DIANA SOMERVILLE’S ACT LOCALLY: Spilling the beans on veggie gardens

NO PROBLEM GROWING healthy organic veggies for Bill Klover.

After he retired from farming in Eastern Washington, scaling back to raised bed building, planting and harvesting near his Port Angeles home was simple, too.

But when he began his efficient, cost-effective program for growing veggies for low-income folks, he didn’t reckon with the challenges of his growing success.

“We’re kind of under the radar,” Klover said of his effort that began in 2008 with nine raised beds on a private lot in Port Angeles.

The name of the group?

“My wife and I have been trying to figure that out, considering all kinds of ideas,” he said.

“But right now, when I send out an e-mail, it’s addressed to the Veggie Volunteers.”

Last year, the effort expanded to 57 raised beds in three places, including one Serenity House location.

Now the growing effort needs more volunteers willing to help with spring start-up tasks — everything from answering phone calls and scheduling volunteers to hammering raised bed frames and getting perhaps 77 plots ready for this spring’s growing season.

Interested? No green thumbs required to learn about everything from planting to food distribution.

E-mail william.klover@yahoo.com, or phone 360-452-7266.

Typically, a volunteer usually sets aside a minimum of an hour a week on a day of their choice.

The raised beds are not “rented” by individuals but planted on private land, volunteered by supportive property owners who also donate the water to meet each garden’s needs.

Volunteers “tend to take home the misshaped carrots and the less attractive but perfectly good leftovers,” he said.

Although they receive a small amount of fresh produce, they have the full satisfaction of helping to provide healthful fresh veggies to low income folks and families.

More than 95 percent of what they grow goes to local nonprofits like the Salvation Army, which cooks lunch daily and has a weekly food distribution program, he explained.

“There are 30 to 50 ways to raise a vegetable, and I offer one way — that works,” Klover said.

This includes watering beds from a raised, solar-heated reservoir which reduces temperature shock and increases nutrient solubility.

Gravity-fed water and the ability to control its flow at the end of a hose means you can avoid washing away delicate seeds trying to get established.

Also, watering only the lines where seeds are planted reduces the amount of water used and significantly reduces weed growth, he noted.

Each community garden makes its own rules.

Some ask gardeners to “plant a row for the hungry.”

Others, like the OlyCAP Community Pea Patch in Port Hadlock, donate produce to local food banks.

At least four plots are set aside for food banks, said Cali Keck, the AmeriCorps volunteer who coordinates this year’s program.

Now’s the time to find a plot in a community garden — or plan your own plot.

And there are other ways to enjoy fresh from the garden produce while helping to support local agriculture.

Consider purchasing a farm share, also called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA, by buying ahead of time, giving farmers needed cash to start growing.

CSAs let you support a farm as well as the local economy and our regional food supplies.

Lots of farms offer shares and other pre-purchasing options.

Learn more from Cynthia Warne, manager of the Port Angeles Farmers Market — the North Olympic Peninsula’s only year-round market. Phone: 360-460-0361, e-mail: portangelesfarmersmarket@gmail.com.

Or stop by and check out Saturday’s market, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Gateway Pavilion, corner of Front and Lincoln Streets, in downtown Port Angeles.

________

Diana Somerville, an award-winning author and science writer, lives in Clallam County and can be contacted via www.DianaSomerville.com.

Act Locally, her column on sustainability and the environment on the North Olympic Peninsula, appears every other Tuesday.

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