Gardener Story: Rebecca DeLong
I have been very excited to go out to the garden every day, to show my children what is growing in the garden and to help them to fall in love with growing something with their own hands and hard work. Since starting this program, I am amazed at the wealth of information, the time and effort put in by the organizers to ensure that we all have access to supports and knowledge to help us to be successful. I have had small gardens in the past, but this is my first “large” garden. This is only our second year in Tennessee, having moved our family with three small children to this new state.
We currently have a steady supply of squash growing, zucchinis that we have already started on, spaghetti, butternut, acorn and pumpkins that we are waiting on to get bigger. This is our first time with blue potatoes, sweet potatoes (haven’t checked on how big they are yet), radishes, tons of lettuce/spinach/mustard greens/kale/arugula, plenty to share with the neighbors and in-laws (who also followed us from NY to TN almost a year ago!) We have had an abundance of beets, sugar snap peas and beans. We have eaten onions from the garden, we picked one eggplant so far, a head of broccoli, a couple of cabbage. We have picked over 10 cucumbers so far, more coming up behind them, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. We have plenty of green tomatoes, just waiting for them to turn red! We have a little bit of popcorn started, have eaten some of the lunchbox peppers, waiting on the sweet peppers to get bigger. The carrots have come in, but many are quite small and, as my mother-in-law pointed out, not very sweet. We have melons and cantaloupe growing, watering them as heavily as we can to get them to produce sweet treats later in the summer. We have nasturtium (had never heard of before this program), tons of basil, thyme, cilantro and parsley. Our jalapeno peppers have all but died, we have a couple of small peppers to harvest, but likely will not get any more. Our collard greens keep producing new leaves so I keep swiping them as they grow. I have a couple of cauliflower plants, but they have not begun to produce anything yet. I also have put a handful of sunflowers and some other types of flowers throughout the garden, though it doesn’t look like many have come up yet. I am sure I am forgetting something, but I am just so excited about how bountiful this garden has been.
My children come out to the garden with me daily. They check on the plants, like old friends, as I do every day. They help me to pick the great big green beans that they find, and have learned which sugar snap peas are big enough to pick, and I enjoy watching them munch on the beans and the peas as they tell me about their day or what is on their minds standing in the garden with me. Not only has this program given me the knowledge, tools (a very nice spade and hoe, large bag of fertilizer, posts and netting to trellis my plants, organic pesticides and fungicides), resources (an insane amount of seeds and plants) and support, but I have been able to share with the people around me that I care about, I spend time teaching my children how to enjoy being outside, I have started to freeze some of the surplus and I get to see my children and my family eating healthy meals every time they sit down at the table. They are used to the freshly picked green beans and beets cooked together for dinner as a side, the chopped salad from the garden, the sliced cucumbers/carrots/sugar snap peas with their sandwich for lunch. My husband takes a salad almost every day for lunch and we have found new ways to cook some of our favorite vegetables like “mini pizza” zucchini slices and roasted broccoli with salt and pepper. I can’t thank the organizers/teachers of this program enough, I feel more connected to my community, my home and garden, and look forward to hopefully getting into the program again next year (this is year #1 for me). I also tell everyone and anyone that I can about this program and all of the wonderful things that they offer. What an incredible experience!