Grow & Give was created and is supported by Colorado State University Extension to address the need for more fresh, locally grown produce grown in home gardens and shared when possible. (Photo: CSU Extension).

Those of us who have been planting vegetables in our gardens always plant too much for ourselves. Our chest freezers are stuffed, and our pantry is chock-a-block full of jars of tomatoes and pickles. More than we can possibly eat. What to do with all that excess?

Many of us are also just dipping our toes in the garden soil for the first time this season, excited to grow food for ourselves and our neighbors. But how to start?

That’s what Grow & Give is all about.

Grow & Give was created and is supported by Colorado State University Extension to address the need for more fresh, locally grown produce grown in home gardens and shared when possible.

Gardeners across the state donate their abundance to neighbors in need, food pantries and food banks, senior facilities and places of worship. In 2021, more than 55,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables were donated from more than 30 counties across Colorado. This level of donation makes a huge difference for families who are struggling to put a healthy dinner on the table.

The educational resources at growandgivecolorado.org are free to everyone, and many are also available in both English and Spanish language versions. Videos, to-do lists, ideas for planning your garden or season extension are all available on the user-friendly site. Check out the Colorado Vegetable Guide, which is a comprehensive, crop-by-crop downloadable book that covers planting, pests and harvest — it is so helpful.

Grow & Give also has plenty of solid information about how to harvest and donate your excess produce. Donation labels, an interactive map of local hunger relief organizations and even recipes make giving easy.

The most common vegetables donated were squash, sweet corn and tomatoes, but fruits, vegetables and herbs of all types are welcome. There are so many vegetables that do well here in Colorado and are easy to grow. Radishes, green beans, kale, peppers and spinach are all appreciated. And don’t forget herbs — oregano, cilantro, mint and thyme all do well here in Colorado and will add pizzazz to every vegetable.

And if all you have is a small plot in your back yard or a container on your porch, that’s OK, too — you don’t need a truck farm to participate in Grow and Give. You can donate however much is more than you need; there is no minimum donation. Even one pound of produce can make a difference, so don’t feel shy about this.

So that CSU Extension can design programming to support gardeners, they ask individuals and community gardens to register and track their donations. The timely Grow & Give newsletter will keep you up on gardening topics, too.

Happy gardening, growing and giving.

By Juli Saris, CSU Extension Boulder County. Juli Saris is a Colorado Master Gardener for Colorado State University Extension in Boulder County. For more information on this and other topics, visit extension.colostate.edu or contact your local CSU Extension Office.