April 2019 Newsletter

~~ Join us April 27th ~~ 
Maine School Garden Day

NEW! MSGN Survey - Network Update
*Participate for a chance to WIN a garden!*
School Garden of the Month:
*Belfast Area Children's Center & Starrett*

Flower Show SUCCESS!!!
School Garden Collaborative Sites

Earth Day Inspiration
April Garden Tips
Events & Opportunities

Register Today!

Join us for the 10th Annual
Maine School Garden Day

A full day of workshops, tours, networking and inspiration!

Whether you're  just scratching the surface or you're ready to dig into another year of gardening... this day is for you. Come surround yourself with garden educators, enthusiasts and professionals who want to help you grow with your garden and see your program thrive!

See the agenda HERE
  • Topics this year include, native seeds, seed saving, bees, garden and orchard technical support, grant tips and more!
  • Local foods lunch featured by Trenton Elementary Chef
  • CEUs and certificates awarded to educators

Early Registration $35 available until April 19th

Our friends at MOFGA are helping us manage online registration this year, we are thankful for this and the many partnerships that make MSGD a wonderful success!

For mail in registration forms click here.

Scholarships available thanks to Maine Agriculture in the Classroom.

Stay posted 0n our Facebook event page.

Have questions? Email  us today!

WIN A GARDEN! Enter by May 15th
Maine School Garden Network Directory Update
Are you "in network"?


MSGN has embarked on a mission to "Grow the Network" which means we need to hear from you! Our mission relies on understanding WHO our network is, WHERE educational gardens are growing and WHAT we can do to help them thrive in Maine. After nearly 5 years since our last detailed survey we are digging in and getting the dirt on how things are growing. Please complete this survey to join our network directory which will be updated on our website this year. Even if you've completed a survey for us in the past, we need your participation here as well - we look forward to hearing updates. Being part of our network has its perks!
  • Connect with a network of educational gardens throughout Maine
  • Get the support you need with opportunities and resources from MSGN
  • Allow your story to impact the future of our mission
Click below to join our network!


We appreciate your time! Everyone who completes our survey by MAY 15th will be entered in a drawing to win a raised bed garden package from the following generous sponsors:
Giveaway package includes: a 3' x 8' raised bed*, soil, seeds, seed starting materials, tolls for growing and harvesting, and consultation by MSGN.

*Delivery of raised bed may be available depending on location.

School Garden of the Month -
Belfast Area Children's Center & Starrett

Belfast, Maine

Big opportunities for some little sprouts! Using the garden to grow interest and community can be a fruitful experience; how lucky are these kids?!    

Belfast Area Child Care Services is a non-profit organization that operates two child care centers.  The Belfast Area Children’s Center located in Waldo and the Starrett Children’s Center located in Belfast, Maine.  The two programs provide care for infants through school-age children with a combined enrollment of 73 children and 18 staff members. During the growing season between 30-50 children participate in gardening activities at both sites.  

We see the gardens as a vital aspect of our preschool curriculum. Children learn language, mathematics, science, physics, cooking, nutrition, meteorology, biology, observation, record keeping, art, how to use tools and work as a team. Young children learn about their world through sensory experiences and the gardens at both centers provide an ideal way for our kids to touch, smell, see, feel, taste and listen in the garden.

Linda Stec, who is trained as a Master Gardener, is the center director and oversees the gardens at the Starrett Center and Orianna Downs, who is the Cook/Nutritionist oversees the gardens at BACC. Teachers at both centers participate in growing, delivering garden curriculum and encouraging kids to taste new foods from the garden.  Both centers have also had help from parents, community members and neighbors. The Starrett Center gets many visitors who attend a busy community Farmer’s Market held next door to the center.

At Belfast Area Children’s Center (BACC) there are 7 raised beds ranging in size from 4’x4’ to 12’x6’. We grow potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli, cherry and plum tomatoes, cucumbers, swiss chard, squashes, pumpkins, and a mixture of herbs and edibles flowers. The paths between our beds are wheelchair accessible and paved with bricks. We also have a 12’x12’ unheated greenhouse that contains work tables and 2 raised beds. The greenhouse is new and we are still learning how to best use it.  We have used it for seedlings and for hot weather loving veggies like tomatoes and peppers in the summer, greens in the shoulder season.

The Starrett Center has a fenced in yard where we have a peach tree and a raised bed that holds some chives, lemon balm, mint, and in which we also grow carrots. We also have a pole bean teepee. In our front gardens we grow flowers, in-ground tomatoes, squashes, sorrel, blueberries, beans, kale, peas, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkins, cucumbers, potatoes,  cauliflower, dill, sometimes brussel sprouts.  In the front raised beds we plant more lettuce, basil, parsley, radishes, thyme and rosemary.  Some years include artichoke, beets, and always whatever flowers or vegetables are donated.  We lost 2 apple trees last winter. Aside from in ground planting, we plant in tires, large flower pots, haybales, a grocery store cart, and a 4’x 3’ fiberglass bear. We also have composting beds where center waste is composted.  The front gardens cover a triangular area approximately 60’ long, 20’ at the widest with some grassy areas between raised beds with 3’ wide teak garden paths for all ability access.

