Happenings in the Star City
It’s a dirty job, but there’s nothing else like it. For those who garden — whether a pot of flowers, a small vegetable plot or a yard-size blooming showcase — it is creative, energizing, fun — and even downright therapeutic.
I know some scientific gardeners, who carefully measure nutrients and mix them with soil, space out mounds of seeded earth and watch forecasts and humidity levels to determine how much to water.
I know some artistic gardeners, who focus on color, choosing new annuals to bloom in artistic array. And I know some who favor varieties, seeking certain plants for their blooming season, zone hardiness or ability to attract winged creatures.
And then there are the rest of us — learning as we go.
Whatever your focus, it’s a chance to put hands to earth and participate in making things grow and come to life. It’s almost like being a child again, watching a small sprout spring up from a tiny mound of dirt in a paper cup.
As soon as the snow disappears, the garden centers roll out flowers and plants, pallets of dirt and fertilizers, and promises of everything to bring your yard to life.
My grandfathers went by an old adage that you should never plant until after the first full moon in June. One local gardener and greenhouse owner abides by that rule.
“As a matter of fact, I try to discourage people from planting much before June 15,” said Randy Martin, owner of The King’s Gardener in Presque Isle.
Though some seeds can go in earlier, heat-loving plants like pumpkins and squash and peppers, among others, might not make it if planted too early.
“We get tricked up here because there’s always a warm spell followed by the last hurrah of winter,” Martin said Friday. “The soil has been so cold and the rain has been so cold, that people are now coming back and buying replacement plants because they lost their first ones.”
Plants for sale usually contain information about cold-hardiness zones. Gardeners should pay attention to that information, said Martin.
“Presque Isle is zone 3, with some little micro-pockets of zone 4. Zone 3 means it goes between 27 and 30 below zero at some point in time.”
For instance, many fruit trees will not grow in this part of the country. “A lot of people want to have peaches here, and there are some that will grow in Bangor, but up here peach trees will lose their buds at 20 degrees or colder — so the leaves will come every year, but no buds,” Martin explained. And no buds means no fruit.
Vegetable variety improvements are happening all the time, and Martin suggested gardeners check out some of the newer types. “Everyone’s looking for Straight 8 cucumbers, which was a variety in our grandfathers’ time,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and it’s been about educating people about the varieties that are around now and the new ones, which are actually better — better yielding, better tasting and with less disease problems.”
Martin enjoys gardening and growing his own vegetables because they’re free of genetically modified organisms. “I know where my food is coming from and I know what’s in it.”
He had this advice for beginning gardeners: “Keep it simple. Don’t try to do too much.”
A Main attraction
Clear weather brought folks out Monday evening to check out the first Mondays on Main concert on — appropriately — Presque Isle’s Main Street.
City grant writer Kim Smith was pleased with the turnout for the first of three such events planned this summer.
“At one point, I would say there were about 300 people here,” she said, surveying the venue, though at around 9 p.m. the crowd was dwindling.
The Brad Hutchinson Project took the stage for just over two hours. Hutchinson, of Houlton, and the assembled musicians played a selection of rock numbers.
Derek Smith of Smitten Promotions in Presque Isle books the acts, and said he tried to get regional musicians for the Monday concerts, with more far-flung bands for the Sunday Music in the Park series.
Both he and Kim Smith pointed out the new stage setup, bought with funds from the Police Department, the Revitalization Committee and a local business person. The committee also received a grant for an outdoor sound system, which they will use at upcoming events.
A few vendors were set up along the sides of the blocked-off area between State and Academy streets. Kim Smith said more have come forward to participate in future Main Street concerts.
The Star City’s next musical offerings include Sunday, July 10, with Passerine, and the next Monday on Main is July 18 with Wally and the Virginians.