Get Your Hands Dirty for a Great Cause: Start a Raised Bed Garden

Posted on February 5, 2019 by

Did you know that the Chester County Food Bank is well-versed in the education and execution of raised-bed gardens? Imagine being able to participate in a thriving program that provides an excuse for some built-in therapy, courtesy of Mother Nature while growing fresh produce for food insecure neighbors within your community.

Raina Ainslie, raised bed garden program manager, says, “Gardens are powerful places for growing community, sharing knowledge and, of course, sharing food. The partner gardens play a crucial role in getting fresh produce out into their communities.” In 2016, the Food Bank supported 110 partner gardens, which yielded over 40,000 pounds of food.

What exactly is a raised-bed garden?

Wood-framed raised-garden beds, also called garden boxes, are great for growing small plots of vegetables and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from the garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails.

Where are the Food Bank’s raised-bed gardens?

With roots stemming from the Gleaning Program in 1997, the raised bed garden program was adopted by the Food Bank in 2009 with six partner garden sites, and has now grown to over 125 sites being hosted at locations such as schools, corporations, senior centers and churches. Our raised bed garden manager, Raina Ainslie, works with host sites for their initial garden set up and educational support. In January, we hosted our first workshop of the year, “Planning the Three Season Garden,” where 25 partner gardens gathered to learn about scheduling crops for spring, summer and fall harvests.


I want to help. Where can I find out more about starting my own garden?

We encourage home gardeners to grow a row and donate produce to your local food cupboard.  At the beginning of each growing season, we have a limited number of raised bed garden kits available for purchase. Email Raina Ainslie for information about this year’s availability.

If you don’t have a home garden, we invite you to join us for volunteer opportunities at some of our host sites.  You can also volunteer as a facilitator with our Seed to Supper program.


When is a good time to begin my garden?

With gardening, any time is a great time to begin. Winter and early spring are perfect for the planning process. You must decide where to plant, what grows best early on, which seeds to select. Also, someone will have to construct the raised bed frames.

For our agriculture and garden programs, our staff began greenhouse seeding at Technical College High School (TCHS) Pennock’s Bridge Campus in late February. The first round of seeding will include spring crops: kale, broccoli, spinach and lettuce. Summer crop seeding follows a few weeks later and includes eggplant, tomato, pepper and basil.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food. 

Ed Williams

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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