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A Short Tour of Community Gardens

Our garden at home has finally started yielding its bounty, which means we have more tomatoes than we know what to do with and are engaged in constant battle with rabbits to preserve our harvest. Now is the season when we get to enjoy the fruits of our time spent planting and preparing the soil, with fresh bites from the garden in every meal. It’s a reminder of the growing season and of nature’s wonders.

The fresh veggies making their way from my yard to my plate has had me thinking more about community gardens recently, especially with the rising costs of food making harvests more important for many of us. Interestingly, though, it was not my own garden or food prices that made me look into the history of gardens in the United States. It was, of all things, a comic book.

Most people who know me know that I am obsessed with comics, especially propaganda comics from World War II and early 1950s horror comics that drew the ire of parents and the federal government alike. I recently picked up a copy of this little gem from 1943:

World's Finest Comics #11 cover, with superheroes working in garden

World’s Finest Comics is pretty unremarkable, except for its run of war-themed covers in the early 1940s. Issue #11 here features Superman, Batman and Robin working away in a “victory garden.” (Oh, how nice it would be to have the super-speed of Superman or the ingenuity of Batman to take care of weeding and tilling, right?) Victory gardens, as they were called, were home gardens that the US government encouraged people to start during the war, ostensibly to increase food production at home when so much produce had to be sent to troops overseas, though their significance went far deeper, as we will learn below.

Many people trace community gardens today back to these victory gardens. But the community gardening movement actually started much further back, and the government was not as “super”-supportive of victory gardens as Superman and Batman were – at least early on.

The 1890s – Community Gardens Begin

According to Smithsonian Gardens, part of the Smithsonian Institution, community gardens trace their roots back to Detroit, Michigan, in the 1890s. The economic depression of 1893 hit the city hard, particularly affecting its largely immigrant population. Worried about food shortages and high unemployment, Detroit’s progressive Mayor Hazen Pingree started a public works program for jobs and then encouraged the city to use vacant lots to grow vegetables for the coming winter. “Pingree’s Potato Patches,” as they were called were called, were effective and popular.

Mayor Pingree had another motive besides providing food. The depression had increased economic inequality in the city, and the response of Detroit’s wealthy citizens was to provide charity to address the deep challenges faced by the workers most impacted. Rather than addressing the problems, charity drives fostered a system of patronage, leaving low-income Detroiters dependent on small amounts of help from rich benefactors. Pingree’s gardens were steps toward a more equitable solution, providing spaces for Detroiters facing hunger and poverty to exercise agency. It was a movement for both food security and economic justice. As the Detroit Free Press wrote in 1935, “Pingree’s potato patches broke the back of hunger. They were nationally acclaimed and copied. They revealed a city of boundless energy and industry unwilling to live on doles (the meager charity of the wealthy).”

family tends garden in Detroit 1890s

A family tends a Pingree Potato Patch in Detroit. Image courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University


Turn of the Century and World War I

Pingree’s model was copied in many major cities. As the depression eased, schools turned to gardens both to supplement nutrition and to help an increasingly urban population of children connect back to nature and learn responsibility and the value of work. Perhaps the most famous advocate for the school garden movement was Fannie Griscom Parsons, a tireless leader whose work led to the creation of gardens and farms for children throughout New York City in the first two decades of the 20th Century. Parsons famously wrote,

I did not start a garden simply to grow a few vegetables and flowers. The garden was used as a means to teach [children] in their work some necessary civic virtues; private care of public property, economy, honesty, application, concentration, self-government, civic pride, justice, the dignity of labor, and the love of nature by opening to their minds the little we know of her mysteries, more wonderful than any fairy tale.

With World War I, the gardening movement gained a lot of ground and new support, this time from the US War Gardening Commission. With this fervor, the Commission reported that by 1917, there were more than 3.5 million war gardens across the country, helping supply needed fruits and vegetables during the lean years of the war.

