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by Janine Butler,  garden volunteer

I went to a local store at the weekend with my neighbor, Susan, who was buying a few plants for her own home vegetable garden.  She bought a cool looking yellow tomato, a pepper, and a cucumber, and she already has some squash at home that she started from seeds a few weeks ago.  She plants a garden every year, and this small number of plants is enough to enhance their meals throughout summer, yet still be easy enough to maintain.

But how many plants do you think you would need to fill a fifth of an acre, and generate 10,000 pounds of produce?

How about:

  • Broccoli – 800 x 4″ plants
  • Sweet potato – 70 cuttings
  • Summer squash – 800 x 4″ plants or seeds
  • Zucchini – 800 x 4″ plants or seeds
  • Cabbage – 500 x 4″ plants
  • Basil – 300 x seeds or plants
  • Egyptian onions – 300 sets
  • Tomatoes – 400 x 4″ or 6″ plants
  • Sweet peppers, green – 400 x 4″ plants
  • Sunflowers – 200 seeds
  • Buckwheat -10,000 seeds 
  •  

Wow! That’s a lot of plants and seeds!

I got this list of plants from Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director of Horticulture and Eduction at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, who told me that a number of factors were used to determine what ended up on this list. First, the needs and desires of FeedMore (the recipients of all this produce)  were considered to make sure that we grow food they can actually use.  Rhubarb might make a nice pie, but large quantities could be a challenge for the chefs at the FeedMore Community Kitchen to incorporate into daily menu planning!

Second, Virginia Cooperative Extension   offered advice and suggested preferred plants for the region to ensure better growth success.  Lastly, some plants were picked for more practical purposes – tall sunflowers will complement the work of scarecrows and hopefully shoo away unwanted birds!  Many of these plants have been purchased using monetary donations, and Wetsel, Inc., a wholesale garden supplier, has kindly donated some of the seeds, and we are thankful for everyone’s generosity.

Also this week I was privileged to visit with Kristin VanStory, Director of Communications at FeedMore, the parent organization that covers Central Virginia Foodbank, Community Kitchens and Meals on Wheels.  She led me on a wonderful tour of the Community Kitchens and the distribution center.  I was amazed to see the quantities of food that goes through the Foodbank process, yet saddened that so many people require its services in order to survive and to feed themselves and their families.  The kitchen staff and volunteers do a great job of getting food out to those in need.  I am so glad I got to see the kitchen where they produce all the meals; it really helped me understand just how badly they need food donations and how beneficial the fresh local produce grown at Lewis Ginter will be to the FeedMore programs.

You may not have a fifth of an acre at home in which to grow veggies, but if you do decide to plant a garden this year like my neighbor Susan, think about planting an extra row or two, and donate the extra bounty to a local community kitchen near you. They would be more than grateful!  In fact, come along to the Spring Plant Sale next week, April 30- May 2, for some inspiration and maybe purchase a plant or two to start your own garden!

Have a great week in the garden!

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