Greetings from Abingdon and ASD’s Grow Your Own Program!

This is Deni, reporting in for June activities.  Hard to believe that spring is gone, in the blink of an eye, and the dog days of summer are approaching.

We had a HOT June; temps in the upper 90’s for days (weeks?) on end. No rain made for grumpy growers.  But alas, the rains FINALLY found our fields and while temps stayed high at least we could stop pulling hoses!

Due to the intense heat, we spent some time organizing volunteer activities under shade.  Emory & Henry College sent Leadership Campers to Grow Your Own demonstration garden.  There, we worked together to rebuild the wash stand, building a simple patio to reduce dirt splash from wash tubs.  We purchased an EZ up tent (on sale) to provide much needed shade and staked it down with long nails.  May the thunderstorms of July be kind.

Wash Station Rebuild         Rebuild 2     rebuild 3    Rebuild 4

Huge Thanks goes out to Tech GYRLS, who volunteered on a HOT, HOT, HOT day, but got the pumpkins in, the potatoes hilled, the brassicas weeded, and buckwheat divided into bags for participants to take home.  Note: the pumpkins were planted in a “no-till” method into wheat that had overwintered from sowing last September.  Stalks were simply bend down onto the ground.  After two days, Tech GYRLS used shovels to part the stalks, dig small holes and transplant little pumpkin plants.  They love the warm rains that are now falling…

Planting pumpkins; Tech GYRLS ROCK!          July 2015 224

Crops have been generous this season; we’ve seen some beautiful broccoli, kale, lettuce, peas, and cabbages come in.  We are currently harvesting beets and carrots, and we’re looking forward to the first tomatoes and beans of the season.

Justin's Big Beet   BIG BEET    Beets

While our demonstration garden continues to improve it’s methods and organization, we were featured by our local news just yesterday.  Check out this link:

Carrot Harvest   Chalk Board

Meanwhile, one of our best volunteer families have written another blog post for you all.  Describing their learning this season so far.  Lori and her family are featured in the TV spot mentioned above.  Hope you enjoy it, and Happy July!!!

          Summer days. Lemonade. Vacation. Growing your own food. Yes, gardening and growing your own food are as much a part of summer as picnics and popsicles. Here in Abingdon, we have the benefit of Appalachian Sustainable Development whose mission is “to grow food, communities and opportunities to build a thriving Appalachia” ( By participating in Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Grow Your Own Program, our family has learned valuable gardening skills, been introduced to organic methods of pest control and taught to use tools that make weeding much more manageable.  Helping to raise and harvest food grown in the Ecumenical Faith in Action garden for the benefit of their food pantry added an extra dimension of purpose to our gardening endeavors.

Chapman Family   Radishes

          We have raised a garden for many years and our children have grown up tending a garden through the summers. However, in all our years of gardening, there were some vegetables we had either never tried to raise or had tried with no success. Through the classes, training and support of the Grow Your Own Program, we have successfully raised broccoli, cauliflower and kale and look forward to greater harvests in our favorites-tomatoes and peppers.

While in years past we painstakingly staked each individual tomato plant, this year we learned the Florida basket-weave method of using garden string to keep a row of tomato plants upright and off the ground. We have also learned to chart and keep records of our harvest. This knowledge of how to garden more effectively coupled with instruction in organic methods of pest control leads to greater yields in produce.

Tomato   Tomato Trellis 2

          Speaking of pests and garden problems, blight has plagued our tomatoes in years past and it seemed that preventing or stopping it was some mysterious, unattainable possibility. Now we know that blight is in the soil so to prevent it simply requires keeping the soil from coming into contact with the leaves. By surrounding our tomato plants with straw and grass clippings, we effectively keep rain from splashing soil up onto the leaves of the tomato plants, thus preventing blight. Eureka! What a blessing that something so simple yields such great results and though it is simple, and we have gardened for years, we learned this trick from Deni Peterson’s Grow Your Own classes.

          We have also been blessed to discover handy tools of the gardening trade that make weed control more manageable. The traditional hoe is an effective instrument, but pales in comparison to tools like the shuffle hoe and hand hoe. While the old traditional hoe is an excellent back-breaker and does allow the gardener to whack away at rather large swatches of ground, implements like the shuffle hoe and hand hoe make weeding easier by getting into smaller spaces without having to pull each weed by hand. What a great help!

Shuffle Hoe

          Working alongside our children in the garden and seeing them learn to grow their own food is a thrilling experience for us as parents. Like anything else, time in the garden rushes by when you are in good company sharing plans, jokes, songs or even complaints (“How do potato bugs multiply so fast?”). Relationships are strengthened by working together in the garden. Harvesting to give fresh food to the Ecumenical Faith in Action food pantry demonstrates the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We all enjoy fresh produce. The Grow Your Own Program through Appalachian Sustainable Development  makes growing your own food not only possible but very profitable in healthy, hearty harvests for your own table and to share with family, friends and the community. For us, growing our own food is a family affair.

Wash Station