7 Simple and Effective Ways to Conserve Water in Home Gardening

7 Simple and Effective Ways to Conserve Water in Home Gardening

Water conservation is a crucial practice in home gardening, not only for environmental sustainability but also to reduce water bills and promote efficient plant growth. According to the Pew Research Center, “Over 2 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water at home, and by 2025 over half of the world’s population will reside in water-stressed areas. These numbers will increase significantly if climate change and population growth follow or exceed predicted trajectories.”

At Trellis for Tomorrow, we prioritize water conservation in all our garden sites, utilizing drip tape irrigation across all sites. In this blog post, we will discuss seven effective ways homeowners can water their gardens wisely by incorporating some water-saving techniques.

Install a Rainwater Collection System

One of the most effective ways to conserve water is by collecting rainwater. Set up a rain barrel or cistern to capture rainwater from your roof’s downspouts. We recommend using a mesh screen to filter debris and prevent mosquito breeding. You can then use this stored rainwater to irrigate your garden during dry spells, reducing reliance on potable water sources. You can find DIY instructions online or purchase ready-to-go rain barrels at a local garden supply center. Check out this locally made version that you can find at Colonial Gardens in Phoenixville or stop into the Eco Store on Bridge Street.

Embrace Drip Tape Irrigation

Drip tape irrigation is a highly efficient method that delivers water directly to the plants’ root zones, minimizing evaporation and runoff. Trellis for Tomorrow utilizes drip tape irrigation in all our garden sites, and homeowners can implement it too. Simply lay the drip tape along your garden rows and connect it to a water source. Drip tape conserves water by providing a slow and steady supply, ensuring plants receive precisely the amount they need. Check out this resource from Rain-Flo Irrigation.

Water Early in the Morning

To minimize water loss through evaporation, it’s best to water your garden early in the morning. By doing so, the water has time to soak into the soil before the sun’s heat intensifies, reducing waste and promoting efficient plant absorption. Watering in the evening can lead to prolonged leaf wetness, increasing the risk of disease.

Utilize Mulch

Mulching around your plants provides several benefits, including water conservation. A layer of mulch helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed growth, and insulates the soil, preventing evaporation. We recommend using organic and undyed mulch such as wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves. Apply a 2–3-inch layer around your plants, leaving a small space near the stem to prevent rot.

Practice Smart Watering

Avoid overwatering your plants by practicing smart watering techniques. Before watering, check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels damp an inch below the surface, you can delay watering. Additionally, water deeply and infrequently encourages deeper root growth and drought tolerance. Shallow, frequent watering can lead to shallow roots and plant stress.

Group Plants by Water Needs

Efficiently manage water usage by grouping plants with similar water requirements together. Some plants require less water, while others, like leafy greens, need more. By arranging plants with similar water needs in the same area, you can avoid over or underwatering certain plants, ensuring optimal growth for all.

Capture and Reuse Household Water

In addition to rainwater collection, consider reusing household water to irrigate your garden. Collect water from abandoned cups and activities such as rinsing fruits and vegetables. This water can be used for watering plants or for irrigating with drip tape systems. Ensure the water does not contain harmful chemicals or contaminants.

Conserving water in home gardening is a responsibility we all share. By implementing these seven effective strategies, homeowners can contribute to a sustainable and efficient water management system. Trellis recommends using rainwater collection systems, drip tape irrigation, and other water-saving techniques to protect our environment and promote healthy, thriving gardens. Together we can make water conservation an integral part of gardening practices and pave the way for a greener future.

The Power of Community: Join a Nonprofit Committee and Make an Impact

The Power of Community: Join a Nonprofit Committee and Make an Impact

In today’s rapidly changing world, nonprofits play a crucial role in addressing societal challenges. These organizations rely not only on dedicated staff members but also on the support and involvement of community members.

One powerful way to contribute to the success of a nonprofit is by joining a committee. By offering your time, skills, and passion, you can make a profound impact on the organization’s mission and the community it serves. At Trellis for Tomorrow, we believe in the power of community engagement and encourage individuals like you to join us in creating a brighter future.

Unleashing Your Potential

Joining a nonprofit committee provides a unique opportunity to unleash your potential and contribute to a cause you deeply care about. By becoming a committee member, you can bring your expertise, insights, and fresh ideas to the table. Whether you have skills in marketing, finance, event planning, or any other area, your contribution can be instrumental in advancing the organization’s goals and enhancing its overall effectiveness. Every community member brings a unique perspective, and together we can drive meaningful change.

