MONROE ― The agricultural operations at Dickey Hill Farm, 554 Dickey Hill Road, an organic market garden, will be on display Friday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, as part of Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden 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 $5 donation is requested to sustain club operations.
The farm is certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and, according to owner James Gagne, uses minimal tilling practices to promote soil health. Tilling tends to bring up seeds from 8 inches below the surface to germinate. To control weeds, beds are covered with landscape fabric to hold soil in place, and, using hand tools, are slightly raised and mounded. “The weed level is quite low,” he said. “Our goal is to let no weed go to seed.
“The less you till and the more you cover,” Gagne said, “it gets easier to maintain. Our goal is high production out of each bed, and it is partly possible by our small scale.”
After harvesting, each row is mowed, and the residue is covered with a tarp. Within two weeks, residue is broken down allowing for composting in place. Homemade mulch, made with seedless straw and wood chips, keeps at bay the encroaching grass that surrounds the perimeter of plots. A few flowers are visible at the ends of the rows and at various parts of the plots to help create a pollination habitat.
The farm also has a small beef herd, which Gagne notes is not organic. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and lettuce for bagged greens mix, is grown at the farm, along with carrots that are harvested each week. Gagne said they sell their vegetables at the 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, meaning plants that put nutrients back into the soil, “giving it a rest from fruiting.”
This year has been a bit strange, Gagne said, with the hot June followed by an extremely wet July. “Some of our heat-loving crops have really struggled,” he said. Vegetables have been slow to ripen with the cold and cloudy conditions this year.
Gagne, his wife Naomi, and two workers are in the process of opening more land for next year. The pastureland is tarped and will be available for planting by next spring. For more information, visit dickeyhillfarm.com.
The Belfast Garden Club has promoted public gardens and stimulated the knowledge and love of gardening for more than 90 years. Proceeds from the club’s fundraising support local public gardens and several scholarship funds. For more, visit BelfastGardenClub.org.