Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Day on the Farm At Henderson Settlement ~ Jackie Waldroop

The day starts early here on the farm; the farm crew starts to arrive at 7:00 am.
David and Dulley are the full time staff for the farm. David is the Farm Manager and Dulley is his assistant. Matthew, Tyler and I are the Grow Appalachia crew. Linda is our director’s wife who has volunteered on the farm for a number of years. She grew up on a farm and is a valuable asset to the farm and Grow Appalachia. As a matter of fact she served as the volunteer Coordinator for Grow Appalachia last year. She left some mighty big shoes for me to fill.
Today the Grow Appalachia Crew is working in the Community Garden, Senior Citizen and the Food Pantry Gardens.


Welcome to the Farm!
As you drive through the entrance to the main buildings on the farm you will see the barn and four greenhouses.
The greenhouses provide most of the plants for the Grow Appalachia gardeners. The ability to buy homegrown plants is a big plus for our gardeners.


                                                            

This is one of our greenhouses. This is where Dulley spends most of her time when she's not in the gardens.
Whenever anyone comes to buy plants they always ask, "Where's Dulley?"


Matthew and Tyler standing in front of the barn. In July we will open our Farmers Market here in the barn.
We encourage our gardeners to take part in the Farmers Market. 
                                                                                                                                                            
Today we placed shredded paper around the plants to help keep out the weeds and staked the tomatoes. The Senior Citizens group are only here twice a week so we help them  with their garden.


                                                                                 

 Then we worked in the community garden, the community garden is surrounded by grass and weeds, we use the weed eater around the garden so that they can get to their garden without getting snake bit.

  

This is General and Tyler putting in Rain Barrels at the corner of the brick house. We plan to use these barrels to water the community garden as needed.

Tyler plowing in the Food Pantry Garden


Linda dropping seeds


Dulley and Jackie covering up the seeds

Working in the Food Pantry garden today felt a lot like making mud pies. All this week we kept saying, “we need to plant the Food Pantry garden”, but it seemed as if every time we thought about planting, it started to rain. However today Linda and Dulley decided that we would brave the mud and plant where we could, so off we went, Dulley, Linda, Tyler and I to plant corn, beans, tomatoes, and peppers. First thing that happened was Tyler was given a history lesson and the chance to use an old time push plow. He discovered that it was a lot of hard work. Then Dulley, Linda and I got to play in the mud. After Tyler had plowed the rows for us, Linda dropped the seeds and Dulley and I covered them up with dirt. We’re not sure if anything will come up but we can only do what every other gardener through out history has done, which is to pray to the good lord above to please let out plants grow. This garden will benefit those in the community who receive a food box from the Henderson Settlement Food Pantry.







Grow Appalachia: Pine Mountain Settlement School


By: Traviss Witt 
A Grow Appalachia Summer Intern 

Prior to my experience with the Grow Appalachia Project I never gave much consideration to the ways in which my food was prepared. Growing up in a city with a McDonalds on every corner, things like “sustainable agriculture”, “organic gardening”, and “locally grown food” seemed very idealistic. Although I was aware of the horrible methods used by factory farms to mass produce something as simple as a cheeseburger, the carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides were always an afterthought with price being the top priority. Fast food alienates the customer so much from the source of the food, with the techniques used to create the food being so hidden, that most people just assume the food is safe.
The families involved with the Grow Appalachia project vary greatly in economic conditions, education levels, and housing situations. Their gardens are all radically different, not only in size but in content. The only thing that connects a majority of the Grow Appalachia participants is their desire to maintain or reclaim their traditional agricultural heritage. Not only does this add to their autonomy from the world of processed food, it also allows them the chance to connect with their communities through meaningful, significant work.
            I am beginning to realize that even though it may seem like fast, or highly processed food is the only option for a poor college student with limited cooking skills, it most definitely is not. Seeing people’s gardens grow from seeds to fully matured plants, not treated with dangerous chemicals, not genetically altered in a lab, and grown using resources (such as water) conservatively has given me a new perspective on the things that I eat. Not only is this food exponentially more delicious, more nutritious, and more natural than that bought at a fast food corporation, it also provides a sense of pride for the gardener. I often find myself thinking “this is the way that the world is supposed to work”.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GROW Appalachia @ Red Bird Mission by Magan Meade




First, I believe that I should introduce myself. My name is Magan Meade and I am one of two GROW Appalachia interns, here at the Red Bird Mission site in Beverly, KY.  I have come to Red Bird in the middle of the growing season and found myself in the midst of some very productive gardens. 

