Garden for others

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(Host) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi has some ideas about new ways to share the bounty of the garden with others.

(Nardozzi) The more years I spend gardening, the more I realize it’s not just about beautiful flowers, luscious vegetables, fragrant herbs, and picturesque trees. Don’t get me wrong, I still love and appreciate all these aspects of gardening, but what I also see is that gardens affect the people who grow and view them. The power of gardening is not just about appreciating nature and enjoying some quiet reflective time, but about how it effects our family, friends, and community.

In this age of nationalistic pride and conflicting world views, what better way to reach out to others than through a garden. Working in the gardening industry for 15 years, I’ve interviewed many gardeners around the country for magazine articles and books. What always has struck me is that gardening cuts across all socio-economic, political, and religious lines. When the
conversation would strain talking about our differences in personal beliefs, I always could steer it back to gardening and reach some common ground.

This summer I’d encourage every Vermont gardener to take some time and energy to garden for someone else in their neighborhood or community. If you can’t find a creative way to do it yourself, I’ve got a few suggestions.

Plant a row for the hungry is a national program sponsored by the Garden Writers Association. They ask all gardeners to plant one extra row of vegetables in their garden. The food is donated to local food shelves, churches, and organizations serving the poor and homeless. Call these community organizations first to get an idea of the type of vegetables they need and the correct way to deliver it.

The Master Gardeners of Vermont is a UVM Extension Service program where in exchange for classroom time learning about gardening from professionals, gardeners are asked to do volunteer time in the community giving back some of the knowledge they’ve gained.

The Healthy City Program in Burlington uses gardening to help at-risk teenagers learn about nature, gain practical work and life skills, learn about working with others, and how to run a business. They work from March until October growing a market garden and selling the produce in the Burlington area. Healthy City is always looking for volunteers to help work with their kids.

The Vermont Community Botanical Garden in South Burlington is Vermont’s first botanical garden. Volunteers here can help install new gardens, maintain old ones or work with the staff on summer educational programs for young children.

The list goes on and on. The point is anyone who has volunteered for these types of activities knows by giving a little of your time and knowledge, often you get back so much more. It’s just like a garden. Who would ever think that a half-inch diameter pumpkin seed planted in May could grow into a plant that yields a 1000-pound monster by September. I’d like to ask you to spend some time this summer cultivating a garden for others and watching your personal harvest grow.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Hinesburg.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.

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