In the garden

Community gardens
Would you like to have a vegetable garden but don’t think it’s possible this year?

A lack of space, experience or resources such as tools or money to buy seeds and bedding plants doesn’t need to stand in your way. Applications for Gardens Growing Families, a community garden program for county residents, are now being accepted at the Henrico Extension Office.

Individuals or families who participate in the program receive expert help, free classes, tools, and water for irrigation as well as space to grow a garden for a fee of $5 to $65 a year, based on household income, the number of gardeners per family, and garden plot size. Garden plots are either 15 feet by 20 feet or 15 feet by 10 feet, and gardeners can rent up to two plots.

“Gardens Growing Families is designed to get people gardening, harvesting, preparing and storing nutritious food,” said Lisa Sanderson, Henrico Extension Agent.

“And, just as important as producing food, gardening together can help build families,” added Sanderson. “Families who garden together. To me, that’s the most important part.”

Garden plots are available in the Alma Avenue Island Garden near Alma and Laburnum Avenues and in Highland Springs at the corner of West Jerald Street and South Holly Avenue. The 34 plots at the Lakeside Garden have already been taken.

“We started in 2008,” said Sanderson, “And some of the original families are still with us!”

In a survey, almost all past participants said their family’s diet improved, and three-quarters said they saved money at the grocery store. “One man, who had two plots and gardened year-round, said he had saved almost $700,” said Sanderson.

The plots are available to participants from the first of April to the end of March. “You really can grow things to eat here all year long,” said Sanderson. “You have to like cabbage, and you have to plan, but you can do it!”

Participants maintain their gardens using only organic methods, which means no pesticides or herbicides in the gardens.

A demonstration plot is maintained by Henrico Master Gardeners, who are often on hand at the gardens to answer questions. “It’s the first experience for some,” said Sanderson, “so we encourage people to ask questions.”

A free seminar for participants will be held Saturday, April 7 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Henrico Demonstration Kitchen on Dixon Powers Drive. Topics include “Getting Started,” “Growing More,” and “Expanding Your Food Palette and Preparing Foods.” Programs for kids ages 5-13 will also be held that day.

“Young people can learn how to garden, see where their food comes from, and learn how to do things with their parents,” said Sanderson.

“And remember, food tastes better when you grow it yourself,” she added.

To learn more, call the Extension office at 501-5160 or get an application online at http://www.co.henrico.va.us/extension
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