The first day (June 23rd), that I worked with the GROW Appalachia employees at Red Bird Mission, we were taken to two of the participant garden sites.  The first site was 50 miles away from the Red Bird Mission near Manchester and the other site was also near Manchester.  We found ourselves deep in a holler along the mountains, off a mixed road of blacktop, dirt, and gravel.  The garden of this residence was located on a steep hillside, which had been a former location for the residents’ horses.  As we pulled up, the horses had dismissed our presence and continued to eat in their pouches placed along a fence below the garden.  We had noticed that the plants that were on the left-side of the garden were doing very well and the plants on the right-side had been less productive than their counter-parts.  Chad Brock  (GROW Appalachia field technician) attributed the more successful plants to the horse manure that they had been mainly located on left-side of the garden. 


            (Notice the difference between the progress of the crops. The closest plants with darker soil are where the manure had been and the furthest away plants had the absence of manure.)

The next site that we visited, was located near Manchester, KY.  This garden belonged to a man named, Denver.  I was especially excited about this site because Chad had told me that Denver had some bees that he would probably love to show me.  We pulled into Denver’s driveway, where clearly we could see the collection of bees buzzing outside of their brooding chambers.  Then we heard a voice over the hill hollering for us.  We climbed the hillside up the driveway, to Denver’s barn, where his garden was located behind it.  In Denver’s barn were two massive pigs given by the Heifer program, which supplies Heifer participants with farm animals.  The participants can choose from dairy and beef cattle, goats, chickens, hair sheep, and pigs.  The participants are given a pregnant female along with a male. Then the participants are allowed to keep the first born animal and they must give the second born to someone else.  This type of program creates a self-sustainable community.  This is comparable to the GROW Appalachia garden program in which participants can grow their own food and then they must share their food and skills with other people in the community.  

(Fred on the left, Denver in the middle, and myself on the right looking at Denver’s blueberries and raspberries.)




(Denver’s garden on top of the mountain)
Back to Denver’s garden, it was tucked away behind his barn towards the top of a mountain.  Denver’s garden was a great sight to see. It included the basic vegetables and a few extra sweets such as raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes along with some plentiful grape vines.  Down the steep driveway, Denver recently planted some beans and corn that had recently broke through the surface.  He said it was hard for him to start them because of the reoccurring rainfall.  He had plenty of vegetables that were ready for the picking and definitely some weeds that could take over that garden.  He was very proud and happy to show anything that we were interested in.  


On this same day, June 23,2011, Red Bird Mission held a canning workshop led by Laura Lee Howard.  The event had 20 participants all together including 11 GROW Appalachia participants and 9 people from the community.  This class was held to teach basic canning techniques and other drying and freezing methods.  All with the purpose of prolonging the supply of food through the fall, winter, and spring months of the people of Appalachia.  Not only did the participants come away from the workshop with a wealth of knowledge but they also came away from it with canning supplies. This included additives for the jams, freezer bags for storage, jars, and recipes to put their new canning knowledge to the test.  GROW Appalachia also had a drawing for two wagons to help ease the work of a garden.  Chad described the canning class as an exciting and pleasant atmosphere.  Participants were eager to learn and not afraid to ask questions, inspiring communication among everyone.  My first week of GROW Appalachia was a success and I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring. 

