Winnipeg Harvest’s Grow-A-Row is a great program that encourages gardeners to share extra produce from their gardens.
In 1986, Ron and Eunice O’Donovan had an abundance of potatoes, so they donated them to Winnipeg Harvest, an organization that provides food to those in need. The O’Donovans encouraged their friends to do the same. Thus began the “Grow-A-Row” program.
The basic concept is this: plant more than you can use, and turn over the remainder to Winnipeg Harvest. Root crops are best as they store well, however Harvest will accept all kinds of vegetables and some fruits.
In May, Barry Rempel, President and CEO of Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA), sent out a challenge to local businesses to “Grow-a-Row”. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Airport Harvest Garden, WAA was trying to get 20 other businesses to start up their own gardens for Harvest.
At the Winnipeg Free Press, where I work, we quickly decided we were up for the challenge.
I went to the kick-off on June 5 at the WAA’s garden. I was very impressed with the size of their garden. Over the 20-year span of gardening for Winnipeg Harvest, they have donated more than 38,000 lbs. of vegetables!
Back at the office, my first order of business was to get volunteers. I sent an e-mail explaining the program and was pleasantly surprised at the number of people willing to help out.
We divided into teams of three. Each team was assigned alternating weeks for tasks such as watering, pulling weeds, and, if produce ripens during that week, harvesting and bringing it to Winnipeg Harvest.
There were some people who could not commit to a team, but still wanted to help. I call upon them when a team member is away, or when we need extra help with weeding, etc.
Volunteers were also put to good use when the three yards of soil arrived and needed to be moved to the beds. Some staff donated tomato cages, some let us borrow their wheelbarrows, and others offered the use of their gardening tools. It’s a terrific group effort.
Next, we had to work out the logistics of putting together a garden. Originally, the plan was to rototill a small garden plot, but we discovered an unused underground sprinkler system that changed our plans. This led me to the Internet, where I learned about raised beds and container gardening. A perfect solution!
We bought four 4’ by 4’ container kits from Home Depot online. Each kit contained four panels and connectors. We reconfigured the panels such that we were able to make two 4’ x 12’ beds, 11” deep. We layered newspapers at the bottom (no shortage of those here) then filled them up with soil.
In the container beds are cucumbers, onions, beets, peas, beans, carrots, a couple pepper plants and some watermelons. In addition, instead of the usual flowers in front of our building, we now have 18 tomato plants in the concrete planters. It’s a hot sunny location and they seem to be thriving.
We’ve been enjoying watching the gardens grow. Plus, it’s relaxing to spend a lunch hour tending to the garden! I’m excited to find out how much produce we will end up with.
So, now I’m passing on the challenge to my fellow CNC readers to take part in Grow-A-Row.
It’s a little late this year, but you can plan for spring planting next year. If your office or place of work has a bit of yard space, ask if you could grow a few vegetables. Even if it’s all concrete, you can plant in one of the old recycling bins available from Winnipeg Harvest. No garden is too small!
For further information visit http://winnipegharvest.org/