As should be clear by now, though, the gardens were about more than just food. The war gardens of World War I became a symbol of community agency and renewal, especially for African American residents, whose urban neighborhoods were neglected by governments after the war. Drawing on their horticultural skills and passion for beautifying their communities, African American gardeners in Detroit, Philadelphia and other cities scaled up their post-war efforts, even holding contests for residents with the best gardens. These gardens became an important lifeline during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

World War II – Victory Gardens

The World War I gardens planted the seed (ahem) for the victory gardens of World War II. By this point in agricultural history in the US, the government was more reluctant to support gardens. As the Smithsonian notes, most officials thought that large-scale agriculture was more effective. What ultimately convinced the government to promote victory gardens, though, wasn’t a compelling argument about production. Rather, it was the awareness after decades of use that gardens play a powerful role in bringing communities together, improving relationships between neighbors and strengthening morale.

The gardens ended up proving effective in both areas, though. They strengthened communities and they provided an abundance of food – as much as 40 percent of vegetables grown in the US by 1944.

Hidden Depths

The brightly-colored produce, however, hid some gnarled roots, and Superman, Batman and Robin’s smiling faces on the cover of World’s Finest Comics #11 belied deep injustices when it came to gardens and farms in the United States in the 1940s.

As World War II began, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal and internment of Japanese Americans. While in public press, the order was motivated by fear of spies (a belief that had no basis in reality), the internment campaign had more sinister roots. Japanese Americans, especially in California, had drawn on their deep agricultural knowledge to build successful farming businesses upon their arrival in the US. It was these farms, and the valuable land that Japanese Americans owned, that drove some to call for internment.

Indeed, one of the first documented lobbying efforts to remove Japanese Americans from the West Coast came from none other than the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, which sent a lobbyist to Washington, DC, to argue for forced removal of Japanese American farmers.

By 1942, with Japanese Americans interned and their land under government supervision, white farmers began seizing control of their farms, and the managing secretary of the Western Growers Protective Association reported “considerable profits were realized” by member growers “because of the Japanese removal.”

While incarcerated at the internment camps, many Japanese Americans continued using their skills, however, and developed camp gardens. Despite the desolate landscape of many of the camps, internees used their wisdom, creativity and tenacity to start thousands of thriving gardens. These gardens helped to supplement their diet, but perhaps more importantly, the gardens served as a symbol of resistance against internment, an attempt to hold on to community and traditions and to refuse the dehumanization of internment.

Gardens that had once been indicators of successful business and wealth for immigrant families now, through acts of protest against the injustice of internment, were revealed as symbols of courage, strength and resilience.

Sowing and Reaping

Still today, community gardens carry these multiple layers of meaning. On the one hand, they provide fresh, healthy food. But on a much deeper level, as researchers Rina Ghose and Margaret Pettygrove report, community gardens are spaces where community is formed and citizenship is fostered. They are a protest against powers that control food, land and jobs. And they can be spaces that bear witness to new kinds of communities, new kinds of relationships and new understandings of the economy.

Martin Luther once wrote that farming is an act that imitates God’s creation of the world. By digging into the soil, planting and nurturing crops, we are imitating God’s hands-on approach to making the world. But the long history of gardens in the United States – from immigrants tending “Pingree’s Potato Patches” to investments in gardens for under-served urban children to beautification of segregated neighborhoods and the witness of camp gardens – points to an expanded understanding of how this work imitates God’s creative endeavors.

Yes, we are gifted with the opportunity to witness the Creator God in action as crops take root, but on a deeper level, the community that is nurtured and grown at the garden testifies to the ongoing work of God as the redeemer of the world, reconciling us to one another and building a just world where all are fed.

We aren’t superheroes, but we don’t need to be. The world does not need superheroes as much as it needs neighbors willing to work together, to participate in the restoration of just relationships and communities, asserting together that our neighborhoods are worth investing in and that each and every one of us can play a part. As we’ve learned time and again, gardens can be sacred spaces where neighbors build relationships with one another, assert their pride and dignity, and create a bountiful harvest for the community to enjoy. The hard work of tilling, planting, weeding and watering yields far more than vegetables. It can nourish the growth of communities in profound, life-giving ways.

As we harvest from gardens this season and get ready for planting next spring, this history begs the questions: what are we really sowing? And what new wonders might neighbors working together for the transformation of the landscape and the community reap?


If you are interested in starting your own community garden, or finding new ways to expand the garden your community has, check out ELCA World Hunger’s Community Gardens How-To Guide, available in English and Spanish! You can order hard copies from the ELCA World Hunger resources page too!


Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger.