(Canning class participants, June 23, 2011)
(Wagon winners after the canning class, claiming their prizes.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Food sovereignty

While reading Orion magazine the other day (and a really great publication that is, I recommend it to absolutely everyone) I came across an article on food sovereignty, a term I was not familiar with. I opened the article and after reading it and viewing the accompanying narrated slide show found myself struck by the similarities in the challenges faced by these groups of Haitian gardeners and Grow Appalachia participants. Rather than trying to synopsize the piece I am including a link to a truly fine piece of work:http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6337/. Permission has been graciously granted by Orion to share this.
I don’t want to try and stretch the analogy too thin but any number of the parallels between the treatment of Haitian peasants and eastern Kentucky hill folk are undeniable. Just as clear is the satisfaction and pride expressed by Haitian gardeners in Guerra and Guidi’s Orion piece and in comments I hear frequently from among the 250 families working with Grow Appalachia this year. The power created by growing even part of your family’s food is exhilarating. I encourage you to read this article and watch the slide show.

New Gardener Excitment @ St Vincent Mission - Gary Mitchell

We have seen excitement from our gardeners as they begin to reap their harvest. But we have one (Cassie, in her 70's) a first time gardener was excited when her first plants came up. With the wet spring and her low lying area for her garden she was just able to get some things out the middle of June. Below please see the email and pictures she sent on June 27th.

Hey Gary, We are soooo excited! our beans came up about a week ago and every one that we planted came up! and, just yesterday, our corn surfaced! our lettuce is barely up. I'm sending pictures!
Cassie



This is what it is all about, getting all ages excited about growing their own food.

Beautifying the City with Vegetables. LCAAHC by Jennifer Mante


London wants to be the most beautiful city in Kentucky. For this year’s contest, the city wants to decorate each vacant space to make the city look more attractive. Mr. Riley is known to run Grow Appalachia and also works with gardens around the city. He was recommended to use a plot that had been assigned to the London City Christian Homeless Shelter but had been neglected, as a garden for children and create a beautiful sight- within the next two weeks.
The plot is about half an acre large with the 15 boxes placed on half of it. The boxes are also located downtown the city at an easily accessible site which draws attention to people passing by. Mr. Riley said he picked up the project because from the article in the Monday’s paper, he could tell that I was serious and willing to work hence had a project for me to embark on. He said I could use these boxes to attract children and help them work in the boxes and grow whatever food they would like to grow for their families.
We headed to the site and started pulling out weeds and cleaning up the boxes. As we worked, 15 volunteer students on a church mission trip arrived to help us. In the next hour we were able to complete the wedding and laying of mulch to cover the concrete on the ground. 
Volunteers from the Bennet Center Joined us on this new site
New Gardeners!!
Four young girls came and worked with us also. They are from London and were happy to have their own boxes. With two girls to each box, they all wanted watermelon so they planted them, 3 seeds in a hole, 12 inches apart and were able to fit 12 holes into the box. They were so excited about their boxes, one said, and “I have never done this before”.
Their enthusiasm convinced me that a door could be opened for children to be engaged in growing their own food. There were 3 boxes that had already been planted with strawberry, tomato and potato plants.  One of the girls was excited to see a real growing strawberry because she had never seen one before. I told her that next year, she could grow her own strawberries because it was too late to start a bush. This opportunity enabled me to teach her about food seasons and the times that food grows. It is very encouraging to see her innocently take pride in her box. Adults engage in gardening for the food and exercise it gives, children participate just for fun. Yet, they are completely innocent of the movement that they are joining and hopefully, lives, their own lives and that of their families that would be changed as a result of their willingness to raise a garden. I believe from today that Grow Appalachia is really given people an opportunity to better themselves. From my director, who is learning to trust and utilize my skills and talents, to the little six year old girl, who would have her very own watermelon patch, Grow Appalachia is rejuvenating Central Appalachia, one plant at a time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Henderson Settlement, Frakes Ky ~ Jackie Waldroop

Reflection's of Mountain Gardens
 April, May and June 2011

Through out the month of April we all sang, “Rain rain go away come again another day”. But the rain kept coming down in sheets and buckets, the gardens were to wet to plow or plant.
 In May the rain slowly stopped and the gardeners began to choose their plants and seeds. By the end of May almost everyone had their gardens started, although some had to wait until their garden dried out before they could start planting.
 Then came June, June brought drastic changes in the weather, we went from rain to heat with no breaks in between weather systems.
In June we hired Matthew and Tyler, both of whom worked for us last summer, to work with the Grow Appalachia Project, which came at a really good time.  The weather was beginning to clear up and the ground was drying up and it was time to plant.  We were running around from garden to garden, tilling as fast as we could!

