Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening for the Hungry

Fresh produce for those in need

bundle of radishes

Today Sallie Boge is sharing a unique garden space:

The St. Mary Church Garden Ministry in Riverside, Illinois, grows a vegetable/herb/fruit garden for charity food pantries. Our garden is consistently the number-one seasonlong producer for Share the Harvest, which organizes home gardeners to supply fresh, homegrown food to food pantries in the Chicago area.

drawing of vegetable garden planTo have a successful harvest, we need a detailed plan, which I start in January, when it is too cold to garden outdoors in our Chicago-area suburb.

rows of raised garden bedsWe started our garden on the first day of spring 2009—when it snowed! From modest beginnings, we have expanded over the years to include three 4×4 raised beds, nine 4×8 raised beds, six cedar tuteurs (for pole beans), four powder-coated steel arbors (for wine grapes), and in-ground beds around the perimeter of the garden for a mixture of vegetables, fruit bushes, and perennial flowers to attract beneficial pollinators. We engineered a hybrid underground/aboveground drip hose system to be able to water six raised beds at a time. We grow more crops on another part of our church’s campus. I also have a small but dedicated group of home growers who bring their garden’s extra veggies to share every Monday morning when we harvest.

wood for raised garden bedThe cedar raised beds are made from a kit from Rhino Garden Supply. There are no nails needed, so even I, with no carpentry skills, could assemble the raised bed frames by myself.

girls helping out in the gardenWe asked for some help constructing our bean tuteurs. Our local Girl Scout troop came through for us. This qualified them for a Silver Award. Thank you, Girl Scouts!

monarch butterfly sitting on a pink flowerIn our pollinator perimeter garden beds, we grow, among other things, Phlox paniculata (Zones 4–8), Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Becky’, Zones 5–9), Monarda, Iris siberica (‘Caesar’s Brother’, Zones 4–9), Brunnera macrophylla (Zones 3–8), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’, Zones 5–8), peonies (Paeonia hybrid, Zones 3–8), daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’ Oro’, Zones 3–10), sedum (Hylotelephium ‘Autumn Joy’, Zones 3–9), German bearded iris (Iris hybrid, bearded group, Zones 4–8), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca, Zones 3–9), and fall-blooming anemone (Anemone hupehensis, Zones 4–8).

woman holding a small bouquet of purple chivesWe plant an edging of purple chives around some of our raised beds. We hope the smell confuses some of the bugs who otherwise like to munch our crops. Plus, we think they are pretty.

bundle of radishesRadishes are just one of the crops we grow. We also have success with tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, mesclun mix lettuce, French sorrel, garlic chives, Swiss chard, salad burnet, kale, pole beans, snow peas, beets, basil, rosemary, oregano, cucumber, sage, thyme, bay leaf tree, curly parsley, peppermint, rhubarb, red currant, gooseberry, carrot (‘Yaya’), apples, and more.

tables full of fresh produce from the gardenOne of our harvests included 845 pole beans, 205 tomatoes, 18 cucumbers, and more. (Yes, we counted!). Here is the director of one of the food pantries our garden supplies with our harvest, packaged and ready to be distributed to the people who depend on this food pantry for nutritious, fresh, locally grown food.

Thanks for “visiting” our garden. I hope you have such a successful 2022 harvest in your garden so that you can share some of the extra fruit, vegetables, and herbs with your local food pantries too.


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View Comments


  1. garden1953 06/27/2022

    How awesome! And the raised beds are not only productive, but beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear Garden1953m

      So glad you enjoyed the photos. We are harvesting a lot so far this season and are having fun raising the Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars I am finding on the parsley and dill. It's amazing how much happiness I get out of this little garden. I'm so glad Fine Gardening hosts this venue so that gardeners can connect. I will look forward to seeing your post sometime soon. If you already posted, let me know what date I should search. Kind regards, Sallie

  2. User avater
    simplesue 06/27/2022

    OMG you guys are amazing! I love the artist's illustration of the garden plan (I'm a retired commercial artist), it really shows the layout of all the plants., I love the way you are all working together on this community food bank garden, and such a beautiful looking garden it is- flowers combined with the vegetables in a super nice layout.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear SimpleSue,

      Thanks so much for feeding my ego! I learned a bit about how to illustrate from my garden school, (Piet Oudolf's on-line gardening school). I look forward to seeing some of your illustrations of your gardens in this web site soon so I can learn from them. My best ideas come from other people! It's been a real joy collaborating with my home growers. I hope you are enjoying the garden friendships you are making. Kind regards, Sallie

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/27/2022

    Out of this world wonderful.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Thanks, Treasuresmom.

      Kind regards,

  4. cheryl_c 06/27/2022

    What an amazing and beautiful ministry your congregation has to the community! I'm sure the people who rely on the food bank are delighted to have such a variety of fresh food to choose from!

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear cheryl_c,

      Thank you so much. I hope so too. I just wish there weren't so many people who find themselves in a life situation where they must rely on charity food pantries. But maybe some day, their situations may change and they can be the ones helping others. Kind regards, Sallie

  5. User avater
    cynthia2020 06/27/2022

    Sallie, hats off to you and your team! Thank you for your gardening story.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear Cynthia2020,

      I am happy to share our gardening story. Thanks for commenting. I will share your compliments with my volunteers. They will be delighted to hear. Kind regards, Sallie

  6. jos29803 06/27/2022

    Amazing how a beautiful idea nourishes the body and the soul of many.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear Jo29803,

      Thanks for commenting. It is amazing, isn't it?! And one of the best parts for me is that it nourishes my own soul so much that I almost feel guilty that I get even more fun and satisfaction out of it than the people who eat the produce I grow. A true win-win! Kind regards, Sallie

  7. foxglove12 06/27/2022

    What a great project. I love vegetable gardening and your garden is impressive. I really like your water color map of the garden. All that fresh food for the needy. A great accomplishment.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear Foxglove12,

      Thanks so much for your compliments. The map of the garden is actually done with Chartpak markers. There is a similar effect as watercolors, but they are so much easier to work with in my opinion, at least for me. It's funny that this garden does feel like an accomplishment. It feels better than any accomplishments I ever had when I had to work at a job. I hope you enjoy that same great feeling of accomplishment in your own garden. Kind regards, Sallie

  8. btucker9675 06/27/2022

    This is truly awesome - God bless!!!

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Thanks, BTucker9675.

      I will happily accept all the blessings I can get in the hopes that they transfer to a continuing and large harvest for the food pantries. My God bless you, too, in all your gardening endeavors. Kind regards, Sallie

  9. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 06/27/2022

    Well done!
    Congratulations and best wishes for continued success on all your gardening endeavors

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Thank you, VanhaTaloSuomi.

      I will pass on your nice comment to all of my volunteers.

      Kind regards,

  10. User avater
    user-7007816 06/28/2022

    What a great project in many regards!
    Thanks for sharing your garden and your produce.

    1. gardenconcierge 07/06/2022

      Dear 7007816,

      Thanks so much. It was so much fun sharing our gardening story. I look forward to seeing your gardening story in this blog.

      Kind regards,

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