BY: Carol Dorsey, Mobile County Master Gardener www.MobileCountyMasterGardeners.org
The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service (ACES) began the Grow More, Give More (GMGM) initiative in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic affected our population, our activities, and our economy. Our nation faced circumstances not unlike the heavy tolls of World Wars I and II at home. It is the vision of ACES and its volunteer branch, Mobile County Master Gardeners, through GMGM to encourage personal and community engagement and sharing akin to the Liberty Gardens of WWI and the Victory Gardens of WWII.
Gardens have long been a source of not only food, but also places of healing and outlets for focused activities that help us cope with fear and uncertainty. The national campaigns for Liberty and Victory Gardens were publicized by posters, and teaching materials were available for learning about gardening and food preservation. The theme was “put your idle land to work.” Citizens did put their hands and lands to the task so that there were millions of Liberty and Victory Gardens. The Grow More, Give More initiative is our call to arms, and hands, to learn new skills, know where our food comes from, and share with others.
You may ask where you can begin. For starters, check out the ACES Grow More, Give More webpage: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/products-programs-lawn-garden/grow-more-give-more/. Links will lead you to abundant resources in print and video for general and specific gardening information. The subjects include container gardening, raised beds, and seasonal planting guides for fruits and vegetables. The material is Alabama-centric and can be searched for our particular Gulf Coast growing conditions. If you do not have “idle land,” you may look for gardening activities at any of the community gardens across the area where you can learn and grow alongside experienced gardeners. One resource for this information is Mobile Urban Growers Facebook page or their website, www.mobileurbangrowers.org. Additional access to the resources is available at local garden centers where you see the GMGM banners with QR codes that will take you directly to the webpage. Read the code on your smart phone by downloading a QR code scanning app from your App Store or Google Play. For those who just want to ask an expert, you can contact the local ACES office at 251-574-8445 or the Ask a Master Gardener Helpline at 877-252-4769. There are many resources to help us, in whatever form or fashion, to grow more.
What about the Give More part of the initiative? We have seen in local news that the pandemic has decreased food security for many families, swelling the demands on local food pantries for months. As with the Liberty and Victory Gardens of an earlier time, fresh produce availability to those in need is critical. It may be true that small donations to food pantries seem insignificant, but what about your extended family or neighbors who could use fresh produce for their tables or young plants for their own garden? These gifts of your time, your learning experience, and your heart can make a real difference to someone. The GMGM webpage includes a “Document your Donation” link which adds to the story locally and across the state.
As spring is upon us, we can connect with the outdoors, soil, plants, food, and all the benefits they provide to the gardener and others. We can help and encourage individuals and the community by growing more and giving more.
Gardening Education Events for Your Calendar
What: Learn to Grow Asian Vegetables
offered by Extension at Alabama A&M University
When: Feb 12, 26 and Mar 12, 26 – Noon – 1 pm
Topics: Asian Squash, melon, eggplant, leafy greens, beans
More info: Regional Extension Agent Mary Dixon, firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Lawn School Zoom Webinar
Topic: Warm Season Grasses for South Alabama
Maintenance, Herbicides, Irrigation, Troubleshooting
Instructor: Regional Extension Agent Jack LeCroy
When: February 23, 2021, 6 – 8 pm
What: Pruning Class for fruit trees, roses, ornamentals
offered by Mobile County Extension Agent
When: Wed, Feb 24, 2021 (9 am to Noon)
Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Rd N, Mobile
Register: Call 251-574-8445 to make sure you have a seat
Bring: Your pruners, mask.