‘I just like plants’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ironton man recognized for green thumb

“I just like plants,” says Ironton’s Mark Hillard, a local gardener who recently had his green thumb recognized by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.

He was selected as Regional Outstanding Amateur Gardener and the Ironton Community Garden, which he leads, was the only community garden nominated across 10 regions in the amateur category.

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Hillard is originally from Ashland, Kentucky, and moved to Ironton in recent years.

“I go to the Episcopal church across from the courthouse (Christ Episcopal Church), started working on that garden, and then got involved with Watch Me Grow, which is the community garden,” he said.

Watch Me Grow is a nonprofit that aims to increase community engagement and awareness through hands-on projects related to sustainable agriculture and healthy living.

The community garden, which is located at 501 S. Seventh St., has plots available for area residents who are interested in having their own space. As for what the group grows, “you can customize your bed, but we focus on the basics — tomatoes, corn, squash, lots of peppers, cabbages, cucumbers,” Hillard said.

Hillard not only gardens in public spaces, he brings his love of gardening home, too.

“My family has a little farm right on the edge of the Ironton/Kitts Hill border,” he said. “No one in my family wanted to revamp it. I thought, why not remodel this little farmhouse?”

It’s on this property that Hillard also does work as an organic flower farmer.

“We originally started out with Ironton In Bloom and diverged from there, just wanted to give a little more back,” he said. “My main focus started out with the Episcopal church garden. There’s a little pocket garden that has just become a source of pride, joy, solace. I just wanted to give back to Ironton.”

Hillard is aiming for May 21 to get community members together to clean up the garden for this year’s plantings.

To get involved, contact Watch Me Grow at watchmegrowohio@gmail.com or facebook.com/watchmegrowohio.