Inspiring Backyard Organic Gardens Throughout NOVA
Spotlight on Prior Unity Garden
by Sam HudginsIn 2008, Debby Ward was ready for a life change. She was trying to determine her next career move when her friends suggested she offer her expertise in gardening. “You should do for everybody else what you’ve always done for us—you can grow anything. Why don’t you help people put in gardens and grow their own food?” they asked her. Ward agreed that the idea had potential and, in 2009, she launched Prior Unity Garden.
The inspiration behind Prior Unity Garden’s name comes from the book Prior Unity by World Friend Adi Da. Prior unity, as discussed in the book, is the recognition of the inherent unity of existence, always already connected. Prior unity is how Ward views gardens and thus the name was born.
Ward makes it clear that Prior Unity Garden is not a landscaping or lawn maintenance company. “We help people grow organic food at home, so they can realize their organic garden dreams.” Prior Unity Garden also differs from landscapers and lawn maintenance in their focus on permaculture, ecological restoration and sustainable water practices.
Prior Unity Garden achieves organic gardening dreams through several avenues, including classes, courses, coaching, consultations, design, installation and maintenance. Ward’s favorite aspect is teaching garden courses because she enjoys “helping grow other gardeners.” Prior Unity Garden’s banner course is The Foundations of Organic Gardening.
The Foundations of Organic Gardening is a hands-on, interactive, six-session course spread over six months, beginning in September. Ward describes the course as an “intense download of everything my partner and I know [about gardening].” Students are given all materials required, including a binder full of handouts and worksheets. Each session consists of multimedia instruction, a demonstration, a hands on workshop, with time for questions spread throughout. The course is timed so students can take their knowledge and immediately apply it to their own garden plan, and are ready to plant when spring comes. Optional add-on workshops are now available to extend the course through June and are also available to past Foundations students.
An added benefit of Prior Unity Garden’s courses is the sense of community they foster. Ward notes that she has found several friends in her teaching and even jokes how students from past Foundations courses ask her when there will be a reunion class.
Dates for the 2016/2017 The Foundations of Organic Gardening have been set and registration is open at PriorUnityGarden.com/FoundationsCourse.
For those who already have an idea of what they want, Prior Unity Garden sells gardening essentials such as their own locally grown plants, seed starter kits, specialty soil mixes and garden guides, all developed in-house. The most popular product is rock dust, which is used to re-mineralize soil. Prior Unity Garden also offers resources to fellow gardeners through their website, PriorUnityGarden.com, including a list of safe seed companies. They post gardening videos and information on social media , including GardenCoachDeb.com, blogs, YouTube and Facebook.
Currently, Prior Unity Garden is run almost entirely by Ward, with part-time help from her partner, Russell Furbush. Ideally, Ward would like to pass her knowledge and some of her workload on to someone eager to learn and grow with the company while she remains at the helm, allowing her to serve more people on her expanding client list.
To contact Prior Unity Garden or sign up for their Foundations of Organic Gardening Course call 703-281-7743 or visit PriorUnityGarden.com. and be on the lookout for a fall/winter gardening course in June