By: Michael T


Raising our own plants from organic seeds has made quite a difference in the productivity of our gardens in Lincoln County, West Virginia this year.

Big Ulgy

Marcelle working in the green house.

Last winter, with support from Grow Appalachia and a healthy foods and physical activity initiative Keys 4 Healthy Kids, we were able to entirely refurbish our greenhouse at the Big Ugly Community Center which for many years acted as more of a front porch than a greenhouse. With the ability to start seeding plants in February and March we took a risk and put nearly all of our consumables budget into organic seeds and growing material (pro-mix, cells and trays) from several vendors, East of the Mississippi (figuring seeds might have different growth success from the west coast).  With the help of spring break groups from Richmond, Earlham, Converse and Allegheny Colleges we decided to plant as many seeds as possible—over 5000 in all.

That gamble paid off—most of the seedlings survived and as we have gotten them out to families they have thrived. The report back is that:


*Provider beans have done exceedingly well

*Our celery has been awesome

*Zucchini has thrived

*Best year ever for broccoli and cabbage

*Eggplant plants are beautiful

*Watermelon vines everywhere!!!


Big Ugly green house and organic plants that we started from seeds.

Big Ugly green house and organic plants that we started from seeds.


And of course we have had some challenges:

The chlorinated water (essential on a well for a community center) kept the plants from growing as well as they did with rain water. So, next year we’ll rely on rain barrels

And, when the seed companies ran out of half runner bean seeds we had to purchase locally and they have not done as well as our organic seeds.

Our notable increased success from the previous years’ experience with store-bought seeds and plants from vendors like the big box hardware complexes has set up a new challenge:  keeping track of what seeds came from what company so we can


*keep buying the most successful seeds

*prioritize saving those seeds

* keep track of varieties that didn’t do so well, so we can try something else.


It certainly is a pleasure to have our questions include, how do we repeat our success with these heirloom varieties again next year.