Since 2011, the Big Spring Master Gardener Association of Greene County has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Greeneville and Greene County in promoting and maintaining an educational garden for the children on site. The original funding was from a grant from HEAL Appalachia. The project has also won two Volunteer Spirit Awards which have been applied to continuing expenses. Master Gardeners work with 12 children per session on a weekly basis during the school year and the summer. The children come voluntarily in the three age groups (5,6,7; 8,9; 10 and up) used by the Boys and Girls Club.
One of the first B&G/BSMGA projects included pulling weeds, using various fertilizers (including fish emulsion, compost, worm castings, 10-10-10 and Miracle-Gro), caging and staking tomatoes and spreading compost, humus and mulch to the garden plot. Three varieties of peppers were grown in which the children could take home. A section of the garden also had black plastic spread over the plot to illustrate to the children how the technique of solarization works to control weeds with a later planting of a fall crop of potatoes and cole-crop vegetables. Therefore, the garden was established to produce throughout the winter. Herbs were also planted to demonstrate to the children the effect of companion planting in the garden to increase flavor, yield, and beneficial insects to the garden.
As the project has continued to grow, a hoop house was installed in 2012 to extend the growing season. Wind proved too much for that and now tunnels are being used on individual beds with jugs of water painted black to emit some heat at night. Water barrels with soaker hoses were installed. A small greenhouse was added in 2013. Groundhogs became a serious problem so in 2015, the Boys and Girls Club built a 20' x 50' second garden with chain link fencing sunk 2" into the ground. It now has four raised beds with more planned for 2016. This is now the vegetable garden with the old garden used for flowers, herbs, a small water garden, bird feeder, and butterfly water spot.
The children have many opportunities to taste the “fruits of their labor” and take seedlings and produce home. They also participate in discussions of how to grow, what to grow, and why growing your own is a good idea. Some of their produce is used for snacks and they talk about how to make smarter food choices. And yes, they get chocolate with their fruit around Valentine's Day...
Funding for the Boys and Girls Club Garden Project was made possible through a HEAL Appalachia grant:
Across the region, organizations with successful obesity programs are improving the health of our residents.
HEAL Appalachia wants to HELP! Grass-roots obesity programs are the driving force behind the HEAL Appalachia Community Grants Program.
The program provides grants to community organizations to support new efforts and expand existing efforts to reduce childhood obesity. These funds are awarded through a region-wide competitive process.
For additional information, please contact the following BSMGA B&G Garden Project leader: