GARDEN WORKS: 10 plants you should be growing in your garden right now, Pt 1


by Emily Cates

Part 1 of 2

For as long as there have been people who gardened in a climate such as ours here in Maine, the frost-free season has been eagerly anticipated. Much joy and excitement prevails when the ground is ready to plant heat-loving garden plants. Usually the date for all this falls upon or around Memorial Day. With that a few days behind us, let’s look at some warm-weather plants that would be happy to be planted anytime now. In this article we’ll include corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Next time we’ll discuss okra, artichokes, celery, melons and squash. In each article, we’ll also examine a few tips on growing them and making the most of our efforts.

Corn, a traditional provision of the Americas from ancient times, finds its way to our table in many forms, such as popcorn, cornmeal, sweet corn, baby corn, grits, hominy, and ornamental “Indian” corn. A large percentage of corn grown worldwide is actually cultivated as animal feed. The rest of the crop comes in an infinite variety of color patterns and flavors.

Most of us are acquainted with yellow or cream colored corn, but it is exciting to harvest brightly-colored ears of multicolored corn varieties. My favorite ornamental strain is ‘Earth Tones’ dent, and if you get a chance to see it, you might concur. Popcorn, which is a variety of corn that pops when dried and cooked due to the shape of the kernels, is delicious when homegrown. Look for a popcorn with the name of ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’, which is so yummy when popped up on its own without adding anything else for flavor. The variety ‘Dakota Black’ is pretty good too, and ‘Calico’ is an ornamental popcorn.

If you’re looking to grow corn for cornmeal, try ‘Painted Mountain’, ‘Abenaki Calais Flint,’ or ‘Hopi Blue’. Grow ‘Japanese Hulless’ for baby corn when immature and popcorn when mature. Interested in a sweet corn that has that old-fashioned flavor without being too sweet? Try ‘Golden Bantam.’ ‘Country Gentleman’ is a good old-timey corn that is unique as it has no rows and the kernels are arranged in a zigzag, shoe peg pattern. Corn is a heavy feeder that likes full sun, and pollinates best when planted in row blocks rather than a single row. It cross-pollinates with other varieties- even from miles away- and the resulting ears will show the results of this; so keep in mind if planting near other corns pollinating at the same time.

Beans are a versatile addition to a garden. Being a legume, they fix nitrogen for the soil, as well as providing a green vegetable, shell beans, and dry beans for soups and such. Like corn, they come in a dazzling array of colors and forms. Green beans need not be green at all! ‘Dragon’s Tongue’ has cream-colored pods with purple stripes. ‘Royal Burgundy’ has striking purple pods, as does ‘Velour,’ which is a haricots vert type. ‘Red Noodle Yard Long’s impressive thin burgundy pods grow over 15 inches long and the rambling vines require something to climb on. Actually, varieties of beans called ‘”pole beans” are thought to be better tasting than bush beans. Grow them on poles, “tipis,” or a trellis of some sort. Recommended are ‘Northeaster’, ‘True Red Cranberry pole’, ‘Golden Gate,’ ‘Kentucky Wonder,’ ‘Christmas Lima,’ and ‘Purple Podded.’ ‘Scarlet ‘Runner’ is a type of vining ornamental bean with pretty red flowers and big, beautiful black and pink bean seeds that look almost spray-painted. Dry beans of every shape, size, and colors imaginable are also available. Look for ‘Tiger Eye,’ ‘Appaloosa,’ ‘Jacob’s Cattle,’ ‘Drabo,’ ‘Ireland Creek Annie,’ and ‘Calypso.’ Beans have moderate nutrient needs, and excessively rich soil will produce excessive vegetation. Stay out of the bean patch when it’s wet, as they can be susceptible to diseases. Plant with summer savory to improve bean growth.

