Secrets of starting a no-fuss garden on time

GardenWorksby  Emily Cates

Attention slackers and Free-gans this one’s for all of us! Do you want a garden but you’re putting it off for the last moment? Lack of time? No problem. Lack of space? Don’t worry. Too expensive? No way! Not enough motivation?

We’ll do our best. Whatever the reason for procrastination, there are compelling reasons to get outside and “just do it.” After all, the more you put into the garden, the more you’re likely to get out of it. Well – to a point. You see, there are a few hints and shortcuts that might be of interest and easier on our wallets. Follow along as we look at ways to make the most out of our time in the dirt. We’ll look at garden cleanup, soil preparation, inexpensive seeds and starts, and a weeding method that can make a lazy gardener’s dreams-come-true. And we’ll do this in the spirit that anyone, anywhere, regardless of time and finances, might just be able to grow something this year.

First things first, though. When it comes to cleaning up the garden space, there’s no going around it; In this case procrastination will waste time! A garden that is free from crop remains will be a real time-saver when it comes to dealing with pests and pestilence. While the best time to clean up the garden was probably last fall, nothing should hold us back from ensuring it gets done now. Pull up and destroy any annual plants lingering from last year, as bugs and diseases potentially lurk in their presence. Even if you need to work in 10 minute increments, make sure to do this before it greens up outside.

When clean-up has been satisfactorily accomplished, then it’s time to prepare the soil. Is lack of space holding you back? Why not garden in containers? A tub full of soil on the patio or a window box can grow more than you think, especially when growing cultivars bred specifically for containers. Think tomatoes, cukes, greens, herbs, beans, and more. (Just don’t forget to keep it watered.)

As with cleanup, putting off preparing the soil will only make more work in the future when weeds will have taken hold. Now, there are scores of ways to do this – from thorough tilling of the soil by hand or with equipment – or “lasagna” style by piling on layers of organic matter and mulches. I can’t tell which one is best, because it all depends on the plot. What I can tell you is that I believe the best methods for soil preparation involve adding organic matter, a little more than what was taken out before. Depending on the richness of container-garden copythe ground, I tend to add enough to darken the soil a few shades. Compost from kitchen scraps, leaves, livestock bedding or manure are low-cost and effective soil amendments. Oftentimes, compost may also be obtained from the local transfer station. It might be worthwhile to call around to local farms to see if they have manure available.

Regarding soil prep, it’s easiest to do when the spot was heavily mulched the previous fall. Then the mulch can just be pulled back in the springtime, and voila! A shovelful here and there of organic matter to darken up the soil, a little digging with a spading fork to mix it in and till, might be all that’s needed to be ready to plant.

Seeds are an economical way to get a garden going, especially if they were saved from our own garden. Seed swaps and seed libraries are a great place to obtain seeds, and are an excellent option when price is an issue. Veggie seeds and transplants can also be purchased with EBT benefits – check Hannaford and Uncle Dean’s. Also, many greenhouses donate their surplus to food banks instead of just throwing them out. These plants might be a bit leggy, but with proper care, may provide many nutritious and delicious meals.

Does the thought of weeding deter you from gardening? Save time and energy by smothering them early on with mulch. Un-colored newspaper and untreated cardboard are good choices for mulches since they are usually free at the transfer station. I lay them down and cover with old sawdust or debris left over from my firewood pile. I find this especially works well for permaculture.

And now, the secret for a no-fuss garden you’ve all been waiting for. Well, actually, it’s not much of a secret. Look at the forest floor and you’ll get an idea how Nature does it. Pick up a handful next time you’re in the woods and see how the soil is nice and rich, without many weeds. What a wonderful smell! So alive, full of nutrients, and little creatures – like a mini universe in the ground. This is the color I think our garden soil should be. So what’s the secret? Leaf mulch. As the trees shed their leaves, they layer the forest floor with nutrition that was drawn up from way below the ground. I find that the closer I emulate these conditions in my own garden, the healthier the soil and resulting plants. Not to mention far fewer weeds. So I try to incorporate well-rotted leaves whenever I can. Starting a leaf pile may be easier than you think, since bags of leaves are oftentimes found roadside and free for the taking. Check the transfer station, too.

