CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The “people’s garden,” facilitated by Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County's master gardeners is making a difference in Cape May County, officials said, by helping to make fresh vegetables available to those in need.

Master gardeners planted more 1,600 plants in June at the garden, located on the grounds of the US Department of Agriculture Plant Material Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1536 Route 9, in Cape May Court House.

“Cape May County's Rutgers master gardeners are happy to put their expertise and passion to use and plant a variety of vegetables in the garden, especially knowing that everything planted in the garden is helping residents less fortunate in the county,” said Jerry McManus, master gardener and coordinator of the garden.

All of the vegetables grown in the garden are being donated to county food pantries in this summer, officials said, including St. Casimir Church in Woodbine, the Branches in Rio Grande, and the Dennisville Methodist Church.

According to the gardeners, there little cost involved in the operation of the people's garden, as the seed planted came from last year's plants, and all of the planting and follow-up work is done by volunteers. 

Last year, volunteers planted 200 plants that yielded nearly 160 pounds of vegetables which were also donated to food pantries.  With 10 times that many planted this year, volunteers hope to donate much more to pantries in 2016.

Vegetables planted include: two types of tomatoes, parsley, zucchini, bush beans and five types of peppers.  The non-profit organizations that receive the vegetables from the garden help to maintain the area by weeding and harvesting the vegetables.

“It is wonderful to see how dedicated the Rutgers master gardeners are to this project,” McManus said. 

Master gardeners are trained volunteers who assist Rutgers Cooperative Extension in providing horticultural programs and information to the public. Once trained, master gardeners volunteer to educate the public through outreach programs, horticultural therapy, community gardens as well as answering questions that come in to the county's free Horticultural Helpline.

Some of the other programs currently being given by Cape May County RMGs are horticultural therapy in nursing homes; working with children at the Special Services Schools; giving lectures and workshops to garden clubs and other public groups; providing informational tables at public events, such as the 4H Fair.