Tomatoes are perhaps one of the most beloved garden vegetables. Once thought to be poisonous, they delight many gardeners today with a rainbow assortment and exquisite flavors. Really, I could devote a whole article on tomatoes, but I will restrain myself from doing so this time! I shamelessly grew and tried literally hundreds of different named varieties to find the best ones, and I’ll share with you some of my favorites: ‘Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom,’ ‘Cosmonaut Volkov'(red slicer), ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green,’ ‘Amish Paste,’ ‘Yellow Pear,’ ‘Pink Brandywine,’ ‘Sungold,” Black Cherry,’ ‘Heart of Compassion,’ ‘Federle'(paste), ‘Opalka'(paste) ‘Cherokee Purple,’ and ‘Green Zebra.’ There are too many to list all of the ones I like, and some years the winners are losers and vice versa depending on weather and other conditions. But the above mentioned varieties have been consistently victorious. Since they are long-season plants, start seeds indoors in February – April, or plant seedlings from a friend, farm stand, garden store, etc. Every gardener seems to have some secret for growing the best tomatoes, and I admire the lore and legends I hear. I have found over the years that in my garden, tomatoes prefer to grow on a trellis and they like compost tea, seaweed/fish fertilizer, clean wood ashes, and mulch. Give them plenty of nutrients, but not too much. Good companions could include aromatic herbs such as basil, chives, thyme, and cilantro.

Peppers are likewise delightful in their diversity, ranging to sweet and mild, to blistering hot and spicy. Like tomatoes, the colors can be astonishingly beautiful and varied. Peppers can be big and blocky, long and skinny, round, tall, squat, lobed, or even mushroom-shaped. Look for ‘King of the North'(sweet, bell), ‘Chocolate'(sweet), ‘Round of Hungary'(sweet), ‘Beaver Dam'(mildly hot with seeds and ribs, sweet without), ‘Boldog Hungarian Spice'(paprika), ‘Czech Black'(hot), ‘Matchbox'(hot), ‘Purple Cayenne'(hot) ‘Hinkelhatz'(hot), ‘NuMex'(ornamental, hot), and ‘Mushroom'(hot!). Start indoors March – April, or plant seedlings from where you got your tomatoes. They can be a challenge to grow in some years, and like to be pampered with windbreaks and anything that shelters them from extremes of heat or cold or moisture levels. I find the most success when I plant peppers into black plastic IRT mulch. Pick the first fruits of the year as they mature, since the more you pick, the more will grow. Tomatoes, okra, basil, and onions are some of the plants said to be good companions to peppers.

Eggplants, too, are varied, and a perfect choice for a gardener looking for a challenge. I’ve found they appreciate similar conditions as peppers, with a good amount of compost (not too much) and black plastic IRT mulch. Start indoors or use seedlings. Look for the most possibly dependable varieties ‘Rosita’, ‘Applegreen’, ‘Pingtung Long’, ‘Diamond’, and ‘Rosa Bianca’.

Whatever varieties you prefer (there are infinite varieties to choose from!), you can find seeds from FEDCO, Johnny’s, Pinetree, Sandhill Preservation Center, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. See you next time for the rest of this article. In the meantime, happy planting!

Read Part 2 here!

Moving on to state tournament

Front row, from left to right, Colton Carter, Gaige Martin, Cole Quirion, Dawson Moore, Hunter Hart-Guertin and Preston Roy. Second row, Dane Zawistowski, Riley Leary, Cameron Blodgett, Henry Wadsworth, Zebadiah Hannah and Michael Hamlin. Coach Todd Leary, Coach Kevin Guertin, Coach Todd Hamlin, and Manager Barry Quirion. Photo submitted by Central Maine Photography


Cal Ripken 10U District 5 Champions, from Fairfield, moved on to the state tournament last weekend!

