This year is the 40th anniversary of the Community Garden Coalition, and we are off to a great start due to some very successful year-end fundraising!
We exceeded our goal of $6,000 through CoMoGives and received corporate gifts from two local Walmarts totalling $2,750 along with a $500 gift from UScellular. But the most surprising donation happened in early December when we were contacted by Jim Robertson, the chair of the Reality House Programs board of directors.
Reality House operated as a local, non-profit for 50 years offering a community-based alternative to incarceration. Unfortunately it lost the state funding it relied on two years ago and had to shut down. As a last gift to the Columbia community the board of directors decided the best way to disburse their remaining funds was to donate to three local, non-profits that they felt had supported their clientele over the years. The Community Garden Coalition was one of the lucky recipients, and we were given a $10,000 donation!!
Needless to say, we can help a lot of people with such a generous gift! While we are grateful for everyone’s support, we want to especially thank the Reality House Programs board of directors:
Unite4Health garden bed rehabilitation makes room for more gardeners!
As we look forward and prepare for another season of community gardens, we’re looking back at what was accomplished this year. Thanks to the efforts of one of our garden leaders at Unite4Health garden, Cheryl Jensen, there will be additional garden spots available next spring!
Cheryl’s tireless efforts, along with the help of Anne Jacobson, have really turned that garden into a little paradise for their gardeners! Cheryl had help from our favorite CCUA employee (and our newest board member) Mallary Lieber, and yours truly’s husband, Matt Knowlton, who loaded and delivered some primo compost for these beds. Then, visiting volunteers from AmeriCorps met with Cheryl to do the rehab!
Another example of the lovely synergy that exists within our community and beyond!
As we wrap up our 39th year, the Community Garden Coalition is participating in the CoMoGives local giving campaign! Please consider a making a donation to support next year’s gardens through CoMoGives! You can also give directly through PayPalor snail mail at P.O. Box 7051, Columbia, MO, 65205.
AmeriCorps volunteers helped us get two gardens back in shape!
As I mentioned in a previous post, the City recently asked us to re-establish the Britt/Hall community garden by Fire Station 8. That’s a big request because normally that sort of garden work would be done by the gardeners themselves — who, in this case, weren’t an existing group yet.
However, board members, Lindsey Smith and Cheryl Jensen were not deterred, and not only stepped up to organize the work but found a wonderful crew of volunteers from AmeriCorps to come in and get this garden ready for spring planting! It wasn’t the warmest November day, but these volunteers from all over the US got to work and got it done! Then a week later these wonderful volunteers came over to the Unite4Health garden and worked their magic there, rehabilitating some more garden beds!
Our thanks go out to: Hanna (MN), Rowan (VT), Kenyon (MS), Jessica (WI), Dylan (PA), Charlie (IL), Arx (FL), and Cassie (NY)
Recently, the city asked the Community Garden Coalition to take over and revamp a community garden site they had established next to Fire Station 8 at 2301 E. Nifong. Normally, the CGC doesn’t start gardens from scratch, but rather helps interested groups establish or run gardens. Community gardens need a person or people willing to be garden leaders who serve as liaisons with us. In this case, the Britt/Hall garden had no established group or leader. Still, we said we’d try to take on the project.
Board member Cheryl Jensen remembered that one of her past gardeners had moved to that area and has quickly found a willing garden leader by the name of Anh Thu Nguyen. We are so happy to have Thu on board and excited to see how this garden develops next year!
Thu and her husband Huy came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 2014 so that Huy could pursue his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at MU. Like many who come to school here, they found Columbia so wonderful that they decided to stay after he completed his degree. They have two children, a daughter, Bella, who likes reading and drawing, and a son, Leo, who plays piano and roller skates. Huy enjoys playing tennis and soccer while Thu likes to cook and craft. They all enjoy working in the garden growing vegetables and are looking forward to meeting the new people who join this garden.
It’s that time of year again when we ask you to consider making a donation to support the Community Garden Coalition via the CoMoGives local giving campaign.
This was a great year for our group. We’ve expanded our services with more raised beds and equipment for disabled and elderly gardeners, while increasing the number of neighborhood gardens (check out Britt/Hall at Fire Station #8). But here’s the really big news — we’ll be celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2023!
We may be one of the smallest all-volunteer, nonprofits in this area but we are mighty. What started in 1983 as a way to help some low-income residents produce their own healthy food has grown into a community-wide pursuit with hundreds of people from all walks of life participating. Obviously, we couldn’t have done this on our own — over the years we’ve had financial help from the City of Columbia, the United Way, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, Walmart and Sam’s Club to name a few of the larger organizations. We’ve also relied on donations of land use, time, materials and money from thousands of generous individuals over the years.
