Ypsilanti nonprofit Growing Hope has expanded its home gardening program to provide accessible gardening equipment and materials for homebound residents.
Liz Warren, Growing Hope engagement manager, says the program is built on the nonprofit's existing home vegetable garden program, which targets low-income families with children. The new program expands to 20 more households with a focus on homebound seniors and people living with disability.
Home gardening has become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Growing Hope has ramped up its seedling production and other gardening programs in response.
"At the beginning of this program, we thought for sure we'd have to do more education about why you should grow your own food, but nobody needed more education about that," Warren says.
The program provides seeds, seedlings, pots or garden beds, and mentorship. Growing Hope is providing a variety of accessible gardening options, ranging from customizable beds with leg clearance for those in wheelchairs to taller beds for those who might be using a walker or who have trouble bending over.
Another option is container gardening. Some of the containers have wheels to help maximize sun exposure for plants in a yard that may receive sun for only part of the day, Warren says.
Warren says Growing Hope is also recruiting more gardening mentors, looking for local residents with significant gardening experience who can be paired with the new batch of home gardeners.
"They check in about one time a week to make sure everything is going okay and people with less familiarity with gardening still feel confident with their skills," Warren says.
She says clients request the type of foods they want to grow, and then Growing Hope provides the seeds or seedlings. Right now, only cold crops like lettuce, spinach, peas, and beans are being grown, but a second delivery later in the summer will provide tomatoes, peppers, and other crops that require warm, sunny weather. Growing Hope will also try to start seedlings by request if a client wants a plant the nonprofit isn't currently growing.
"It seems like everybody has an interest in gardening and is looking for tips and tricks, wanting to get a head start, and wanting to feel some control in the midst of everything feeling so out of control," Warren says. "In gardening, people are finding solace and familiarity even if they've never done it before."
More information, including an application to be a home gardening mentor, is available here.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Growing Hope.