Brian Bouts and Max Breckenridge, both members of the community gardens and Wesley Way United Methodist Church in McDonough, where one of the five community gardens is located, are involved in their third year of Helping Harvests, a program started by the nonprofit to provide fresh, homegrown and healthy foods to local pantries and shelters.
“In some of the years past, we’ve been able to donate about three or four thousand pounds of produce, but between donations from the church, corn grown at Cubihatcha Outdoor Center in Locust Grove and Brian and Max’s hard work, we’ve already donated about 7,000 pounds this season,” nonprofit Executive Director Glenda Garris said.
Both Bouts and Breckenridge said the high yield of produce coming from the Wesley Way garden is thanks to a system which involves irrigation beneath the plants, raised beds of soil and a common household item — black plastic garbage bags.
“Raised beds and irrigation allows the plants to not be dependent on rain to grow and the one millimeter-thick garbage bag linings keep out weeds, keep in nutrients and allow us to plant and grow more produce,” said Breckenridge, who said he and Bouts first learned about the system from a fellow gardening friend.
To keep producing a high volume of vegetables for donation, the community gardeners are seeking help obtaining a raised-bed plastic mulch layer, which would automate the process.
Bouts and Breckenridge pick their harvests at least every other day, then take most of the produce to In His Name food pantry in Stockbridge with the remainder donated to Haven House, Friend’s House and Shining Light Ministries, all in McDonough.
Onions, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes and butternut squash are some of the vegetables the two gardeners have grown on the quarter-acre plot.
Bouts said while helping people in need is an important part of what they do, educating others about gardening and how to grow one’s own food also makes the garden a special part of the community.
“There are so many people that have no concept of where their food comes from, so it is an educational opportunity that can really open peoples’ eyes,” Bouts said.
On the Web: www.henrygardens.com