Interest in vegetable gardening is skyrocketing nationwide, prompted in part by temporary food shortages.

There’s never been a better time to garden, and the term Victory Garden is popular again, echoing the national homegrown food drives that were so vital during both world wars.

In this, the last of our three-week series on vegetable gardening, I’d like you to consider joining the highly successful Growing Together Community Gardens. It’s a unique concept of sharing the work and sharing the harvest, making vegetable gardening possible for apartment dwellers, condo owners and everyone who might not have a space to garden otherwise. Even if you do have a spot to garden, you might like this program even better.

This gardening concept is unique. Many of us are familiar with municipal public garden spaces divided into plots and rented to individuals who tend and harvest their own separately marked space.

Growing Together Community Gardens are completely different. These are truly community gardens. Everyone is invited to enroll, work and share the bounty by investing two to three hours a week planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. Together, everyone shares the work and everyone shares the harvest.

Participants in Growing Together Community Gardens share the work and share the harvest. Special to The Forum
Participants in Growing Together Community Gardens share the work and share the harvest. Special to The Forum

There’s no fee and no plants or seeds to purchase. Everything necessary is provided. You don’t even need to know anything about gardening, as you’ll be shown everything necessary.

Participants register for involvement in one of six gardens located in Fargo. Each garden runs on a regular schedule and participants join together on the designated day and time, signing in when they arrive. Core volunteers plan each week’s gardening tasks and show what needs to be done.

Participants enjoy fresh vegetables beginning in July, extending through the big harvest event in fall. Organizers coordinate distribution of the produce, and gardeners logging 16 hours receive a full share of all harvested vegetables.

Growing Together Community Gardens are now in their 14th year as an organization. What started as a garden 100 feet by 100 feet with eight families has grown to over 150 families with six large gardens in Fargo. Not only were healthy vegetables produced, but gardeners learned about working together for a common good.

Growing Together was the brainchild of a group that included co-founders Jack Wood and Nola Storm. Jack is a passionate, longtime tomato grower, who now has a lead role in the organization, which is recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Nola Storm was a social worker in the Fargo Public Schools system who saw this as a way to help new Americans connect with our community.

Jack says a key to their growth has been the development of core leaders who oversee the entire program, plus garden leaders who lead the specific tasks at a specific garden. This gardening model, with its Fargo origins, has now attracted worldwide attention, with interest not only from states like Washington and Florida, but countries like Kenya, South Africa and Bhutan.

Core leaders coordinate the activities between six Fargo Growing Together Community Gardens. Special to The Forum
Core leaders coordinate the activities between six Fargo Growing Together Community Gardens. Special to The Forum

Growing Together is an active partner in community outreach, participating in North Dakota State University Extension and Concordia College presentations, plus donating to Heart and Soul, Dorothy Day, Daily Bread and the Emergency Food Pantry. Growing Together has shared the how-tos of their gardening model with other communities desiring to start similar projects.

Growing Together Community Garden is practicing innovative ways to optimize vegetable production. Raised beds 30 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches high are being formed, which saves time, promotes natural aeration, increases drainage, reduces weeding and increases soil health. The raised beds combat excess rainfall by draining water to pathways, instead of drowning vegetables.

The yearly spring kickoff and signup normally begins with a fun potluck, a great event which I’ve always enjoyed attending, but this year’s potluck has been understandably canceled. To enroll in this year’s gardening program, or for more information, simply email Jack Wood, jackstomatoes@gmail.com. Plans are in place to keep everyone safe during this year’s gardening season. Social distancing will be implemented at the gardens, and all recommended safety guidelines will be followed.

After a long winter, gardening in the fresh air and sunshine will be a welcome treat, and the Growing Together Community Gardens makes it possible for everyone.

Participants at one of the Growing Together Community Gardens pause for a group photo. Special to The Forum
Participants at one of the Growing Together Community Gardens pause for a group photo. Special to The Forum

ARCHIVE: Read more of Don Kinzler's Growing Together columns

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at kinzlerd@casscountynd.gov or call 701-241-5707.