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Re: What vegetables to grow? (Shari Wanderer)/ Go, Bill!

  • Subject: [cg] Re: What vegetables to grow? (Shari Wanderer)/ Go, Bill!
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 13:31:23 -0800 (PST)

(And I just promised Betsy Johnson I wouldn't write
anything on this list until Community Greening is
out...That's the ACGA annual publication, double issue
coming soon, a retrospective of 25 years of the best
of ACGA's magazine. Join ACGA now, to reserve your
copy...)

But I've got to say:

As we speak, Bill Maynard's face may be flashing from
a sign above Times Square in NYC, just around the
corner from the Clinton Community Garden in Hell's
Kitchen, where Adam Honigman gardens and inspires.
Bill, Sacramento CA community gardener and ACGA board
member, is a finalist in the Volvo for life' local
heros contest. As a finalist, Bill gets to be a
flashing face, and he's already collected $25,000 for
his choice of local charity. The winner will be
announced March 24 in NYC. Go, Bill!

Now, about veggies. Good discussion, on both sides
(both are right, in my opinion). Confused by now?
Here's my take:

If you are planning a big donation, and you have large
groups of volunteers that can only come in 'bursts' (a
Saturday in May and one in September, say, not
regularly 1-2 hrs/week for 12-14 weeks), I'd suggest
growing crops that are easy to plant, harvest and
store. At the top of my personal list would be winter
squash and potatoes. These both are (relatively) easy
to grow, harvest and store. If you lived further south
or know a good cultivar for Minnesota, I'd add sweet
potato, which are great here - but I think you are too
far north.

In a second rank, I'd put onions (people buy these,
but they are not a staple, and can be a little bit
tricky for beginners to grow) and root crops, such as
carrots, turnips and/or beets (less popular). On the
latter, you still will need to pay careful attention
to harvesting and storing.

The most problematic would be greens, including
lettuce, brassicas, and 'fruiting crops' such as
tomatoes, cukes, peppers, green beans, etc. So, I am I
saying not to grow these? No - just do it differently.
We grow these crops right next to where they will be
used (in a homeless program) and harvest them as
needed for the soup kitchen, with the understanding
that anyone can pick what they need as they need it.
Can't keep a ripe tomato in that patch. Donated and
even gleaned food is rarely fresh, and then often
'old' or 'going bad'. For all the problems, perishable
veggies in the garden do provide freshness and
variety.

Last point, (or Betsy will kill me - I'm getting back
to work right now, I promise...) - You may want to
consider growing something to sell, then sharing the
money with the groups you want to support. One thing
that has worked for us is herbs, both basil (sold
fresh in bundles) and oregano/thyme/marjoran and even
dill (cut and sold fresh or dried). They are
relatively easy to grow and care for.

Last last point - don't just have 'fortunate' folks
come grow things 'for' needy folks, give the people
you want to help a chance to grow what they like in a
community garden near where they live. That's one of
the most powerful things about the community garden at
the Urban Ministry - the garden gives them a chance to
actually get to decide about at least one issue in
their life, even if it is only preferring to grow okra
and not, say, zucchini.

Cheers, good luck,

Don Boekelheide, Charlotte NC


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