Gardening 101: A Newbie’s Guide to the Food At First Garden

Hello, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m a Live Green! intern currently working for the office over the summer! You might remember me from previous blog posts, and I’m happy to say that I’ll be here throughout the fall semester as well! Today I’m back with a new post on gardening – let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!


Every Wednesday after a long day spent in front of a computer screen, I don my gardening gloves and knee pads and reconnect with nature. I’ve spent hours fighting with weeds, planting seeds, and chasing rabbits through a maze of raspberries – and I can honestly say that my experience as a volunteer at the Food At First Garden has been one of the highlights of my summer!

At the beginning of the season I started interning full time, and I found that I had significantly more time on my hands without the pressures of schoolwork. I knew that I wanted to volunteer in some way and I’ve also always wanted to try my hand at gardening, so I signed up to help at the Food At First Garden.

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On that very first Wednesday, I was the first one to arrive. I paced around nervously to kill time, and I was filled with doubts about the experience. I’d never really gardened before, and I could barely tell crops from weeds. I imagined pulling up all of the wrong plants and killing everything in the garden – I was worried that I’d be the worst gardener in the history of mankind.

Soon enough, some of the wonderful volunteers from the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association (SASA) arrived, and they put me straight to work! I quickly learned that my lack of gardening experience didn’t really matter – every task was explained to me very clearly, and I was able to ask all sorts of questions if I still didn’t understand something.

Really, the only qualification necessary was willingness to work hard at work worth doing.

Everyone at the garden was friendly and welcoming, and I learned a lot about plants and gardening in the two hours that I spent there on my first day. I left feeling excited to return, and I’ve been going back each week ever since!

Gardening to me is a way enjoy the outdoors, learn new skills, and take a break from the rest of the world. Some days (depending on the task), it’s also a great way to get in a workout! And because the Food At First Garden donates most of its produce to the local community, it’s a wonderful way for me to give back in my spare time.

Food At First is an organization that offers a free meal program and a food pantry program. Fresh produce from the garden is incorporated into the Food At First meals and is also available for distribution at Trinity Church on Saturday mornings!

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Live Green! intern, Adam, made Mexican Lasagna at Trinity Church for Food at First using some ingredients from the garden! 

So for all you hesitant gardeners out there, I encourage you to give gardening a try! Here are some things I wish I’d known on my first day at the garden:

  • No gardening experience is necessary
  • Come dressed to sweat in clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty
  • Put on sunscreen and bug spray before arriving
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Gloves and knee pads will be provided
  • Be prepared to eat as many overripe raspberries as you want

The Food At First Garden is located behind the Trinity Christian Reformed Church at 3626 Ontario St. Garden work days are Wednesdays from 5-7pm and Saturdays from 9-11am! Sign up online or just show up ready to work! And for more information, email foodatfirstgarden@gmail.com. This year the garden will be open until about mid-October and will pick back up in the spring!

Gardening has been one of the best and most memorable experiences of my summer, and if you have some extra time on your hands it could also be the highlight of yours, too!


Written By: Laurelin Haas, Live Green! intern
Featured Image: foodatfirst.wordpress.com

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