What it Takes to Build a Garden
By Brianna Bowman, 2019 FGP Garden Builder
This season, with the support of volunteers, local organizations and gardeners, the Foodscapes Garden Project (FGP), a program of Maine Foodscapes, built 38 gardens for individuals and families in 24 communities throughout Maine, spanning from Freeport to Acton. We also partnered with 2 organizations that prioritize service for individuals and families experiencing limited income. While the process of building a garden with the Foodscapes Garden Project (FGP) is pretty similar from location to location - we install three 4’ x 8’ x 8’ untreated hemlock raised beds and a trellis for each new FGP Gardener - we’ve spent time this season reflecting on what it takes to build a garden, and found that the answer to that question is far more than hammering together boards of lumber with nails.
An FGP garden build starts at the site of one of our community partners, Garbage to Garden, located in Portland. At Garbage to Garden we cut hemlock lumber to size and load up the truck with a rich blend of compost and loam. We arrive on site at a gardener’s home with soil, enough lumber to build three gardens, wheelbarrows, trellis supplies, cardboard to line the beds, and all the tools needed to get the job done. We rely on hammers and nails for construction, and have found that garden builders from age three to sixty-three can easily be involved in garden construction using these tools. There is a job for every skill level on an FGP garden build! We line beds with old cardboard to suppress weed growth, fill the raised beds up to the brim with new soil, and finish the build by installing a trellis made with a simple wooden frame and twine. The process for building a garden is intended to be easy to learn and replicate. Because the love of gardening and accessibility to its magic is what we aim to share. A new resource from Maine Foodscapes will soon be available which will outline all the materials necessary to construct a simple raised bed garden and the process to do so. We hope that this resource will allow gardeners everywhere to build future beds with ease.
So we know what’s technically required to build a garden, but what else is involved? What does it really take to raise a garden bed.
Throughout the build season, new Foodscapes Gardeners have demonstrated an enormous amount of heart and compassion. Neighbors have referred their friends who love gardening to our programs, and homeschooling parents have installed gardens that serve as living classrooms all the way from installation to garden harvest. A heartfelt desire to grow food, rooted in a realization that gardens are a powerful tool for community building, education, food security and personal growth, is the first thing it takes to build a garden.
Garden builds rely on strong relationships for success. Each build brings together volunteers, neighbors, friends, and family members to complete a shared goal. The individual strength of any volunteer or gardener is less important than the strength of the relationships between the people involved. With a crew of friends or family, a build is easily completed and fun to participate in. What can often be physically challenging work, we make opportunities for folks of all ability levels to be involved. Build efforts have benefited enormously from the efforts of everyone involved this season, including young folks and people who helped wrap a trellis from the comfort of a chair. There is a place for everyone on an FGP build!
A garden build is the beginning of a process of growth. Without vision, a Foodscapes Garden is only a couple boxes of soil in your yard. The question “what are you excited to grow this season?” opens up a world of possibilities, and the answers we’ve received from gardeners this year are inspiring. There’s incredible enthusiasm for tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, squash, and a variety of crops that can be canned and stored for winter. Equally as exciting as the crops to be grown is the anticipation of moments of relaxation and joy in the garden. Numerous gardeners have described their vision for peaceful mornings spent sipping coffee in the garden, and others describe how they will use their gardens as a tool for education and time together as a family.
What it takes to grow a garden are many of the same things that will help us succeed together as a community: heart, relationship, and vision. At Maine Foodscapes we’re committed to creating spaces and opportunities for these conditions to thrive. We work to support gardeners in achieving their vision, deepening relationships, and following their heart to a bountiful season!
We want to extend an enormous THANK YOU to all of the dedicated gardeners, volunteers, and friends and family for their efforts to make this 2019 build season a success. This work is not possible without you!