Aimee M. Neeley Figgatt and Jessica Pollitt Hudson have been up to their elbows in seed packets and mailers for two months.
Working with coworkers and volunteers, they have been responding to requests from people all around the state for seed packages so that they can grow their own vegetable and pollinator gardens.
No one is complaining, though. The teams at the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program, where Hudson works, and West Virginia Conservation Agency, where Figgatt works, are glad to share the seeds and their expertise with anyone who wants to get growing.
“Because people are staying home more right now, they see gardening as something that they’ve thought about doing, but didn’t feel they had the time for,” said Figgatt.
Hudson sees the increase in gardening as a great opportunity to continue the healthy nutrition work that she and others are doing with school children.
“Children like to eat what they grow,” she said. “At schools, I see them trying fresh vegetables when they are engaged with the food in new and exciting ways. Now, at home, they can eat what they are growing with their families.”
June is not too late to get started and enjoy fresh vegetables later this summer and into the fall, so Figgatt and Hudson continue to encourage West Virginians to start a garden. People can seed beans, carrots, squash, corn, herbs and cool season crops. They can plant lettuces in shady spots. If people don’t want to start with seeds, they can go to garden centers and farmers’ markets to get plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes and herbs.
“You don’t have to have a large lot to do some gardening,” said Figgatt. “You can enjoy a small garden in raised beds or containers on your porch or patio. These are great ways to garden and get good results.”
Figgatt encourages new gardeners to start small and to grow what they like to eat. “It’s better to be successful with a crop that you like and want to do more than to put out a garden that overwhelms you.”
Hudson agrees that starting small is smart. “Containers are easy to come by and a great way to start,” she said. “The number one mistake I see with school and community gardens is starting too big and becoming overwhelmed with the maintenance.”
People who are looking for tips can find help online. The WVU Extension Service is offering online events on its Facebook Garden Challenge page at www.facebook.com/GrowThisWV, and at extension.wvu.edu/lawn-garden ing-pests/gardening.
To learn more about education and outreach, go to the WVCA’s website at www.wvca.us. People can find out about local programs by using the agency’s interactive district map on the home page.
Raised bed garden
One family has taken the 2020 gardening trend to heart. Tina and Tim Kirk of Fraziers Bottom designed and built a raised bed garden in their yard.
Tina, a Winfield High School math teacher, and Tim, an engineer, took their do-it-yourself skills to a new level with the bed. It is surrounded by screen, and has a door and windows. The garden measures 8 feet by 12 feet with two beds 3 feet high.
They are growing carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, peppers, radishes, cauliflower and more, according to Tina Kirk.
“We are planning to do a three sisters planting next,” she said. “That’s where you plant corn in a circle and as it starts to grow you add pole bean plants and then squash. It’s a traditional Native American planting system.”
While they are new to gardening, the Kirks said they wanted to be sure they could provide for themselves.
“We thought about what would happen if the pandemic stretched out and we were unable to get fresh produce easily,” Tina Kirk said. “We looked at a lot of ideas before we decided on this garden plan and we are excited about it.”
Tina Kirk said building the garden gave them a lot to think about.
“We used some soil from our own yard and were given a great deal of good composted soil from a friend in Pliny. Then, we purchased soil and mulch from local businesses like Mulch and More and Caldwell’s. Most of our starter plants and seeds came from a friend. We purchased some plants from Caldwell’s and Gritt’s Farm.”
Once the beds were in, Tina Kirk said they researched how to do companion planting and adding herbs to the garden.
“We are looking forward to seeing what grows and how successful our garden will be,” she said.
Once gardens start to produce, people might discover they have more of some produce than they can use themselves. Department of Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt has a suggestion for them.
“If you have more than you need, consider donating some of the produce to your local food pantry,” he said. “It’s a great way to help your community.”
For more on gardening, look for the Summer Home & Garden special section in today’s edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.