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(L to R front- Indigo and Orion, back – Gretchen and Birch)

There are few things that get a true gardener excited more than being invited to discover another gardeners beds. Garden beds that is.  As the Grow Appalachia Alderson coordinator here at Alderson Community Food Hub, I get invitations all the time to others gardens.

My first garden visit of this season was with the Graves family.  This family lives on a former dairy farm in Monroe Co. WV and have a beautiful family dynamic.  Safe, healthy and inventive food are very important to them.  They taught me how to make humus.  I know now how easy it is, but I never knew.

The Graves have an extremely busy schedule so they wanted to discuss garden techniques which would result in healthy plants but lower their time committment. Though they have a wonderful traditional garden spot they had a real interest in creating raised beds.

A big part of the discussion focused on the media they will use.  They have access to plenty of top soil and have a large amount of very well decomposed dairy compost. They couldn’t ask for much more, so they will be mixing these two ingredients and I will help them decide if they need to add any builders sand after they mix these first two ingredients.  Buildes sand can add drainage if the soil is too “heavy”.  Be sure it’s not play ground sand.  It is round and packs, builders sand has angles and creates small air pockets.

Before I arrived the family sat down to make a grow list, or “What do we like to eat?”, this is always the starting point.  If you don’t want to eat it or sell it, don’t grow it.

Planting direction, vegetable families and the planting plan were also fun discussions and we came away from the evening with a good picture of what their gardens will look and feel like. Birch (the Dad) asked me to do a barn scavenger hunt in some of the old barns on the farm, to see if there are any tools or equipment I thought they could use. It was like a history lesson first hand.  We found old hand tillers, hand tools, and even an old but very usable germination cart, lights and all. These tools along with a few new items the family has asked for, will plant the seeds of success for this garden family.

The Graves have the advantage of a family with a long history of caring for the land and I am so looking forward to watching their garden grow. I look forward to visiting each of our Grow Appalachia Alderson families in the next few weeks and discovering what is special about their garden and familes alike.

Beth Massey

Grow Appalachia Alderson Coordinator