Life happens, despite our efforts to schedule our Grow Appalachia workshops at the most convenient times for participating families. Cars break down (or gas money runs out), someone’s Mom ends up in the hospital (or a spouse needs day-to-day care taking at home), and our doctors give us less choice than we’d like when setting appointments.


One way we respond to the need (and grant requirement) is that participants take part in core workshops to create a work sheet that helps each family capture the information shared at that workshop.  They produce a garden map, detail how many plants will yield the crops they hope to harvest, reflect on the challenges of securing (and cooking) healthy foods, or make a plan for winter garden maintenance. We’ve bought simple plastic folders to serve as portfolios for those key plans and ideas so the families have a waterproof means for storing their records in one place.

Also, if they have to miss workshop, those worksheets form the basis for simple tutorials between veteran gardeners and those just starting. Those one to ones provide for some of the richest conversations that we have within our grow Appalachia family.

If you dropped by the Big Ugly cafeteria or the picnic shelter out back (on a nice day), you might have heard any of the following as participants came in to catch up on workshops and pick up plants, fertilizer and seed:

“If you put sand, egghshells and ashes around your broccoli and cabbage you’ll keep down the worms. And clip some wild mint and lay it across the head to keep them away”

“Black pepper around your tomato plants will keep away mildew and blight fungus”

“With turnips you pick up the plant shake out the seed in the garden at the end of the year and lo and behold next year you’ll have fresh plants.”

“Don’t weed out wormwood—cultivate it.  If you dry it and put it in your pantry or kitchen cabinets you won’t have moths getting in your dry goods.”

Perhaps our favorite side bar was a tip on storing heirloom cucumber seeds.  “When you get toward the end of the season let a few cucumbers grow big and yellow. Then pick them and hang them up in a hole filled bag (like the ones you buy oranges in). The cucumber will turn into liquid and when that liquid drains away you’ll be left with dried seeds that you can plant the next year. You have to be sure the heart is in the seed before you harvest the seed you are trying to save.”

garden from Sherrie Borwning 2014 01

The heart of the seed, we like that idea, it’s a good tip for heirloom seeds. It’s a good way to make sure the knowledge we want to be passed on to each family is shared, even if someone’s life blows up a little on the day of a workshop. Find an experienced gardener and sit them down with their neighbor and ask them to share the heart of the workshop and the conversation will flow.  You know how gardeners like to talk about growing good food.


Michael Tierney