I come from a long line of brown thumbs, so when I heard about this program to help beginner gardeners, I was quite excited to apply for a chance to learn. I was chosen to be one of the few who would participate in the Build It Up program and I am grateful. My yard, like many in Northeast Tennessee, is full of red clay instead of soil, so at the advice of the program leaders, I chose to create a raised bed garden. I opted to create a modest 4 x 6 sized bed, to not overwhelm myself in my first attempt at gardening, and I am glad that I made that choice.

My partner built a small rectangle for me from old 2×4’s that we rescued from a disassembled deck, while I chose the best spot for it – a spot with optimal sunlight and close enough to the water source.  The vegetables and fruits that I chose to plant were ones that I was certain would be eaten.  If I didn’t think it would be eaten in my household, I did not choose it, and that is something that I would advise to future gardeners as well.  I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, squash, and melons, then waited with anticipation for the first signs of growth. My garden was a late bloomer, but I remained patient and hopeful. After a short time, life emerged from the soil, and it was so rewarding to watch it stretch towards the sun!

After weeks of watching the plants grow, the first blossoms appeared, and I was able to harvest cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, and greens throughout the summer. The squash and the melons are still developing, and I anticipate enjoying them this month, just in time for the fall dishes of comfort and warmth. This year, these meals will be enjoyed even more, knowing that I grew the vegetables in my own garden.

I am very grateful for this opportunity that Build It Up and ARCD offers to novice gardeners such as myself. The monthly classes were educational, Rosie and Lexy were kind and patient with my questions, and I appreciated how organized and structured the program was. In the end, I believe that I no longer have a brown thumb, though I do think the larger gardens are still quite far from my skill set, I am confident that next year I can fill my small, raised bed again, and enjoy the fruits of my labor during the summer and fall.  Here’s to green thumbs and greener gardens!