Sowing Hope, Cultivating Solidarity in Chile


Educación Popular en Salud, or Popular Education in Health, (EPES) was founded by Karen Anderson, ELCA mission personnel, as a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile in the early 1980s. In 2002, EPES became an independent foundation, continuing and expanding its support of communities in the Latin American country of Chile. This important work is supported in part by gifts to ELCA World Hunger. We are grateful to our partners at EPES for the update and video below, showcasing some of the amazing work that is happening in the El Bosque community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check it out!

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPES Foundation initiated a project with community health promoters and nutrition teams to cultivate home gardens. In five months, the women transformed the patios and balconies of their homes into small vegetable gardens. The enthusiasm for what was learned and harvested during the months of strict quarantine was so great that the women decided to create a community garden at the end of that year. The Auco community center in the Oscar Bonilla neighborhood of El Bosque, where the David Werner health team has met for more than 25 years, was chosen as the place for the community garden.

Since the beginning the project has had the technical advice and collaboration of Valeria Rodriguez from the Santa Isabel community garden.

In this video, the women share their experiences related to creating the garden, highlighting the satisfaction of growing their own food, connecting with nature, promoting community participation in health and food sovereignty, and contributing to the environment by reducing organic waste. In addition, they report how this collective learning process has helped them to better face the pandemic, strengthening ties between women, sowing hope and cultivating solidarity.

Video Production and Editing: Claudia Macchiavello

Original Music: Martín Formento


A Time for Everything: Picking Your Garden

There is a Time for Everything, and a Season for Every Activity Under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Pointing Forward:

So let’s consider the 5 P’s of gardening:




Picking, and

Putting to bed.

In previous posts, we’ve planned, we’ve planted and perspired. Now it’s time to reap some rewards by picking our gardens.

Whenever I think of harvesting, I am in awe that God has provided us with the miracle of vegetable and fruit growth.  What is even more remarkable is that the growing and developing plants only need a few simple things to make it all work. These include sunlight, soil and water. Here is a prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship Pastoral Care Occasional Services, Readings and Prayers (published by Augsburg Press) that helps express the thanksgiving we feel during the harvest season. Praying this prayer may be a fitting way to begin our harvest.

Most Glorious God, according to your wisdom the deep waters are opened up and clouds drop gentle moisture. We praise you for the return of planting and harvest seasons, for the fertility of the soil, for the harvesting of the crops and for all other blessings that you in your generosity pour out on all people. Give us a full understanding of your mercy, that our lives may show respect and care for your creation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Picking is the time when all your hard work starts yielding benefits you can savor! Or, if you have chosen to provide food for your local food bank, this is the time when your perspiration leads to inspired giving! Harvesting may also be a good time to meditate on the simple yet profound words of Psalm 67:6: “The land yields its harvest; God, our God blesses us.” God has blessed us with the opportunity to grow food for ourselves and for our neighbors.

As we contemplate Psalm 67:6 – that God blesses us with the harvest and the miracle of growth of food to pick, share, and eat –  we may also consider when it is best to harvest so that we get the most out of what we have planned, planted, and now are planning to pick. There are some simple guidelines for choosing the right time. Generally, for the best flavor and texture, most vegetables are best harvested just before they are fully mature.  If we let our vegetables become over-mature in the ground, they often lose their best flavor, texture and nutrition.

So, let’s consider a couple of examples of when to harvest:

Tomatoes: You should harvest tomatoes individually when they reach the right color. If these are red tomatoes, they should be close to fully red. They should also be pretty soft, but not mushy when you lightly squeeze them. The tomato would have the distinctive tomato aroma and should separate from the vine easily when you grasp the tomato and give it a slight twist.

Eggplant: Eggplant is best when it is picked a little bit short of total ripeness. The eggplant should have a definite firmness rather than be soft or too hard. The outer skin should shine. It is better to cut the eggplant from that plant to preserve the flesh of the fruit, rather than to pluck it by hand.

Radishes: Radishes tend to mature quickly, so they should be monitored often. When their shoulders start showing above the soil level, they are ready to pull. If you let them grow too big, they may become tough. Radishes are crops that you may select to grow in succession; that means you may want to plant several times in the season so they can be harvested throughout the summer.

For more harvesting suggestions, you might consider accessing the following website:

Of course, if vegetables do get over-ripe, they are still usable for a number of things. If nothing else, you can turn your over-ripe vegetables and fruits into compost for use as a soil enhancer or fertilizer.