Now we’ve eradicated the top excuses for not having a garden this year! See you at the FEDCO Tree Sale May 6 and 7.

Dispatcher recognized with Lifesaver award

Somerset County Dispatcher Jana Watson was awarded a Lifesaver Award from Fairfield Police Department Chief Thomas Gould at a meeting of the Somerset County Commissioners on April 20. The award recognized her exemplary performance in assisting a 9-1-1 caller through CPR instructions which ultimately saved the caller’s husband.Jana WatsonThumb

On February 6, 2016, Somerset Regional Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call from the Fairfield resident reporting that her husband had collapsed, was gasping for breath, and unresponsive. Dispatcher Watson immediately started the caller through a series of questions, using Emergency Medical Dispatch protocols, to determine the status of the patient. Once Dispatcher Watson determined that the husband was not breathing she began instructing the caller through CPR.

Chief Gould stated, “Dispatcher Watson remained calm during the incident. She gave clear, concise instructions to the caller and continued until CPR was taken over by first responders. Her actions saved a life that night. This is the sole reason the victim is here today.”

Present in the room for the recognition were Troy and Kathleen Hill, from Fairfield, the caller and her husband from that night. Hill is well on the road to recovery and expressed his gratitude for the assistance that Watson provided to his wife during the call.

The use of Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocols is mandatory for all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in Maine. There are currently almost 500 trained personnel working in Maine’s 26 PSAPs. These PSAPs processed a combined total of more than 580,000 9-1-1 calls in 2015. Every medical call is processed using this nationally-accepted and approved set of protocols, which includes instructions for administering CPR over the phone.

China Boy Scout earns Eagle status

Text and photo by Ron Emery,
Assistant Scoutmaster

On April 9, Troop #479 honored an Eagle Scout at a Court of Honor held for South China resident Joe Morry at the China Baptist Church. Family, friends and Scouts attended the ceremony marking the advancement of this young man to the highest rank in Boy Scouts.Joe Morry copy

Joe joins a group of 32 Eagle Scouts who have completed community service projects with the help of fellow Scouts and other volunteers throughout Kennebec Valley. Each Eagle candidate must plan and supervise an Eagle service project to demonstrate his capacity and willingness to exert his leadership ability in activities that are constructive and worthwhile in his community.

Joe’s project benefited the surrounding communities by selecting a project in Thurston Park. Thurston Park is a 387-acre parcel of land located in the northeastern corner of the town of China. It is a multi-use park that is free and open to the public. He and fellow scouts and leaders, Erskine Academy classmates and friends and family built and installed two kiosks and also built three picnic tables. This Eagle Service project led by Joe Morry provided many man-hours of service to the region to improve the usability of Thurston Park by the public.
Senior Patrol Leader Nivek Boostedt welcomed the guests to the Court of Honor.

State Representative Timothy Theriault presented legislative sentiments. Other letters of sentiments were received from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, as well as many others.

Joe is the son of Susan Morry, of China, and Carmine Morry, of Palermo. Joe is a member of the U.S. Army Guard, in Bangor, and is currently being trained to be a corrections officer.

Selectmen approve town meeting warrant despite disagreement

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen approved the warrant for the June annual town meeting at their April 20 meeting, agreeing to disagree with the budget committee’s recommendation on the one spending question on which the two boards differ.

They also continued discussion of a new proposal for street lighting that should save money. The issue was not ready for action, because, Josh Heald of Pemco & Company, LLC, said, the Maine Public Utilities Commission needs to make one more decision before companies like Pemco can bid to replace utilities like Central Maine Power Company.

