UGROW Garden Resource Page
In the face of the current crisis, we have seen a tremendous uptick in public interest in home and community gardening. In an effort to make gardening resources available to as many members of our community as possible, we have put together some resources to share. As we move further into spring and then summer, gardening can help us stay healthy, eat well, and also find a place of calm and respite.
The REC UGROW Program supports a network of over 60 community and school gardens in Worcester. If you are interested in growing at a community garden site, please email our Community Garden Coordinator, Pat, at UGROW@recworcester.org with your home address and we will connect you to the nearest available open plot. See a list of current Community Gardens here, and current School Gardens here.
If you are interested in volunteering to support community or school gardens impacted by the COVID-19 crisis or have materials to donate to support garden construction such as lumber, hoses, hose nozzles, rain barrels, soil, pre-fab raised bed kits, or garden tools, please email our School Gardens Manager, Eliza, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will distribute to those who are in need.
For more info about our UGROW (Urban Gardening Resources of Worcester) Network, please see https://www.recworcester.org/ugrow
Starting a Home Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables is a great way to produce cheap, nutritious food, and the act of gardening is beneficial for physical and mental health. A few things to consider when planning your garden:
Make sure the site of your garden has good sun and access to a water source. Most vegetable plants need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Healthy soil is the basis of healthy plants and vegetables. We suggest a few basic tips for at-home gardeners:
Make sure your soil is not contaminated with heavy metals. Lead contamination is very common, due to the historical use of lead paint on houses. Learn more here.
Test your soil by sending a sample to a testing laboratory*
Avoid soil contamination by building raised bed gardens and purchasing soil from a local nursery
Add Organic Matter to your soil - this can come in the form of compost.
You can get soil and compost delivered in bulk from many local nurseries, including EchoBrook Nursery, with Perrault Nurseries & Landscape Supply, and Busy Bee Nursery and Landscape Construction for about $35/yard plus delivery. You can also purchase soil by the bag at home improvement or garden supply stores**, and with City Compost.
Figure out how much soil and compost you’ll need by using this Soil Calculator
*Many testing laboratories are currently closed, but we can help you get a soil test through our partner, the Worcester County Conservation District. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
**Barrows and Rocky's ACE Hardware in Worcester have the soil brand Black Gold that many gardeners use to grow vegetables because it is organic. We do not recommend using synthetic fertilizers like Miracle-Gro to amend your soil.
Please see links below for information on:
City Compost: City Compost is creating more soil to grow more fresh food by composting material that would otherwise go to waste. Customized solutions for homes, office, restaurants, food manufacturers, and zero waste events. The opportunity for composting is everywhere!! We can compost all foods including meat, grains, citrus, and dairy in addition to our yard material and animal bedding services.
*Note: This program is currently closed due to the
Covid-19 emergency. Check the Worcester Department
of Public Works website for updates.
Building a Raised Bed:
Raised bed gardens are ideal for urban environments because they allow us to avoid contaminated and compacted soil. A raised bed makes it easier to control weeds. They also retain heat, making them a warmer environment for plants earlier in the growing season than in-ground gardens. There are many different ways to build a raised bed garden, including using recycled materials.
REC generally builds 8’ x 4’ gardens, using multiple layers of 4” x 4” boards of untreated Douglas Fir lumber, which will last about 6-8 years. However, garden beds can be made less expensively, by using 2” x 8” lumber or other materials, such as bricks, unpainted/untreated scrap lumber, cinder blocks and other untreated materials. Here are some basic guidelines:
Make your raised bed at least 8”-12” deep to allow your plants to develop proper root systems
Use untreated materials to avoid contamination from chemicals
Create a barrier at the bottom of your raised bed to block weeds and soil contamination using cardboard, black & white newspaper, or landscaping fabric
Fill your raised beds with soil and compost from a trusted source
Raised Bed Garden Resources:
*This is a guide we use for our Community and School Garden Network. Please note that there are many different ways to build a raised bed, some of which are less expensive. We include information about some of these options below:
If growing space is limited, you can also grow most vegetables in smaller containers such as ceramic pots or plastic buckets, as long as they have drainage holes at the bottom.
Vegetable Growing Guides:
REC Plant Resource Guide: a free detailed guide covering all the basics, including when to start planting, how far to space plants, maintenance tips, managing pests and disease, and harvesting guidelines for some of the most popular plants that grow in our region.
Growing and Transplanting Seedlings:
Seedlings are young plants that have been grown in containers in greenhouses or on windowsills. Planting seedlings rather than directly sowing seeds in your garden will give you a jump start on the growing season and can help your garden have greater yields. You can grow your own seedlings indoors near a window or purchase them from local nurseries or from organizations like the REC that host plant sales each spring.
This year, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, REC has shifted our annual plant sale to an online-only format with curbside pickup. We have also created a sliding-scale payment option in an effort to make resources for gardening available to as many members of our community as possible. When you purchase seedlings via our online form below, please select from available prices based on your need. Customers who select a higher price will help make it possible for our neighbors in need to access healthy food through community or backyard gardening.
Thank you for your support!
The online stores listed below are a few of the many great sources available from which to purchase seeds.
*closed until June 15th
REC Tool Lending Library:
The REC Tool Lending Library is a resource that generally provides tools for community and school gardens. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we are considering ways to make these tools safely available to community members outside of our community and school garden network. If you have a pressing need, please email us and we will let you know if we can assist.
Created with support from the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation and Patagonia, the REC Tool Lending Library includes 40 different types of tools, with 150 total tools available for loan, including rakes, shovels, hoes, hand tools, and other garden equipment. The Library also offers power tools, including saws, drills, and hedge trimmers to be used by trained REC staff.
To request tools, please fill out our online form:
Indoor Gardening Projects:
Compiled by our friends at Soul Fire Farm, this informative guide includes:
How-to-Videos by topic
Information about BIPOC-led gardening projects around the country
Online learning resources such as: video series, youtube channels, online classes & blogs
Book topics are broken up by chapter and include recipes
Webinars on gardening topics
A public campaign for people to support one another to grow food in their communities
Resources that support farmers and food systems practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic
Local Nurseries for Plants, Soil, & Garden Supplies
If you own a local nursery or garden supply store and would like to be listed here, please email us at and we will be happy to include your business.
Links to REC's Community and School Garden Network lists: