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A young Asian girl tending plants in containers in the backyard.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — 4-H grows Alabama. Whether your growing space is a 5-gallon bucket or a 1-acre plot, there is an opportunity for all members to grow and thrive in Alabama 4-H.

Doyle Keasal, the 4-H Grows program coordinator, said his early work as an educator gave him a unique perspective on projects for young people.

“Gardening is a learn and serve project,” Keasal said. “It is so important to give young people an opportunity to learn a skill that they may not have all of the tools for on their own and allow them to do something that benefits others.”

Growing New Beginnings

Doyle Keasal and two 4-H members in a garden.Keasal said it is important to him to help students understand where their food comes from. This is something that he carried into his position as a curriculum developer for Alabama 4-H.

“There is a satisfaction in helping to provide what your family is eating — vegetables, venison, fish, milk, fruit,” Keasal said. “I wanted to give youth an opportunity to feel that satisfaction of providing nourishment for others.”

One of Keasal’s primary goals was to remove all barriers for young people who wanted to try their hand at growing something.

“My mission was to get any child involved,” Keasal said. “Whether they were growing tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket or planting a 20-foot garden, I wanted to provide them with the tools and the basic knowledge to get started.”

4-H Grows Has Something for Everyone

The 4-H Grows program includes gardening projects of every shape and size. Keasal used his experience to develop core requirements for each project level. Participants use an observation journal to take notes on watering and growing patterns, as well as interesting things that happen throughout the project. Existing 4-H Grows projects include the following:

  • Tier I is for novice gardeners. Each participant will grow three plants in a 5-gallon bucket.
  • Tier II continues the development of gardening skills in a 4-foot by 12-foot raised bed or traditional garden.
  • Tier III continues the cultivation of gardening skills and focuses on the concept of forming a business, including a business plan and selling to the community.
  • Tier IV focuses on giving to the community through donation of at least 50% of the garden’s produce.
  • Creating a Pollinator Garden focuses on providing nectar and habitats for native pollinators.
  • Purple Martin Gourd Project focuses on growing, harvesting, drying and hanging gourds for bird habitats.

The program also includes challenges, such as the Container Garden Challenge and the Sweet Potato Challenge.

Something New

This year, Keasal said he is excited to offer a new project and challenge for 4-H members. However, both of these will require registration and have a materials fee, which will be used to purchase the seeds for the projects.

Raising Flowers for Fun and Profit

Raising Flowers for Fun and Profit is a new project that will give young people an opportunity to raise flowers and offer them for sale in their communities. Alabama 4-H members are eligible to participate in this project. Enrollment is available through 4-HOnline.

There is a $50 project fee, which will be used to provide participants with an assortment of flower seeds, selected to help each participant succeed. The deadline to enroll in the project is March 30.

The Watermelon Challenge

Participants in the The Watermelon Challenge will seek to grow the largest and heaviest watermelon.

“The Watermelon Challenge is going to be a fun summer experience for Alabama 4-H participants,” Keasal said. “There is a $5 charge to participate in this program, but this will cover the special watermelon seeds that each participant will receive.”

Each participant will receive the same watermelon variety, as well as care information and the usual journal. Keasal hopes to wrap this program up by National Watermelon Day in early August.

More Information

4-H Grows has something for everyone. Take part in any 4-H Grows project or challenge by registering in 4-HOnline. Learn more about each of the projects and challenges by visiting www.aces.edu/blog/topics/4h/alabama-4-h-grows/.