Green Corn Project: Dig Ins

By Suzanne Hurley

When Susannah Reilly bought her house in Crestview last year, the sellers put an unusual stipulation in the contract. Their asparagus plants were not part of the sale. And though the sellers may have cleared out the established harbinger of spring, they did leave behind a fenced-in garden plot that Susannah and her boyfriend, Brian Tomlin, were eager to fill.

“I never had a real vegetable garden, only tomatoes and herbs in containers,” says Susannah. “When I was little, I made my poor dad dig a 4’x4’ plot in the Houston gumbo clay. It didn’t last long!”

To prepare for their gardening adventure, Susannah and Brian volunteered at a “Dig-in” hosted by local garden-building nonprofit Green Corn Project (GCP). During the months of March and September, GCP holds Dig-ins for five days over three separate weekends. Groups of four or five volunteers, led by Dig-in leaders (volunteers who’ve received additional training on GCP’s gardening methods) spread out across Central Texas to create and refurbish vegetable beds.

About four hours later, the Dig-in participants return home tired and sweaty, yet inspired and emboldened to garden on their own.

“I like that GCP is about taking action,” says Reilly. “It gives me a chance to get my hands dirty, and it’s easy to see the impact that my actions have.”

Dig-in volunteer Rebecca Stuch’s previous gardening experience was limited to tomato plants in pots back in North Carolina. Now she’s cultivating a 7’x7’ garden recently brimming with kale, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard.

“Dig-ins are fun,” says Stuch. “[The participants] come from all different backgrounds.”

Now, after attending the Dig-in, Susannah feels confident about sculpting and filling her garden plot, but says her favorite thing is just being more engaged with the outdoors.

“I go out to the garden every day after work and notice different insects, mushrooms, flowers,” she says. “There is always something different going on in the garden.”

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