Want to help others? Foster some vegetables

PORT ANGELES — Raising vegetables to help people requires a little water, a little work and a big heart.

But foster vegetable growers don’t even need their own dirt. No experience is needed, either.

This winter and spring, a group of volunteers will deliver to a “foster home” a raised vegetable bed with soil and seeds, then collect whatever produce is grown and take it to area food banks or deliver it directly to fixed-income individuals and families in the Port Angeles area.

A planning meeting for this spring’s vegetable-growing effort will be at

10 a.m. Friday at the Port Angeles Senior Center.

The foster vegetable program is in its fifth year and has provided thousands of servings of garden-fresh produce to area food banks, said Bill Klover, the program’s organizer.

Providing the raised beds gives volunteers the option of raising vegetables on their own property. The other option, Klover said, is volunteering at one of two large gardens in Port Angeles.

Vegetables are chosen according to what grows well in Port Angeles, Klover said.

In late winter and spring, that includes spinach, chard, onions and lettuce.

In summer, carrots, potatoes, green beans and squash are planted, and in fall, garlic is put in to mature over the winter.

The raised beds keep the soil 7 or 8 degrees warmer than the ground, which helps the plants grow in the cool Port Angeles climate, Klover said.

The small boxes, which measure 4 square feet, can produce a surprising amount of vegetables, Klover said.

Using proven planting techniques, four squash plants can spawn 40 grocery-store size squash. Or, he said, the container can fit the equivalent of a 13-foot row of bush beans, from which 35-40 beans can be harvested daily.

Lettuce can produce four cuttings each season, and growers can get two crops of potatoes in a season.

In the program’s first year, 19 beds were placed with foster vegetable growers, and in 2011 more than 100 of the beds were placed in area yards and at schools.

Last year, a group of third- and fourth-grade students at Queen of Angels School of Port Angeles harvested six raised beds, which produced 225 pounds of potatoes, Klover said.

The group’s two central gardens in Port Angeles offer volunteer growers who do not have the space for a raised garden bed the opportunity to offer two to three hours of work a week, Klover said, adding that gardeners with their own established beds can also donate to the program.

And, for $50, volunteers will deliver a raised vegetable bed to foster gardeners who want to keep the vegetables they grow for themselves.

“Some places just don’t have good soil,” Klover said.

The $50 fee is donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society or is reinvested back into materials to build more raised garden beds.

“We are self-sustaining and have a good handle on the costs,” he said.

To register for Friday’s class, order a raised vegetable bed or simply for more information, call Klover at 360-452-7266.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at [email protected]

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