Hubby and I started a food pantry garden last spring through our church, American Baptist East. It was very successful in spite of the lack of rain and being a new project. You can read more information on this garden on Dave’s post. This spring the garden was under water for several weeks and with the water went the 300 potato slips we planted in April.
But yesterday was a wonderful morning. The sun was out, there was a little breeze, and the newly tilled garden was perfect for planting. We headed out around 7:30 am to meet a couple of the other members of our garden crew.
Dave had been to the garden earlier in the week to till and to mark out the rows. He strung his line and then dug the holes for the plants.
We followed him with the plants.
And the finished garden. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. We still have the sweet potatoes to plant.
Lisa thought I needed to have my picture taken since I’m usually behind the camera. So after all was planted, Carol, Dave and I posed in the garden for our picture.
All of this food will again go to our local soup kitchens.
If you are interested in getting a food pantry garden started, it’s surprising that you don’t really need that many people. Last year we had eight people including Dave and I.
Here are our tips for starting a food pantry garden:
- First, you need land. Our church is small and has very little land, but we were able to garden on a nice plot on a member’s family farm.
- Having someone with gardening experience to spearhead the project is crucial. This person needs to have experience of gardening on a larger scale than just a small backyard plot. In addition to getting the land ready to plant, Dave also checks on the garden during the season for pests and fertilizes if needed.
- Dave grows all of the plants from seeds (except potatoes and sweet potatoes), but the plants could be purchased from a local nursery.
- If the land has not been used for a garden, a soil test is recommended to find out what needs to be added. This is best done in the fall before the spring planting season.
- Someone to recruit and organize the volunteers, and communicate the garden needs. Our church did the recruitment putting information about the garden in the newsletter and the weekly bulletin. Susanne, the office manager, took care of the sign-up sheet. She then sent me the list and it’s my job to organize and communicate with the volunteers the garden needs.
- Water. However, last year in the draught we did not water and we still had a good crop. We watered when we set in the plants.
Once the garden is planted, we had several weeding sessions and then harvesting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. We split up in teams to handle each day and harvested usually early in the morning due to the summer heat. Someone from each harvesting group would take the day’s harvest to the soup kitchen. We took our Monday’s harvest to Potter’s Wheel because they are in the kitchen that day preparing for their Tuesday lunch. Our Wednesday harvest went to Christian Life Center and then Saturday’s was taken to United Caring Shelter.
Since we are using stake and weave method to train our tomatoes instead of using cages, we had an extra session to help with that.
It’s so rewarding knowing that those less fortunate are getting good fresh organic produce.