Green with Reene

by Irene Ecklund

HOPE (Helping Omaha’s People Eat) is a Vegetable garden maintained by the Master Gardeners of Douglas and Sarpy counties. I am Crew Leader of a group of gardeners who work at HOPE three days a week. All the produce goes to feed the hungry.

HOPE garden is blessed and so are the workers. Our garden is on a quarter-acre of church property and the church provides free water. We try to stay Organic. There is NO budget for this garden. Each year I have asked for and received all we need. It is awesome. We are so blessed by giving our time and efforts for those less fortunate. I believe God has asked us to do this. I encourage everyone to grow an extra row of tomatoes, cucumbers, or other extra plants for your local food bank or shelters. We can help folks by growing a little extra in our gardens. Our food bank picks up our produce on site as we harvest and distributes it within 24 hours. They are amazed at how much we provide them each pickup.

Here’s a way to begin in your garden. As soon as the frost has passed, scatter anise, dill, and fennel seeds throughout your vegetable garden. These airy, beautiful herbs are wonderful in the kitchen and all three are very attractive to beneficial insects such as small parasitic wasps and predatory lacewings. Well fed, these beneficial bugs stay and help fight garden pests. In The Truth About Organic Gardening Jeff Gillman, Assistant Professor of Horticulture at the University of Minnesota, says indiscriminate spraying and broad-spectrum pesticides are out when working to build up the population of beneficial insects. Creating a garden that will attract beneficial insects is not difficult; the herbs are inexpensive and easy to grow. You may never need to plant these herbs again.

Gardening is very healthful mentally and physically and brings you close to the earth. Grow vegetables even if you must grow them in pots. Your rewards will be plentiful. Eating more vegetables is a must and fresh grown herbs are loaded with beneficial nutrition. They are very easy to grow and do well in pots. Freeze them in zip lock bags or dry them and put them in airtight containers for the winter months. I do both; there is such a difference when you grow your own.

Happy Gardening and get involved in helping others eat.