The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

April 3, 2012

Master Gardeners project teaches families to grow gardens

By CHERIL VERNON
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — The Anderson County Master Gardeners are helping four local families start a spring garden through its new community service project.

On Saturday, two Master Gardener teams of five to six people on each team, helped set up a 4x6 foot raised garden at four Palestine residences. The “Grow Your Own Garden” project was targeted for those families who may have wanted to grow their own vegetables but weren’t sure how to get started.

“We’re trying to teach these families how to grow their own garden on a raised bed and are assigning two Master Gardeners to each family that they can contact if they have questions or concerns throughout the growing season,” ACMG President Brenda Bess said Saturday.

Each family paid $10 to participate, defraying the tools and supplies. In return, the Anderson County Master Gardeners provided the set-up for the raised bed, mulch, tools, the family’s choice of tomatoes, peppers, squash or cucumbers, help assembling the raised bed, filling it with soil and planting the seeds or starter plants with the family.

Each family is expected to water, weed and harvest the produce from their gardens. They are asked to share extra produce with family, friends, neighbors or local food banks.

One of those homes belonged to project participants John and Shirley Shaddock, along with their children, Ronnie Van Zant, 18, Sara Van Zant, 15, and Kendrick Shaddock, 4, who were helping the Master Gardeners set up the garden on Saturday in their backyard.

“It’s nice to know we have the contact to guide us through this,” Shirley Shaddock said. “It’s a blessing. I’ve wanted a raised garden, but I never got around to do it.”

Husband John Shaddock agreed.

“Due to my health, the raised garden is a great alternative,” John Shaddock said. “It’s a great start and I hope we can expand it in the future. We’re going to teach the kids how to prune the tomatoes, weed the garden and help us pick the vegetables as it grows.”

Shirley Shaddock already has plans to share their extra harvest with their church, Palestine Church, which has a program to help feed the hungry.

“Any overflow we have, we will take to the church. They have an open door to anyone who is hungry, so that is our goal,” Shirley Shaddock said.

The mission of the “Grow Your Own Garden” project of the Anderson County Master Gardeners is to assist local families in growing some of their own produce at their own home. The goal is to encourage healthier diets, create partnerships in reducing hunger and educate the community in the joys of gardening.

“It is our hope that given a jump start toward a successful vegetable garden, these families will discover the joys of gardening and continue to use these raised beds for many years to come,” ACMG member Pam Denson said.

The Anderson County Master Gardeners selected the families from the Palestine Women Infant Children (WIC) program.

“We’re going through WIC for this first-time project and see how well it works for the future,” Bess said. “This is our first time, so it’s a learning process, but we hope to do this possibly again in the fall and maybe next year.”

Helping the teams out on Saturday for community service projects were Westwood High School foreign exchange students Aida Iskak of Kazakhstan, Iris Nan of China and Mukta Soman of India.

“This was my first time doing something like that. I enjoyed putting my hands in the dirt and getting all dirty. I really enjoyed it,” Iskak said.

Nan has always lived in the city.

“It’s a really good experience because in the city, I never got the chance to garden,” Nan said. “I’ve learned a lot and I enjoy helping people.”

Soman grew up in a small town, so she had experience gardening, but not with a raised bed garden.

“I enjoyed learning how to plant the vegetables,” Soman said.

Area merchants who donated supplies or contributed money to the project include: Dr. Coleman Gray in Palestine, Lowe’s in Palestine, Mitchell’s Saw Mill in Broom City and Iron Gate Feed in Palestine.

For more information about the “Grow Your Own Garden” project, contact the Texas AgriLife Extension Office in Palestine at 903-723-3735.