Growers Helping Community Gardens

Here is an article about how some growers (including us) are helping with Community Gardens.  In addition to us helping my sister, Lacey Shirley, with Blue Star Community Garden, we also donated plants to a local community garden ran by the Van Buren Housing Authority.

The Community Garden Issue

The gardening world has a lot of generous folks working for the good of their communities, so I wasn’t too surprised when GreenTalks readers flooded me with stories on community gardens and involvement last month. I’m going to share a few of them this week, and some more next time.

You’ll see examples of how community gardens and donations can:

*Help to develop new gardeners (sustaining the horticulture industry)
*Enable local food production
*Promote healthy eating
*Enhance community involvement
*Help the less fortunate
*Beautify the landscape

So here are a few community garden stories to get you inspired, from actual gardens to donating extra plants:

Vacant lot transformed. Jessica Cudnik at American Takii is helping with the first growing season for the Community Garden of Salinas. They put in raised beds on a vacant lot owned by a church, installed drip lines to each bed (making it a water wise project), and they’re now working to raise funds for a fence and supplies. Web site:  

A garden for health. Lacey Shirley, whose family runs Parks Brothers Farm in Van Buren, Arkansas, has started the Blue Star Community Garden in Oklahoma. With some startling health problems in the region, including being ranked as the 49th state in terms of health, part of the garden’s mission is to educate the community about healthy eating. They’re still in the development and fundraising phase right now, but they’ve got a great web site and a YouTube video that makes a strong case for the garden and even includes renderings of the final design. One cool component: there’s no fee for community garden members. Instead, they just ask that members donate 10% of their harvest to a local food bank. Web site:

Retailer helps food bank. For The Garden, a retailer in St. Louis, Missouri, asked their customers last year if they wanted to dedicate a part of their garden for growing food for the local food pantries. For The Garden gave free plants and seeds to participants. Greg Haefner says, "When the harvest was ready, they brought the produce to our garden center, and we took it to local food pantries. This made it easy for them and we stayed connected with the project by sorting and weighing all the vegetables collected. It was a huge success. We collected over 3,000 lbs. of fresh veggies. We also got CBS to come out and do a story on this project. We are on our second season and have high hopes for this year."

Extra flowers. Jim Wollney at Balanced Environments Inc., Old Mill Creek, Illinois, has been working with The Lincolnshire Garden Club, donating both unused flats of pansies as well as the seasonal color (pansies, tulips) that they dig out of the corporate landscape accounts they maintain when they rotate plantings. The garden club has found good homes for all the plants, including donating them to Habitat for Humanity and to a neighbor who loves flowers but didn’t have the money this year to plant.

Extra herbs and veggies. At Cascade Cuts in Bellingham, Washington, Paul Troutman says, "Any time we have extra herbs or veggies that are a little past their prime, we take them to the local food bank for distribution to folks who are coming in to pick up their weekly food allocation. The plants always fly out the door and are doing a lot more good than if they ended up on our compost pile."

Sponsoring a garden. Melissa McCoy at Every Bloomin’ Thing in Susanville, California, has become involved with two different community gardens in their small community. She says, "We have been onsite consulting for both of them this spring, ensuring gardeners will have success. We also have donated seeds, seedlings and loaned out some tools for this very valuable cause." Their garden center has become a major sponsor for one of the gardens, and they’ve paid a small fee to put up signage at the garden, as well.

People’s Gardens. Last year, the USDA began the People’s Garden Initiative, with government agencies, communities, and charity organizations collaborating. Last week, they announced that they now have more than 400 gardens, including one in every state. A People’s Garden must 1) benefit the community, 2) be a collaborative effort and 3) incorporate sustainable practices such as composting, rain barrels, beneficial insects, or native plants. Some of the gardens donate their harvests to local food banks, while others function as wildlife habitats or as rain gardens to absorb stormwater runoff. Web site:  

And a story of my own. Well, technically, this is my roommate’s vision, but I’m helping. She built three raised beds in the boulevard, between the sidewalk and the street. We planted a variety of vegetables, and come harvest time, we’ll put out a sign, and the veggies will be free for anyone who wants to pick them as they walk by. A private garden turned public, you might say.

Stay tuned for a couple more great community garden stories!

Jennifer Duffield White

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