This is Matthew working  hard!
Then came the rains of June. On Sunday night June 19th, we received almost 6 inches of rain. Monday morning about 7am the creeks, streams and lakes of the area had all the water that they could hold, they began to overflow their banks which resulted in massive flooding throughout the area. On Tuesday I called the gardeners whom I knew lived in areas prone to flooding, fortunately none of the gardeners gardens were severely damaged. The pictures  below are of our community garden, which has been divided into three plots for three of our gardeners who don't have any land suitable for gardening.
This is the community garden after the massive amounts of rain.


Ruts from the rain

SHARON'S STORY

As we walked through Sharon’s garden her dog “Killer” walked with us. He seemed as interested in the gardens as we were. Sharon showed me all three of her gardens. All three seemed to be doing really well! She told me that she had already been getting potatoes and onions out of her garden and it looks as if it won’t be long before she has squash to pick. Sharon was one of the lucky ones who got an early start with her garden.



Digging potatoes!
Killer showing us the garden!
Almost ready to eat!




Reflections From Pine Mountain Settlement School ~ Jordan Engel

The vast array of  local food at our potluck

Here at Pine Mountain Settlement School, we’ve come to realize that food security is as much of a culinary issue as it is an agricultural one. This past Saturday, we hosted the 100 Mile Potluck, a dinner with Grow Appalachia families to celebrate our harvests and showcase dishes prepared with ingredients raised, harvested or collected within 100 miles of  the school. I used the afternoon as an opportunity to prepare my meal for the evening, scrambling for recipes that would accommodate the sparse ingredients that were locally available in early June. Using local cage –free eggs from Grow Appalachia’s own Valerie Osborne, shitake mushrooms from logs down on Pine Mountain’s campus, arugula and ramps from our garden, I tried desperately to fashion a 100% locally grown garden frittata. I burnt the eggs slightly, but it was a learning experience, and no one seemed to mind much as the other ingredients worked to redeem my dish. As families arrived at the picnic site with dishes in tow, they brought with them salads, rhubarb cobblers, quiches, deer meat chili, cornbread, corn muffins, garlic scape pesto pasta, mashed potatoes, and mustard greens, with most of the dishes being created in part with something from a Grow Appalachia garden. I hoped the food tasted as good as it looked, and as I sampled the various recipes, it was the best meal I’d eaten in a long while. Aside from the great food at our potluck, the event provided a chance to socialize and dine with all the folks that I usually only see in the context of their gardens. After all the hard work that we (mostly they) have put into raising a garden this season, I sometimes forget that the ultimate reward for growing your own food comes when you put the first forkful of fresh rhubarb cobbler into your mouth and savor the richness of its flavors. My frittata was a personal victory because it was the first meal I’ve ever made with food that I’ve grown from seed, and I’m sure other people get similar sense of pride from eating what they grow. When I first joined the Grow Appalachia team, I had the personal objective of learning to garden, but I could have never foreseen that living in Harlan County, I would learn as much in the kitchen as I would in the field. Many of the families who participated in the potluck contributed their recipes along with the prepared dishes, which I intend to compile in hopes that y’all can experience the wonderful flavors of Harlan County as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grow Appalachia @ St Vincent Mission by Gary Mitchell

