With the sun dropping low in the sky, the Mt. Blue Area Garden Club met near the cooling shade of the tall, sprawling willow in Becky Grant-Widen’s six acre Wilton property before she led us on a tour of her impressive gardens.
Her no-dig approach to creating and renovating garden beds was especially interesting. After close-cropping the existing vegetation she covers it with wetted cardboard and then tops it with soil, composted cow manure or wood chips from her property, depending on her plans for the site. This simple approach reduces effort and preserves the integrity of the soil beneath, leaving its beneficial mycorrhizal network intact while also blocking out opportunistic weeds that seek out disturbed soil.
Black silage tarps, edges weighted with cinder blocks and stones, are pulled tight over cover composted cow manure and low-mown areas of invasives. This method effectively concentrates the sun’s heat to cook away the viability of seeds and roots that might otherwise interfere with her new plantings. After this treatment, she readies her cardboard and new plants or seeds.
Becky showed us how she uses 16-foot wire cattle panels, which are arched and secured in the ground to form a lovely trellis for her arctic kiwi (Actinidia arguta), on which hundreds of fruits were ripening.
A small, sweet pair of black pigs, hired from Grazing Glory to root out encroaching staghorn sumacs watched with interest as our group toured the expansive and varied herb and vegetable beds – all managed with her no-dig method.
The tour ended near the pen of her two goats, Hugo and Phoenix, where Becky treated them to some apple leaves. Our group also got a treat: we were invited to pick raspberries from the huge patch covered with the rip red fruit.
Thank you Becky, for welcoming us to your fantastic garden!
Below are some of resources Becky shared with us that she uses for her gardening needs:
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds – silage tarps for solarizing soil and weeds/invasive, raspberry canes, asparagus, seeds, landscaping fabric
- Fedco – bare root fruit trees (cherry, plum, pear, arctic kiwi, elderberry, mulberry)
- Tractor Supply – cattle panels, goat and pig supplies
- Vera’s Iron and Vine – garden metal art pieces by Vera Johnson (she does custom orders and commissions)
- Robin’s Flower Pot – seedling stars, perennials, misc. garden supplies
- Black Acre Farms – composted cow manure
- Living Acre Farms – bagged and bulk compost and soil mixes
- Facebook Buy Nothing Group for Mt. Blue Area – cardboard, chives, Egyption onions, rhubarb
- Grazing Glory – pig and goat rental for clearing land
Invasive and Aggressive Plants
- Common Daylily (non-native, invasive in some parts of Northeast)
- Jerusalem Artichoke (aggressive native)
- Staghorn Sumac (aggressive native)
- Asiatic Bittersweet (on highly invasive list for Maine)
- Multiflora rose (on highly invasive list for Maine)