The gardens began as a personal interest, as a way to get children outside more, as a way to teach care for the environment, a way to eat more fresh food, and a way to teach sustainable gardening skills.  Finding initial grants was difficult (started in the 1980s), our soil was primarily clay…that was extremely difficult, requiring lots of labor and amendments. We finally received a small grant from a local church that covered the cost of the raised beds and wooden garden paths.  With our partner center we received another grant to purchase our greenhouse which still needs all interior supplies but which will, when completed help reduce the long term cost of purchasing plants. 

Local middle and high school programs have helped with providing plants at reduced costs, a local corporation provided volunteers  one year who reset the garden, moved compost and set the paths back up. The biggest obstacles to sustaining the garden is time and money.  Every year the front garden at the Starrett Center needs to be dis-assembled to allow for snow removal from the adjacent parking and road areas. Children and parents help with some aspects but the ultimate responsibility falls to staff.  We also struggle with deteriorating raised beds, purchasing plants, seeds and starting supplies and all other garden accoutrements.  Despite these setbacks, the gardens at both centers thrive in part because new children and parents are added regularly to both sites.  Getting families involved in the gardens and cooking and trying new foods helps keep the momentum going year after year.  Next month BACC will host a work party for families to come and help out in the garden.  We are hoping to build a couple of new raised beds and prepare the ground to plant a sunflower house for the kids to be able to play inside this summer.

Did you know that MSGN loves to support educational gardens for students grades PreK - 12? Let us know how we can help your garden thrive! Email us today at 

Thank you to Johnny's Selected Seeds for their continued support for our School Garden of the Month locations!

Please email us and let us know if you would like to be one of our School Gardens of the Month for 2019.

Flower Show Success!

WOW! The 2019 Maine Flower Show was a huge success and we are so thankful for the collaborations and work that facilitated so much opportunity and a fantastic garden. Families were totally "digging" the Children's Garden this year!  


Many thanks to all the sponsors...

Norway Savings Bank
Broadway Gardens Greenhouses Inc.
Proven Winners
Coast of Maine Organic Products, Inc.
Paris Farmers Union
Cozy Acres Greenhouses 
Allen, Sterling, & Lothrop
New England Specialty Stone


Huge shout out to the members and hard working volunteers of the Maine School Garden Collaborative for pulling together a fantastic Children's Garden!

Maine Landscape and Nursery Association 
Independent Garden Centers of Maine 
Maine Agriculture in the Classroom
Maine School Garden Network

Garden signs created by the students of Kennebec Montessori School

Plant Something at School!

 Maine School Garden Network is teaming up with Maine Agriculture in the Classroom and ReTreeUS to form the Maine School Garden Collaborative that will provide unique garden and orchard learning opportunities for 5 schools in 2019. Participating schools will receive fruit trees, garden consultation, integrated pest management resources and lessons that are aligned to learning standards that will enable teachers to utilize the gardens and orchards as outdoor classrooms.These opportunities have been made possible through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant awarded to Maine Landscape and Nursery Association to work with the Maine School Garden Collaborative to get students and teachers to Plant Something at School! This year's recipient schools include:
  • Sedgwick Elementary
  • Great Salt Bay Community School
  • Indian Township School
  • Saccarappa Elementary
  • Penobscot Community School
We intend to share resources generated from this collaboration with schools throughout the state and to provide this in-depth programming for 5 new schools in 2020. To learn more about these opportunities reach out to MSGN Program Director, Erika Verrier, or ReTreeUS Program Manager, Richard Hodges, or MAITC Executive Director, Willie Grenier.

Words of Wisdom = Seeds of Inspiration

MSGN's Board members and network of educators and industry professionals are a wealth of knowledge!

The collective experience and inspiring stories are what strengthens the foundation of our network and keeps kids in Maine growing. Each month in this segment we will provide advice and responses to topics related to garden education and our mission. We hope these "Words of Wisdom" are seeds of inspiration that allow you to cultivate fruitful experiences and help your garden program thrive!
Q: What are the key ingredients to sustaining a school garden program?

A: "You need a core group of dedicated, flexible and patient people who are committed to school gardens and the rich and authentic learning experiences that happen in them."

- Pam Lanz, MSGN Board Member & experienced garden leader at Mannchester School in Windham


Be Prepared! 

Don't wait until something is bugging your garden! MSGN can offer you technical support for keeping plants healthy and engaging your students in the process.  Turn the inevitable challenges in your garden into educational experiences with a visit from us!

Can you tell which of these are pests and which are guests?


Email Erika at today to learn more about MSGN's Garden Health Engagement Program and to plan a visit to your garden!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

This Earth Day don't bottle up all your excitement for gardening, get creative! 
Messalonskee High School's Soda Bottle GREENHOUSE

Last year at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, where many projects are led by students, they were inspired and supported by a grant to build a soda bottle greenhouse! After collecting bottles, designing the greenhouse, stringing the bottles on rods and assembling it all it was given away to a community member. Talk about upcycling! 

