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Plant a Row – Grow a Row: Get gardening gifts and donate to charity

Gardening goodies galore: Plant a Row – Grow a Row launches New West season with free giveaways
Claude LeDoux shows off some of the items being given away at the launch of this year's Plant A Row-Grow a Row program.

There will be gardening giveaways galore at the launch of this year’s Plant a Row – Grow a Row program.

Each summer, the Plant a Row – Grow a Row program collects fresh produce and donations for two local charities. In celebration of this year’s program, it’s giving away all kinds of goodies at a drive-thru event on Sunday, April 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the St. Thomas More Collegiate parking lot at 7450 12th Ave., just across the border in Burnaby.

Attendees will simply drive into the school parking lot, keep to the right and then pull up to the curbside next to the next gym, where volunteers will be giving out vegetable transplants, seeds to grow in the garden and much more.

Claude LeDoux, who founded the local program, said there will be some “amazing” giveaways at this year’s launch event.

Seeds and seedlings, garden décor, planter boxes, containers, potting soil and other great gardening items have been donated by Brian Minter, the Compost Council of Canada, GardenWorks, Premium Society, LeDoux, volunteers and local horticultural suppliers. Items will be distributed on a first-come first-served basis.

 “Bring the children. There are always special presents for the children coming through the drive-thru event,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are building our future gardeners and nature lovers. We are trying to get them to come and join the parents in the event.”

LeDoux said there’s been an increased interest in growing vegetables since the beginning of the pandemic. Rising grocery prices have also contributed to the increased interest in gardening.

“It’s become popular,” he said. “People are learning that it is not difficult, and ‘I can do this.’”

Gardening information, such as what to plant and how to maintain it, is available from seed suppliers and local garden centres, as well as on YouTube, LeDoux noted.

At his West End home, LeDoux grows vegetables in his garden year-round, including four crops of lettuce each year.

“I start in April. As soon as that is done I have another plant to go in, then another and then another,” said LeDoux, the City of New Westminster’s former horticultural manager. “What we do is for the winter with lettuce is we take large plastic pots and, when the weather is going to be inclement and cold, we put the pot over them. They stay insulated from the drying winds and freezing temperatures. Then we pop it off when the weather is good.”

LeDoux said plants like cabbage, kale and radicchio are “good to go” now because they need cool temperatures and rain to grow. Once the soil warms up, he said it’s time to plant vegetables like peppers and tomatoes.

Donations greatly appreciated

At the drive-thru event, Plant A Row – Grow a Row volunteers will be collecting donations of non-perishable food items for Ryan’s Rainbow Emergency Food Outreach in Burnaby and the Union Gospel Mission in New West. Cash donations are also gratefully accepted.

Starting June 11, volunteers will be collecting fresh and non-perishable food donations every Sunday morning from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. at the front entrance to STM Collegiate.

“We had 2,500 pounds of homegrown produce last year,” LeDoux said. “That’s just people coming on Sunday. They come and drop off.”

Some folks bring a little handful of veggies, while others bring more. The donations are split between the two organizations, who are grateful for the support.

“They are thrilled,” LeDoux said. “UGM is using it for cooking, and also to teach in Dan’s Legacy – they use it for their (cooking) students to learn. That is working beautifully. Ryan’s Rainbow, they put it in the boxes that are given to families.”

In addition to the donations of fresh produce, some folks bring non-perishable food items and cash donations to the Sunday morning collection events. Others have brought items like socks that get donated to the local non-profits.

“We thank them so much for their support. We really appreciate this,” LeDoux said. “The people in the community are always thanking us – it’s really about who supported us that really needs to be thanked.”

LeDoux is thrilled to see that a new Plant a Row For Us program is being launched this spring in Chilliwack, in support of the Salvation Army’s food bank program in that Fraser Valley community. He’ll be one of the speakers at the program’s kickoff event in Chilliwack.