Backyard Gardens Program

2018 Backyard Gardens Program

Applications are now closed.  We will be reviewing them during February and letting folks know if they have been accepted or not!

The deadline for the 2018 Backyard Gardens program application was January 31st.  The program received twice as many applications as we have spaces for new gardeners, so we will not be considering further requests to join the program this year.  If you’d like info about how to garden in East TN, please join our Gardening Newsletter List Also, check out our Facebook Page, and follow us for updates, public workshop notices, and other fun gardening info!

Please consider Donating to Build It Up in support of this program.  If you would like to offer up land for participants in this program to use, please use the Contact Us page to send us a message.  We appreciate your support!

Who We Support:

While we would love to help everyone we can, we are based out of Johnson City, TN and must limit applicants to residents of Carter, Unicoi and Washington Counties.  We will consider applications from folks living within 25 miles of Johnson City, if not in these counties, but these counties remain recruitment priorities.  If you live in Sullivan and Johnson Counties, please contact Appalachian Sustainable Development.  If you live in Greene County, please contact Rural Resources.  Grow Appalachia has project sites in 40 communities in 5 states across Central Appalachia, so please check their website to see if there is a program nearer to you.

This program arose out of a shared desire to support the growth of a sustainable, community-based food system in our area. Through gaining the necessary skills, knowledge, and commitment to gardening and farming, our community is enriched by increased access to foods whose roots are close to home– fresh, organic, and healthier for the local economy and environment.  We will prioritize folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to garden without the support of this program, because our goal is to increase access to healthy, fresh food for all members of our community regardless of income.

To check out stories from 2017 participants, please head over to our blog.

Gardens Program Description:

Garden pic 1

Build It Up is announcing the fourth year of our Gardening Program!  Since 2015, we’ve created a total of seventy new backyard gardens and trained these families to grow their own food.  This year, we are accepting 25 new gardeners into the program.  You don’t have to have any gardening experience, just an interest in working hard and eating healthy food.  Experienced gardeners are welcome to join our Market Gardener program and grow food for sale to local markets.  Beginning gardeners will be given the option to sell extra produce, but their main focus will be on gaining new skills and using fresh produce at home.

Land Requirements:

Garden pic 3

Applicants need to have access to land for a garden, but do not need to actually own the land used.  If you don’t own property, talk with your landlord, neighbors, family, friends or contact an area community garden to find suitable space. 

A good garden spot will:

  • Be at least 20′ x 25′ (500 square feet)
  • Receive at least 6 hours or more of direct sunlight each day
  • Be on relatively level ground (not on a hillside!)
  • Not be on top of a septic tank drain field
  • Not have exposed bedrock or excessive rocks or tree roots
  • Not be placed in a flood zone or an otherwise swampy location

We can help people who have poor soil, but we cannot work miracles like making a hillside flat!  Please get out and check on the conditions of the location where you want to garden.  Get a shovel and take a look at the soil.  Observe where the sunlight comes from and check the land out after a heavy rain.  Part of being a gardener is learning to observe the natural world!  If you don’t have a suitable location on your property, Build It Up is willing to help connect participants with land.  If you don’t currently have access, please feel free to still apply!

What’s Provided:

Garden pic 2

Participants in the program will receive plants, seeds, fertilizer, a hoe and hand trowel, organic pest and disease control, season extension and help with tilling up new gardens.  We can’t supply water access, hoses, shovels, rakes, spades, gloves, mulch, or other supplies.  However, access to these items may make gardening easier for you, so we recommend you have them.  Ask around for anyone with spares or visit a local flea market to pick up tools for cheap.

Who Can Participate:


Anyone who lives within Carter, Unicoi, and Washington Counties, who is interested in growing their own, and who can commit to this year long program is welcome to apply.  Families with children, folks receiving EBT benefits, and youth ages 14-24 are strongly encouraged to apply.

For full program details, please download the 2018 Program Description and read it.