The summer gardening season is less than two months away, but Bob Mulliken, of Monmouth, still is reaping last year’s rewards. He just finished the last of his onions from last summer’s growing season, and he still has a few butternut squash left over.

Mulliken, a retired psychotherapist, has been gardening for a number of years. Come late May, he will be doing it all again: seeding and watering the soil, keeping the weeds and varmints at bay, eventually plucking another set of eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables from the earth.

But while Mulliken is a green thumb, this will mark just his second season of planting at the Monmouth Community Garden.

In fact, it will mark just the second season of anyone planting at Monmouth Community Garden.

Mulliken was among the area residents who got the garden going two years ago, in advance of its maiden season last summer. On land just outside downtown Monmouth, they created a dozen 10-by-25-foot plots on which families grew and harvested vegetables and flowers through the spring, summer and fall.

Gardeners paid a $20 registration fee for each plot, and from May to October they enjoyed the use of soil that had been tilled and hoses that had been extended out to the little plots. This year, Mulliken, who considers himself a spokesman for the group but downplayed his own contributions to the effort, said he still is looking for gardeners to fill the few remaining plots.

There were a few challenges in the garden’s first season. But besides the skepticism of some area residents about whether they could pull it off, and at least one interloping mammal trying to poach their plants, it went smoothly enough, according to Mulliken. Gardeners produced everything from beans to pumpkins to marigolds.

“We only had one deer episode,” Mulliken recalled. “It looked like a single deer walked through one garden and chomped on one person’s broccoli. But that was the only troubling incident with deer.”

From that point forward, he went on, many of the gardeners developed their own methods for keeping the does and bucks at bay: onions planted in the ground, shavings of Ivory soap sprinkled about, pie pans hung in the air so they would bang in the wind.

Mulliken is a member of the Monmouth Lions Club, an organization that has helped run the garden. He credited many volunteers and a couple of organizations with helping to get the project off — or into — the ground.

Another major supporter of the effort has been Maine Heritage Weavers, a textile company that makes bedspreads and owns a factory in Monmouth, according to Mulliken.

The company, which used to be known as the Bates Manufacturing Co., owns the land where the Monmouth Community Garden is, and it has lent the space at no fee to the gardeners. Maine Heritage Weavers also lets the gardeners use its water, and one of its employees rototills the soil at no cost.

“The Bates mill is being very generous to us,” Mulliken said, using another traditional name for the local company. “The Bates mill covers the water and rototilling. That would be a big expense if we had had to pay for it.”

Mulliken said he looked at similar community growing operations in Winthrop and Hallowell while researching the Monmouth one.

While most plots are taken for this year, Mulliken encouraged those interested in participating to contact him at 933-3069 or Gail DiBiaso at 377-2267. The garden will expand next year if there is demand, he said.

The $20-per-lot registration fees are pooled into a communal account that is reserved for any unexpected expenses, and if any money is left at the end of the season, the gardeners vote on whether they will get refunds or the money will be reinvested into the garden, Mulliken said.

“It’s lots and lots of fun,” Mulliken said of the community gardening experience. “You get vegetables you grew yourself, and you have the fun of growing them.”

The Monmouth Community Garden is at 904 Main St. in Monmouth.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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