The Giving Gardener: Plant your cool weather crops!

Giving Gardeners –

If you haven’t yet planted a seed this season, do not fear, there is still time! In fact, if your garden beds are not too soggy, this is a great time to get started. March was kind enough to water our garden beds almost daily, and though April feels as cold as winter, spring is here.

This is the time of year to plant cool weather crops — lettuces, carrots, beets, pak choi, gailan, kale, chard, collards, spinach, mustards, broccoli, radishes and onions. The radishes and onions, if harvested when young, can be the first crop you donate.

Though food banks often get many storing onions, they do not always have a fresh supply of green onions. Practically any onion variety can be harvested young with the green shoots above ground and the small bulb below ground. Green onions or scallions are appreciated by cooks from diverse culinary traditions and can easily be interspersed in your garden, taking up very little space.

Planting from seed usually results in hardy plants as only the strongest make it to maturity. Planting from starts helps you keep ahead of the weeds. Either way, if you’re growing for donation, you can request seeds and starts from Lettuce Link.

You can also make a donation to support Lettuce Link or keep up-to-date with them through the Lettuce Link Blog.

Happy Gardening!

The Giving Gardener: Growing for others

Editor’s note: This post launches a regular series called The Giving Gardener. Brought to you by staff of our Lettuce Link program, the series will offer advice on cultivating your own food and growing for others.

Pea vines

Growing food for yourself, for friends, family and especially to donate to strangers is at once an act of kindness and self-indulgent. Yes, self-indulgent, because growing food involves connecting with the senses when so often in our busy, urban lives we live hurried, stressed and detached.

It is the richness that gardening delivers to our lives that brings out the generosity in gardeners. We call it Growing and Giving or Food Bank Gardening, and in Seattle last year, both seasoned and beginning gardeners collectively grew and donated over 20,000 pounds of produce! Indulge your senses, contribute to your community and join us this year in Growing and Giving.

Now is the time to ready your garden bed for spring planting. Gardeners in the Northwest typically plant peas on Presidents’ Day. Soak the seeds overnight and then either plant directly into the ground or start them indoors to transplant later.

Wait a few more weeks to plant other crops. The February sunshine has given way to March cold snaps the past few years and unless you’re in a very warm sunny spot, even radishes won’t do too well.

When growing food you cultivate a delicate and full body awareness of weather, daylight and temperature. You experience the sensation of cold soil under your nails, blisters from the shovel and the pull in your lower back. The nose is alive with the scent of decay and the sumptuousness of life. And of course, you taste the flavors of the earth, spicy greens, crunchy carrots, the sweetness of peas and tomatoes freshly picked.

Whatever your gardening experience or philosophy, don’t forget to enjoy it. Toss in some planning, experimentation and creativity and the benefits will support your community.

Lettuce Link creates access to fresh, nutritious and organic produce, seeds and gardening information for families with lower incomes in Seattle. We work to educate the community about food security and sustainable food production. Community volunteers and donations are the key to making this work successful! Go to our website to learn more, donate and join in the fun!

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