I adopted a garden in downtown Bangor, and you should, too

Living on the second floor of a four-unit apartment building isn’t exactly conducive to gardening.

I attempted planting vegetables in planters on my tiny deck last summer. They were mildly successful — if you consider two tomatoes, a green pepper and a handful of herbs mildly successful.

I’ve always loved gardens. I regularly daydream about my future home and the myriad flowers, plants and vegetables I’ll have. The sights and scents that accompany a kempt flower garden remind me of my grandmother Elaine Hartin, who passed many years ago. She adored flowers and passed that love onto my father, who passed it to my sister and me by letting us plant whatever we could get our hands on.

There is the teardrop shaped flower patch around the big spruce in the front yard of my parents’ home, the flower patch encircling an enormous rock in the backyard and the massive garden my father helped us plant, to name just a few. He cultivated a love of gardening in both of us, and I’ve desperately tried to keep that love alive, despite my less than desirable gardening arrangements.

As a new resident of Bangor without the space for something of my own, I set out on a mission to find something to satisfy my desire for a small flower garden. Luckily for me, I found an opportunity in the Queen City.

This is the garden plot I adopted through the Adopt A Garden program. It's looking a little sad right now, but I'll be sprucing it up with pansies this Saturday at "The Big Dig."

This is the garden plot I adopted through the Adopt A Garden program. It’s looking a little sad right now, but I’ll be sprucing it up with pansies this Saturday at “The Big Dig.”

I learned about Bangor’s Adopt A Garden program last year, but I wasn’t sure how it worked. I found its Facebook page and a recent post with the ominous words “LAST CHANCE” and a map of available plots in downtown. I took the plunge and picked out a plot, then messaged the moderator of the program’s Facebook page.

That’s how I came to speak with Jamie Ballinger, the organizer of the program, who gave me information about the garden I’d picked and the program itself.

“The Adopt A Garden program is a program of the Downtown Bangor Partnership’s Beautification Committee,” she said. “It all started three years ago when beautification was first ramping up. It was developed as a low cost way for the city of Bangor and downtown Bangor businesses and community members to come together and beautify downtown.”

Three years ago the plan was to adopt out 12 sites in visible places around downtown. Those who adopted the sites would be responsible for buying, planting and taking care of the flowers and plants in their plots. But the demand for the program was far more than expected. In the first year, the program’s 36 plots were adopted.

Last year the number rose to 70. This year it has doubled to almost 140. There are still a handful of gardens left to adopt, but it’s looking like they’ll all be gone very soon.

“It’s gone from something very small to something that’s really quite large in a very short period of time,” Ballinger said. “This is a project that allows community members to give back to their community in a way that has an immediate, visible impact.”

The program gets people downtown, gives clubs and organizations an event to rally around and offers individuals like me the opportunity to plant a garden when they may not have been able to otherwise.

On Saturday, May 14, I’ll be participating in “The Big Dig,” an event that operates in conjunction with the Adopt A Garden program. The event was created to encourage those who have adopted plots to get downtown and plant. They also welcome volunteers without their own plot to help with other projects.

“Our goal was to create a one day event that creates a big splash,” Ballinger said.

On Friday, regular patrons of downtown’s businesses will see empty plots. By Saturday afternoon, the city will be full of life and color.

Adopters have the option to name their plot if they would like. Some call it by their own name, others call it by their organizations’ names. There was another common option that I chose — to name it after someone who had passed away.

Mine will read “In Memory of Elaine Hartin.”

My dad told me that her favorite flowers were pansies, so I plan to plant some to remember her, continuing on the love for gardening she instilled in all of us.

Shelby Hartin

About Shelby Hartin

Shelby Hartin was born and raised in southern Aroostook County in a tiny town called Crystal, population 269. After graduating from the University of Maine in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Journalism, she relocated to Bangor. She now works at the Bangor Daily News as a customer service representative slash features reporter and is making a new home for herself by discovering what Bangor has to offer. Every week she will do something new and blog about it. It might be attending an art exhibit or checking out a new restaurant. It might be visiting a local museum or going on a tour offered in the area. She’s going to find things that people settling into their home of greater Bangor might enjoy — and she wants your help.