LaManda Joy

LaManda Joy, founder of the Peterson Garden Project. Photo by Jennifer Stix.

Since we launched the Kitchen Garden Planner in 2009, we’ve been hearing a lot about how people use it for square foot gardening. Beginners use it as a guide, while avid gardeners use it to create complex designs and keep records. Recently, we found out that the Peterson Garden Project, a community garden in Chicago, is also using the Kitchen Garden Planner.

To learn more, we e-mailed project founder LaManda Joy. “Have we USED IT! OMG! We taught probably 100 people how to garden last year with our community garden (which became the largest edible garden in the city), and your tool was our number one resource.”

Peterson Garden in Chicago

LaManda tells the story:

When we started our revival Victory Garden in 2010, we wanted to encourage those who had never grown their own food to join us. During World War II, 90 percent of Victory Gardeners in Chicago had never gardened before, so we wanted to follow the tradition of teaching people to grow their own food. That meant we had to train more than 100 people how to garden.

One of the keys to our garden’s success was removing complexity so it would be easy for people to succeed — we planned the organic garden around uniform raised beds (157 beds 6×4 feet each) and used the square-foot gardening method to get the most out of our small spaces.

The first step with our brand-new gardeners was to share the Kitchen Garden Planner from Gardener’s Supply. We put the link in our welcome materials and on our Facebook page and “strongly suggested” they spend some time with the tool to determine what they wanted to grow. They were then asked to bring the printout that the tool automatically generates. Our seasoned gardeners consulted with each of the new gardeners to fine-tune their designs.

Without this “homework” it would have been impossible to teach that many people the basics of square-foot gardening. Most gardeners brought their plans and used them throughout the growing season. Some caught on quickly and did multiple plans for succession crops. And those “new” gardeners who are coming back for year two? I’ve heard them coaching this year’s new crop of gardeners. Many suggest the Kitchen Garden Planner as a must-have.

Our garden was so successful, we’re starting another, similarly sized garden in a different high-density urban neighborhood this spring. We’ll use the same playbook — uniform raised beds (they will be slightly larger in this garden) and the Kitchen Garden Planner as the educational tool of choice.

Peterson Garden

April seed-planting in the Peterson Garden Project. Photo by Nancy Boucha.