ROCHESTER – Another kitchen garden sponsored by Garden-Raised Bounty, or GRuB, sprouted in the backyard of Donnia Douglass last week.
It is one of 100 gardens the nonprofit group will build this spring in South Sound to help low-income and no-income families grow and enjoy fresh vegetables from their own backyards.
Douglass, a single mother of four children ages 4 through 12, signed up for a garden last year after learning about the program at the Rochester Food Bank.
“I’ve been on the waiting list for a year,” she said as a volunteer crew helped Douglass nail together lumber for three, 32 square-foot raised garden beds, prepared a pea trellis and filled the boxes with garden soil. “My kids were so excited, they wanted to stay home from school today to help.”
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The Douglass family also received enough seed packages to more than fill the garden space with squash, beans, beets, spinach, lettuce, carrots and other vegetables, along with a step-by-step guide to growing a small garden.
And in a few weeks, as the weather warms, kitchen garden owners will receive tomato plants and other vegetable starts grown at the GRuB farm on Olympia’s west side, said Hayleigh Gabrielson, an intern from The Evergreen State College who is working on GRuB’s Kitchen Garden Project.
“Whatever is donated, we’ll plant,” Douglass said.
During these tough economic times, the demand for backyard gardens supplied by GRuB is growing, Gabrielson said.
“We already have 80 families on the waiting list for next year,” she said.
Since 1993, GRuB has built some 2,000 backyard gardens in Thurston and Mason counties.
An efficient crew of community volunteers, friends and neighbors helped Douglass build and prepare her backyard garden.
“I’m the go-to guy for four Rochester families with GRuB gardens this year,” said Paul Munson, a retired Rochester school teacher, Thurston County Master Gardener and owner of a small tractor with a front-end loader that came in handy for moving soil.
Also pounding nails and shoveling and raking dirt were Olympia volunteers Emily Neumann and Mike Ruescher.
“GRuB helped build a garden in my yard last year,” Ruescher said. “I’m glad to be able to help other families too.”
“I live in a rental house with a small yard where gardening isn’t allowed,” Neumann said. “This is a chance for me to be outside and connect with gardening.”
About 50 percent of the backyard gardens are built each year by at-risk students enrolled in GRuB’s Cultivating Youth Program. The teens learn about teamwork, community service, good nutrition and horticulture both through the kitchen garden projects and at the GRuB farm.
Also helping are local businesses such as Olympia Supply, Lumbermens/Pro-Build and Great Western Supply, which donate or sell at sharp discount the lumber and soil that make up the kitchen garden kits.
“We try to build two gardens every day in March, April and May,” Gabrielson said.
The benefits of GRuB kitchen gardens tend to ripple through the neighborhood, according to past surveys of garden participants. Nearly 90 percent of the garden clients reported giving away food to neighbors and friends.
For more information on GRuB programs, go to www.goodgrub.org.
John Dodge covers the environment and energy for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.