There will be gardening giveaways galore at the launch of this year’s Plant A Row – Grow a Row program.
The annual program encourages folks to plant an extra row of food – or more – in their gardens or planters to donate to folks in need of fresh produce. Starting on June 12, Plant a Row-Grow a Row collection of fresh (homegrown or store bought) and non-perishable food donations will take place every Sunday from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. at St. Thomas More Collegiate.
But first, organizers are kicking off this year’s program with a fun-filled giveaway event on May 1.
“It’s really about come in and join in on the fun,” said Claude LeDoux, who coordinates the local program. “You will be amazed at what you are going to get. The gifts are very substantial.”
Prior to COVID-19, the program held a spring garden party featuring speakers and giveaways to kick off the season. Like last year, this year’s May 1 event will be a drive-thru where people can pick up some gardening goodies (first come, first served) and make donations to two charities.
“We are looking for donations – financial and food goods. That will be for Union Gospel Mission and Ryan’s Rainbow, which is for families. They do about 160 to 180 packages of food for families. They have that many families that they support,” LeDoux said. “All the food goes to those different locations.”
Plant a Row – Grow a Row volunteers will be giving out vegetable transplants and seeds, pre-planted, decorative containers with vegetable plants, perennial plants, potting soil, and lots of items to start your garden off right! Garden gifts have been donated by master gardener Brian Minter, the Compost Council of Canada, Gardenworks, local horticultural suppliers, volunteers and LeDoux.
“We have way more than we had last year,” he said. “Always, lots of items and gifts for children – specifically to get them involved in growing food, vegetables for themselves and the community, for them to learn and be part of our community.”
The Compost Council of Canada is kicking off its across-Canada Compost Week events at the Plant a Row – Grow a Row event. It will be donating seeds and bagged compost for the event.
“Because of how strong we have been and showing the strength of our community in giving, they are always amazed at what we do, how much we donate, how much food we give, and they are sending a representative from the Compost Council to start off their across Canada Compost Week. They are doing New Westminster and then they will go to Calgary, etc.”'
Growing interest in gardening
LeDoux said interest in gardening has surged since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s been overwhelming. The entire industry is reeling with the interest and the want to have this available to them – all the plants or seeds or containers,” he said. “It has advanced very quickly, where before people were interested but now they really have taken a much stronger interest, which is great for us.”
LeDoux, who is the City of New Westminster’s former horticultural manager and the founder of the local Plant a Row- Grow a Row program, encourages people to grow vegetables and fruits – and to try growing things they may not have grown before.
“There has been a huge uptake,” he said. “The big interest is in diversity in all sorts of different types of vegetables. That’s why I have lots of different types of seed.”
The 2022 Plant a Row Grow a Row event is on Sunday, May 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the St. Thomas More Collegiate school parking lot, 7450 12th Ave. (just across the border in Burnaby off of Kingsway). People are asked to wear masks and stay in their cars; they’ll drive into the school parking lot and be directed by volunteers on where to go.
“They will make a loop through the parking lot, and someone will be giving them items to put directly in their car,” LeDoux said. “We will give them the items and they will put them directly into their car so they don’t have to get out.”
Volunteers will also gratefully accept cash donations, and donations of non-perishable food items for Plant a Row-Grow a Row, Ryan’s Rainbow Emergency Food Outreach in Burnaby, and Union Gospel Mission in New Westminster.
The weekly Plant a Row – Grow a Row collection of fresh and non-perishable food donations runs every Sunday from June 12 to Oct. 2, 8:30 to 9:15 a.m., at St. Thomas More Collegiate.