As the season has officially become spring, things are changing around Growing Hope Garden. We already have lettuce, radishes, and carrots coming up in our community beds and we have mowed the grass once. On Saturday we planted our potatoes.
If you have never planted seed potatoes before, here is a quick run-down of the process. First, you need to purchase seed potatoes. You can buy these at just about any garden center. You can find them cheapest at a farm store or an ag supply store. We purchased 60lbs this year. I put around 12lbs of them in my own garden at home and then had closer to 48lbs to put in Growing Hope Garden.
I bought three different varieties of potatoes this year: Red Worland, Yukon Gold, and Kennabec White. Usually we grow Red Pontiac, but this year the feed store switched to the Worland variety because they are supposed to be able to store longer. They all looked good a month ago when I purchased them and over the past month, they have “woken up” or the eyes have started to grow on the potatoes. This is normal and you want that growth to be started before you plant them.
You will need to take time to prepare your soil. The soil needs to be loose and free of weeds and rocks. An occasional rock is fine, but you really want to be as rock free as possible. Soil preparation is very important. Good, rich soil will allow the plant to grow well and produce food for you.
The day before you plan to plant your potatoes, you will need to cut them into sections. You will need a sharp knife and a cutting board that you don’t mind getting dirty. If your potatoes have started sprouting, then it will be easy to cut the seed potato into sections by the sprouts. Your potato will have “eyes” in it. Those are the little dimple looking indentations in the potatoes. You will want to cut the potato into pieces where you have at least three “eyes” per piece.
On the day you plan to plant them, you will need to hoe rows about 18-24 inches apart. The rows don’t have to be too deep, around 4-6 inches deep. You will be covering the potato plants with soil as they grow (hilling), and that will supply the plant with soft soil to set on potatoes as they grow.
With all of the potatoes I bought this year, we were able to plant fifteen, 40ft rows of potatoes. Last year, we put in around 30lbs of seed potatoes and we harvested over 500lbs of potatoes at the end of June. We are praying that God will make these potatoes grow well so that we can feed all of the volunteers who helped in the garden, then have more to bless our church congregation, and finally to bless our community.
This year is not like a normal growing season. We know that with the outbreak of COVID-19, that things are not going to be anything like normal. That being said, we have decided at Growing Hope Garden that we are going to expand our community growing. Over the fall and early winter, we added three new raised beds that will be exclusively for community members. Anyone can harvest from these beds. We put in the early crops of lettuce, radishes, and carrots to be harvested and given away. Then once early crops are done, the plan was to put in cherry tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in the community beds.
Since the viral outbreak and quarantine, we have prayed about it and decided we wanted to do more. None of us have lived through anything like this before and we don’t know what that will mean for our church members and for our community. However, it was placed on my heart to do something tangible to help people: something that will show the love of Christ. With that in mind, we have expanded what has typically been our potato patch. With the help of a few volunteers on Saturday, we were able to nearly double the size of the patch (now 40’x50’).
It is a good thing that we expanded it because we needed extra space for all of the potatoes that we put in this year. We also planted two and a half, 40ft rows of onions. Once the frost danger is past, we will have room to put in 40 tomato plants, 20 pepper plants, and then green beans. We have more room in the garden to put in another large in-ground bed if we can get the compost delivered (we have volunteer who brings it to the site). If we get that soil, we will add in more green beans, squash, and maybe even some corn.
So, what are we planning to do with all of this produce? Well, the thought right now is to grow what we can. Once the produce starts to come in, we will give away to garden volunteers first. Then we will reach out to church and community members who are financially struggling. We don’t know how much produce we will have and how great the need will be in the community. Rest assured; the produce will not go to waste. I know how to make tomato sauce and how to can green beans. We hope to get donations of quart jars so we can preserve as much produce as we can. Preserved produce will be used by the church for Wednesday night meals, funeral meals, and church fellowship meals.
I don’t know what the next few months will look like in the United States. What I do know is that God has given me the giftedness to teach and to care for growing things. I have the knowledge to grow food that in a few months people may be desperately needing. While we are praying for repentance and revival in our nation, I will be out working the soil and praying in the sunshine. I know that God is an expert gardener and He is the one who makes things grow. We are praying over our little piece of land that God will make it excessively fruitful this year: that we have so much produce that it will be evident that God was a part of this process.
My heart is that we can connect individually with our community neighbors and build relationships. That those relationships bring the peace that only Christ can provide. I want my hands to be covered in soil joyfully declaring the goodness of God and saying what James says in James 1:16-18 (NLT emphasis mine),
“So do not be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by His true word. And we, out of all creation became his prized possession.”
The garden and the crops that grow are something good and perfect. They come from God. Everything good comes from God! In the midst of a global pandemic where it seems that every day things are changing, God NEVER changes. We can trust him to be true to his word time and time again. Take hope in this moment that you weren’t a second thought to God. He chose to give birth to us, by His word. Please hear this deep down in your soul until it shakes you to the core: We (you and me), out of all creation, are his prized possession.
As our family and volunteers continue to work the soil and grow food, we hold on to this hope. We are excitedly looking forward and working, knowing that we will get to feed the bodies and souls of our community.