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You Can Grow It: Volunteer gardens

Garden master Jim Duthie spotlights two volunteer gardens that provide an important community service.

BOISE, Idaho — Why do you grow a garden? Most of us grow flowers and vegetables for our own enjoyment, and for our own food. Others sell the produce from their gardens to earn money.

This week we spotlight two different garden projects that not only grow fruits and vegetables, but also provide a community service that benefits more people than just the gardeners.

Brooklynn Schulthies is a typical fifth grader, but last spring she did something that’s not typical of most kids her age. She helped organize volunteers to clean up a run-down garden behind her school, and turn it into something special.

The garden at Christine Donnell School of the Arts had become neglected and overgrown with weeds. With her principal’s permission, Brooklynn did some research about gardening, reached out to garden experts, and rallied numerous volunteers to help make the garden beautiful and productive again.

Many of her fellow CDSA students, as well as their families and others, pulled weeds, repaired and prepared the garden boxes, laid gravel, gave the garden shed a fresh coat of paint, and then planted the garden. The plants, seeds and other supplies were donated by area businesses, including local garden centers, and other supporters donated their time and money.

Why did Brooklynn do it? She says, “I did this project because it needed fixing and was full of weeds. I knew if I didn’t do it, it probably would get done.” Now teachers at CDSA are encouraged to take their classes outside to tour the garden, and to celebrate what can be done with a little vision and determination. Good job Brooklynn!

Just a few miles away from Brooklynn’s school, another much larger garden grows tons of fresh produce every year, and it’s all given away.

This garden is a mission project at the Amity campus of the Cathedral of the Rockies. Since the garden was first planted in 2010, it’s produced nearly 75 tons of produce, most of it going to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.

Dozens of volunteers prepare the ground in the spring, and plant crops and tend the garden through the season, and then help harvest each week. By late summer, the weekly harvest would fill a supermarket produce section -- boxes of squash, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, corn, beans, potatoes and melons, not to mention carrots, beets, and various herbs.

In addition, bushels of delicious and healthy fruit, including fresh nectarines, peaches, and apples from the garden’s small orchard. This truck is filled nearly to overflowing each week, on its way to be delivered to the food pantry.

The weekly harvest sheets of the last few weeks testify to the garden’s success: 956.4 pounds, 846.6 pounds, 1,047.2 pounds, and 995.3 pounds. That’s a lot of produce, destined to help fellow Idahoans in need.

Most of the plants are grown from seed in the garden’s greenhouse, thanks to donations of cash to buy the seeds and supplies. But the garden also funds itself through the sale of homemade jam from berries grown in the garden, as well as the sale of homemade salsa and pickles.

This garden feeds hundreds, if not thousands, of Idahoans. It just goes to show what a few dedicated volunteers can do with a spirit of humanitarianism and community service.

The ‘KTVB You Can Grow It’ Facebook group is a great place to share your garden pictures and successes, and to get tips and share advice about gardening here in Idaho. It’s easy to join. Just click on this link.

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