Thinking of the tomatoes and eggplant we are harvesting above, our family likes to make lasagna without noodles. One alternative is to use slices of eggplant to substitute for the noodles. This also provides an opportunity for those who aren’t able to tolerate gluten to enjoy lasagna. Please find an Eggplant Lasagna Recipe below if you’d like to give it a try. Eggplant and tomatoes from this year’s harvest may be incorporated into the recipe. Also, with last year’s crop, or even this year’s harvest, you could produce the tomato sauce called for in the recipe.

Linking Back

Speaking of compost, let’s link back to our “Planting” where we considered composting. This might be a good time to access the composted material you started earlier in the planning and planting season to use as a fertilizer for the plants you just harvested. As we harvest some of the early vegetables and fruits of our garden, this is a good reminder that to continue the harvest as long as possible, we need to provide adequate water and fertilize the ground every 3-4 weeks.

This is also a good time to check back to our blog on “Perspiring” to consider the steps in keeping your garden in good shape. These are:

  1. Watering;
  2. Fertilizing;
  3. Weed control; and
  4. Pest control.

As you harvest the early fruits of your labor, it is valuable to check your watering, weed control and pest control as well to see if you need to make any adjustments in the patterns you have developed to keep your garden in good shape.

Until next time, remember,

There is a Time for Everything, and a Season for Every Activity Under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Blessings to you!

Eggplant Lasagna

Minutes to Prepare: 45

Minutes to Cook: 45

Number of Servings: 10 (1 to 1 1/2 cup each)


1 lb extra lean ground turkey
1 lb Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh tomatoes chopped
2 26 oz jars pasta sauce
2 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced
1 8oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c Parmesan cheese


In a large pan, brown ground turkey and Italian sausage with onion and garlic. Drain all of the grease from pan. Add pasta sauce and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and allow to simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. Preheat the oven to broil. Meanwhile, wash and peel eggplant. Slice eggplant into thin strips length wise and then in 2-inch squares. Place eggplant on an ungreased cookie sheet and allow to broil for 8 minutes (with the oven door slightly open) or until eggplant is very tender. Grease a large lasagna pan and preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl combine mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Place a layer of eggplant in the bottom of the pan, top eggplant with a layer of meat sauce, top meat sauce with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, top cheese with another layer of eggplant and continue layering until all meat sauce has been used. Your top layer should be eggplant. Top the last layer of eggplant with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until meat sauce is bubbly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before you serve.

To make this vegan you may substitute the ground turkey with vegan ground turkey and the Italian sausage with vegan sausage.

You may also choose to replace the cheeses with non-dairy options. I suggest you visit your local natural foods store to find equivalents.

The original recipe as written is gluten-free. If you substitute the meats or the cheeses, be sure to read the label and watch for wheat flour ingredients if you wish to maintain the gluten-free status of the original recipe.

Nutritional Information (per 1 cup serving)

Calories: 155.5

Total Fat: 8.9 g

Cholesterol: 44.3 mg

Sodium: 195.5 mg

Carbohydrates: 6.3 g

Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g

Protein: 12.5 g

In this series by guest writer Ethan Bergman, we will consider the 5 P’s of gardening – planning, planting, perspiring, picking, and putting to bed – over the course of the next few months. Ethan is a Master of Divinity student in the Distributive Learning program at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Bergman is also the associate dean in the College of Education and Professional Studies and professor of food science and nutrition at Central Washington University, Ellensburg. He was named CWU Distinguished University Professor in 2001-2002 and was named by the Washington State Dietetic Association as Outstanding Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2000. He is a past delegate and past President of the American Dietetic Association as well as speaker of the Academy’s House of Delegates. Bergman also has served on the Academy’s Educator’s Task Force on Education Reform in Dietetics Education and on the Evidence-Based Practice Committee. He earned his doctorate from Washington State University.