Greeting from Floyd County. After a wet spring we are finally getting some planting done although some of our gardeners took advantage of the few dry days we had and got some of their planting done. We have had educational classes on Basic Gardening, Disease & Insect Control and Food Preservation. Even our experienced gardeners have learned something. One young gardener while picking peas said it was like going on a treasure hunt! Below we have pictures of some of our gardens. The first three pictures are of Ryan's garden, Ryan is about 7 years old and did most of the work himself and even made the labels to know what was planted where. The short video is of Joanne and her grandchildren picking peas. It is great to see our gardeners helping and teaching the younger generations about growing their own food. Great things are happening as we continue to help our neighbors learn more about growing their own produce.
 Have a great day,
Gary



video




A little history

A little background might be in order right about now. Here is an edited version of a report I have used a couple of times to describe Grow Appalachia. This is truly an amazing program.
In the fall of 2009, Tommy Callahan, Vice President for Paul Mitchell Systems, Inc.—and a son of the mountains himself—contacted the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College on behalf of his boss, John Paul DeJoria. Moved by how the recession was affecting Americans, Mr. DeJoria wanted to help. But he didn’t merely want to throw money at a problem. Rather, Mr. DeJoria wanted to empower people, to offer a hand up, not a hand out.

Through the pledged support of Mr. DeJoria and through conversations between the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and area agencies, Grow Appalachia was born. After only one growing season, Grow Appalachia has quickly become a successful and welcome presence in the communities it serves.

The Grow Appalachia project began as a partnership among five groups: the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, the Pine Mountain Settlement School, the Red Bird Mission, the Henderson Settlement and the Laurel County African American Heritage Center. To be successful, these groups agreed that they must capitalize on the intangible positives of the region, primarily an ethic and willingness to commit to hard work and a well-established network of community and faith groups, schools, and other organizations equipped to make the most of any opportunity.

With access to fresh, nutritious food an ongoing issue in rural mountain communities and with hunger an increasing outcome of the recession, the vision of Grow Appalachia quickly became one of reversing these trends. Tied to these issues were others that the partners hoped Grow Appalachia could help address, including the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease caused in part by the prevalence of highly processed foods. By creating community gardens and teaching people to grow their own food, the partners recognized the opportunity to reverse some of   those patterns of loss in the region—the loss of gardening and food cultivation knowledge, as well as the decline in cooking and food preservation skills.

Due to Mr. DeJoria’s generosity, Grow Appalachia was able to make serious capital investments. Site managers purchased many tools—including shovels, spades, trowels, and hoes—for the participating families, tools they could not otherwise afford. Tillers were procured for each site and flawlessly prepared the fertile, but rocky soil. Food preservation equipment—hot water bath and pressure canners, canning and kitchen tools, jars and lids—was purchased for the families to use. One participant cried when given a $75 pressure canner. She had wanted one for years but had never been able to afford it. Now she had the ability to put up food for the winter.

In order to participate in the program and receive the tools and other equipment, each gardener was required to attend classes that taught effective and safe handling of the tools. To address the unknowns surrounding food production, gardeners were asked to keep thorough records throughout the season. Project staff also interviewed gardeners on-site and made calculations based on these visits and conversations.

By the end of August, Grow Appalachia had helped 96 families create garden plots.

In addition to the individual garden plots, communal gardens were created at four partner sites in Eastern Kentucky. These gardens were maintained by Grow Appalachia staff, employees of the partner programs, and community volunteers. Staff then distributed the produce grown in these communal plots to needy members of the community. Additionally, each site offered a series of classes on growing and preserving, classes taught mostly by county extension agents. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the educational programming was watching the participants actively teach each other.

While initial estimates of the project’s potential impact were somewhat conservative, not even the most optimistic of program partners could have anticipated Grow Appalachia’s immense success. All told, 300–400 people received assistance by growing gardens, attending heart-healthy cooking classes, or learning food preservation techniques. Because of the participating families’ powerful desire to share the fruits of their labors with those around them at least 2,800 people received some amount of fresh produce from Grow Appalachia gardens.

By the end of the season, best estimates indicate that Grow Appalachia gardens raised nearly 120,000 pounds of fresh produce. The Grow Appalachia field staff estimates that while the fresh vegetables and herbs were welcome on the families’ tables, just as important was the fact that one-half to two-thirds of the harvest was frozen, canned, or dried in preparation for the winter. The preserved beans, tomatoes, corn, sauerkraut and pickles have been like gold in an economy as challenging as Central Appalachia’s. Based solely on the monetary value of the vegetables produced, preserved, and distributed, the program was an enormous success. The cost of the vegetables raised was $1.25 a pound, which is significantly less than market prices for produce of this quality.


