Jail garden readied for spring planting

12:06 pm | February 7, 2012

When Floyd Storie was bush-hogging the Carter County Jail garden site last week he found a buried treasure, sort of. It was a huge turnip that somehow escaped being harvested last fall and has survived the winter. John Huber, who oversees the garden and the inmates from the Carter County Jail, who do the gardening, said the turnip weighed over six pounds.

Photo by Jason Mullins - John Huber, who oversees the inmates who tend the jail garden, shows off a large turnip unearthed when the garden site was bush-hogged last week in preparation for planting this spring. The turnip, which weighed six pounds, failed to get harvested last fall.

The garden site is being readied for the spring season, and it will be the second year for the jail garden. The site is located on city property located next to the water treatment plant on Sycamore Shoals Drive. “It’s a good project in that it produces food for the jail kitchen and it keeps the inmates busy,” said Huber.

Last summer the inmates grew corn, beans, potatoes, squash, turnips, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, okra and tomatoes. The produce was harvested and incorporated into jail meals. A lot of the produce was frozen to use later. “We spent about $500 on seeds, and the return on produce was about $6,700,” Huber estimated.

The inmates did the planting, weeding, irrigating, pest control and harvesting. Huber said the garden was organic in that no chemicals were used. He said the garden yielded eight to 15 bushels of produce every week during the growing season. “We harvested about 52 bushels of tomatoes, 35 bushels of corn and varying amounts of other vegetables,” Huber said.

Having never planted a garden before, Huber said it was a new experience for him. However, he said he received a lot of help from Storie and Louise Buckles, his mentors, as well as Keith Hart from the local UT Agriculture Extension Office, and the Master Gardeners. “A number of people supported the idea, and volunteered ideas and suggestions for the garden. I hope we can improve on it and have a greater yield than last year,” he said.

“It was great for the inmates involved. They took an interest in it, and perhaps learned something as well. I know it was a good experience for me,” Huber said.

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