Collaboration and Networking

Committee involvement offers a chance to collaborate with like-minded individuals who share your passion for creating a positive impact. Working closely with other committee members allows you to learn from their experiences, expand your professional network, and forge lasting relationships. These connections can open doors to new opportunities and provide a supportive community of individuals who are committed to making a difference.

The Ripple Effect

When you join a nonprofit committee, your influence extends far beyond your individual contribution. Your involvement inspires others to take action and make a difference in their own communities. As a Trellis for Tomorrow committee member, you become an ambassador for positive change, spreading the organization’s mission and values to a wider audience. Your passion and dedication can ignite a ripple effect of community involvement, leading to transformative outcomes that benefit society as a whole.

Act Today

At Trellis, we know the immense value community members bring to our organization’s success. By joining one of our committees, you become an integral part of our mission, working alongside dedicated individuals to create positive change. If you’re ready to make a tangible impact on the world around you, we invite you to reach out and learn more about the committee opportunities available. Whether you have a few hours to spare each month or can dedicate more time, there is a place for you to contribute. Together, we can create a future that is brighter, greener, more inclusive, and filled with opportunities for all.

Nurturing Food Security; Fostering Food Sovereignty

Nurturing Food Security; Fostering Food Sovereignty

In the world of food systems, two connected yet separate concepts play crucial roles in shaping our relationship with food – food security and food sovereignty. While both aim to ensure access to nutritious food, they differ in their focus and principles.

Understanding Food Security

Food security is measured by indicators such as food production, distribution, affordability, and access to food.  Organizations and individuals focused on food security are working to address immediate needs and aim to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by providing an adequate food supply to all.

Food security means that individuals and communities can meet their nutritional needs. It refers to the availability, access, utilization, and stability of a community’s food system. It focuses on ensuring that everyone has reliable access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food at all times.

Discovering Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is a more holistic approach to food systems that strives for social justice, environmental sustainability, and the preservation of local food systems. Coined by La Via Campesina, those seeking to create food sovereignty typically advocate for the rights of communities, farmers, and individuals to control their own food systems. Inextricably tied to this is the concept of increasing production and consumption of local, sustainable, and culturally appropriate food.

Going beyond food security, food sovereignty focuses on empowering local communities to have control over the agricultural practices (such as crop rotation, seed ownership, irrigation, etc.) and land and resources from which their food comes from. A focus on food sovereignty also highlights the importance of preserving area biodiversity, traditional agricultural knowledge, and local cultural practices related to food.

By prioritizing diverse and resilient methods and seeking to supply locally the foods that the local community wants and needs most, aiming to move past food security and more toward food sovereignty is an important part of creating a more equitable and sustainable future.

Nurturing Change

At Trellis for Tomorrow, we understand that addressing food security today is essential for fostering food sovereignty tomorrow and we actively work towards improving both concepts through our programs and initiatives.

Increasing Food Security

Trellis for Tomorrow improves food security in vulnerable communities by infusing those communities with fresh, organic, produce all growing season long. We help communities increase their food production and increase access to nutritious food. Through our Food for All program, partner organizations commit to donating at least half of their produce to food banks and pantries local to the garden site. Through these community gardens, and in partnership with food banks, Trellis for Tomorrow ensures that immediate food security needs are addressed.

Advancing Food Sovereignty

Trellis for Tomorrow focuses on empowering communities to reclaim control over their food systems. We support the community by supplying the materials, resources, and expertise to establish large, functional, and sustainable gardens. Then, we work in partnership with members of the community; teaching them how to maintain the space and supporting them through a nine-month garden season. We promote practices that preserve biodiversity and traditional knowledge by engaging with local stakeholders. Through our programs, we strive to create an environment where food sovereignty can thrive.

Building Collaborative Networks

We understand that fostering sustainable food systems requires collaboration and knowledge exchange. We actively build partnerships with local communities, farmers, educational institutions, and government agencies. One example of this is Trellis’s leadership role in the Pottstown Area Food Collaborative (PAFC).  PAFC is a group of highly engaged, cross-sector entities with a shared vision for a localized food system in Pottstown that increases access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate, sustainably produced food. The Collaborative views food as not only a basic need and a human right, but also as a re-generator of the local economy. By creating platforms for dialogue and sharing best practices, Trellis for Tomorrow encourages the co-creation of innovative solutions for both food security and food sovereignty.

Become Part of the Solution

By promoting sustainable practices, empowering individuals, and fostering collaboration, Trellis for Tomorrow is making a significant impact on both food security and food sovereignty. Through our efforts, we are laying the foundation for a future where communities have control over their access to nutritious food and the ability to shape their own food systems.

