Grow and gift from your garden this summer

Are you growing a garden in your backyard or do you have some tomato crates on your patio? Do you know what you’re going to do with any excess veggies you might be growing this summer?

The Colorado State University Extension has a solution to your bounty garden and can help you make the most of your harvest—it’s called Grow & Give. Through the Grow & Give program, you can donate those extra zucchini, tomatoes and beans to a local pantry or neighbor in need, thereby making a positive impact on others.

The Grow & Give program was launched in Spring 2020 as a modern Victory gardening project to help Coloradans grow food, share their harvest, and keep it in their local communities.

Back then, you might remember the people who flocked to garden centers across the state to clear the shelves and buy up all the packets of seeds to start their new hobby of backyard gardening.

But growing food isn’t exactly a piece of cake, and CSU Extension saw a need to fill in the gaps. It has created an independently operated program to teach people how to garden, from seed to harvest and storage.

In addition, Grow & Give collected information from local donation centers across the state and created an interactive map to help participants get their additional products to the donation centers.

In its pilot year, the program’s goal was to provide an opportunity to learn about the home food garden while making an impact in local communities during the global pandemic. In 2020, Grow & Give registered over 500 home and community gardens across the state and received over 1,800 donations for a total of more than 47,000 pounds of nutritious and fresh homegrown produce.

But it didn’t stop as the pandemic slowed…in fact, it’s been growing! Last year, Grow & Give registered a further 200 gardens and donations exceeded £55,000. This summer is no different as we continue to grapple with food insecurity in our communities due to supply chain disruptions, inflation and inequalities in community services. Grow & Give is still there to help.

One of the unique aspects of the Grow & Give program is that it not only connects you to creating fundraising sites, but also teaches you how to grow fruits and vegetables specifically in Colorado’s unique climate through resources on its website.

From the plains to the mountains, there’s a variety of articles, factsheets and videos from raised bed gardening to growing tomatoes in tubs. You can learn about turnip greens, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, herbs, and virtually any other fruit or vegetable you can grow in Colorado.

Not sure how to start or how to deal with pests? This is also covered in the resources on the Grow & Give website, growandgivecolorado.org.

Would you like to join the collective effort across the state to help with food insecurity on a hyperlocal scale through the Grow & Give program? It’s easy! All you have to do is register your backyard garden or community garden property; If you then have additional products, report your donation through the website.

You’ll receive a bi-monthly email newsletter with gardening tips, and it’s completely free to join. To learn more, contact your county’s CSU Extension Office or visit growandgivecolorado.org.

Amy Lentz is the Home Gardening Program Coordinator for the Colorado State University, Boulder County, Longmont Extension.

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