Hello from Heather.

Today’s post focuses on gardeners Vadie, Amy, and Jennifer.


Vadie is our oldest gardener in the program, at 84 years old. She doesn’t leave her house unless someone drives her to the doctor or to pick up food. (Or to attend a GYO class.) Her doctor told her she better stop gardening, but she said if she was going to do that she’d rather stop living. She said, “I figure if I die out there in the garden that’s the best place I could die.”


Vadie. Researcher Jade accompanied me on some visits.

Vadie. Researcher Jade accompanied me on some visits.

Vadie has a beautiful garden, albeit a somewhat crowded one. Everyone’s garden is looking more crowded than usual this year because of the torrential rain we’ve experienced. Vadie said she couldn’t even get in the garden it was so wet, and when she tried, her shoes got stuck in the mud.

Vadie's garden

Vadie’s garden looks serene.




I also think people’s gardens get crowded because they can’t bear to waste a single plant or seed, so they squeeze everything they have into their space.


In any event, besides the torrential rain, Vadie’s garden is going well. All she wants to plant for fall is a few cabbages and some sugar snap peas. She’s 84 and she knows what she wants and what she doesn’t.


She also knows she doesn't want to dig potatoes--these potatoes were strewn on the ground with hay and straw tossed over them.

She also knows she doesn’t want to dig potatoes–these potatoes were strewn on the ground with hay and straw tossed over them.

Driving on up to Glade Spring, I stopped at Amy’s house. Amy has the most meticulous garden I’ve seen, rivaling my own OCD garden tendencies.

Amy's garden

Amy’s neat garden

nicely caged tomatoes at Amy's

nicely caged tomatoes at Amy’s

Gardening since she married, Amy is incredibly knowledgeable and eager to learn more. She plans to save seed, and she puts up a full pantry every year.


This was the first year Amy tried mulch in her garden, one of the main tenants we teach. Says Amy, “It’s made a world of difference.”





mulch baby mulch

mulch baby mulch

This was also the first year Amy organized her garden into blocks instead of long straight rows, another growing method we teach. She says she likes blocks better, as it is easier to manage and organize, plus the plants have more space.
When asked how we could improve the program, Amy said a fruit-tree component would be wonderful, as diagnosing and treating a sick tree, pruning, and maintenance are all fruit tree topics she is unfamiliar with. Other Grow Your Own gardeners have mentioned this as well.

Grow Appalachia Grow Fruit?


Her kids help her out in the garden every day, and the whole family is creative and industrious. This bean teepee will be a trellis for climbing beans, and will double as a teepee for the kids to play in. Cool.


bean teepee


Amy and her children

Amy and her children

Back in Abingdon, Jennifer kindly let us stop by. Jennifer works nights and has a large family, so she is pretty busy. She only planted two rows of corn, but thinks she’ll get adequate cross pollination because her dog is always running through the corn and shaking them up. I’d be skeptical on this, but last week I visited a garden with only two rows and beautiful, full-grown ears of corn.


Life….what a mystery.


Jennifer loved the Creasy Greens we gave out this year. (This made me happy as I only purchased the seed when a lady in the program from last year suggested it.) She is going to save seed from her Creasy Greens. Another Grow Your Own gardener engaging in the sustainably wonderful seed-saving!


Jennifer and her children

Jennifer and her children

Jennifer said having classes on different days (all our classes our on Mondays) would be more accommodating, and classes on season extension and more seed-saving classes would improve the program.


Her garden looked great, but like a lot of other Grow Your Own gardeners, she needed to prune her tomatoes quite a bit and keep up with trellising. Tomato care appears to be a topic we need to spend even more time on in the next season.


Jennifer’s sweet potatoes looked the best of anyone’s I’d seen so far—I think she’ll have a good crop.

great looking sweet potatoes at jennifer's

Well, back to the garden.