If Build It Up (BIU) Backyard Gardeners (BG) were not already in the planting spirit, this unusual winter-summer weather has surely ignited the spirit! The past couple of weeks, especially last week, have surprised us all with unusually warm, sunny days.

BIU leaders have been getting in the spirit for several months now, as they excitedly prepared for the kick-off of the expanded Backyard Gardener (BG) program– from 25 families to 45 families will now be a part of this upcoming year of the BG program.

BIU leader Lexy Close, who will be guiding most all of the BIU workshops has been carefully tending to all of the details over these last few months–seed orders, workshop materials, application release, applicant communications, and at last, about a month ago, it came the time for the BIU team to all meet together to review the 2017 applications.

BIU leaders Lexy Close and Taylor Malone then embarked on the journey of making the rounds to all the applicants who had been chosen. They had quite an area to cover, yet they managed to fit all of the visits within a few weeks– with Lexy making it to every single site visit!


BIU leader Taylor Malone helps take soil samples during Backyard Gardener site visits.


They met new friends along the way throughout the days, and, at some stops, were met with surprises.

At one visit, a slithering black snake wandered up, startling the little ones who lived there. However, Lexy assured them that the snake is the garden guardian.


The children were frightened of this friend, but BIU leader Lexy assured them the snake is the garden guardian.

At another site, the BIU leaders met a man in his 70s who so kindly offered them a very special gift– a division of the fig tree that was his great grandmother’s. He sure knew his visitors well! There are few things that excite plant people like Lexy and Taylor as much as the gift of a plant whose roots run deep– in meaning and history.


A friendly Backyard Gardener shares a very special fig tree with BIU leaders Taylor Malone and Lexy Close on a site visit.

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Over at the Alternative Center Food Forest, these Backyard School Gardeners have already been up and running with their food growing, and the food trees that they planted with BIU leader Taylor Malone are flowering in their schoolyard.



The Alternative Center Almond Tree that the Backyard Gardener students planted with BIU leader Taylor Malone in their school yard…already flowering!

In the next few days, the Backyard Gardener Workshops kick-off: March 2 and March 6.

This year Gardeners will be able to choose between two workshop days– one which takes place in Elizabethton and the other, in Johnson City. We hope this will contribute to the ease of workshop attendance and, also, grow the regional web of connections between the Gardeners.


Cheers to another year planting community seeds~