The organic market garden presented on August 20 during the garden open day
MONROE The farming operations of Dickey Hill Farm, 554 Dickey Hill Road, an organic market garden, will be on display on Friday August 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, as part of the Belfast Garden Club open days .
Visitors are asked to park on the right side of the lawn next to the driveway at an angle to maximize space. Some vegetables may be available for sale. A donation of $ 5 is requested to support club operations.
The farm is certified organic by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and, according to owner James Gagné, uses minimal tillage practices to promote soil health. Plowing tends to germinate seeds 8 inches below the surface. For weed control, the beds are covered with a landscaped fabric to hold the soil in place and, using hand tools, are raised slightly and in mounds. “The weed level is pretty low,” he said. “Our goal is not to let any weed go to seed.
“The less you plow, the more you cover,” said Gagné, “it becomes easier to maintain. Our goal is high production from each bed, and this is in part possible due to our small scale.”
After harvest, each row is mowed and the residue is covered with a tarpaulin. Within two weeks, the residue is broken down allowing composting in place. Homemade mulch, made of seedless straw and wood chips, keeps the invasive grass that surrounds the perimeter of the plots away. A few flowers are visible at row ends and in various places on the plots to help create pollination habitat.
The farm also has a small herd of oxen, which Gagné notes are not organic. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and lettuce for bagged greens are grown on the farm, along with carrots which are harvested weekly. Gagné said they sell their vegetables at Belfast and Rockland Farmers’ Markets, where a few restaurants also purchase produce for their menus.
Four “high tunnels” or unheated greenhouses without sides provide a year-round growing environment for trellis-loving plants, including beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Each summer, one or two tunnels are planted with a cover crop, that is, plants that put nutrients back into the soil, “allowing it to rest from the fruiting body.”
This year has been a bit odd, Gagné said, with a hot June followed by an extremely humid July. “Some of our heat loving cultures have really suffered,” he said. The vegetables took a while to ripen with the cold, cloudy weather this year.
Gagné, his wife Naomi and two workers are opening more land for next year. The pasture is covered with a tarp and will be available for planting by next spring. For more information, visit dickeyhillfarm.com.
The Belfast Garden Club has been promoting public gardens and stimulating the knowledge and love of gardening for over 90 years. The club’s fundraising proceeds support local public gardens and several scholarship funds. To find out more, visit BelfastGardenClub.org.