Volunteers till up the cover crop that was planted last fall.

I love the day in spring when I can take the first plunge into the garden with a spade. The soil yields and I get a hit of that wonderful dirt smell. A new season is spread out in front of me. Like a fresh-tilled field, it’s ripe with promise — and relatively free of weeds. For now.

That day came last week, when we began the second year of Company Farm, our employee-run project to grow food for the hungry. The first task: turn under the fall-planted cover crop of rye. We plant a cover crop after the harvest so the soil is not bare over the winter. In the spring, the overwintered crop is tilled under so it decomposes and improves the soil. Cover crops are also known as “green manure.”

Company Farm was started last year by employees at Gardener’s Supply with the goal of growing and vegetables to donate to local food systems that serve people in need. Last year, we grew and donated 325 pounds of potatoes. Our goal this year: 500 pounds.


Milkweed seedlings, growing on a sunny windowsill in March

In addition to potatoes, we are planting a few beds with sunflowers — just because they’re so beautiful. We’ve also reserved space for milkweed, which is the sole food of the caterpillars that become monarch butterflies. We started the milkweed seed back in March and transplanted the seedlings today, hoping these plots become a “monarch waystation” for this endangered butterfly. To learn more, read Create a Monarch Waystation.

Here’s to a new season, abundant with potatoes and butterflies.