Maine Moose win 2nd straight national title

On June 14, the Maine Senate recognized the Maine Moose U18 team, based in Hallowell, for their victory at the 2017 Tier 2A USA National Hockey Championship in Lansing, Michigan. This is the team’s second straight national championship. The team won its fourth straight Maine State Championship after dominating the Eastern Elite Junior Prospect League. Members of the team include Cameron Wilson, of Augusta; Jeromy Rancourt, Cole Ouelette and Cody Doyon, of Lewiston; Gavin Bates and Assistant Coach Jim Raby, of Auburn; Tanner McClure, of Gorham; Marc Thibodeau, of Hampden; Thomas Arps, of Farmingdale; Derek Fournier, of Bangor; Tyler Wheeler, of Old Town; Esa Maki, of Jay; Matthew Deaveux, of Brunswick; Samuel Johnson, of Readfield; Matt Jolicoeur, Jackson Aldrich and Andrew Roderigue, all of Waterville; Josh Malone, of Houlton; and Head Coach Jeff Ross, of China, second from right.

Contributed photo

SRLT monthly speaker series features John McPhedran of the Maine DEP

With paddle season upon us, there is no better time to investigate aquatic ecosystems. But which of those underwater plants are good, and which are unwanted invasives? With paddle season upon us, there is no better time to investigate aquatic ecosystems. But which of those underwater plants are good, and which are unwanted invasives?

John McPhedran of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will join the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust on Wednesday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m., to discuss native and invasive aquatic plants.

No one has their eye on aquatic plant communities like McPhedran. As the DEP’s Invasive Aquatic Plant Unit Leader, he has spent a career investigating threats to aquatic ecosystems and educating citizens on how to stop or limit the spread of aquatic invasive species. McPhedran’s engaging presentation will help everyday paddlers identify both native and unwelcome invasives.

McPhedran’s talk is part of the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust’s monthly speaker series, “Restoring Connections to Place,” featuring a wide variety of conservation topics of interest to Maine.  Held at 93 Coffee Shop, 93 Main St in Unity, the program is open to the public.  A five-dollar donation is suggested. For more information, please email or call 207-948-3766.

This event pairs well with another upcoming SRLT event. A community paddle scheduled for July 22 at the Pleasant Lake Preserve will have aquascopes on hand to help participants view aquatic plants and the rich natural ecosystems in which they thrive. Sign-up for the paddle is required.

Erskine grad sends message to arrive alive

Alexis Bonenfant

Erskine Academy graduate, Alexis Bonenfant, won first-place in the 13th annual Arrive Alive Creative Contest sponsored by the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein. The contest asks students to come up with a creative message about the dangers of drinking and driving and/or distracted driving.

Ms. Bonenfant was chosen as one of five first-place winners and received a new laptop computer for her “Book of Life” entry depicting how the decisions drivers make can both positively and negatively impact their lives. The Vassalboro native was honored among the top 20 winners statewide at an award ceremony on June 14.

The Arrive Alive Creative Contest is open to graduating high school seniors in Maine who may enter a creative project of their choice. First-place winners receive a new laptop, second and third-place winners receive a new iPad, and every student who enters receives fun prizes from the law firm. Since 2004, over 750 graduating seniors have entered the contest from 115 Maine high schools.

A complete set of rules and all past winning entries can be viewed online at: or on Facebook. In the past 13 years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has given away over $120,000 in prizes to help educate teenagers on the risks of dangerous driving. The firm’s dedication to the Arrive Alive Creative Contest made them a finalist for the American Association for Justice Trial Lawyers Care Award in 2014.

CHINA NEWS: Planners approve heating business expansion

by Mary Grow

The three board members at the China Planning Board’s June 27 meeting unanimously approved the only application on their agenda, allowing Keith Knowles to enlarge his heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment business at 1097 Route 3.

Knowles said the small addition on the back of the building will provide more office space. He plans to increase the office staff from three to four people. Two abutters who attended the meeting expressed no objection to Knowles’ application.

Board members canceled the meeting that would have been Tuesday evening, July 11, because Codes Officer Paul Mitnik will be on vacation the week of July 3 and would not have time to process any applications that come in. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday evening, July 25, unless an urgent application requires an earlier special meeting.

