Greetings from Abingdon! Deni reporting for Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Grow Your Own program located in Southwest VA, Northeast TN.
We’ve been fortunate enough this season for mild weather patterns. Seems like it gets Hot and Dry and then we get Rain; not too much; not too little… We’re lucky here; So far… And now that I say that… we could use a little rain. Crops are growing well in the gardens around our community. This month, we feature two of our community gardens. Bristol Redevelopment Housing Authority located in the center of the City of Bristol, VA and Swinging Bridge Farm located in rural outskirts of Abingdon, VA. Two totally different growing environments, both happy to be in the garden, growing, learning and working together to eat good food.
We’re growing at Bristol Redevelopment Housing Authority! In 2015, ASD assisted Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority with the creation of Rice Terrace Community Gardens. They provided rich soil for the raised garden beds, critter fencing, tools, seeds, plants, and education. We currently have 5 resident gardeners participating. Each has 2 beds with one bed being a community strawberry patch that the gardeners tend together. They also share care-taking responsibilities for the 3 blueberry bushes ASD provided this year.
In our monthly meetings, we work hands on with the plants, learning proper use of organic products to assist with pests and disease, feeding, soil enrichment, correct watering techniques as well as plant do’s and don’ts for optimum health and fruit production. The excitement the gardeners’ experience is evident in their dedication to learning and working tirelessly to create and maintain healthy, beautiful gardens. They are learning that the joy is not only in the harvest but in the journey that brings the harvest.
This year is my first year running a community garden through the GYO program. It has been such a great experience for me. We have two neighboring families working in the garden, as well as a 19-year-old woman who is staying on our farm right now helping in the garden. The garden project has brought our very rural neighborhood much closer. We are spending time together and helping one another much more than we would be without this project bringing us together. Garden members have learned about planting, harvesting, pest management, pruning, and mulching, for starters. We have also shared produce with a few other neighbors who have not been directly involved in the community garden but have expressed great appreciation and interest.
As a community garden coordinator, the shift from home garden to community garden has really energized and focused my garden work. I have been much more organized this year, keeping better harvest records, garden maps, and intentionally prioritizing work in the
garden. Having extra hands in the garden is helpful, but mostly it has pushed me to stay on top of pest management, harvesting, and garden planning. I did not anticipate how much running a community garden would enhance my own garden management and the quality of produce I am growing. It has been so much fun and I find I am willing to do a lot more when it is not just for my family.
Recipe of the Month: Green Bean Sizzle
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat for a minute and toss in 2-3 tablespoons of butter. Sizzle the butter until melted and toss in 1 pound fresh green beans. Stir and sizzle. Cook until beans begin to brown. If the pan is too hot, reduce heat a bit but keep the pan hot. Add a few tablespoons of water to steam the beans with a sizzle. When beans are evenly brown and tender, add 1-2 cloves of sliced garlic and 2 Tablespoons sliced dry apple and 1/4 lightly chopped nuts; almonds or cashews are best. Salt and pepper to taste. Sizzle with a dash more water to blend flavors together, toasting the apple and garlic until lightly crisp. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Serves 4.