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Helping Center needs willing hands for its veggie harvest

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

Joyce Berecki checks for bugs on bean plants in the garden at The Helping Center of Marble Falls. Highland Lakes Master Gardeners keep the garden going, but they could always use more volunteers to help harvest vegetables, which go to the center for those in need. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Joyce Berecki checks for bugs on bean plants in the garden at The Helping Center of Marble Falls. Highland Lakes Master Gardeners keep the garden going, but they could always use more volunteers to help harvest vegetables, which go to the center for those in need. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

MARBLE FALLS — Dick Lambert pulls the black hose across a row of spaghetti squash, pushes back some leaves and then flicks on the vacuum. The house-cleaning appliance sucks up a few of the gray bugs that can wreak havoc on squash and other vine-grown vegetables.

“There’s really no easy way to get them,” Lambert says during a break from vacuuming.

Joyce Berecki spots a few of the gray bugs crawling along a stem. She lifts the vine, revealing a bounty of juvenile squash bugs running for cover.

“Here are some more,” she tells him, pointing to the bugs. Lambert pushes the vacuum tube under the squash plant and among the mulch. Berecki flips the switch.

The world is safe from a few more squash bugs, but more find cover.

“They get under there, and they’re almost impossible to get,” Lambert says. The bugs clearly have the advantage with their small size, numbers and color. But the volunteers at The Helping Center of the Marble Falls garden stay committed because they know the squash and the watermelon they save will help feed the community.

Since its inception several years ago adjacent to The Helping Center, the garden has filled a gap often found in food pantries: fresh produce. But with the spring turning to summer and the vegetables ripening, the Highland Lakes Master Gardeners could use a hand.

“In May, we harvested 354 pounds (of vegetables) and gave it to The Helping Center,” said Master Gardener Karen Wilkens. “In June, we’ll probably double that, so we still need volunteers.”

With the harvesting season upon them, volunteers help pick vegetables to get the produce inside the food pantry and in bags for clients. But it takes a lot of hands to make it all happen. The Master Gardeners give a lot of their time to the garden to make it a success, but there is always room for more folks, even if they have no gardening experience. The Master Gardeners will teach them.

“That’s one of the great things about this garden. Not only does it help feed people, but people can come here and learn about gardening,” Wilkens said. “It’s a great chance to do good and learn something. In fact, it’s one of those things that benefits everybody involved. The Helping Center gets vegetables, people can learn about gardening and the Master Gardeners get volunteers. What could be better?”

Along with volunteers, the Master Gardeners are looking for a refrigerator to replace the one at the garden that broke. The gardeners use the fridge to keep water cool for volunteers and seeds.

Go to www.burnetcountyhighlandlakesmastergardener.org for more information or stop by the garden, which is located at 1315 Broadway.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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