Plant An Extra Row Of Vegetables To Help The Hungry

I have never gone to bed hungry, but there are millions who do, including people in Las Vegas. Do your part to help feed those in need by “Planting a Row for the Hungry.” It is perfect timing, because Las Vegans are gearing up to plant vegetables. All you need to do is plant an extra row or two and dedicate it to the hungry.

“PAR is such a simple idea, the only surprise is that no one thought of it before,” said Jeff Lowenfels, past president of the Garden Writers of America Association. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the impact we will have on the hunger problem.”

Lowenfels started the program in Alaska and when association members found out, it became a nationwide campaign 14 years ago. The association includes it in its garden articles, books and TV shows, reaching more than a hundred million gardeners.

Master gardener Don Fabbi oversees the city of Las Vegas Doolittle Senior Citizen Center community garden. Since its inception in 2003, this garden has provided 3,514 pounds of produce to local soup kitchens.

Vegetable gardens produce an enormous amount of surplus food. Anyone who has ever grown zucchini can testify to their abundance. Imagine the amount of food that could go to food banks if we purposely planted one more row for the hungry.

Blackberries

It’s a shame raspberries don’t do well here, but you can grow the next best thing: blackberries. I know of a gardener with his entire backyard in blackberries.

Blackberries are perennials, but each cane is biennial. During the first year, canes produce leaves. The next year, berries are produced and then the canes die. Nip off first-year canes when they get waist high. It is from these developing side shoots you harvest berries next year. In the meantime, new canes are coming up to replace those that will die.

Blackberries grow best if you amended the soil with organic matter. If leaves yellow, add iron chelates such as Kerex.

Water is critical when the berries begin to mature. Keep the soil moist through the growing season.

Blackberries really produce if you heavily mulch them. Mulch conserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures, controls weeds and provides an ideal haven for microorganisms to improve the plant’s soil environment.

Harvest them as they ripen, because the berries are highly perishable. Place the surplus in the refrigerator to prolong shelf life. Cover blackberries before ripening, or birds will harvest them for you. Nurseries have netting available.

DR. GREEN THUMB

March is spring fever time, and it will lure you out in the garden. Dr. Green Thumb (that’s me) will focus on things to do in March in a free seminar at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. To reserve your seat for this and other activities at the preserve, call 822-7786.

Fresh, seasonal herbs are a great way to add flavor to any meal, even with the pickiest of young eaters. Bring the children and they’ll plant an herb garden that the whole family can enjoy forever. You’ll decorate your herb containers in class. Ticketed parents or guardians must accompany children, and reservations are required.

TOMATOES

The tomato is the No. 1 vegetable (technically a fruit, but few people think of it that way) in Las Vegas, and yet comes with bushels of hang-ups. You can overcome them. The Springs Preserve has Sylvain Wittwer, who is a tomato expert known around the world and is now living in Logandale. He will share his secrets to prolong the production of tomatoes in your backyard. His yard is nothing but a vegetable and fruit garden. His program will be at 8:30 a.m. March 7. Reserve your seat at this special presentation.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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