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It’s Not Too Late to Start Your Container Garden

Gardening can be a wonderful pastime: It provides opportunities to go outdoors, to connect with nature, to work with our hands, and to enjoy the productivity of raising and caring for plants. Edible gardens go one step further, yielding fresh herbs and produce to enjoy from the early spring through late fall. 

We have heard from many people in our communities that they are starting gardens this year, and we think that’s great! While we’re always in favor of gardening, it feels especially relevant these days, as we are all more aware of food insecurity. Plus, many of us have more time on our hands to devote to a garden! 

We’ve begun to field numerous questions about container gardening from our supporters and neighbors  — if you are ready to get your hands dirty, but aren’t quite sure how to get started, you’ve come to the right place! 

Here at Chester County Food Bank we’ve been managing gardens and helping people start new plots through our Raised Bed Garden program for more than 10 years. Our Raised Bed Garden manager, Raina Ainslie, and garden educator Terry Scholl work with host sites for their initial garden set-up and educational support. With their help, our garden partners collectively grow more than 40,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for our partner food cupboards and agencies throughout Chester County!

Photo credit: Raw Pixel

Container gardening is nothing new to us, and we have some tips and resources to help you start or improve your at-home container garden this year:

A great place to start is with our container gardening best-practice guide, created with the input of our amazing gardening staff, folks from the Oregon Food Bank and the experts at PennState Extension. You can print out the handy PDF guide; it covers all of the basics you need, like choosing a container, deciding what to grow and what not to grow, how much to water and fertilize, plus a list of other resources for further reading.

Your next step is to identify the plants you want to grow, and how many containers you have space for. If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, consider a fire escape, windowsill, or a corner of your back patio. The best thing about container gardens is you don’t need a huge yard — any little patch of sunlight will do!

“Growing in containers is a great option if you have limited space,” Raina says. “Choose quick maturing crops like radish and lettuce, or dwarf varieties of tomatoes.”

Different plants require different planting methods, including how close together to plant the seeds or seedlings. Our team has put together a helpful series of video tutorials to help with this first step of the process. We have 18 tutorials explaining planting of common garden veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots and more!   

When it comes to containers you do not need anything fancy, Raina notes. Choose containers that are between 1 and 5 gallon capacity. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly, so when in doubt, size up. Whatever you use for a container will need drainage holes. Clean buckets, tins and even plastic storage containers can work if you drill or poke a few holes in the bottom for water to flow out. Sanitized kitty litter buckets are the preferred container of many budget-savvy home gardeners! Other items you might recycle, like milk jugs and large yogurt containers can be used to house smaller plants, like herbs. 

When using containers, Raina notes that it’s extra-important to water and fertilize your plants regularly. Because their root systems aren’t connected to the earth below, they rely on you to provide these essential components.

“Containers lose moisture and nutrients quickly. They’ll likely need to be watered every day in the heat of summer,” she says. “When it comes to fertilizers, liquid fish emulsion or liquid seaweed are good to use. Containers should be fertilized once a week after the plant is firmly established.”

Once your garden is planted and flourishing, consider planting to donate to Chester County Food Bank. Providing fresh produce to our neighbors in need is integral to our mission to fight food insecurity in our community, and every little bit helps. Peas, peppers and eggplants are great options to consider, as they travel well and stay fresh for a long time after harvest. You can also donate a bumper crop! If you end up growing way more zucchini, cucumbers, beans or anything else faster than you can eat it, consider bringing that to us, as well! For more information on, and best practices about, donating garden produce, see here.

We hope you feel excited and empowered to start your own container garden! Once you get in the groove, you’ll be amazed at the profound satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, even if it’s just a few containers of herbs, tomatoes and lettuce! Be sure to share your photos on Facebook and Instagram and tag your garden photos with #GetGrowingChesterCounty

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or to 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.

Emily Kovach

Featured photo & third photo: Chester County Food Bank

Join CCFB’s ‘Beyond Hunger 365’ Sustaining Giving Program

At Chester County Food Bank our mission is to end food insecurity among our neighbors in Chester County, Pennsylvania. As humans, eating is one of our most basic needs, and so in a way, providing people with consistent, reliable access to nutrient-rich food is about so much more than just sufficient calories. When we help our community access food, we’re helping them thrive in other ways, too: For children, that might mean being better able to concentrate on, and participate in, school work, or to sleep better at night; for adults, it might mean providing energy for exercise, child care or work. In serving our community with food, we help to sustain their lives and livelihoods. 

And now, we’re asking you to help be part of this effort — to help sustain the sustainers. Will you be a part of our new “Beyond Hunger 365 monthly giving community? We appreciate every single monetary donation and every item of food that comes to us from fundraisers and one-time donations. But, to carry on our mission to the best of our ability, we’re looking for a group of supporters who are passionate about changing the face of hunger in our county to pledge a consistent amount each month. 

We call the program “Beyond Hunger 365” because this truly sums up the scope of food insecurity and the magnitude of the problem we’re fighting to solve. Families who are struggling to consistently put enough food on their tables aren’t just struggling during the holidays. It’s an issue that’s relevant every day of every month of the year. In fact, 1 in 4 households and more than 75,000 of our neighbors face food insecurity year-round, and together, we can make a big impact in our neighborhoods to ensure access to real, healthy food.

