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“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”
Alfred Austin, the English poet, painted this picture with words in the 1800s. That couldn’t be truer today. A five-year study was released in 2014, that showed there is a gardening revolution taking place throughout the United States. According to Then National Gardening Association, which published the study, “During the past five years, there’s been a significant shift toward more Americans growing their own food in home and community gardens, increasing from 36 million households in 2008 to 42 million in 2013.” That’s six million people who woke up one day and decided to start growing their own food!
People of all ages, all walks of life, for all sorts of reasons have taken that first baby step toward controlling the quality and cost of their food. It sounds a little daunting, but if 6 million other people can do it, we can do it!
If you love the idea of gardening and you want to be part of a bigger, better solution within your community, look for information on neighborhood gardens in your area. Visit https://communitygarden.org/find-a-garden/ to see a list of those nearby.
These are called Victory Gardens and are collectively known as a Victory Garden Network. Each neighbor grows their own garden (even as small as containers on a balcony) to share the workload and the harvest with others in the neighborhood and the community who are unable to garden. The Victory Garden Foundation (VGF) offers education, training, mentoring and support to members wanting to grow food at or near home and/or organize a group of neighbors in the community interested in eating healthy, growing their own food and helping others to do the same. VGF offers website memberships to all interested in growing food and community building – at no charge.
If there is not a Victory Garden Network near you, visit https://communitygarden.org/resources/10-steps-to-starting-a-community-garden/ to read more about creating one.
A community or neighborhood garden is exactly as it sounds. A group of people working together on an individual or shared garden. It can be located on private or public land. According to projectbread.org, “They provide fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community, and connection to the environment.”
The American Community Gardening Association recommends following steps which were adapted from their guidelines for launching a successful community garden, including organizing a meeting of interested people, forming a planning committee, identifying resources, finding sponsors, choosing a site, preparing and developing the site, organizing the garden, including a plan for children, determining rules to be put into writing and finally keeping members in touch with one another. Read more here: https://communitygarden.org/resources/10-steps-to-starting-a-community-garden/.
If you’re committed to becoming part of the grow your own food revolution, the following list will help get you started – whether you’re setting off on your own or working with your neighbors on a community-shared plot.
1. First, decide which type of garden is right for you. Finding a row to hoe is no longer the only (or best) option! There are other types, including container gardens, raised beds and vertical gardens.
2. Once you know what type of garden you want, you can choose a location. It will need to be planted in soil that is well drained, in full sun with easy access to water.
3. Choose what you’d like to plant in your garden. The mistake most first-time gardeners make is creating a garden that is too large, so start small.
4. Design your garden. Creating a plan that includes which plants you intend to grow will help you with spacing and organizing the garden so it makes sense. Once you have a plan, keep a garden journal for future reference to maximize the good and minimize the not-so-good outcomes. Penn State Extension offers a vegetable planting and transplanting guide with a list of vegetables and their stats including seed depth, ideal time, temp, spacing and a host of other details that will prove invaluable. See the guide here: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/vegetable-gardening/vegetable-guide.
5. Prepare the soil. It is unanimously agreed upon that testing your soil is the best way to ensure your first garden attempt is successful. Penn State Extension suggests you “Don’t Guess… Soil Test!” For more information, visit http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/general-gardening/dont-guess-soil-test.
6. Once the soil is adjusted, use your plan to begin planting.
7. Your garden will need water daily until the plants are established.
Fresh, home-grown food is hard to beat, but when it’s cultivated as part of a neighborhood effort, it’s truly a harvest for the heart and the soul. It’s time to get growing!
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