Grow Appalachia in Laurel County is thriving.  We had a slow start to the year with a long, cold, wet Spring.  We barely had time to poke a seed in the ground before the next rain would come.  It seems that the dry/wet ratio has evened out a bit and our gardens are beginning to flourish.  If we could just get all the weeds removed that did so well this Spring, we would be doing great.
From my perspective in the garden, we are trying some new things this year.  In cooperation with the Laurel County Extension Office, we are using a few of the raised beds for a couple of participants this year. 

The Truett’s are in their 70’s and on a fixed income.  Raising a small bit of vegetables in six boxes was thrilling to them.  They would have taken more boxes if they could have. 
This sweet couple will surely be canning a few things to help them through the winter we hope.  Or, it would be great if they had a few things to sell at the farmer’s market to help stretch their income. 

I myself have a raised bed at the Extension Office.  With the steady rains we had this Spring, my tomatoes were beginning to drown and turn yellow.  So, I decided to adopt a raised bed so I would at least have some tomatoes.  Thankfully, my home garden pulled out of it and the tomatoes are thriving.
We are experimenting with mulching with paper this year.  I am sold on mulching.  I planted this bed and mulched it.  About a week later, a neighboring box was planted.  (See photo below).

This box was planted a couple of days later and not mulched.  These photos were taken on the same day.  As you can see, the weeds had taken over in a short amount of time.  But not in my box that I mulched.
I have implemented this mulching method in my backyard and it has cut down on the weeding.  I still need to finish it up and paper between the rows, but once I am done, I won’t have to work as hard in the heat this summer.  This is important as I am an older gardener and this will be very beneficial.
Ford Waterstradt, the only organic gardener in Laurel County, presented a workshop on growing organic.  We enjoyed the workshop and learned a lot about organic gardening.
We learned about growing healthy produce by using organic practices.
The high light of our Spring was hosting John Paul DeJoria, his wife Eloise and their son, John Anthony.  In preparation of this event, we painted rain barrels.  My daughter, Jayme and her friend Jesyka are shown here painting one.
Of course, I just had to get paint all over myself and pitched in to help paint.  It was so much fun painting that barrel. 

My son, Christian and our good friend Anthony channelled a little Picaso too.
My daughter Jayme and her “Gnomio and Juliet” inspired rain barrel.  This barrel now proudly resides in the Grow Appalachia raised bed garden just off main street.  More on that later.
Well, we may have had an interesting Spring, but it certainly hasn’t hindered the garden that much.  The corn is growing along with the beans, tomatoes and everything else.
Happy Gardening ~  Melanie