When we set out on this journey, our goal was to grow as much of our own food as we could and preserve it to use during the winter months. We’ve had successes and failures alike. We are still relatively new to Tennessee and it’s climate. We come from a hot dry climate. We didn’t have to combat as many pests, diseases, and excessive moisture. I’m proud to say we are learning, through our successes and failures, how to grow in Tennessee. Let me start with some of the successes.

We have a medium size vermicomposting bin. Worm casting have proven to increase our yields and plant health. With the additional resources and education about other fertilizers, we have been able to bring a few plants “back to life.” We harvested the best broccoli I have ever eaten, several pounds of zucchini, 8 pecks of collard greens, and at least 3 pecks of green beans. We have corn almost ready to harvest, and several watermelons on the vine.

Now, the hard part is admitting our struggles. We have struggled the most with a persistent Japanese beetle infestation. It doesn’t matter what you do to these critters, they’re nearly invincible. We have found 2 things that have helped curtail the population, but they’re still a problem. We have used the Japanese Beetle trap found in most stores that have a garden department. Our second line of defense is, in the evening, to spray them with soapy water and pick them off by hand. We then collect them in a spall bucket of soapy water to insure they don’t survive.

The other issue we’ve had is what to do when you get 8-9” of rain in 2 days. Some plants don’t seem to like that much water and after the fact, there’s little we can do about it. Some of the highlights of being a part of the ARC&D gardening program have been learning how to safely mitigate diseases and pests naturally. We also keep bees and want to protect the health of our hive. I loved the opportunity to learn how to make my own strawberry jam. It was a hit with my family. I look forward to continued learning and hopefully, more successes than failures.