To support Trellis for Tomorrow and work towards a more sustainable and just food future, you can donate, volunteer, or help spread the word.

FEATURE: Trellis for Tomorrow: Planting Gardens, Growing Food & Strengthening Communities

FEATURE: Trellis for Tomorrow: Planting Gardens, Growing Food & Strengthening Communities

It’s well-documented that planting and tending to gardens can make you happy (or, at least, according to the Mayo Clinic, lower stress and boost mood). Growing food is also an important component of leading a more sustainable lifestyle, keeping the distance between where food is grown and eaten to a minimum. When you take these benefits — not just for an individual gardener — but multiplied out across an entire community, even bigger and more positive things start to happen.

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

Food justice, for one, where groups of people have more self-sufficiency and sovereignty over where their food is coming from. A sense of shared purpose, for two, which can be especially profound for young people trying to figure out their place in a confusing world. The list goes on, including career development and employment opportunities, and access to fresh, healthy food. All of these factors are the motivating forces behind Trellis for Tomorrow, a Phoenixville, PA-based organization that combines organic gardening and youth programming to incredible effect.

Renamed Trellis for Tomorrow in 2018; the organization previously operated as part of Triskeles Foundation, an Exton-based nonprofit that provided philanthropic services and donor-advised funds. Since 2003, various versions of youth programming existed, always working with gardening in some capacities. When current Executive Director Jennifer Anderson took over in January of 2019, she helped to fully transition what was previously the Food for Thought program to a newly piloted model.

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

“Our youth program had always been about bringing youth from various low-income communities to farms to work and experience the programming on the farm,” she notes. “Then, we piloted a reversal of that, where we built a garden in the community, and then recruited the youth to work in that garden and give the food back to their neighbors.”

That was the origin of the SEED Skills program, perhaps the best-known part of Trellis for Tomorrow’s work. The organization planted and maintained four gardens in low-income communities (Phoenixville, Spring City and two in Pottstown), which operate from March through October. The primary youth program is an 8-week session in the summer, which provides a paid work experience for youth, age 12-18. The teens work in and manage the garden, harvest the produce, and develop an enterprise to give back to the community.

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

“It’s quite a remarkable experience for a lot of these youth, it gives them skills and new perspectives about growing food,” Anderson says. “They’re also more tied into their own personal diet and physical well-being, through doing physical activity outdoors and through cooking and recipes demos we do.”

There’s also a strong entrepreneurial aspect to SEED Skills, with classroom time built in for the kids to build their vision for the future. The kids are also in charge of distributing and selling the produce they grow each season — which can be upwards of 8,000 pounds total — through farmstands and pay-what-you-can produce subscription boxes.

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

For teens who fall in love with gardening, there is an extension of the SEED Skills program offered in the spring and fall, called Springboard. This leadership program invites a group of summer participants to continue work in the garden after school and on weekends to help finish out the season, start planting in the spring and help the staff plan for the next summer session.

There’s another, even more intensive workforce preparedness offshoot of SEED Skills, called Grow Careers, that helps provide opportunities for young people ages 16 through 24, who are interested in nonprofit work. Anderson explains: “We match young people with host employers who are all nonprofits or mission-based businesses, and we pay them, we support and coach them and we provide professional development, like resume building and LinkedIn page development.”

Many kids in Grow Careers have been involved with Trellis for Tomorrow throughout their teens and have built relationships with the staff. This can help Anderson and her team make life-changing connections for them as they figure out their post-high-school plans. In one memorable case, Anderson shares, one of the youths in their program was a DACA youth looking for work experience. They were able to secure her an internship at Alianzas de Phoenixville, an advocacy organization that helps immigrants who have recently arrived in the US.

“She ended up being a phenomenal fit, they loved her and she loved them,” Anderson remembers. “Every youth is different, but it’s nice when we have a lot of history with them and can connect them with what they’re passionate about.”

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

The other main facet of Trellis for Tomorrow is Food for All, a gardening program where organizations, like businesses, community orgs and faith-based institutions, can host and maintain vegetable gardens on their properties.

“It’s open to any organization that has land and an interest in growing food for food insecure individuals and has a group of people willing to steward the garden,” Anderson notes.

