Looks like my eyes were bigger than my stomach this year. I planted the largest garden I've ever had complete with two kinds of lettuce, three kinds of onions, miles of carrots, eggplant, squash, basil, potatoes, sundry herbs -- really, too much to mention here. And, in large part, I did it for a man. My boyfriend -- well, ex-boyfriend now -- loves to cook and appreciates good, local ingredients, so I planted lots and lots of everything, envisioning innumerable romantic meals of grilled veggies, pesto, and my fresh-baked focaccia. But at the moment, I admit, I feel like letting the weeds take over, and, after that, the Japanese beetles can have whatever hasn't been smothered by the pigweed and creeping Charlie.

Still, although it's awfully tempting to let all of that fresh produce go to waste -- and, while I'm at it, unmask this Lothario for good-- I have a much better idea. I'm going to roll up my sleeves, keep it all going, and donate all that I can to my local Plant a Row for the Hungry chapter. Plant a Row for the Hungry started small with gardening writers like me urging people to plant just one more row of tomatoes, green beans, or whatever and subsequently donate that extra produce to their local food banks.

Turns out just one extra row here and there makes a big impact. Since the national Plant a Row program's inception, well over 10 million pounds of fresh fruits and veggies have been raised to help the hungry in communities across the U.S. and Canada. And there's certainly a need for that kind of help. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, 33 million U.S. residents -- including 13 million kids -- live in households that “experience hunger or the risk of hunger.”

That helps put my little bout with heartbreak into perspective, and, who knows, maybe it will inspire you to plant a little extra yourself right now or even this fall. It doesn't take much land to raise food. Heck, if you've got a good south-facing balcony or patio, you can grow all sorts of produce in containers. And, if you don't already have a Plant a Row chapter in your neck of the woods, maybe you are just the person to start one! I think it would do all of our hearts quite a lot of good.

Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007

Dumped but digging in
Extra produce grown in backyards across the U.S and Canada can be donated to Plan a Row for the Hungry.