Sow to Grow

A Therapeutic Horticulture Summer Program for Teens

Sow to Grow is a 3-week summer program for teens, 13 years olds through high school seniors, from June 3 through June 24, 2024.

Hosted by UT Gardens, Sow to Grow is a fun, socially engaging summer program that involves a variety of fun gardening activities. The program is held in a natural, safe, environment that uses people-plant connections as a foundation to improve the well-being of the whole person.

Graphic with a person in the middle and the four main elements of the program around it including: socialization, cognitive, psychological, physical.

Through participating in various plant-based activities participants will learn a variety of skills including: a better understanding of what is expected of them in gaining employment and in the workplace, how to manage stressful situations using nature, and how to work both independently and as a team!

Image of adult man showing a boy a plant as they work on the planting project together.

Sow to Grow is for teenagers, 13 years olds through high school seniors, who have disabilities.

Example activities include:

  • Plant-based activities such as propagating a succulent plant will provide participants with the tools necessary to meet the expectations of performing job tasks correctly and expeditiously, building self-confidence.
  • Learning and practicing stress management techniques through spending time in nature, focusing on the sounds of birds, wind, leaves rustling, and the smells of various flowers and trees will give participants a tool to improve their physical and mental well-being.
  • Through building a “Memory File” on a daily basis, information about themselves, and using it as a tool to encourage interaction with the other participants in the program will help promote socialization and confidence.
  • Students will share what good and bad bugs students found during a scavenger hunt and whether they were beneficial or not for the plants they were on, correlating it with jobs that provide or don’t provide the skills needed toward obtaining their dream job.
Decorative Image

June 3- June 24, Monday-Friday (no session June 19th as UT campus is closed)

Time: Half Day and Full Day options               

  • Half Day: 8:30 am- 12:00 pm (no lunch)
  • Full Day: 8:30 am- 2:00 pm (lunch break included)

Sow to Grow Daily Schedule Example:

8:30 amDrop off and Clock-in / Morning introductions and announcements
9:15 amEducation on plant care and tools
9:30 amPlanting activity
10:30 amMorning Break
10:45 amPlanting job-skills focused activity and job discussions
12:00 pmDismissal of Half-Day Participants and Lunch
12:45 pmStress Management Activities and Discussions
2:00 pmDismissal and Clock Out
This is an example daily schedule from drop-off to pick-up.

Student using a wheelchair holding trowel behind a small gardening bed with one plant.

Our program is led by Derrick Stowell, Registered Horticultural Therapist, and Deb Wolf, Therapeutic Horticultural Specialist. Both have many years of experience utilizing plants and nature in a therapeutic setting.

Derrick Ryan Stowell Profile Page
Derrick Ryan Stowell
Program Administrator, UT Gardens/State Botanical Garden

Derrick has been working for the University of Tennessee Gardens since 2012. He is the Education and Horticultural Therapy Program Administrator for the UT Gardens. Derrick is responsible for directing education programs and horticultural therapy programs for the UT Gardens, Knoxville location. He received his bachelor’s degree from Maryville College in 2003 with a double major in environmental studies and outdoor recreation. After graduating, Derrick spent a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Knoxville working with Ijams Nature Center and its Earth Flag program teaching environmental education to students in Knox County schools. Derrick went on to complete his master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Tennessee in 2006 and directed Camp Koinonia in 2006. He spent five years directing the national camp program for the Amputee Coalition of America and was also their Annual Giving Manager. He received​ his Ph.D. in plant, soil and environmental sciences from the University of Tennessee. Derrick has developed numerous programs for the UT Gardens including horticultural therapy​ programs. He is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). In 2015 he became a registered Horticultural Therapist (HTR) through the American Horticultural Therapy Association. Derrick served on the Board of Directors for the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) from 2016-2018. He also served the American Horticultural Therapy Association as President-elect (2021), President (2022), and Immediate-past President (2023).

Deb Wolf, Therapeutic Horticultural Specialist currently works as the Horticultural Therapy Program Assistant/Program Development at UT Gardens under Dr. Derrick Stowell. Deb holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and a Certificate in Horticultural Therapy from HT Institute affiliated with Colorado State University. In 2010, she volunteered for Community Cultivation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and eventually worked as their Therapeutic Horticultural Specialist until moving out East. While at Community Cultivation she helped prepare youth and young adults with disabilities ages 15-25 for work in the real world. Using horticultural therapy, she taught them the social and professional skills they would need to be appropriate and successful in their future jobs. As a Therapeutic Horticultural Specialist at UT, she currently oversees and develops horticultural therapy programs for residents of various Senior Facilities in the Knoxville region. She has always loved working with plants and people so what better way to do both than through horticultural therapy. 

Deb Wolf Profile Page
Deb Wolf
Horticultural Therapy Program Assistant, Plant Sciences

“[Staff]made me feel like I was leaving my child with people who knew disability and prompted me to give information I would not have thought to give. [Following the program] he was very verbal after we were in the car and used non scripted speech which was huge for him”

Sara Felts (Parent of 2022 Participant)


University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville Cancellation & Refund Policy:
Programs may be cancelled due to insufficient enrollment or other unforeseen circumstances. A full refund will be made in the event the UT Gardens cancels a program.