For more details about this project, contact Beth Prelgovisk at Messalonskee High School. 

Have an Earth friendly project or story to share? We'd love to include it in our newsletter which is now received by over 1,100 subscribers!
Email us

Earth Day Reading!

Teach students that they have the power to change the world with this kid friendly biography of Rachel Carson - the woman who inspired the environmental movement and Earth Day!

Spring After Spring is a great reminder of the value perseverance and curiosity and that "in nature nothing exists alone". Enjoy and Happy Earth Day!


Resource Rallies

Are you interested in connecting with school gardens in your regional area? MSGN will be organizing Resource Rallies throughout Maine this summer to grow the network and help to connect your school garden with the resources it needs to thrive.

Keep your eyes peeled for more information about your regional Resource Rally. 

Harvest of the Month

Are you participating in Harvest of the Month? Catch up on all the details and learn how you can prepare your garden to be the source for your "Harvest of the Month" here.

April Garden Ideas:

  • Plan garden related tasks and activities for the rest of the school year, summer and fall.
  • If you’re planning to hold a school garden open house in late September around harvest Lunch Week in late September, consider what can still be  growing and plan/plant accordingly (sunflowers, salad greens, kale, beets, etc.) Remember your hoop or green house plants as well.
  • Seed starting: chart when plants should be started indoors and plant seeds accordingly as a class.
  • Invite a Master Gardener in to do a lesson on soil, pollination, seed starting basics, selection of seeds, reading packets and catalogs etc. Have them help with starting  the seeds. An extra pair (or more)of hands is essential.
  • Designate who will be in charge of checking the seeds, watering, checking grow lights and which days and weeks. Post for everyone to see.
  • If you have low tunnels, hoops, or a cold frame, start hearty greens and veggies outdoors.
  • Take the whole class out for a walk around the gardens and get ideas from the students about where things should be planted, tasks that need to be done (from their view point), where new beds should go, etc. Make a list and prioritize.
  • Weather permitting take the class out for a garden writing prompt, read aloud, sensory game, etc. Be creative. 
  • Take a soil test if you haven’t in past two years (once ground thaws). You’ll know what soil amendments you’ll need.
  • Remove winter plant material from gardens, including mulch around garlic
  • Side dress garlic once it emerges with compost
  • In hoop and green houses, continue to do successive plantings of hearty greens, radishes. Harvest mature vegetables by picking entire plant when ready or mature leaves or whole plant when thinning
  • Leave hoop house doors open when temperature is above 70 or so, and cover plants at night when outside temperatures are cold.
  • Plan a lettuce or radishes taste test to see which varieties students like best. Provide different salad dressings for dipping.Take a poll and chart the results.Purchase varieties that are most popular.
  • Contact MSGN for a visit
  • Sign up to host the "Gratitude Tree"
  • Register for MSGD 2019
  • Participate in MSGN Survey for a chance to win a raised bed garden!

 Check out our MONTHLY SCHOOL GARDEN CHECKLIST to learn more about what this month looks like in the garden! For more information, try out these awesome resources: MOFGA's Planting Calendar, Fedco's Veggie Chart, and Johnny's Planting Calculator and Succession Planting Template.
We are building our network and our team!
Are you interested in having an impact on garden education in Maine? Join us for updates on statewide programs and projects - let's grow together!
Future Meeting Dates:  April 24th, May 22nd
Meetings are held in Augusta, inquire about remote connections.
We also welcome support for special projects via committees like fundraising, event planning, technical support and more. Want more information about current projects at MSGN? We'd love to work with you!
Email us today at


School Garden Coach Manual 
A collaborative collection of information resources and perspectives in a "life changing" manual proudly developed by MSGN for you!  


2019 Maine School Garden Day - April 27th
MAITC's Summer Teacher's Institute - July 29th - Aug 2nd
MSGN 2019 Summer Success Garden Tour - August TBD
Maine Farm to School Conference - Oct 4th
View MOFGA's events calendar here.


MAITC Grants Program 2019 -
NEW Opportunities!
RetreeUS – orchards for schools, ongoing
New England Grassroots Environment Fund –Seed grants ($250-$1000): ongoing

Seattle Seed Company Organic Seed Fundraiser

Digital Wish Grants – 15th of every month, submit a lesson plan to win
Fruit Tree 101 – orchards for schools, ongoing
Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools – get a salad bar for your school, ongoing
Whole Kids Foundation Grants - School Garden grant, Extended Learning grant, Honey Bee grants and more!

Check out this list of opportunities compiled by

WIN A Raised Bed GARDEN!
Complete MSGN's Survey by May15th and qualify to win the raised bed garden giveaway. Click HERE to learn more.

A HUGE thank you to our SPONSORS!

Copyright © 2018 MSGN, All rights reserved.

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28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333

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Maine School Garden Network · 28 State House Station · Augusta, ME 04330 · USA

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