Plant a row, spread the veggies

As a gardener, I can't wait to harvest the first ripe tomato each year. When living in a warm climate, I timed my planting so the first tomatoes would ripen by July Fourth.

That initial tomato each year was certainly cause for celebration. But by the middle of August, I was picking more than I could use. So I'd look around for gardenless people to give them to.

Sometimes, I'd take my extra produce to a retirement home, where it was warmly welcomed.

My experience isn't unusual. Those who enjoy growing vegetables usually have too many and are happy to share their bounty.

That has been proved by a volunteer-run organization called Plant a Row for the Hungry. It was founded by a group of which I'm a member - the Garden Writers Association of America - to encourage gardeners to plant extra veggies and give them to the less fortunate. In the past six years, folks from Alaska to Florida and across Canada have contributed 2,491,891 pounds of home-grown produce to food banks.

Since 1,261,306 pounds of that amount were donated in 2000, it's obvious this effort is growing faster than zucchini.

Informal groups in 46 states and several Canadian provinces have joined the effort, but the key is individual gardeners, most of whom don't see themselves as do-gooders. One man told me he was the beneficiary of the arrangement: "If the food bank didn't take my squash, I'd have to put it on my neighbor's porch, ring the doorbell, and run," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

To find a facility in your area that welcomes home-grown produce, or to learn more about Plant a Row, call 877-492-2727.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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