As Philip Haines, chairman of the board of selectmen, summarized the Pemco proposal, the company would replace existing streetlights with LEDs that Pemco would own until Vassalboro paid off the cost of the work, using part of the energy savings for the payments. Once repayment was finished, Vassalboro would have three options: extend the contract and require upgrades; assume ownership of the lights and contract with Pemco to maintain them; or take ownership and maintenance responsibility.
Edward Wright of Sewall Engineering represented Pemco in person at the selectmen’s meeting; Heald joined on a conference call.

Heald said Pemco is a member of the International Dark Sky Association; streetlights it installs face downward to minimize light pollution. Heald and Wright said modern technology allows real-time performance monitoring, so any malfunctions should be quickly corrected.

Vassalboro’s 2016 town meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Vassalboro Community School with action on 2016-17 school and municipal budgets and policy issues. On Tuesday, June 14, voters will decide local elections and whether to continue the written-ballot referendum on the school budget for another three years, and endorse or reject the school budget approved June 6.
Nomination papers for local elective office are available at the town office. Signed papers must be returned by 4 p.m. Monday, May 2.

The monetary issue left with differing recommendations is how much to appropriate from the alewife fund (money from the sale of alewives trapped annually at the Webber Pond dam) for the China Region Lakes Alliance. Selectmen recommend $5,000; a majority of the budget committee recommends $10,000.

In addition to the usual annual spending decisions, voters will be asked to authorize purchase of a new loader for the public works department and a new fire truck. The cost of the loader is capped at $165,000, with funds to come from taxes, the equipment reserve fund and sale of the 1993 loader. The fire truck is capped at $305,000 plus interest, as town officials propose a lease-purchase agreement.

Also in the warrant is a request for authorization for the selectmen to sign necessary documents to let Vassalboro continue as a member of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), the group behind plans for a new trash disposal facility to serve Maine towns and cities beginning in 2018.

Current contracts to use the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) incinerator end in April 2018. The MRC, the group that has represented Maine municipalities in dealings with PERC, has researched options for future waste disposal and chosen a facility to be developed in Hampden by Fiberight as economically and environmentally preferable.

Selectmen also seek voter approval to apply for $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to help the Vassalboro Sanitary District carry out plans to connect to the Waterville-Winslow sewer system.

Two well-known Central Maine companies join forces

On April 1, AFC completed the acquisition of the fuel/propane and service segments of J&S Oil, Inc., of Manchester.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for what the J&S team has built over the years. They have been a trusted member of the Augusta and Winslow communities and we intend to carry on that legacy,” assured Marc V. Lacasse, AFC President and CEO. “We are very excited to begin working with the excellent staff and wonderful customers that J&S has created relationships with over the last 44 years.”

J&S offices on Western Avenue, in Manchester, and Augusta Road, in Winslow, will continue to operate as usual with the same staff customers have come to know and trust over the years. AFC also operates their main office on Northern Avenue, in Augusta, and a satellite office on Mutton Lane, in Clinton.

AFC has served the greater Augusta area since 1888. Their mission is to provide the best home and commercial comfort solutions with a professionalism and reliability that is unmatched. They currently deliver oil, kerosene, propane and commercial fuel products and provide heating, plumbing, cooling and electrical services and installations – 24/7/365 – to Central Maine. More information can be found at

Albion Neighborhood News

Tax season is hopefully over for most of us unless you file quarterly or late . NOW we have black fly season to look forward to. Oh and for those working in the woods, “mud season”. I do believe mud season came a bit early this year, but there is no way to escape it.

Across the street from me sits what use to be a very nice little house. The elderly lady who lived there was related to many in town. After she passed on and the house was sold, it has gone through numerous people. Finally the bank repossessed it they are now cleaning it out. I have never seen so much stuff come out and be thrown into dumpsters, trailers, pick-ups as this weekend. Being the nosey type, I asked if they had bought it. I was told no, they got a letter telling them to go clean it out. How sad that people just leave what few possessions they have to be thrown on dumpsters or for others to clean out.

