BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It’s close to planting time and once again the Fort Madison Community Garden is looking for a little help.
About 10 volunteers will meet Thursday morning at 8 a.m. to prep and seed the garden located behind Hy-Vee in the 2700 block of Avenue L.
RSVP, the United Way of the Great River Region’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, is organizing the garden again this year.
RSVP Program Director Tammy Hudson said she’s still trying to work under the state’s 10-person limit rule so the Thursday planting is fairly well staffed, but she said she’s still looking for volunteers to tend to the garden during the summer. Hudson’s in her second full year organizing the garden.
That work would include weeding, harvesting and keeping the garden beds clean.
The entire harvest throughout the summer goes to the Fort Madison Food Pantry. Hudson said the garden produced more than 600 lbs of produce last year for food pantry patrons.
She’s hoping rain holds off so the garden can be tilled prior to planting. Last year weather hampered plans to get the garden in.
“We had some issues last year getting a date, and then we to reschedule with the weather,” Hudson said. “But we got a lot of produce last year. It was something, I’m not a gardener, so I’m just happy if things grow.”
She said with the coronavirus pandemic impacting the food pantry, the produce will be a welcome supplement to supplies.
“They’re busy down there all the time,” she said. “They get a shipment down there and it’s out the door. And that’s increased now with the virus so this food will be helpful.”
In the past, volunteers have included students from Holy Trinity Catholic, volunteers with Lee County Extension, churches and the food pantry itself have helped keep the garden producing.
“What we really need is people to help tend to the garden throughout the year. It’s not hard work, but it can be a lot of work for one person to do so we would take any help we can get,” Hudson said.
She said year after year it is tough to keep people coming back and the virus isn’t helping with people being concerned about being infected. But she said the volunteers will have masks and gloves and can spread out in the garden.
“If I can coordinate a day or two during the week they can trade off and not have to come out so often. They may be willing to do that and these are hours that students can use toward graduation requirements.”
Hudson said although she’s not a gardener she’s learning as she goes. She said last year they may have over planted tomatoes and the plants grew very tall and began to take over.
“I’m not a master gardener or anything, but I’ve learned some things about when to plant and when to harvest. This year we may spread the plants out, or thin them a bit more as we go,” Hudson said.
Those interested in helping during the summer can contact Hudson at 319-372-8043 at the United Way offices.