The Weekend Garden Update

Every Monday, I try to give you a weekend garden update so you can see the progress of our garden.

I was feeling a little smug and self-satisfied yesterday when I walked around the raised bed vegetable garden. Then, when I went to water last night, one of the sweet potato vines had mysteriously turned brown and died in less than 8 hours.

So much for feeling smug.

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Interactive USDA Hardiness Map

national pollinator week

The following interactive USDA Hardiness Map, presented by Gilmour tools, offers a useful way to figure out your gardening zone.

Gardening tools and flowers on wooden background

What is your gardening zone? The USDA determines gardening zones by calculating the average dates of first and last frost and other factors. The resulting designation helps you  choose when to set tender plants outside, when to plant seedlings indoors and more.

Knowing the USDA hardiness map can also help you purchase plants from catalogs more easily. For example, if you know that you live in the USDA hardiness zone 7, plants suitable for zones 7 and 6 are likely to grow well where you live, but plants indicated for zones 8 and 9 may not survive the winter.

Check out the USDA hardiness map and enjoy!

 

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Donating Extra Produce to Your Local Food Pantry

Gardeners almost always deal with a good problem to have: what to do with extra produce from the vegetable garden. Donating extra produce to your local food pantry is a great way to share fresh, healthy vegetables with others. But there are some tips to helping out without getting a headache.

first vegetable garden

Donating Extra Produce to Your Local Food Pantry

The CDC tells us that only 1 in 10 Americans eats enough fresh fruits and vegetables. The Food Trust is working hard to raise awareness around the issue of so-called fresh food deserts, those places typically within an inner city but also in rural areas where purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables is challenging.

And, although we are currently in one of the most prosperous periods in the American economy, with unemployment at a low of 3.8% (May 2018, Bureau of Labor)¬†there are still Americans who lack sufficient food. They may rely on local food banks and pantries to fill gaps left between paying the rent and paying for health insurance, gasoline, and life’s other necessities.

Local Food Pantries Set Their Own Policies

Local food pantries set their own policies when it comes to accepting fresh produce. Many are guided (or limited) by state health laws which specify the types of foods they may accept as donation.

Here in my local area, we are free to donate fresh produce, eggs and fruit to the local food pantries. I have also found that church food pantries are often more accepting of fresh food donations. Our church, St. Theresa in Farmville, Virginia, accepts fresh produce and eggs as donations and feeds anywhere from 10 – 25 families per week with groceries. We have a refrigerator in the church’s commons area, just inside the door, and a large box to accept non-perishable donations.

Other local pantries have specific dates and times when you can drop off fresh food. Call ahead and ask about their policies. Do not just drop off bags of food on their doorstep. They can go to waste or spoil before someone knows they are waiting for them!

Plant or Grow a Row!

America’s Grow a Row Project suggests that each gardener adds one row to the garden plot specifically for vegetables to donate to the poor and hungry. Plant a Row for the Hungry from the Garden Writers Association also suggests this approach. By planning ahead, you can share the bounty with those less fortunate – and help keep America healthy!

 

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Your First Vegetable Garden: What Should You Grow?

first vegetable garden

Congratulations on growing your first vegetable garden! It’s exciting to start a new project, and I’m all for any amount of healthy vegetables you can add to your diet as well as becoming more self-sufficient.

first vegetable garden

You probably have lots of questions about starting your first vegetable garden. Home Garden Joy is a great place to start; I’ve been writing about gardening here for over 10 years and there are well over 1,000 articles now on all aspects of growing vegetables, fruit, flowers, and herbs.

One question that many new gardeners ask me is, “What should I grow?” The answer, of course, varies according to what you and your family likes to eat, where you live, the amount of light and space you have available, and so on.

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