Today, on Giving Tuesday, we’re counting on your support once again! It’s easy to give to CGC and all your favorite local nonprofits at www.comogives.com now through December 31.
Why should you donate?
Over half of local community gardeners are at or below the federal poverty level and the gardens are a significant source of healthy food for their families.
Community gardens not only improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables but, increase physical activity and reduce stress.
Community gardens fill vacant lots with neighbors who work together, creating social ties that build a greater feeling of community and safety
Community gardens improve the air and soil, increase biodiversity and reduce stormwater runoff and the carbon footprint of our gardeners.
All donations to the CGC go 100% to member gardens because we’re an all-volunteer nonprofit.
So please consider giving to our organization during CoMoGives. Any amount will help and small donations are our bread and butter!
Did you know that the Community Garden Coalition began in 1983 to help lower-income families in Boone County meet their nutritional needs? Since then we have expanded to include anyone who is interested in being part of a community garden. What better way to create friendships and understanding between people from different walks of life?
After almost 40 years of working to improve the health of thousands of members of our community with healthy foods, exercise and a sense of belonging, we are expanding our efforts to improve our environment. Our gardens already benefit Columbia and the surrounding areas by reducing impervious surfaces, the use of pesticides and the carbon footprint of our gardeners. While the mere presence of a garden is a boon for many creatures (especially deer, woodchucks and rabbits) we are hoping to make many of our gardens a refuge for native pollinators by encouraging the addition of native plants.
This will benefit not only pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees and solitary bees, but the yield of many of your fruit and vegetable crops! Fruit plants that require pollinators include strawberry, peach, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, pear, cherry, apple, apricot, persimmon and quince. Vegetables that require pollinators to produce fruit include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers (there are some self-pollinating varieties), summer and winter squash, okra and green beans.
Pollinator photos in gallery, left to right: bumblebee on button bush, gray comma on slender mountain mint, zebra swallowtail on butterfly milkweed, monarch on meadow blazing star
If you decide to add native plants to your garden it will require a separate sunny space that some members of the garden are willing to tend in addition to their own veggie plots. Unfortunately native plants need weeding too–especially in the first year or two when they put the majority of their growth into deep roots rather than leaves and flowers. This means that if you’re interested in helping our pollinator friends you should pick your spot carefully as those deep roots make many species of native plants poor candidates for transplanting. The garden coalition is in the process of offering free native plants that some of our member gardens will plant this year. If you are part of a member garden and are interested in natives, please let us know.
For anyone in the community interested in adding native plants to your personal garden or yard, find more information with the following websites and videos:
Many thanks to everyone that helped with the cool season plant distribution on April 2!
First, board member Sarah Kendrick put together an online order form and sent it out via garden leaders. After gardeners submitted their orders, Sarah tabulated all the orders and our treasurer Bill McKelvey placed our order at Strawberry Hills Nursery. Bill also rented a van and delivered the plants to our Claudell garden that Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, our vice president Jenny McDonald and her partner Cory McCarter took charge of the row cover and hoops ordered by gardeners. While everyone else was out celebrating the start of the weekend, these two spent Friday night cutting row cover, counting hoops and labeling everything to make the distribution much easier. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the row cover elves had visited our porch during the night. That was quite a relief because it was so windy that morning cutting row cover would have been extremely difficult!
Next up on Saturday morning was another great group of volunteers. Barb Onofrio, Julie Walker, Ann and Dan Bene, Felicia and Jahmari Sewell, Mallary Lieber, Cheryl Jensen, myself and Matthew Knowlton organized the plants for each garden so that garden leaders (like Dee Campbell-Carter) could easily pick up what their gardeners had ordered and deliver them to their garden.
The Community Garden Coalition and our friends continue to do so much for so many others! Thank you for your continued support!!
One of the challenges of helping others be successful gardeners is providing garden plots that meet the needs of our community’s elderly and disabled. We also have gardens challenged by less than ideal soil. (That lovely topsoil you purchase at the nursery may well have been scraped off a lot before a church or other structure was built, leaving behind a layer of clay.) A cure for both of these issues is to install raised beds.
Some of the raised beds at the Unite4Health garden were starting to deteriorate after many years of good use. (They had been the domain of long-time gardener Jean Newcombe, who recently passed away in her 90s! If that isn’t an advertisement for the benefits of gardening, what is?) Garden leader Cheryl Jensen made a plan to refresh the beds last year. She asked the Community Garden Coalition to pay for the materials, while Robb, the husband of co-leader, Anne Jacobson, would do the work as a way to help the keep down the cost. To get extra heavy-duty wood for the new beds, he contacted his friend, Chris Cady, who owns a specialty lumber company. Together, they milled the lumber, and then Robb spent some time rebuilding these beds. Many thanks to Robb Jacobson for offering us the benefit of his talents! See photos below.
