Monthly Archives: December 2013

Community Garden Checklist

Community Garden Checklist

If you’re looking for an activity that people of all ages can enjoy, start a community garden. Rallying support from your neighbors, friends or community-led organizations is a great way to start a garden in your back yard — so to speak.

Urban communities often find patches of land to host community gardens, and invite participants to help plant, harvest and enjoy the produce — and in turn incorporate the necessary fruits, vegetables, vitamins and nutrients they need to stay healthy into their diets. The USDA’s People’s Garden initiative offers lots of useful resources and a supportive network for both first-time planters and seasoned harvesters.  

Before you start a garden of your own, read and download this step-by-step guide, which offers important information about how to safely grow your own fruits and vegetables with others in your community:

Engage Your Community

Begin by bringing people and different organizations together to learn which issues are important to your community. Discuss how a community garden – whether a communal space or individual plots – could serve the needs of the community. If a community garden will benefit the community, build on this momentum by holding regular meetings to collaborate on ideas and goals. Develop a plan of action. Get people energized and organized.

Identify Resources

Forming local partnerships is an excellent way to leverage resources and gain access to needed materials, tools, funding, volunteers, and technical assistance. USDA’s People’s Garden website has how-to videos and databases filled with garden-based learning curricula, free seed and funding sources, and healthy gardening practices. You can call on an Extension Master Gardener volunteer in your area to help with gardening challenges. The long-term success of your community garden will depend a great deal on relationships with partners. And be sure to check out the Community Garden Resource Guide.

Choose a Site

Across the country, community gardens are becoming an anchor for neighborhood revitalization. Community gardens range in purpose from increasing access to fresh, healthy food in rural towns to providing safe green spaces where youth can play in urban cities. What type of community garden will your neighborhood be planting? Knowing this information will narrow your search for a site. If growing food, find a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day with easy access to water. Check if the land you would be growing on has proper drainage. Once you identify an ideal site, find out who owns the land. Contact the landowner and discuss next steps which may include obtaining permission through written agreement or lease and getting liability insurance.  

Garden Healthy

Before you start planting, it is important to research the history and past uses of your chosen site. Once the past uses have been determined, take samples of the soil and have them analyzed to find out soil type and quality. EPA has step-by-step guidelines on how to do this. Consult with your state environmental agency, local health department, or county’s Cooperative Extension office to learn how to take a soil sample and to determine what kinds of samples you should take. The quality of the soil can have an effect on the design of your garden.

Design Your Garden

Every community garden is different based on its specific size, location, and mission. Design your garden to fit the needs of the community it serves. Consider factors such as age-appropriate design, accessibility, protection from animals or vandalism, storage of tools, and space to gather. Incorporate sustainable gardening techniques such as: using native plants, composting, mulching, applying an integrated pest management approach, creating a habitat for wildlife, using water wisely or installing a rain barrel. Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which plants will thrive in your part of the country.

Get Growing

Start gardening and implementing your community garden program. Once the project is up and running, let everyone know! Gain greater community support by welcoming visitors and sharing updates on how the neighborhood is benefiting from the garden’s existence. Over time, revisit the plan and make any needed changes based on lessons learned or feedback from partners and neighbors. Remember to plan ahead so that the garden will continue to grow for seasons to come.

Information provided courtesy of USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative. For more gardening resources visit


How to Keep Food Safe in a Power Outage

Posted December 18, 2013 | 0 comments

By Kathy Bernard, Food Safety Education Staff, USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service

Flicker, flicker, flicker—dark! The lights have just gone off, and the search for candles and matches has begun. But even if you can see by candlepower, there are other dangers lurking in the dark that you can’t see: bacteria that will begin growing in perishable foods when the electricity is off.

Winter storm power outageDuring the winter, severe ice and snow storms play havoc with outdoor utility lines, and storing food safely becomes a challenge if the power goes off. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends these steps to follow before and during a power outage.

Prepare Ahead of Time

  • Appliance thermometers. Make sure you keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer. That’s the best way to be sure that your food is safe after a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40 °F or lower in the refrigerator; 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers. They are small enough to fit in around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold and won’t make a mess when the ice melts. Don’t fill them too full. Because water expands when it freezes, the bags might split. Make extra ice at home.
  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately. This helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Dry ice or block ice. Know where you can get them.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer; this helps the food stay cold longer. They form an “igloo” to protect each other.
  • Don’t put food outdoors in ice or snow because wild animals may be looking for a meal, and when the sun comes out it may warm your food to an unsafe temperature.
  • Stock up on ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to have a few days’ of foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

When the Power Goes Out

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed.
  • A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place frozen meat and poultry on a tray so that if they begin thawing, their juices will not drip on other foods.
  • Buy dry or block ice if the power is going to be out for a long time. Ice will keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

When Power Comes Back On

  • Check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or leftovers) that has been above 40 °F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check for ice crystals in frozen food. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

See these charts to help you evaluate specific foods

For more information about food safety in an emergency, check out these resources:

Questions? Ask Karen, USDA’s virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7 at Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)

New garden project this spring

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Eastwood Church will be digging up the land behind the church for a community garden along with available plots for individuals from the church wanting to do gardening for themselves. We hope to encourage interaction between individuals of various age groups working together to learn the art of gardening and preserving food.

This is an opportunity to volunteer your time and efforts to help provide food for the community groups that provide to those in need of food.

We encourage you to share your ideas with us as we begin to make plans for this garden.