Gardener Story: Rebecca McCasland

I am so thankful I am a part of Build It Up (BIU) Tennessee.  My family and I are working diligently in the garden and edible plants and fruits are growing!  We have tried gardening in the past without branching far from growing dependable things such as tomatoes, which seem to sprout as weeds here. This year, with the BIU gardening support, we are growing new things such as: lettuce, fennel, eggplant, bell peppers, kale, and a host of herbs. 

So, you say you don’t know what to do with fennel? Me neither! However, there are food preparation classes like canning, jams and jellies, and preserving to help us in all ways garden fresh. Build It Up has helped tremendously with finding local resources.  I’ve added several regional extension pages to my Facebook. I have taken advantage of several of the free classes available. My favorite part is the bonus Q&A time at the end. 

The BIU program is invaluable for local feedback regarding growing conditions, plant and soil diseases, and pest management. I can spend hours down a YouTube rabbit hole or just send a picture to the BIU Community Facebook page and get real answers from people eager to help me on my growing journey. 

So far, we haven’t had much of a harvest. I can honestly say I am getting a bit restless with the lack of progress my garden is demonstrating. Although, looking through my pictorial progress, the garden is mostly healthy and has the foundation for a productive harvest.

I have learned so many things in such a short time. The BIU handbook has great pictures and plant-specific information pages. I am more aware of the health of the garden area and the management of chemical products. Everything is organic, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to let those slugs live! 

If you are still reading this, here are a few things I found did not work for us and might be helpful to share:

  • Those little peat pots- they didn’t really break down and I had to pull several plants up which were dying with little tiny roots cramped in the compressed pots.
  • Starting plants in a sunny window- yep, not enough sun or space.
  • Starting so many seeds- I’m sure I can plant the 20 squash seeds! The neighbors hopefully won’t care if I have squash rambling in my front yard.
  • Starting flower seeds at the same time as planting. The peas are outpacing the flowers and so no help with pollination or pest control. Lowe’s had marigolds for $1 a 4 pk, mine aren’t going to flower for another month. But I have tons of seeds!
  • Newspaper as a row cover. The kids just sat and read the comics the entire time. Honestly, the news travels fast and becomes ugly yard art. 
  • The Florida weave. It’s a good theory, but takes a skilled hand at execution. It also takes some extra time. My tomatoes are very droopy on my saggy line. 
  • Labeling little plastic plant labels with a permanent marker. It’s going to be some time before I figure out what flowers I have and where. Thankfully, okra looks quite different than peas!

I am so thankful to the Build It Up Team, but especially would like to thank Lexy and Rosie. I don’t think I have enough experience to make any gardening recommendations, but am using all the tools and fertilizer we were given. That hoe is crazy! I’ve carted everything down to the garden which will make keeping up with spraying and such easier. I hope everyone is enjoying their gardens. Happy gardening!

More images from Rebecca’s garden!