Another new addition to the Friendship Garden in 2021 was a large new storage shed, purchased with money given during the CGC’s 2020 CoMO Gives fundraising drive. The garden leader, Dee Campbell Carter, says they have a young artist who is planning a mural for the side of the shed this spring!
Normally each year in early spring, the Community Garden Coalition organizes a seed-packing party to package up bulk seeds which we then distribute to gardeners largely at our Spring Thaw public event. With the COVID pandemic still in play this spring, neither of those events were safe for us to hold. We DID get seeds distributed to our gardeners, however, thanks to all of our board members and several volunteers! Here’s a run-down of all that went in to making that happen.
First, Bill McKelvey drove down to our supplier, Morgan County Seeds in Barnett, for a socially-distanced seed purchase. Next, he made up packages of seed-packing supplies for our volunteers with the help of Jenny McDonald. Our helpful volunteers picked them up, packed the seeds, and then returned them to Cheryl Jensen, our newest board member. In the meantime, Sarah Kendrick put together an online seed ordering form that allowed participating garden leaders to request seeds for their gardeners. Those results went to Cheryl who did her best to meet everyone’s requests. When the seeds were organized for each garden, she then made arrangements for a seed pickup at her home. Whew!!!
We want to thank all our wonderful seed-packing volunteers in no particular order: Linda Coats, John Coats, Ann Marie Gortmaker, Lily Chan, Barb Onofrio, John Markovitz, Joe Horner, Mila Horner, Don Day, Sarah Kendrick, Abram Kendrick, Mira Stoddart, Cynthia Hoover, Anne Jacobson, Penny Sprochi, Marty Katz and Cheryl Jensen. In addition, we thank our garden leaders who’ve had to be more hands-on in picking up seed and plant orders for their gardeners! THANKS TO ALL!
Additionally, yours truly got us a grant from our local Sam’s Club that is helping us cover the cost of our seeds and related expenses for this and next year. Thank you very much, Sam’s Club!
How’s that for successful teamwork? In my mind this just confirms what I already knew — the Community Garden Coalition is part of the magic that makes Columbia such a great place to live!
Are you thinking about your 2021 garden? You should be! There’s plenty (drought, pests, disease) that can go wrong despite good planning. Why make things more difficult by waiting until the last minute?
Here’s what I do every January when it’s bitterly cold or icy and I don’t want to venture outside. First I get out my gardening journal — surely you have one! I admit that I didn’t start keeping a yearly garden journal for almost 20 years. Then I forgot and bought seeds for a tomato variety that I had grown before and didn’t like. What a waste of valuable garden space! Lesson learned! Anyway, I go through my notes from the previous year and see what varieties I planted and how they did in regards to yield, diseases, pests, etc. Then I ask my co-gardener, Matt, what he liked best about the garden (sugar snap peas!) and what he didn’t like (kale—but it’s good for him!). Then I trace a new garden outline into my journal from my layout map and start planning what will make the cut this year.
Knowing how many square feet you have to plant is critical to proper spacing of your plants. If there’s one complaint I hear more than any other it’s “my plants didn’t do well and I barely got anything from them.” I’d estimate that 80% of the time it’s because the gardener tried to cram too many plants into too small a space. While intensive gardening can be very successful, it is usually the result of mixing different plants with different requirements throughout the season — not planting 4 pepper plants in 4 square feet.
While CGC gardeners will be offered seeds and plants of tried and true varieties during the season, it can be fun to look to other sources for new and exciting varieties. Your choices are mind-boggling. If this interests you, I suggest looking now while the best varieties are still available because that seed goes fast!
After deciding what plants I want to grow, I go through all my leftover seeds. Questions I ask myself are: what types have I got, how old are they, and is there enough for the upcoming season. Did you know that many seeds are good for several years if stored under cool, dark, and dry conditions? Opinions vary on seed viability lengths but here’s a quick rundown from Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog:
Next up, are you growing any plants from seed at home? Each year, I grow a variety of our favorite heirloom tomatoes from seeds that I have saved from last year’s fruits. It’s really very easy, just get on the Internet and type in “saving tomato seeds.”
However, if you’re inspired to try this yourself keep in mind that only “open-pollinated” seeds will breed true and be nearly identical to the parent plant. In other words, do not attempt this with hybrid varieties unless you are okay with mystery vegetables! For tips on the necessary supplies and methods of starting various vegetable seeds at home check out this MU extension guide.
Finally, for a good overall guide to get you started, try Vegetable Gardening by James Quinn and David Trinklein, Division of Plant Sciences, University of Missouri.
Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2021 gardening season!