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Low-Maintenance Community Vegetable Garden

12 years ago

I'm the pastor of a church on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have a food pantry serving low-income folks in our community, especially those struggling with poverty following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

We also continue to host volunteers short-term mission teams from across the country in the ongoing relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. We have been doing a lot of clean-up and rebuilding over the last five years. For example, this March, just about 5 weeks from today, we will have about 400 high school and college students from Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Kansas, and Mississippi here for their spring break volunteering in a host of projects around our community. I'm considering focusing some of the attention on establishing a vegetable garden, here on the church property, that will then, in turn, serve our food pantry ministry with fresh produce.

I'm looking for ideas. Any suggestions on type of crops, varieties, plantings, best practices, etc would be welcome. Whatever we do, the long term sustainability of this project will depend on the low maintenance needs of the garden. While we will have plenty of help during the month of March to get things started, help will be sporadic, at best, throughout the growing season.

One idea I have involves what Native Americans called the "three sisters" - corn, beans, and squash. If I understand it correctly, the corn and beans complement each other with the corn stalks providing verticality for the climbing beans and the beans replace nitrogen into the soil for the corn. The squash then protects the ground and holds back the onslaught of weeds. I've never tried it before, but the idea sounds low maintenance to me. If I start germinating seeds in dixie cups this week, I would think the young plants would be ready for the ground by the time the spring break volunteer teams get here.

Any other ideas and discussion is welcome. Thank you so much.

Pastor Don

Lakeshore Baptist Church

Rebuild Lakeshore

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