips of branches bulge in buds and the first soft fuzzy blooms speckle the Pussy Willow trees. Providing essential nutrients for Bombus as they start to wake up from winter hibernation, the trees are considered keystone species in these northern woods. Surprisingly, the fuzzy grey nubbins are actually flowers. If you tear them open and put them under a microscope you will find they contain flaming fuschia and lime hidden within their furry coats. The closer we look to the plants outdoors, the more surprises we find in tiny bursts of life setting forth.
It is a time for planting seeds in the greenhouse! Vegetable seedlings start filling the terraces in their little pots. We also sow native bunching grasses to give them a strong start through the belated spring. We will then plant the grasses as plugs in the late spring and early summer to provide shelter for pollinators and late fall forage for migrating birds.