The soil is already down. And in the next week or two, a group of young gardeners will plant a variety of vegetables that will eventually become ingredients.

"We're planting seeds and taking care of our crops, and we want to be able to jar up salsa for families in our program," said Travis Hiden, assistant director at Youth Advocate Programs Inc.

This is the first year the group will tend a plot in the 4-H Community Garden at 234 S. Pershing Ave.

In its second year of existence, the garden is attracting new green thumbs. It was created by the city's redevelopment authority and the local

4-H Penn State Extension.

Hiden said Youth Advocate Programs saw the garden as an opportunity to teach the youths to "give back and help others less fortunate."

The young gardeners will grow tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cilantro, cucumbers and jalepeƱos in their salsa garden, which will likely be donated to member families in need, he said. They will also grow lettuce, eggplant and zucchini.

Helping hand: Their job and harvest may come a little easier, thanks to a local businessman, Hiden said.

Steven Young, owner of Hi-Tech York, has donated some products from his organic gardening business to the program and other gardeners.

Geohumus is a product mixed in with soil that holds water up to 40 times its weight.

"You can water plants and walk away for two or three days," Young said.

Zho is the other product he donated, and it is a root inoculant that uses natural bacteria and fungus to aid the growth of the plant.

"The soil is literally alive, and the results are amazing," he said.

Gardeners are hoping those products will help revive plots that weren't as successful last year -- two of which Young volunteered to restore.

"I took them on as a challenge. I said, 'Give me the worst beds, and I'll make them the best beds,'" he said.

Young said he's planting food and flowers -- both for the beauty and to attract pollinators.

His list of crops may turn a few heads, he said, with a lineup that includes a cucuzzi, pumpkin-shaped tomatoes and bok choy.

A cucuzzi is a giant gourd that grows to 7 feet in length. When picked at 4 feet, it is tender like zucchini, and Young intends to use it in "the best minestrone soup you've ever had," he said.

Paying it forward: Like the Youth Advocate Program, Young intends to share his harvest.

"My role is to see if I can help people. A lot of people are down and out. When you help people and show them you care, the garden really becomes a pay-it-forward effort," he said.

Many other gardeners donate their produce also, said Tia Underkoffler, 4-H urban educator for Penn State Extension in York County.

For example, last year, the William Penn High School 4-H club donated its produce to a local women's shelter, and the rest of the gardeners either ate their produce or donated it to the community food bank, she said.

"It's a great teaching tool and opportunity to help the community," she said.

The 19 beds are designated on a first-come, first-served basis for contracts that typically begin in April and last through the end of October. The 4-H Community Garden supplies all equipment and asks for a $10 donation per bed.

For more information, call 840-7408.

-- Reach Candy Wood all at 505-5437 or cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.