Tom Michaud and Ralph Howe suggested two items for a future agenda: whether an Airbnb, a use not specifically mentioned in town ordinances, should be treated as a commercial operation, and how planning board activities can better be announced and explained to town residents.

Brothers take part in humanitarian work in Philippines

Gary Kennedy, right, started visiting the local prison in Trece Martirez, Cavite, a couple of years ago and found the need for education which required books and a teacher. Here he is shown with the prison teacher. Photo courtesy of Gary Kennedy

Kennedys fortify previous Rotary projects

Gary Kennedy, of Chelsea, past president of the Rotary Club of Hallowell has returned from a humanitarian journey to Southeast Asia. His mission was to fortify a previous Rotary project which was a medical facility in the village of Amadeo Cavite, Philippines. The facility was started a few years ago and Gary has been visiting this site annually to distribute medical supplies and equipment. Most of these supplies are purchased from Partners for World Health. Gary’s brother Charles, who is a Rotarian from the Windham Rotary Club, decided, with the support of his club, that he would join Gary two years ago. Together and with the strength of Rotary they have been able to accomplish some really great things and have plans for more. This year alone a library, started by Rotary and Kennedy brothers, was replenished. The medical clinic was given medical supplies and equipment valued at approximately $17,000.

Charlie, left, and Gary Kennedy have joined forces to help the impoverished in the Philippines.

Also a new orphanage which was started by a pastor from Pennsylvania, which was in need of help, asked the Kennedy’s at a meeting in Silang, Cavite, if they could help. The orphanage needed six bathrooms for the boys and girls and there were no funds available to work with. Charles and Gary came back to the U.S. and, with the help of Mike Cloutier, manager and golf pro of the Sebago Lake Golf and Country Club, had a golf tournament which produced enough revenue to fund the needed bathrooms of the Mango House Orphanage in Silang. There are so many people with big hearts; you just have to find them.

The Kennedy’s are both retired, disabled American veterans of the Vietnam era. They find the work of humanitarians the most rewarding job they have ever had. “Once you start you are hooked,” said Gary. “You end up with a piece of the world as your family. There is so much warmth in doing this.” Gary has been doing this for a lot longer than his younger brother so he has been able to see children go from kindergarten to college, and all it took was a little help and a gentle push to replace guns with books.

The Philippines will have hundreds of cleft lip repairs and many sick and hungry receiving food and medicine. Next year they will even have their first horseshoe tournament, one of Gary’s brain storms. Gary says, “If you fill a life, not only a stomach, you can change the world. Boredom is a void that needs to be filled or it festers and the result is all bad.”

Gary started visiting the local prison in Trece Martirez, Cavite, a couple of years ago and found the need for education which required books and a teacher. Gary and Charlie were able to raise several hundred educational books for a new library inside the facility. Gary promises he will give them books shelves this year. He doesn’t know how yet but he is convinced that it will happen.

Besides books, medical and dental equipment, the Kennedy’s are looking for baseball equipment to start two teams. So, if you have any of this sort of thing hanging around your attic, give it new life and donate it. “Adopt a team and we will share the pictures with you,” said Gary. “It’s great doing something for others that they can’t do for themselves. It’s life changing for you both. This is also a wonderful project for church and youth groups.”

Pennsylvania native Ada, the director of the orphanage in the Philippines that the Kennedy’s were instrumental in constructing. Ada and her husband had traveled to the Philippines many times, but when he passed away, Ada stayed to run the orphanage, and has not returned home. Photo courtesy of Gary Kennedy

The Kennedys would be happy to speak and share with your group what they do. Gary is a member of Rotary and Knights of Rizal. He has received a couple of Paul Harris Awards as well as the President’s Call to Service Award for thousands of volunteer hours. He was awarded honorary citizenship of the Province of Cavite Philippines, by Governor Ayong Maliksi, for his many years of service to the poor of Cavite. He also has many other awards given to him by many different groups in Asia.

You can call or text message Gary at 458-2832.