Cameron Park Life

Grow for it! How your extra garden harvest can make a difference

By From page B4 | May 10, 2017

Robin Stanley
UCCE Master Gardener of El Dorado County

If you are like many gardeners in El Dorado County, the last few years of drought have put a crimp in your veggie gardening.  Worries about water caused many gardeners to sharply reduce the size of their gardens and, as a result, the size of their harvest.

Now, with more water than we have had in years, it’s no surprise that many local gardeners are hoping for bumper crops in their gardens this year.

Assuming you can’t wait to get out there and plant, Master Gardeners hope you will become familiar with Plant a Row for the Hungry, a project that Master Gardeners sponsor on the West Slope.

Plant a Row for the Hungry is an international effort of the Garden Writers of America that encourages gardeners to donate extra produce to community hunger projects. For more than 10 years, Master Gardeners have provided a link on our website to our local Plant a Row for the Hungry website (par-edc.org) which is updated yearly by a team of Master Gardeners. The website is our way of making it easy for local gardeners to find the most convenient place to donate their extra produce. As the name implies, the goal is to deliberately plant more than you can use. But whether you plant or not, your donations of extra produce are always welcome.

Our website lists a variety of food projects throughout the West Slope, including the El Dorado Food Bank, which is the umbrella agency serving most of the local efforts.  Although we list the best drop-off times for each food closet or program, contact info is also listed because we do encourage folks to check with the organizers ahead of time to be sure those hours are still correct.

True confession: I once dropped off some apples outside of SHARE about 15 minutes before it opened. Little did I know that there was a bear in a tree outside SHARE that was watching me and the apples had been ransacked by the time the volunteers got there. Did I learn my lesson to only go during open hours?  I sure did!

You might have questions about what and how to donate. Recently the Master Gardener Facebook page highlighted a Michigan State Extension article that provides helpful information:

  • It is important to check with the food bank or pantry before delivering any produce — ask if they need the type of produce you have to donate.
  • Always handle the fresh fruits and vegetables safely to minimize the risk of food-borne illness. For example, don’t harvest when you are sick and always wash your hands before harvesting.
  • Offer only high-quality, freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
  • Do not donate fruits and vegetables that are overripe, have mold, bruising, spoilage or insect damage.
  • If you use pesticides in your garden, always read and follow the label instructions.
  • Harvest produce early in the morning.
  • Wipe as much mud and dirt as possible off the produce but do not rinse the produce. Rinsing the produce takes off some of the natural protective coating and will cause the produce to spoil sooner.
  • Do not mix different kinds of produce. For example, don’t put cucumbers in the same, clean, food-grade container as green beans. For example, you might have bags of four different kinds of veggies that you put in one large box.

Here is the link to the entire article: msue.anr.msu.edu/news/eight_tips_for_donating_fresh_produce_to_food_pantries.

So what if you, or someone you know would like to help, but don’t have a place to garden?  The Wakamatsu Farm in Gold Hill north of Placerville, which is managed by the American River Conservancy, has a Giving Garden.  All the produce grown is given to various food programs throughout our community. Volunteers are welcome to help in the garden. Contact Marianne at (530) 621-1224 to sign up for one of their work days that are scheduled several times each month.

I always tell people, “If you’re having a bad day, just show up at a food closet with a box of fresh tomatoes. You’ll leave with a smile on your face that will last the whole day.” For more information, check out our local PAR website where there is a flier you can print out as well as a map of the locations.

UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon or by calling (530) 621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome at our office, located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville. For more information about our public education classes and activities go to our UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County website at mgeldorado.ucanr.edu. Sign up to receive our online notices and e-newsletter at ucanr.edu/master gardener e-news. You can also find us on Facebook.

Master Gardeners are pleased to present classes throughout the year.  The class on Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to noon will be on deer resistant gardening at the Government Center Hearing Room, Building C, 2850 Fairlane Court, Placerville. Master Gardeners Debbie Hillel and Gail Fulbeck will discuss methods of keeping deer from ruining gardens. They will share insight into deer behavior, resistant plants, repellents and fencing options.

The class on Wednesday, May 10, from 9 a.m. to noon is titled Turning Dirt into Gold and Master Gardener Kit Veerkamp will talk about soil. Nurturing soil is one of the best things we can do as gardeners. Plants thrive when soil is teeming with life. Learn why this really matters and how we can modify soil to improve plant health and reduce disease and pests. Join us at the Cameron Park Community Center, 2502 Country Club Drive in Cameron Park.

Krysten Kellum

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