What better way to spend the first of May than getting your hands dirty with Day in the Dirt, an annual event hosted by the Vermont Community Garden Network? A group of City Market employees volunteered their time to help get the Learning Garden at the UVM Fanny Allen Medical Center ready for the growing season. Our community outreach benefit offers staff paid volunteering hours throughout the year as one way for our team to connect with our network of over 25 non-profit partners.
The Learning Garden has multiple raised beds, which are planted by program participants using the square foot gardening method and used to grow fresh, nutritious food throughout the season. Large beds are also planted with a variety of annual and perennial flowers, which will be cut and made into bouquets sold in the Med Center café. Vegetables grown in the garden are donated to the Colchester Community Food Shelf to help promote access to fresh produce for all.
Although the day started off cold and gray, with a few minutes of snow flurries in the morning, the sun came out partway through the day to warm everyone up.The garden coordinator presented us with a list of tasks she was hoping to accomplish, and we got to work. Using recycled cardboard to help keep weeds down, we mulched a section of paths between the raised beds, using a wheelbarrow chain to bring in loads of wood chips from a nearby pile. Another group did the same for rich, black compost to top off the beds and add nutrients to the soil. Part of the garden is designed to inspire kids to play in the natural world when visiting, and we helped to build an “insect hotel” to attract and house beneficial garden insects in this area.
We also began the installation of a nature loom to inspire kids to gather natural materials and weave them together to create beautiful art. Several volunteers used a natural coating on the wooden fence surrounding the garden to help protect it from the weather, and we laid out lines of drip hose to help keep the flower beds watered, especially after the summer heat hits. With fifteen sets of hands, the task list went quickly and easily! We had such a great time helping out at the garden, and we’re excited to visit again throughout the season to watch it progress!