A Time for Everything: Planning Your Garden


In this new series by guest writer Ethan Bergman, we will consider the 5 P’s of gardening – planning, planting, perspiring, picking, and putting to bed – over the course of the next few months. Ethan is a Master of Divinity student in the Distributive Learning program at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Bergman is also the associate dean in the College of Education and Professional Studies and professor of food science and nutrition at Central Washington University, Ellensburg. He was named CWU Distinguished University Professor in 2001-2002 and was named by the Washington State Dietetic Association as Outstanding Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2000. He is a past delegate and past President of the American Dietetic Association as well as speaker of the Academy’s House of Delegates. He has served on the Academy’s Educator’s Task Force on Education Reform in Dietetics Education and on the Evidence-Based Practice Committee. Bergman earned his doctorate from Washington State University.

Pointing Forward

I’ve always loved Ecclesiastes 3. Maybe that is because I am a big Simon and Garfunkel fan. Or, maybe I am a Simon and Garfunkel fan because I love Ecclesiastes 3. In any case, by quoting Ecclesiastes 3 in their cover of the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” Simon and Garfunkel point out that there is a time for everything. That includes planting and harvesting. Seeds are planted, and the fruits of those seeds are harvested. But there is a lot of time leading up to that planting; and there is a lot of time between planting and harvesting. And there is time after the harvest.

So let’s consider the 5 P’s of gardening:




Picking, and

Putting to bed

So what time is it now? It is time to plan your garden!

Independent seeds professional Ed Merrell has offered his seasonal tips for gardening on the ELCA World Hunger blog for Fall and Spring.  Building on Ed’s work, here are some more questions to help guide your gardening.

Why do I want to grow a garden?

It takes a lot of time. You hear people say, if you factored in the time it takes, it is much cheaper to buy produce in the store. But then you hear others say, it is so great to get your hands in the dirt and help make things grow. From a spiritual perspective, it is wonderful to participate in growing food that helps meet the needs of those around us.  It is always awe-inspiring for me to participate in the miraculous rhythm of plant and garden growth.

What is the growing season in my area?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a wonderful website that provides you with specific information for your growing season that is precise and detailed.

When should I start seeds inside or plant outside?

Check out what I discovered about planting dates for Ellensburg, Washington. If you don’t live in Ellensburg, not to worry. It specializes the information for your local climate.  Here’s the link: This site provides exact information about when I should plant different produce. For example, if I wanted to plant Swiss chard in Ellensburg, Washington (and who doesn’t want to plant Swiss Chard!), I could get it started inside in mid-April, plant it outside the first of May, and harvest it throughout the winter.

What grows well in my area/climate?

Every climate has limits related to what grows well. I live in a dry climate in central Washington state. I have apple, cherry, pear, and prune trees in my yard. The neighbors would laugh if I planted an orange tree. It gets too cold in the winter. See the site above for more detailed information.

How much space do I have?

When you consider early, indoor starts, you will need to determine how much indoor space you might want to dedicate to indoor planting, germination, and early growth.  Also, keep in mind how much space you have outdoors and how you can best use that space. You may want to think of crops that work well together, as well as what crops may be planted multiple times during the growing season.

What am I growing for my own use and what will I plan to donate to a local food bank or pantry?

Call your local food bank to determine what produce they distribute well to their customers before you plan and plant your garden. That way, you can set aside enough space for the well-distributed produce that you plan to donate. If your church has a food pantry, ask some of the participants in that ministry what fresh produce they would like to see on the shelves.

Linking Back

Now let’s link back to what we produced from last year. As Ecclesiastes 3 and Simon and Garfunkel remind us, there is a time to harvest. If we had a good harvest of potatoes and onions from last season, how might we use that in our meal preparations today? We could store our potatoes and onions in a cool dark closet throughout the winter.

If you are looking for a recipe, here is an idea from the publication, Cooking Light: Mashed Potato Soup!  It is healthy and nourishing, tastes great and is quick to make. It takes about 30 minutes to produce from beginning to end. You can also specialize it with toppings, such as green onions or grated cheese. Hold the bacon and substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and substitute pureed silken tofu for the yogurt for those who follow a vegan diet. See the full recipe below.

If you grew garlic and thyme in your garden, you could also use those in this recipe. We grow our herbs in pots on our patio. We also arrange them in a fashion that reminds us of another Simon and Garfunkel song, “Scarborough Fair” – “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!”

