Monday, May 17, 2010

Reaping Hope

In addition to being a potter, I am also the grants coordinator at Hope House, Inc., a long-term residential treatment facility in Augusta, Georgia for women (and their children) who face challenges stemming from homelessness, substance abuse and disabilities. This is a terrific organization and does a lot of good. One new project I want to share with everyone is our new organic vegetable garden.

The Women in Philanthropy gave us a generous grant this spring to put in an organic garden and use it as a training tool for our residents. It's also been a source of education for me! I know just enough to get into trouble in a garden but in overseeing this project I've learned a thing or two which I'd really love to share with anyone interested in gardening, herbs, food, or just in helping people.

I decided that we would do raised-bed gardening as our soil here is rock hard. I first heard of this a few years ago in the book, Lasagna Gardening but there are other good books out there as well. We got really neat, easy-to-install raised ceder beds from Earth Easy. I filled the beds with a rich, organic soil from a local company, Bricko, producers of Kricket Krap. Further reading on the topic led me to believe square-foot gardening (see the book) would give us the biggest bang for our buck so I sectioned each of our 5 beds.

I've gotten lots of comments about how closely-spaced our plants are and I can't argue with that. But we've had almost no problem with weeds or pests and have the biggest plants I've ever seen. It remains to be seen if this spacing is crowding out any of the plants. So far we've harvested lettuce and some herbs and the tomatoes are setting fruit.

I find this entire project very exciting and I know our residents do, too. The children, especially, love to visit the garden (though they have a little one of their own, which is another post entirely) and give the plants water. Last week we picked Stevia, an herb known for its sweet leaves, and it was fun to see their faces light up when they tasted it.

We call the project, Reaping Hope, because from it we believe our residents will get far more than just vegetables. We believe they will get skills, enjoyment, knowledge and yes, hope.

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