Individual Cancellations:
If you find your child cannot attend the program you’ve registered them for, please email Deb Wolf at and let us know. A full refund of the registration will be issued for cancellations made at least 30 days prior to the event. A 50% refund will be issued 15 days prior to the event. No refunds will be made for cancellations made fewer than 7 days before the event. Please let us know if your child will not be able to attend for any reason at any time. 

If you need to cancel your registration, you may transfer the fee to another program. This program transfer must be redeemed either in the current year or the following year. To utilize this option, you must first email the Deb Wolf at the address previously provided. If the program you transfer your fee to is greater than your original registration fee, you will need to pay the difference. If the program you wish to transfer the fee to is less than your original fee you will not be reimbursed the difference. In order to transfer the registration fee, you must email within 24 hours of the program starting time.

Publicity Release:
Upon enrolling in a UT Gardens program, the parent/guardian authorizes the University of Tennessee to use photographs, quotes, or video footage from the program for the purpose of marketing. In the event that you do NOT want images of your child publicized, you MUST provide written notice prior to the start of Sow to Grow. These requests must be made via email to

Illness Policy:

If your child shows signs of being ill, including but not limited to coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, stomach ache, and vomiting, they will not be allowed to stay at the program. We will call to have them picked up. This is based on our discretion and will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If someone in your child’s household is sick (with the flu, Covid, strep throat, etc.), please do not send your child to the program. Please do not send a sick or “under the weather” child to the program. The heat and exertion exacerbate even minor symptoms of discomfort. Remember, if your child will not be attending any day of Sow to Grow for any reason, please let us know by contacting Deb Wolf at

Food Policy:

Please notify us of any allergies or any other unique things about your child that may impact the way they participate in Sow to Grow.

No one is allowed to share food at Sow to Grow. UT Gardens will not provide food for anyone with the exception of a food-related lesson being part of the program itself. This will not substitute for your child’s lunch or snack for the day. Peanuts and peanut products are not allowed at the UT Gardens Summer Camps. 

Drop-off and Pick-up Policy:

Please promptly drop-off and pick your child up at designated times each day. Most Sow to Grow days begin at 8:30am and end at 2:00pm. (Unless your child is registered for the half-day program.) There is no before care or after care available. If you are late picking your child up from Sow to Grow (late being defined as not present for pick up within 15 minutes of the end of the day), then you will be charged an additional $10 for every five minutes past that 15-minute mark. Program staff must be notified before pick-up of the adult who will be picking each child up from Sow to Grow each day. The designated pick-up person/people must be on the list of the child’s emergency contacts or otherwise stated clearly in writing on program forms. If it is someone apart from the usual, we may ask to see a driver’s license. We need their first and last name and their phone number. 

Participant Forms:

All forms must be completely filled out and submitted prior to the first day of your child’s program before they will be allowed to participate. This means, if you do not have it filled out before 8:30am Monday morning of Sow to Grow, then your child cannot stay while you leave to fill it out. All forms will be provided after registration. Program staff will reach out to each family to discuss all relevant needs and information that will help us provide the best experience for your child.

  • Can parents stay?
    • No. Parents may come only if they need to administer medications or take care of bathroom needs.
  • Is lunch provided?
    • Lunch and snacks are not provided. Participants enrolled in the full day program will be expected to bring their own lunch.  Water will be provided.
    • This is a peanut free program, do not bring items containing peanuts.
  • Can we only sign up for one week?
    • No. This is a cumulative program; therefore, participants should attend all 3 weeks.
  • Do we need to bring anything?
    • Appropriate clothing for being outdoors in various types of weather.
    • Closed-toe shoes
    • Sun protection (i.e., hat, sunscreen, etc.)
    • Snacks and lunch (for full-day participants) that is peanut free. 
    • Medications as needed (i.e., inhalers, epi pens, etc.)
  • What time is the program?
    • Full day, 8:30-2:00pm (with a lunch break at noon)
    • Half day 8:30-12:00pm
  • Where is the program happening?
    • UT Gardens, Knoxville which is located at 2518 Jacob Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996
    • We will also have an indoor classroom space in the South Greenhouse at UT Gardens.
  • My child is older than 17, can they attend?
    • Not at this time.
  • Is there transportation available?
    • No
  • Is the facility wheelchair accessible?
    • Yes
  • Will someone be there to watch the students until they are picked up?
    • Yes, only until pick-up time, which is at 2:00pm.  Please see our drop-off and pick-up policy in the previous section about policies.
  • My child has allergies; what accommodations are there?
    • We are a peanut free program, and we will collect paperwork where you may share your child’s allergies.
    • As a garden-based program, participants may be exposed to pollen allergies, insects, and more.
    • Please reach out to program staff if your child has any allergies, and be sure to indicate it in your paperwork.