Until next time, remember,

There is a Time for Everything, and a Season for Every Activity Under Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Mashed Potato Soup Recipe


Cooking spray

3/4 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 thyme sprig

1 (25-ounce) package unsalted chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (24-ounce) package refrigerated mashed potatoes

1/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup sliced green onion tops

1.5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/3 cup)

3 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled


  1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic and thyme; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock; simmer 20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme sprig. Place half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining stock mixture.
  2. Return stock mixture to pan; add pepper and potatoes, stirring with a whisk until combined. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in yogurt and dill. Ladle into serving bowls; top with green onions, cheese, and crumbled bacon.


Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup soup, about 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons bacon, and about 2 1/2 teaspoons green onions)

Total time: 30 Minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Calories 200

Fat 9.7 g

Saturated fat 5.8 g

Monounsaturated fat 1.4 g

Polyunsaturated fat 0.3 g

Protein 10 g

Carbohydrate 19 g

Fiber 2 g

Cholesterol 31 mg

Iron 1 mg

Sodium 588 mg

Calcium 117 mg






Top Ten Tips for Your Garden in the Spring

ELCA World Hunger is excited to welcome back Ed Merrell as a guest blogger. Ed previously wrote a series of Fall tips for your garden for the ELCA World Hunger blog.

Ed is an Independent Seeds Professional. He engages with seed-centric charity organizations and other agricultural groups. In this capacity, he applies his extensive seed industry skills and experience to provide relevant information and solutions.

His 35+ year career in the vegetable and flower seed industry included plant breeding to develop new and improved varieties, domestic and international seed production, quality assurance and seed testing, seed processing plant operation, and quality information systems. Ed is a member of Advent Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Morgan Hill, Calif. This post also appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Seeds for the Parish.

After a long winter of colder temperatures, gray skies, and hopefully sufficient rain and snow to replenish the earth, many of us are looking forward to longer days and our next gardening season! Here are some tips for a bountiful, healthy community garden:

  1. Start planning early.

When snow still covers the ground and spring seems so far away, it’s great time to plan your first or next community garden! Aim to be ready before your first sowing date. Visit to download ELCA World Hunger’s “Community Gardens How-To Guide,” filled with tips from community gardeners across the ELCA. Click on the “Hunger Ed” tab to download or order the guide.

  1. Has your community garden vision changed?

Were you able to accomplish what was planned? By matching your communities’ needs with your resources, the gardeners and the community will be energized. Not too small a garden that may not keep everyone engaged, not too large a garden that may be frustrating, but just right!

  1. Get the word out!

Notify all your gardeners that the planting season is coming, and they can help prepare. Form a team to review last year’s garden, decide what to continue and what to change.  Last season’s planting map will help you rotate crops effectively. Maybe you want to build or repair raised beds, trellises, or compost bins. Another team can assess the garden’s fertility and add soil amendments and fertilizer as needed.

  1. Extend invitations

Recruit new gardeners and/or new partners for the coming season. More hands make lighter work, expand what the garden can produce, and grow enduring friendships.

  1. What new vegetables are you longing to try?

Seed companies introduce new varieties every year. Explore online, see what’s new or request a catalog to enjoy the photos and descriptions. Did you know that there are seed exchange libraries and seed swaps? A seed library is a place where community members can get seeds for free or for a nominal fee and is run for the public benefit. Seed swaps are events where gardeners meet to exchange seeds. Maybe there’s one in your area, and you can find just the variety you want.

  1. What to plant really early?

Use hot caps, row covers, or mulch to expand your planting window. These products hold heat from the sun and enable germination and growth to occur even when it is otherwise too cold to plant outside.

  1. Ask an expert

Remember to tap other resources. Local cooperative extension services and Master Gardeners can provide advice on soil fertility, plant varieties adapted to your area and pest control.  Garden supply stores may donate tools or supplies, if you ask them.

  1. Expand your planting ideas

What about flowers? They bring color to a garden and, when picked, they brighten homes and places of worship.

  1. Is your garden space committed for the long haul?

If your community garden space will be available for years to come, consider planting fruit trees and berry bushes. They do require space to grow, maintenance such as pruning, and it may be a few years until they bear fruit. However, once established, they will produce for many seasons.

  1. Is there a quiet place in your garden?

A comfortable bench set in a quiet spot in the garden can be a perfect place for meditation and prayer. Gardeners may rest from their labors and visit with others. Perhaps install a trellis with climbing plants for some shade.

For more information, get a copy of ELCA World Hunger’s Community Gardens How-To Guide.

Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to plant!