Georgia’s fertile ground and gardening weather is calling!
Cultivating and tasting home grown, sun-ripened vegetables and herbs can be soothing to you and to your wallet. Late spring is the perfect time to plant tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, black-eyed peas, butter beans, snap peas, okra and eggplant. Even if you have a small plot or single pot, tomatoes and/or basil can be easy to plant and maintain. Pick plants you like that are in season—and if you are new to gardening, start small so that you can learn proper techniques. (Check out our Community Gardens page for more recommendations for what to plant this spring.)
If you are lacking resources for a garden right now, wanting to learn new techniques or expertise—or just curious—the time is ripe to visit a community garden!
Community gardens are spaces for community members to grow healthy food and improve the nutrition of their community. They also provide and encourage opportunities for physical activity, city beautification and community engagement. Community gardens especially benefit individuals who have location, budget, transportation, mobility, health, and time constraints that limit their access to produce. ACFB designed the Community Garden Program to provide produce and gardening expertise to those with low food security while promoting sustainable practices and fostering collaborations.
When groups collaborate with ACFB through the Community Garden Program, they get help with site-selection, garden organizing, and planning, as well as volunteers, resources, and advice from experts. ACFB currently offers assistance to over 300 gardens in metro Atlanta.
Here is why you should get involved:
1. Meet new people. New collaborations and ideas grow in our gardens!
2. Reduce stress. According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder and other illnesses. Gardening regularly is a relaxing and rewarding way to manage stress.
3. Promote physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 2 ½ hours of heart rate-raising and muscle-strengthening physical activity every week to promote health and prevent disease. Weeding, shoveling and turning compost will challenge different muscles than the gym or the pavement.
4. Learn some agricultural science. Gardening has actually been an essential part of formal education in parts of the world for centuries—in Austria and Sweden, school gardens have been mandatory since 1869! Would you be able to grow your own food if you had to? You will learn how when you work in a community garden!
5. Increase your produce literacy. When you garden, you will work with new plants and glean money-saving knowledge, like seasonality. (link: http://snap.nal.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce).
6. Improve your health through better nutrition. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber and minerals in their natural—and often most effective—forms. Check out this post for more on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables! Community gardeners tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than non-gardening families—this might be because they have increased access to produce AND the prerogative to eat the produce they grow in a perfectly ripe, freshly-picked state when the produce tastes divine and has the highest concentration of beneficial components. Gardeners who make a habit of eating fruits and vegetables daily will reap the benefits of less chronic disease.
The Plant a Row for the Hungry Campaign is a national initiative of the Garden Writers of America. We encourage local gardeners to participate! Just plant an extra row. At harvest time, donate produce from your extra row at one of the designated locations. (Find nearby sites here.). Last year, Plant a Row for the Hungry Campaign gardeners in Atlanta donated 106,292 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables!
You can get involved in the Community Garden Program by volunteering as part of a group for a community garden shift. During your shift, you will work in a community garden with an ACFB gardening expert who will be your guide.
If you want to get involved in an existing community garden or start a new one, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 404.892.FEED (3333) x1216.
--Elyse Sartor, Dietetic Intern