I’ve been so excited about the Grow Appalachia project here in Linwood! This is the next step in the development of our evolving community. I truly need this support to learn to grow sustainable food. Despite my continued efforts, I have been rather unsuccessful in the past. With the classes and support of the community here and online, I hope to correct the mistakes of previous seasons.

Seven years ago, when I moved to Linwood, I attempted to grow a 20’ x 20’ garden. Luckily, my landlord plowed the space for me. Even after going over the area many times, the soil was still so rocky. Never in my life had I used a hoe and a rake. After many days of struggling with the soil, I planted corn, green beans, squash, carrots, cucumbers, watermelons as well as several type of peppers and tomatoes. I quickly discovered that I needed a much sturdier fence and a better planting plan.

The deer had destroyed my fence and eaten most of the tops off of my little fledgling plants. They seemed to enjoy the carrot and tomato tops the most. Constructing a sturdier fence did not help. The deer simply leap over the fence. Ultimately, the goal is to keep all animals from wanting to enter the sanctity of the garden area. Everyone had different advice about how to deter our woodland friends. Some said, “You need a scarecrow!” Other people swore by pie pans and red ribbon. Each time I attempted to adorn my perimeter with a deterrent, the wild winds of Linwood would send it into Ralph’s cow pasture. That seemed more like littering than being productive.

Later that year, I added a section of spearmint, apple mint, rosemary, basil and cilantro. I might have tried one other herb, but I believe I lost the tag and as it never amounted to anything identifiable, I’ll never know what bounties it would have yielded. The bugs massacred the basil, my favorite herb, by day two. The cilantro started out so strong, but only lasted a few weeks. I planted it too close to the mint. Before the summer of 2007, I didn’t realize that mint was so invasive. The spearmint and apple mint eliminated all other plants, including weeds in their vicinity. By the fall I had baskets full of both types of mint, but no other herbs.

Initially, I thought I could only grow corn. Those corn stalks shot up so fast. Apparently, I did not space out the seeds enough. I had only planted three rows, but we ended up with two additional rows in between the three rows. A friend had suggested planting the runner beans near the base of the corn stalks to give them somewhere to hang. I should have looked for other options. Since I had so many plants in a confined space, the runner beans couldn’t get any light. The corn rapidly grew to knee high around the second week of July, but the beans all withered away. I didn’t lose hope, I just focused on watering, weeding and positive energy. In the end, I had bushels of corn, a peck or two of tomatoes, countless squash and all the mint anyone could ever need.

This year I want to expand my knowledge. One of the classes will teach me how to prepare seeds for planting, which has to produce better results than directly planting the seeds into the ground. With soil testing, I will learn about nutrients and minerals in the soil and how they effect different plants. Most importantly, I will be part of a team. Every other growing season, I started out with a friend or roommate helping, but they always became too busy or simply uninterested in the daily work involved in keeping up the garden. I just do not understand how anyone could get bored with being out in the sun and playing in the garden. Weeding has always been one of my favorite activities. It is just so therapeutic. I hope everyone else is as excited about this fantastic project!!

This post by: Emily Eltzroth