Top Ten Ideas Worth Sharing: Supporting Garden Volunteers
The following ideas came from participants in this spring’s Grow It! workshop and from other Vermont community and school garden leaders. This is just a small sampling of all of the creative and successful practices happening around the state to support the work of garden volunteers and keep them interested and involved.
- Visual guides
- Cat Buxton at Thetford Elementary School uses project maps, detailed garden plans for each section of the school’s gardens that provide volunteers with a common understanding of the vision for the garden and an easy-to-understand guide for getting the work done. Sample project maps and a wealth of other school garden resources can be found in Cat’s GMWL Garden Guide, a Share and Share Alike resource.
- In preparation for her first garden work day, Carolina Lukac, Garden Education Manager for VCGN’s Community Teaching Garden in Burlington, developed sample garden beds to demonstrate to volunteers the end-result of the work they would be doing. When developing garden beds and pathways, this gave volunteers a clear understanding of the task at hand and the standard of work expected, while simplifying the job of the volunteer coordinator with an example to refer back to.
- Onsite tips
- Barre Town Middle and Elementary School uses realtor boxes at key locations in their garden. These clear plastic boxes protect paper materials from the weather, while allowing passerby to see what’s inside. This school garden group uses these boxes to share recipes and other educational information to help gardeners and volunteers utilize the crops being grown in the garden. For some sample harvest and preservation sheets check out the Resources section of Green Mountain Farm to School’s Summer Activity Guide.
- Volunteers at The Garden at 485 Elm in Montpelier, who participate in a communal growing model, are aided by laminated cards at the end of each bed with info on what’s growing, what part(s) of the plant to harvest, and other useful tips.
- Work & Learn
- Patrick Ham at Miller’s Run School Community Garden in Sheffield plans on adding a cheese-making class and other cooking and preservation classes to his summer garden plans. His hope is to work with class participants to make the cheese, then while letting the cheese sit, bring the group outside for a weed and harvest party, to return to their cheese-making with a fresh snack. This same idea could be applied to baking projects and other recipes with waiting time—a great way to harness available volunteer power!
- Putney Community Garden hosted a bug i.d. workshop/workparty. This regular garden work party focused on managing potato beetles and othergarden pests took on a fun and engaging vibe with a local insect expert standing by to provide answers to curious volunteers. Many hands made light work while hand-picking pests from plants; then each time a new bug was found the group would gather around to learn about the insect, identifying features, life stages, and harmful or beneficial effects.
- Make it a habit
- Garden coordinators at Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction hold regular work days, Wednesdays and Saturdays, for their team of volunteers. Each coordinator takes a day, sharing the commitment, accommodating different schedules and providing a regular time that garden volunteers can depend upon.
- Harrington Village Community Garden in Shelburne works with an Extension Master Gardener who volunteers their time at the garden on a regular basis to be available for gardener questions. This provides gardeners with a predictable time they can tend to their garden and receive guidance.
- Welcome & Appreciate
- The Garden at 485 Elm is run by a team of volunteer gardeners from around the Montpelier area. Photos and names of garden volunteers are posted on the side of their tidy garden shed. This is one way that garden coordinators welcome the volunteers and help them feel they are a vital part of this garden community.
- Chester-Andover Elementary School’s flower garden has been used by students to create thank you bouquets given to school cafeteria and grounds staff. These surprise bouquets go a long way in honoring these crucial staff who go the extra mile to make their school gardens successful.