The second part of our year in review focuses on Greentown Grows’ Home Garden Program.
Advent is a time of reflection, which leads to our gratitude for the Home Garden Program. In 2022, the program expanded to include three new families, two in Waukegan and the other in North Chicago, bringing the total number of households to ten. The gardens in the program were generously supplied with donated seedlings from Valent Biosciences, Mary’s Greenhouse, Prairie Wind Family Farm, Gurnee Garden Center, and Burr Oak Greenhouse. Greentown Grows also received free seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, allowing us to plant various vegetables and herbs.
On a hot sunny July day, volunteers from Valent Biosciences and the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County gathered at North Chicago and Waukegan homes to install new gardens. Greentown Grows arrived with all the supplies to build and plant a garden, including lumber, soil, seeds, and seedlings. After the frame was constructed and filled, Sandy, one of our Garden Mentors, taught the first lesson on planning and planting a garden. Volunteers work with the families for 3 years, teaching all aspects of gardening as the seasons change.
The following pictures are from the second garden installed. She is learning the art of preparing seedlings for planting with Andreas, another of our outstanding Garden Mentors. Unfortunately, a hungry rabbit soon discovered this garden, which required replanting.
Once the seedlings and seeds took root (no rabbits this time), the gardens quickly became lush with produce. Just look at the growth only 2 months later!
In August, volunteers from Joy! Lutheran Church built a garden at a Waukegan home. We are blessed the church continues to provide much-needed garden installation labor. Greentown Grows also wishes to thank David and Casey from Contemporary Farmer, Inc. for their assistance and expertise with the installation. This family was referred to the program by one of the existing families.
The family’s little girl was excited to plant the garden and was overjoyed when the seeds sprouted. She proudly shouted, “Look, tomatoes!”
We received lovely photos from the returning participants showing their abundant harvest. Some have explored ways to improve the nutrition of their children’s meals, with one mother dehydrating spinach and then grinding it so she could hide it in her child’s food. It worked! Other families have reported enjoying regular salads and adding dark leafy greens to dishes, then in late summer, produce like tomatoes and peppers came on strong. One family reported giving so many vegetables to family and neighbors that people declined offers of even more. Look at the beautiful vegetables they harvested!
The mission of the Home Garden Program is to empower families to grow their own food and share it with their community to improve their health. Each 4×8 raised bed has the potential to save a family $500-$800 for the season and yield extra produce that can be preserved for later consumption. Added bonuses are the physical and mental benefits of learning a new hobby along with healthy exercise in the fresh air. In 2022, the families did so abundantly.