Whether you are new to gardening or experienced, you really should get to know the Kansas City Community Gardens. The gardens are located in Swope Park just off Gregory.

The KCCG offers workshops during the various gardening seasons that are pertinent to issues that you want to know about. For example, I recently attended a workshop on fall planting, which actually starts right now in summer so that you have a fall garden to harvest.

The next workshop will be on practices that will help you extend your fall garden into winter such as using cold frames and row covers as well as selecting varieties of plants for the season.

They also sell plants and seeds that are chosen for their practicality in the Kansas City region. They are sort of the equivalent to gardening like “America’s Test Kitchen” is to cooking. They select different varieties of a wide range of fruits and vegetables and test them in the gardens to see how well they do in our region. Then they make seeds and plants available from those varieties that they know do well here.

Their other major mission is to promote and support community gardens and personal backyard gardens for people living in this region. The gardens and buildings are surrounded by a security fence because unfortunately, nasty people damage things and steal things from other people.

It is easy to become a member of KCCG. It is very inexpensive and you get your money’s worth back in packs of seeds and organic fertilizer. I use a lot of leaves for mulch and fertilizer in my own gardens and I have been searching for a source of organic fertilizer for many years. It is easy to find cow manure and other manures, but if they are lacing the animals with hormones and antibiotics and the feed is contaminated with pesticides, then that is not a good source of animal fertilizer for the home garden.

They provide chicken manure pellets which are guaranteed to have pretty good NPK numbers and the pellets are easy to bag up or load into a bucket. Finally, I have a reliable source of organic animal fertilizer to add to my garden and I don’t have to consider raising my own chickens for the manure, although having chickens would still be great for the eggs and meat as well as for some insect control.

To my knowledge, they are one of the only really reliable sources for plants for the fall garden. You have to plant the fall garden in mid to late summer if you expect to have something to harvest and this is a great source of those plants that they raise in their greenhouse.

You can find KCCG on the internet and the website is chock full of good gardening information as well as the schedule of workshops. One list that I appreciate is their schedule for planting an extensive list of crops with a range of best planting dates both for the spring and the fall gardens. This list is based entirely on their experience at the gardens in Swope Park, so you know that they are good for our region.

I highly recommend that you at least visit their website and even the gardens as they have an excellent children’s section. You may decide that growing your own vegetables is a really good idea.

Matt Nowak is a retired natural resources specialist and lives in Lansing.