On that subject though, I live in a big house and sometimes dream of the day I can look down and see my children cleaning out our house. I am not sure it would make up for all of the messy dirty rooms they had but it would give me some satisfaction.

Is it time to vote for President? This comedy routine is getting old. I just want someone who will protect us from encroaching enemies, not spend our hard earned money on lavish vacations or redoing the white house and who will have expectations that those who can work have to work. Riots in the streets and looting use to be dealt with basically by death, but now it appears to be celebrated. People are becoming more violent and it is not the weapons that are, it is the people themselves. Then there are those who want to allow males and females in the same public bathrooms at the same time. We are suppose to protect our children not set them up like it is a store where someone can pick out the one they want. Where are the child abuse workers and advocates in their opinions on this. We have laws that are suppose to protect children. So we forget them and allow someone who believes or feels they are a different sex to set a precedence whereby child molesters have easy access to children! Great thinking! I long for the 50’s.

I realize this is a dark column this week, but someone has to say it. Until next week…

Mary Lee Rounds 437-2475

Mary Grow honored at town meeting

Mary Grow & Tim Theriault

Contributed photo

The 2016 China Town Report was dedicated to Mary Grow, right,  and the Maine House of Representatives presented her with a Legislative Sentiment, presented in the photo by Rep. Tim Theriault, right, recognizing Mary’s contribution to her community for local reporting in the media and by her other contributions to the town of China. Mary also serves as librarian at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village.

Fran Purnell Honored for Years of Dedication

For over 40 years Fran Purnell organized, coached and managed the Waterville Little League program. Fran’s entire spring, summer nights and weekends were dedicated to building the baseball program to a level of excellence. Thousands of children learned the fundamentals of the game while Fran stressed sportsmanship and the importance of respect on and off the field.

Fran and his volunteers renovated the field on Mathews Avenue, in Waterville. He overhauled the infield and outfield, backstop, dugouts and snack shacks, installed a flag pole, PA system, remote scoreboard and field lights, built a storage area and press box and raised the pitcher’s mound to specifications.

In honor of Fran’s work and dedication the Matthews Field in Waterville was renamed the Purnell Little League Field.

In 1990 Fran started the “Challenger Division” so that children and adults with disabilities could flourish in the game. After 26 years Fran still plays an active role each and every Friday evening coaching and supporting the program at Purnell Field.

In gratitude and in honor of Fran’s unselfish commitment to the youth and families, the city of Waterville, along with the Alfond Youth Center, will renovate the Purnell Field to become a licensed Major League Baseball Turf field with an ADA surface to be called the Purnell Wrigley Field.

Fran Purnell Honored

(Photo by Carol Fredette, Central Maine Photography staff)

Whereas the City of Waterville is truly grateful for the important work of Fran Purnell, his family and the many volunteers, for improving the quality of life for so many of the city’s residents; Waterville Mayor Nicholas Isgro, on behalf of the City Council, recognized April 23, 2016, in honor of Fran “Mr. Baseball” Purnell as the official Fran Purnell Day  during the opening ceremony of the 2016 baseball season.

Fran Purnell Day, honoring a man who gave 45 years of volunteer service to the Challenge Program (Kids with special needs) and the Cal Ripken and Little League baseball program. In his honor the Alfond Youth Center and the city of Waterville will be building the only licensed MLB ADA turf ballfield in New England – The Purnell Wrigley Field, named  after the Chicago Cubs ballfield. Now, Central Maine will have the only two licensed ballparks in the country – Maine’s Fenway and Purnell Wrigley Field. City Councilor Sydney Mayhew and Mayor Nick Isgro read a proclamation of the Fran Purnell Day. Over 150 Cal Ripken youth players were on hand as well as some of Fran’s former players.