This is the month that everyone gets excited because summer’s bounty is pouring in from the gardens. Beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, & melons are ripening all at once and we wait expectantly for the perfect time to pick them. We don’t want to wait too long and lose them to the wildlife competition, but we do want them to be vine ripened to perfection. Some push it and do what they call “Graveling” in the dirt for the first, new potatoes to make potatoes and gravy for dinner, leaving some to continue growing into larger potatoes. Giving and taking from nature what they can as soon as they can. The thin skin of a new potato is amazing to taste whereas the leathery skin of an old potato is something you push to the side of the plate to be discarded after dinner is over.
We had a volunteer in this month who is a very good artist. Marcey painted some beautiful garden artwork on the doorframe surrounding my office and I just have to show it off.
The Hackworth Family
Buddy Hackworth and his daughter Cindy have gardens that you’d think were tended by a large family of workers, but that’s not so. Hundreds of sweet potato slips are hiding their mysteries underground to be discovered later in the growing season. Buddy visits his garden regularly by trekking through a stream and up an embankment to a quiet little, sandy flat that is perfect for his sweet potatoes, squash, and gourds. He also has peppers and family heirloom beans tucked into areas in which they seem to thrive. Sometimes though, the winds of a storm swirl and twist his Hickory King corn into a mess and he just prays that the sun coaxes it back up to continue growing.
Garden Tours and Drip Irrigation Class
We had a visit from Candace Mullins and Kayla Preston in late August and I got to show off a few of our gardens, both Community and Individual. We first visited with Rena Ratliff and walked her long fields full of family heirloom beans, Hickory King and Ambrosia corn, and squash. Her scarecrows were comically laying down on the job.
Our second visit was at Eric and Theresa Ousley’s garden full of weedless, straight rows. I was asked if they sprayed with anything and I was happy to reply that, “No, they lay down newspaper, and then grass clippings over top of that.” They had very few weeds anywhere in their huge family garden and their soil report is high on organic material and needs few amendments every year. Their grown children, Erica & Chris Shepherd and their children, Laken and Brycen are also part of their gardening so many hands make light work here.
Just up the road from there was Billy & Betty Risner’s beautiful garden. Their property is surrounded by huge hazelnut bushes and pawpaw trees. They have all sorts of squash, corn, and beans that they’re carefully tending so they can save some of the older seeds. They also have a sweet, elderly neighbor who has held onto some Shucky Beans that have been in her family for over 300 years. This year she asked them if they could grow her a row of her beans and they were glad to oblige. They tilled and dug out a shallow trench and told her to bring her seeds over and join them at planting time. Now they have a row of “Parthina’s Shucky Beans” growing and a very happy neighbor. I love stories of people working the ground together. Gardening really brings people together.
One more quick stop took us to Prestonsburg Health Care Center where Dewey and Michael were busy painting garden furniture and enjoying the great outdoors. Dewey loves nothing better than to be outside with his garden and Michael makes it possible by planting special plants near the sidewalk for Dewey to tend in his wheelchair. The whole garden is a huge success for the residents that have great memories of snapping beans, shucking corn, and just getting their hands into the warm soil.
We had the privilege of hosting Kayla Preston for a Drip Irrigation Class with several of our growers who are interested in using this form of irrigation. She showed us how to put together a leak free drip irrigation system for our gardens and answered many questions that we had along the way. It’s something that I think more of our gardeners will want to explore next year. It ended up being a very full day for all of us.
Grigsby Heights Community Garden
The folks at Grigsby Heights Community Garden have had a very successful growing season. Dale, Ray, Jordan & Kaila, Edith, Wanda, & Sharon have all grown amazing things in their shared plots and in their container gardens off of their back patios. They’ve grown corn, beans, summer squash, melons, and are still growing some pumpkins for the little ones in their families and in their neighborhood.
Jordan and Kaila recently welcomed a new baby into their family, so they’ve opted to let their pumpkins grow wild and free while they love on their two children. I’m sure the pumpkins will do just fine without constant care, but babies and big brothers will not.
Edith’s garden is seeing more sunlight than normal with the removal of several trees around her apartment. She’s having to adjust her fall planting plans and has asked for collard green seeds to plant in her bright side beds. I’m excited to see her get a little something special because she never asks for much, just enjoys the fellowship with others. She was very excited to get those collard seeds a few days later.
One of our newest gardening families (and new to Kentucky) was Roger and Dee Emmerick and their kids. They’ve done a FANTASTIC job in their first year of gardening hillside. They had some challenges, some disappointments, and some extreme successes!
Some of our gardeners attended a Canning Basics Class at the Floyd County Extension Office to learn how to preserve their foods. It’s a class that fills up quickly every year and I encourage our newer gardeners to learn this fine art and practice it often. Roger and Dee were front and center for the daytime class, learning all they could from Andi Slone.