Brewer couple grows ingredients for salsa, salad in urban garden

Posted June 13, 2014, at 2:15 p.m.

by Ardeana Hamlin

of The Weekly Staff


Maine is a by-and-large a rural state, especially north of Augusta, so the concept of urban

gardening seems an unnecessary notion.

Urban gardening is most often associated with big cities, with residents reclaiming abandoned

lots and converting them to co-operative gardens where vegetables are raised. Other city

dwellers creates gardens on the roofs of apartment buildings.

But in the Bangor and Brewer, many people live in rented apartments where there is no land

available for a vegetable garden plot, even if the apartment building owner is amenable to the

Russ and Morgan Mortland of Brewer , both nurses, are a young couple who live in an

upstairs apartment.

Morgan remembers gardens from her childhood in Veazie filled with big squash, and a bounty

of green beans and cucumbers. She also has fond memories of the good things that grew in

her grandfather’s large garden in Mariaville.

Russ’s family also grew vegetables. “When we first moved to Topsfield,” he said, “my parents

paid me a penny for every rock I took out of the garden spot.”

Russ said his interest in gardening got a kick-start when he was student at the University of

Maine Fort Kent where there was a greenhouse. “It was part of the environmental studies

program, but I would go and help out.”

When Russ and Morgan moved to their apartment in Brewer, they looked for a way to grow

their own vegetables. Their landlord was agreeable to Russ’s idea of locating two raised beds

on the bit of ground along the edge of the driveway since the apartment location does not

contain enough land for a traditional garden plot.

Russ built two 3-foot by 8-foot, 10-inches deep, raised beds and filled them with soil he

amended with manure and liquid fertilizer. He used garden twine to divide the beds into

plots approximately 1-foot square. He either planted seeds or set out seedlings in each of

the squares. He also put tall blue plastic pails into the mix to serve as containers for growing

tomato plants.

“It was cheap to build,” he said of the raised beds. He estimated the total cost for the wood,

screws, tools, seeds, seedlings, manure and other materials came to less than $300.

The raised beds contain cucumbers, acorn squash, peas, peppers, basil, onions, garlic,

romaine, baby salad mix, spinach, and carrots. The peas will climb a trellis created of twine

and dowel-like uprights with a sapling-like branch serving as a horizontal support. The trellis,

Russ said, was a design he found online. It served as inspiration for the one created for his

raised garden bed.

The garden project also has a tiny corn patch at one end of an existing bed of daylilies, a

small circle in the lawn where sunflowers will grow and a small square of earth right next to

the house where watermelons will be planted.

“We grew a lot more seedlings than we need so we will give some of those away,” Russ

said. The couple’s apartment has a tiny sunroom that turned out to be the perfect place for

starting seedlings.

“I don’t think we will have to worry about deer and raccoons eating our garden,” Morgan said,

a hopeful note in her voice.

Russ and Morgan couldn’t be more pleased with their venture into urban gardening. “It looks

good, there’s green everywhere,” Morgan said. “It’s easy, no weeding. The raised beds make

growing [vegetables] a lot easier.”

“It forces you to be outside. It’s something to look forward to and to do, something that has an

end result,” Russ said.

Since they began their urban garden project, Russ and Morgan have noticed they aren’t the

only ones constructing raised beds.

“Quite a few in this neighborhood are doing raised beds,” Russ said. “Now that we have them,

we notice them everywhere.”

When it comes time to harvest their garden produce, Russ is looking forward to making

salsa. “I’m growing all the ingredients for salsa,” Russ said.

“Salads,” Morgan said. “We’re growing all the greens and carrots for salads.”


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