After a colder and wetter spring than normal, backyard gardeners across Colorado are planting, tending, and preparing to harvest for the second season of “Grow and Give”, a program whose volunteers raise and donate fresh fruits and vegetables for statewide distribution to people in need.
Grow and Give is a project of the Colorado Master Gardener Program, a well-known part of CSU Extension. Volunteer participation is open to any Colorado gardener.
The project began in Spring 2020 in response to skyrocketing food needs among people coping with unemployment and other hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is modeled on backyard victory gardens that boosted food supplies and morale during the bleak years of World War I and World War II.
Coordinator for the Colorado Master Gardener Program, Katie Dunker who helps lead Grow and Give statewide said “It was so successful in its first season that Grow and Give is back, with a broader goal of boosting food security in Colorado communities over the long term.”
Dunker continued “This is where CSU Extension can make such a big difference connecting people to solve real needs in their communities. It took a pandemic for us to see all this capacity, but we’re going to continue this work. It hits all the marks for a land-grant university.”
Last year, nearly 600 volunteer gardeners signed up. They grew and donated more than 47,000 pounds of produce in 25 Colorado counties. The fresh fruits and vegetables went to food banks, pantries, homeless shelters, and other nonprofits for distribution to individuals and families facing hunger and food shortages.
Organizers expect the number of participants and food donations to expand in the second year of Grow and Give. Students who successfully complete this Trek Badge will be able to:
- Describe considerations in garden planning and planting times.
- Describe block style layout in a raised bed garden design.
- Describe soil preparation and fertilization for the vegetable garden.
- Describe routine garden care including mulching, irrigation, and water conservation.
- Describe routing care for tomatoes.
- List hints for growing other vegetables.
- Describe frost protection and microclimate modification.
The program runs until June 14 and is held virtually so anyone in the state can participate. To support backyard gardeners, the Colorado Master Gardener Program has a few new offerings, including:
- A free, 85-page Colorado Vegetable Guide available for download in English and Spanish. The guide offers crop-by-crop guidance for gardeners; learn to grow everything from asparagus to zucchini.
- A new mobile app that connects gardeners to hunger-relief organizations. It’s offered in partnership with the Colorado nonprofit Fresh Food Connect and demonstrates how Grow & Give is using technology to expand its reach.
- A free online vegetable course is scheduled June 1-14. Offered through CSU Professional Education, the asynchronous course is designed for novice and experienced gardeners alike.
For more information, gardening resources, and to volunteer with Grow and Give, click here.