To help make a real change, a monthly gift doesn’t need to be monumental. Actually, just like putting money aside in a college fund, into retirement, or toward another savings goal, a small amount that is set aside each month can really add up! This “set it and forget it” principle is not only effective for donors, but it is also great for the organization (that’s us, CCFB). Through this program, we can look at the fiscal year ahead and have an accurate sense of the funds that will be consistently available for our work.

For example, a monthly gift of just $10 is enough to provide fresh produce to a family of two through our fruit and veggie prescription program, Fresh2You FVRx. That’s the equivalent of one lunch a month that you pack instead of grabbing takeout. A monthly gift of $30 will help provide a month’s worth of food to two seniors, some of the most vulnerable people in our community, through our Senior Food Box program. Even just $5, the price of a fancy morning latte, can help to make an enormous difference in the life of someone in need. 

Kristin Dormuth is a CCFB supporter who believes that, as a society, “we have the responsibility to take care of each other, and that everyone deserves to have good, nutritious food.” She became a sustained giver in 2012, after finishing graduate school and entering the workforce. Since then, as circumstances allow, she’s increased her monthly donation from time to time. She says that being a sustained supporter is advantageous for a few reasons. 

“For one, sustaining supporters allow CCFB to have a steady stream of income year-round,” she notes. “For another, it allows me to spread my giving throughout the year. It’s easier for me to budget and give a bit of money monthly, rather than one larger donation at year-end.”

Join us today, and remember: A little goes a long way! Together we can make an amazing impact in Chester County.

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or to request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community in Chester County, PA.

 

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.

Emily Kovach

 

Celebrate Your Birthday with Chester County Food Bank

There are plenty of social media trends that come into our feeds but don’t strike much interest. But one emerging trend that we can get behind is people asking for donations to charitable causes via social media in lieu of birthday (anniversary, housewarming) presents. It’s such a creative, personal way for people to engage with their communities, both near and far, and to fundraise for an issue or organization that’s meaningful to them.

In the past year or two, we’ve noticed lots of our amazing supporters using Facebook and other platforms to gather birthday/celebration donations for Chester County Food Bank (CCFB), and for that we cannot thank you enough! It warms our hearts to see the selflessness and generosity that are behind these online fundraisers.

Jason Bauer with his mom and sister. Photo courtesy of Lori Bauer.

Many adults have given up expecting a huge party and heaps of presents for their birthdays, but it’s something extra-special when kids use their birthdays as a way to encourage friends and family to donate time or money to good causes. We have two stories of kids who recently turned their birthdays into occasions to give back to their communities through the CCFB.

In August 2019, the only thing Jason Bauer wanted for his 12th birthday was to volunteer with his mother and sister at one of our raised bed gardens in Springton. Twelve is the minimum age for volunteers at the CCFB, and Jason wanted to do it at the first possible opportunity. He got his wish, and he and his family spent a beautiful afternoon helping to harvest produce to feed our neighbors in need. 

“It was something he had been really excited about for a while,” said Jason’s mom, Lori Bauer. “Jason, his sister, and I all loved it and found it very rewarding and humbling. The people who worked and volunteered there were all so kind and welcoming and helped make it a very wonderful experience!”

Lori says that Jason’s interest in the Chester County Food Bank started last year when one of his teachers spoke to the class about saving the planet. This school lesson inspired him to start fundraising for CCFB.

“He did this through selling handmade toys and lemonade, as well as fundraising (with my help) via email and social media,” said Lori. “I’ve never seen his face light up more than when he saw the donation amount increase!”

So far, Jason’s efforts, including a Go Fund Me Campaign, have raised nearly $400 that he plans to donate to the Chester County Food Bank. In his Go Fund Me statement, Jason says that he’s done some research and “found out that if we donate money instead of canned foods, our money not only can buy more food, it can also buy healthier options, like fruits and vegetables.” This is true! Of course, food drives are hugely important to what CCFB does, but with donated funds, we’re able to use our buying power to procure huge quantities of fresh produce from produce auctions, which helps us to fulfill our commitment to nutrition

Another inspiring story came to us last July when another local child, Dylan Houck, used his birthday as the organizing force behind a food drive — and the community really stepped up to get involved and support his efforts. Dylan’s goal was to raise more than 3,000 pounds of food, which he handily achieved: 3,124 pounds of food ended up going to the CCFB and an additional 160 pounds of food to a local family. This incredible haul consisted of 452 cans of chicken and tuna, 700 boxes of mac and cheese, 221 jars of peanut butter, 155 boxes of cereal and literally tons more! It’s truly inspiring to see what is possible when a group of people band together to make a difference in their town or region!

If these kids can go without new books, toys and clothes for one birthday, anyone can! Consider using your next birthday, anniversary or other celebration as a way to mobilize your social circles into some positive action. (We’ve created a fun Facebook birthday fundraiser cover to get you started. ) 

 

Want to learn more? Watch our our new mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting 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.

Emily Kovach

Feature photo: Pexels