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
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
“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
“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.”