Ten Tips for Starting a Church Garden
As a result of our experiences in starting a garden on our church property, the Environmental Ministry Team (EMT) of First Congregational Church of Guilford, Connecticut, has ten tips we can enthusiastically share:
- Have less lawn and more plants! Gardens can be a good way to reduce CO2. Our church Sexton is also happy about having less lawn to mow.
- Be organic! Letty Naigles, a UCONN professor and Master Gardener who serves on the board of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, came to speak to us about how to start an organic garden.
- Use raised beds! From being good for the soil to being good for your back, raised beds have a number of advantages. Our EMT, plus other church and family members, four years ago built wooden raised beds, planted, harvested, and twice we’ve enlarged the garden by 1/3 and fenced it to keep the rabbits out.
- Compost! We have a compost system (made by one of our EMT members) in the garden, which provides our “fertilizer.” We also have rain barrels for watering.
- Donate your produce! Each summer, our garden provides close to 200 pounds of produce for the Guilford Food Bank, the Branford Dining Room/Soup Kitchen, and to non-profit organization, Teen Challenge, in New Haven.to decrease the amount of lawn to mow and to donate produce to local foods banks and families in need.
- Help your pollinators! Two years ago, several church members added a pollinator garden, so our 96-foot by 60-foot garden now shows off myriad colors of vegetables and flowers.
- Encourage a diet that is good for you and good for the planet! Our EMT assembled a Meatless Mondays Cookbook, full of information about the vegetables we grow as well as delicious recipes. We distributed it for free to our church family. From time to time, we have lunches or dinners in the garden.
- Engage all ages! We bring the church school children and youth into the garden to plant or harvest.
- Grow community as you grow produce! We gather together to weed, plant and harvest. The best part of the garden is all the fellowship and friendship the garden has spawned among people, many who barely knew each other when we started.
- Give thanks! In this season of Thanksgiving, we are so grateful for the large yard our church has so that we might have a sunny space to produce vegetables, fruits, flowers, and friendships.
First Congregational Church of Guilford, Connecticut, is a Level Three Green Congregation of the SNEUCC. It recently received the UCC designation as a Creation Justice Church. When the congregation’s Environmental Ministry Team (EMT) started almost five years ago, it partnered with the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (IREJN), the only interreligious, non-profit organization in Connecticut focused on environmental advocacy and justice, climate change, and other environmental topics. IREJN recently affiliated with Interfaith Power and Light and is now also known as CT IPL.