As of 2023, there are 27 Food for All gardens across 5 counties in Pennsylvania, ranging from six beds to over 100-beds. The Trellis for Tomorrow team, which is made up of gardening experts and environmental justice advocates, design and install the garden beds, provide all organic seedlings, and help educate and support the volunteers throughout the growing seasons. The host organization handles all the weeding, maintenance, harvesting and delivery of the harvested produce to nearby food banks and pantries. Anderson estimates that these gardens produce between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds of donated produce each year.

Trellis 4 Tomorrow

Food For All has always been a popular program, but Anderson says that local interest has exploded in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every week we get a new school or organization asking to do a garden with us! People are craving community, and the garden is a place where people can go and bond,” she says. “Being in the fresh air, growing things, with your hands in the soil, you’re grounded and connected to the earth, and it’s a nice place to have casual conversations with someone you don’t know.”

She surmises that this is an even more profound experience for teenagers, who increasingly live more of their lives and experience so many interactions on two-dimensional screens.

“This is a huge opportunity for youth to experience a more tangible part of life,” she says. “What people are feeling when they come and work with us in any one of these experiences is a sense of community, life and vitality, a potential for personal agency, and a sense of being able to change themselves and the world around them.”

To learn more about Trellis for Tomorrow, or to get involved, check out its website, and follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

Cultivating a Healthier Future: Our SEED Skills Gardens

Cultivating a Healthier Future: Our SEED Skills Gardens

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a balanced diet and access to fresh, nutrient-dense foods. Unfortunately, many communities face significant challenges when it comes to accessing these essential resources.

Our SEED Skills gardens, which make up 4 of our 26 garden sites, are making a profound impact on communities by providing a training ground to teach sustainable gardening skills and empowering residents to regain control over their access to healthy food – addressing critical public health issues of nutrition and food accessibility.

If that wasn’t enough to get you interested, these gardens are managed entirely by teenagers.

SEED Skills is a dynamic program that includes a combination of hands-on work, classroom curriculum, and interactive activities. Youth participants manage organic gardens in their own neighborhoods, where they learn to grow, harvest, and bring the produce to market, selling subscriptions to their neighbors. They also learn to prepare healthy food for themselves and their families.

See our post on how Trellis for Tomorrow’s produce subscriptions aren’t what you expect and are making a huge impact.

Let’s dig into why the SEED Skills program is so unique and how these gardens (and the young leaders who steward them) are having transformative impacts on the communities in which they are built.

The Importance of SEED Skills:

The SEED Skills program goes beyond traditional community gardens. It is a comprehensive initiative designed to equip people with the knowledge and practical skills needed to grow their own food nearby and sustainably. By fostering a sense of self-reliance, SEED Skills empowers communities to take charge of their own nutritional needs and overcome barriers to accessing fresh, nutrient dense foods.

Earlier this year, we dove deep into the history of our youth programs, exploring the transition from bringing members of underserved communities to gardens to bringing gardens right into the hearts of the community.

Past to Present: A History of our Youth Programs

Empowering Communities:

SEED Skills gardens serve as vibrant hubs of community engagement, bringing people together to learn, collaborate, and share knowledge. These spaces become focal points for education, enabling people to gain skills, discover the science behind gardening, and develop sustainable practices. Beyond cultivating garden sites, the program also cultivates a sense of belonging and unity within communities, fostering a collective spirit of resilience and well-being.

Addressing Food Inequality:

One of the most significant impacts of SEED Skills gardens is the youth’s role in combating food inequality. For many underserved communities, accessing fresh produce can be challenging due to limited availability, high costs, or geographical barriers. These gardens provide a local solution, enabling people to grow their own nutritious foods right in their neighborhoods – reducing reliance on processed and less nutritious alternatives, transportation barriers to access, and improving the physical and mental health of vulnerable communities.

Beyond Food: A Holistic Approach:

SEED Skills Gardens offer more than just sustenance; they create transformative spaces that enhance community well-being holistically. These gardens serve as outdoor classrooms, promoting environmental education and awareness of sustainable practices. Moreover, they become sources of beauty, tranquility, and pride, revitalizing neighborhoods, and fostering a sense of ownership.

Since its inception in the Summer of 2018, SEED has increased from 1 garden site to 4, and from 15 participants to 90. These SEED Skills gardens embody the transformative potential of community-driven initiatives. By addressing the critical issue of food accessibility and equipping people with vital skills, these gardens empower communities to take control of their nutritional well-being. Through sustainable agricultural practices and a holistic approach, SEED Skills gardens inspire change, foster unity, and cultivate a healthier, more resilient future for all. With each garden planted, we move closer to a world where everyone has equitable access to fresh, nutrient-dense foods, creating healthier and happier communities.