Happy June! We’ve had a fabulous month here at Grow Ohio Valley, watching our gardens grow and getting to learn alongside our Backyard Gardeners. This month, I have the pleasure of bringing you a post from Cassie, who has tended a garden for a few seasons now, but only just joined the Grow Appalachia community this year. Below you can read about some of her challenges and triumphs, and see how her space has evolved through the years.


Gardening in the Ohio Valley has been a unique and rewarding endeavor. As someone who grew up in the flat lands of Ohio, miles of flat farmland around, farming is all I knew. While my journey in the Ohio Valley has been different from where I grew up, gardening was something I knew I had to get into. Nestled in a region known for its lush landscapes and rolling hills, I lucked out and found a house with a flat (not huge) backyard to start my garden! It’s been a journey marked by both triumphs and trials, particularly in an area often considered a food desert. Here, every green sprout and ripe vegetable carries a deeper significance, as it represents not just sustenance for oneself, but hope for the community.

There’s nothing quite like the moment you gather your first harvest. It’s the culmination of weeks and months of diligent care, from planting seeds to nurturing young plants, fighting off pests and pruning. The satisfaction of getting your plants in the ground after planning, researching companion plants—which I could go on for DAYS aboutand waiting for the last frost. The fresh, crisp taste of a homegrown tomato or the earthy flavor of garden carrots is a testament to your hard work and patience. This simple act of picking vegetables from your own garden is profoundly satisfying, filling myself with a sense of accomplishment and connection to the land.


However, gardening is not without its setbacks. Hello, Ohio Valley weather! Weather can be unpredictable (like calling for hail in the middle of May? I had my sheets ready to protect my plants!), and pests can be persistent. There are times when, despite your best efforts, a plant doesn’t make it—trust me, last year the deer got my tomatoes, I was devastated. These moments are disheartening, but they also teach resilience. This year, we came back better than ever with an 8 foot fence! And, of course, my own dogs always add a little chaos—they tend to enjoy a fresh green bean or two from the garden. Their boundless energy and curiosity led to more than a few trampled plants and the urge to help when it came to harvesting. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and improve, reinforcing the cyclical nature of growth and renewal in gardening.


One of the beautiful aspects of gardening is its adaptability. No matter the size of your space, you can grow something. For myself, year one started in a small steel water trough and honestly, just winging it. By the end of the season, I knew I had to figure out a way to expand. It then began the following spring as a labor of love—shout out to my husband for all the sweat he put into helping make this work, marked by its own set of challenges and rewards. We began by ripping out multiple shrub bushes that had overtaken the area, a task that required both determination and a bit of brute force. Removing the red lava rock that covered the entire space was particularly arduous, each shovelful a reminder of the hard work necessary to transform the area. We still have red lava rocks pop up each year. We also expanded the garden by taking out sections of grass, making way for new planting beds. This transformative process was both exhausting and exhilarating, knowing that after a decent first year in a water trough, the possibility was endless with an actual garden space! Overall, the space is about 30 ft. long by 4 feet wide—not huge, but maintainable.

The Ohio Valley is often classified as a food desert, a region where access to fresh, healthy food is limited. This makes gardening not just a personal hobby, but a community lifeline. By growing my own vegetables, I’ve not only supplied myself with nutritious food but also contributed to the fight against food insecurity in the area. Sharing surplus harvests with neighbors and family amplifies the impact of your garden, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. My hope is to grow more than I can handle to give back to local food banks and those who may need it.

Despite these hurdles, there’s immense joy and satisfaction in having a garden. There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I see my garden in full bloom, or when I harvest the first ripe tomato or crisp cucumber. The garden has become a sanctuary for me, a place where I can escape the stresses of everyday life and immerse myself in the simple, rewarding tasks of planting, watering, and weeding. Watching my garden grow and thrive, despite the challenges, fills me with pride and peace.

Gardening this year has been a journey of learning and resilience. Companion planting tested my patience and ingenuity and dealing with animals – both wild and domestic – kept me on my toes. Yet, every challenge was a step toward creating a beautiful, bountiful garden. The hard work, the setbacks, and the perseverance all culminate in a space that brings me immense joy and satisfaction. My garden is not just a plot of land; it’s a testament to the power of persistence and the simple, profound pleasure of nurturing life. If you’ve thought about starting a garden, I encourage you to try it! Start Become part of a movement towards a more self-sufficient and united community.

– Cassie, BYG 2024


Before Cassie's Garden

Cassie's Garden 2022

Cassie's Garden 2023 (can you spot her garden helper?)

Cassie's Garden 2024