Gardening for Health Getting Ready for Spring
The hint of spring in the air finds our community gardeners already preparing for another bumper crop … and doing so in a money-saving way. They not only grow their own vegetables, now some of them are growing starter plants from their own seeds.
The Gardening For Health program started experimenting with growing its own seeds during the winter that preceded last growing season. But this year, they took lessons learned and stepped up their efforts. Returning gardeners were given lights and other materials to use in their home to grow their own starter plants for the coming season.
“They are really liking it,” said Gardening For Health Director Jim Tipton who is in his third year at FYI. “We had trouble last winter getting things going. But I think we got all the bugs worked out and are doing well this winter.”
Timing is the key in this effort. The seeds have to be planted in time to grow the plants, which have to be ready by the time the growing season rolls around. Get started too late or too soon in the winter and you’ve missed your chance.
“We started cabbage in the second week of February,” Jim said. “We will also start tomatoes and peppers indoors in early April.
“My company (GE Aviation) donated the lights and FYI bought the wood to build into light stands,” he continued. “We’re always looking to save money. This last season, we started saving more seeds out of the plants we grew. We can’t even put them in our greenhouse yet. Once it warms up we can move them. Then they have to be strong enough to survive extreme weather conditions.”
But the money saved can be considerable. Jim estimated a pack of seeds costs between $2-$3, and one starter plant can run up to $3.
“That may not seem like much, but if you have a big area like we do, it adds up pretty quickly,”Jim said.
OSU Extension helps out annually with some seeds as well.
“I’m pretty happy with year two,” Jim said. “If everything goes well, I think we will be starting about 75 percent of what we will be planting from our own vegetable seeds.”
Over the past two years, FYI’s community gardeners have donated more than 3,400 pounds of produce to local community food pantries. Last season alone, they donated more than 2,000 pounds, with seven families doing their own plots and helping with specially designated community plots.
Jim would like to have at least 10 families join this year. Anyone interested in being a part of this year’s group should contact Jim as soon as possible at (937) 206-4372.
The gardeners hold monthly fellowship cookouts and dinners to promote unity and teamwork as well as help each other out with garden plots throughout the season.
“In a lot of ways, we are one big happy family,” said Jim. “We really enjoy each other, and we enjoy gardening.”