THMS gardeners dig deep, learn lessons well
By Tina Shute

BELFAST (Sep 15): Troy Howard Middle School gardens and greenhouses have produced more than 100 varieties of vegetables and fruits during the past few years ” more than 28,600 pounds of produce ” for district schools. That's a lot of bushels and pecks.

Friday, Sept. 12, visitors on the Belfast Garden Club's Open Garden Day tour got to see just how students and two teachers have managed that tasty feat.

The gardens cover about a third of an acre, according to teacher Jon Thurston, "If you take in everything else [the greenhouse and hoop houses], it gets closer to a half-acre."

There are rows of lettuce, chard, mustard, onion, leek, garlic, squash and kohl crops, broccoli, cabbages and kale. Huge heads of garlic, a variety named Georgian Fire, are being harvested.

Tomatoes are ripening by the handfuls and there are 40 fruit trees.

Guests could take a gander through the gardens, visit the greenhouse (home to chickens, rabbits and fish as well as food crops) and observe preparations for the Common Ground Country Fair. Teacher Steve Tanguay said last year at CGCF "we had 90 entries. I think we are the only school that participates in the Exhibition Hall at the Fair. We do pretty well with the ribbons which gives us credit towards next year's seed purchases

During the winter, the three greenhouses are used for growing greens for the schools, the Belfast Co-op and the Stone Soup Kitchen. In the winter months,"Swiss chard is the biggest seller, and mesclun mix," said Thurston, agricultural coordinator for SAD 34.

"We take orders from the school each day," said Tanguay. "and to the Co-op twice a week.
 During the fall, September and October, students run a farm stand outside after school.

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A greenhouse is surrounded by herbs, annuals and perennials. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Visitors purchase produce and flowers from the Garden Stand. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Corn (Photo by Tina Shute)


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A busy bee (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Autumn Beauty sunflowers (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Late summer colors (Photo by Tina Shute)


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THMS co-gardener instructor Jon Thurston, right, points out a large banana squash to Sue Fleming of Belfast. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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A large banana squash (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Jon Thurston checks on Cinderella squash, which will be displayed at the Common Ground Country Fair. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Walker Roberts plucks yellow raspberries. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Taylor Stevens finds flowers to sell at the THMS Garden Stand. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Nicholas Ritchie, 4, of Belfast, samples salsa. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Rose Marie Johnson admires bantams. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Heidi Ritchie of Belfast samples yellow tomato soup. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Kristine Mehuren, Madison Cummings and Lacey Durkee pick a 24-pound pumpkin from the patch. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Alieshia Elwell secures sunflowers. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Madison Cummings, Kristine Mehuren and Lacey Durkee weigh a pumpkin. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Shawn Secotte and Michael Carroll look for leeks. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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A trellis covered with vines provides a dramatic entrance. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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A mammoth sunflower hangs its heavy head. (Photo by Tina Shute)


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A colorful, bountiful garden (Photo by Tina Shute)


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Full bloom (Photo by Tina Shute)