In the second year, all of the partner sites from the first season are back, and the program is expanding to help serve the St. Vincents’ Mission in Floyd County, Kentucky, the LMU Organic Gardening Project in Harrogate, Tennessee, and High Rocks for Girls in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties, West Virginia. All told, 14 counties in four states and more than 260 families will be members of Grow Appalachia. Many tons of fresh, nutritious food will be placed on the tables and in the pantries of these hardworking folks, as they are reconnected to their communities, neighbors, and the skills necessary to feed themselves.

Grow Appalachia, in helping mountain families to acquire those tools and skills which lead to greater food security, has created that elusive “hand up, not a hand out” so often referred to and so seldom seen.


Growing West Virginia

               Hello from West Virginia’s first Grow Appalachia site, where things are growing right along!  We are based at High Rocks, a girls leadership program in Pocahontas County.  After a cold and rainy spring,  we finally got some dry sunny days around the beginning of June, and our Grow Appalachia team has been rushing all over the place with the tiller. All of the gardens are finally planted and flourishing! 

                We are working with 20 participants including 14 families, 3 market growers who plan to sell their produce on a larger scale, and 4 community organizations.  Of the 14 families we are working with, about half of them are first time gardeners who are all very excited to be growing their own food; while the other half have grown gardens in the past, but are excited to get some support in learning more about growing organically, season extension, integrated pest management, and growing to sell. 

Grow Appalachia AmeriCorps Member, Adrienne Jeurgens, works with elementary students at High Rocks' Educational Gardens.

The 3 market growers we are working with continue to amaze us with the wonderful variety and quality of food they are growing.  One is growing for the National Radio Observatory Cafeteria in the County, the second is starting a Community Supported Agriculture Program that aims to supply at least 100 people a month with food, and the third is beginning a small farm to sell to local restaurants and farmer’s markets.
   
                                                                       
Market Grower, Joe Heathcock, works in his greenhouse earlier this spring.  Joe is working to develop a Community Supported Agriculture program, with support from Grow Appalachia.
                                                   
The first of our 4 organizations is a Domestic Violence Shelter which has paired up with a private school for troubled girls as well as several master gardeners, to run a garden at the Shelter for clients and their children to learn and eat from.  The second is a Community Center which provides free meals five days a week.  We have helped them put in several terraced hillside beds which their senior citizens can help take care of, and which hopefully will supplement the food used for the free meals.  The third organization we are working with is a historic birthplace museum, which has planted a historic garden beside the old home place museum, and has organized a community network of volunteers to help maintain the garden.  The food grown there is donated to a local food pantry.  And last, but not least, is High Rocks, our host organization which is a leadership program for West Virginia Girls.  We have planted a garden in the middle of the campground, and the teenage girls attending summer camp right now are helping maintain the garden, as well as eating from it each day!  Earlier in the spring students from local elementary and middle schools participated in after school gardening programs at High Rocks' gardens.

We have hosted two workshops so far, the first was on  Soil Health and Biodiversity, and was well attended.  The second was a panel discussion about Growing to Sell, which included two established local producers who sell to local restaurants and markets, a local restaurant owner who buys as much as she can locally and would like to buy  more, and a representative from the USDA’s meat and poultry division.  The panel discussion was well attended, very dynamic, and useful to those who attended.  We are gearing up for our third workshop next month which will be an in-garden discussion of pest management strategies.

Now that the gardens are in, we’re excited about getting back out to visit with families and organizations to see how they’re growing!  We are also really excited about all of our upcoming workshops.  It is finally summer time up here in the mountains of West Virginia, and Appalachia sure is growing!

Rachel Garringer
Grow Appalachia Coordinator
High Rocks Educational Corporation
Hillsboro, West Virginia

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spring Happenings in Laurel County ~ Melanie Gross

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.

RAISED BED GARDENING

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.
ORGANIC GARDENING WORKSHOP


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.
PAINTING RAIN BARRELS:

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