Our family is happy to be a part of the Build It Up program and the opportunity to create abundance for our home. It was our first year gardening and we were excited to experiment and learn. The experience came with many high points and some low points that allowed us to learn and adjust. We had a late start due to many occurrences in our personal life, many of our starts did not go in the ground until about the end of May. However many of our plants despite not going in the ground for so long managed to do well due to having amended the soil since November. We had sheet mulched our front lawn with cardboard and layered with leaf mulch we requested and obtained for free by reaching out to the Johnson City Solid Waste. This same leaf mulch was also used for an earthworm composting system and the manure from the bin was used for the garden. Later on in the season we also obtained rabbits and they also contributed to the garden with their manure.

Our children (especially our oldest) helped with the seeding, transplanting and harvesting. The harvests have begun to provide a yield almost everyday now, especially the tomatoes. The brassicas: broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, grew and provided well but were infested by cabbage worms as the season progressed. Even the wasps and other predators couldn’t catch up. We have had other small harvests of fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, parsley, different types of mint. Our favorite is chocolate mint. We also got some celery, peppers, corn, potatoes and some beans. We were really excited to get some corn and prepared some traditional sweet versions of Ecuadorian tamales called “humitas”. As a family we are eating less processed food and more fresh produce. The variety of vegetables has encouraged us to prepare our own sauces (salsas), fermented cabbage, and more traditional meals prepared with fresh ingredients from the garden. We are learning to water bath and pressure can, and a small cellar is in our future plans.

We are currently waiting on our squashes, melons, and sweet potatoes. We have seeded cucumbers and are utilizing the three sisters companion planting method for corn, squash and beans. Having placed our garden in our front yard has also helped us to get to know and have good conversations with some neighbors. Overall the experience has been extremely rewarding due to some of the resilience, abundance, overall self growth and community relations gardening has provided for our family. We are thankful and appreciate that there are programs in place to help first time gardeners be a little bit more sustainable, reconnect with the soil and experience how wonderful nature is.