Growing Resources During Fallow Winter Months

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The cold temperatures of winter usually provide downtime for farmers, foresters and gardeners. It’s the perfect time to assess the past growing season, consider changes and improvements, and plan a new landscape or a new crop.

North Carolina State University has wonderful resources to help you make knowledgeable decisions, plan ahead and avoid costly mistakes. The university has  “portals” that feature a wide diversity of research-based information and topics. Fifty-two “highly focused topic sites, run the gamut from Ag Bio Tech to Tourism Extension.

For portals relating to specific crops, the sites assemble a wide range of technical information from across disciplines, from production/growing information, pest and disease management to post-harvest guidelines and food safety information. Videos demonstrate various techniques, such as pruning.

Sites provide information geared to farmers or producers as well the home gardener or new farmer. Many sites also provide helpful budget and pricing information. For farmers and small producers, understanding the costs of production and the potential for income is critical to successful and sustainable farming.

Often small-scale producers or avid home gardeners consider growing a certain crop as a way to make a little extra money. Calculating how much it will cost to grow that crop and how much money will go back in the grower’s pocket at the end of the season is an important aspect of planning. For new growers, marketing and selling a crop is often the hardest aspect of farming, and crop portals provide help with that as well.

A wealth of information is available. For example, the blackberry and raspberry website has a wide range of advice on growing this nutritious and delicious fruit. While raspberries are not very happy when grown in the Sandhills, preferring temperatures below 70 degrees for most of the growing season, blackberries thrive in our hot summers. Variety selection is important; you can find information on the best varieties, and where to buy them, on the portal.

Trellising is also central for efficient and effective plant maintenance and harvesting, and the portal has diagrams for building them and pros and cons of the different trellising methods. Cane berries require a capital investment whether you are a backyard gardener or a larger producer, so review this portal to make sure you are getting off on the right foot before you plant.

Another excellent portal is Extension Forestry. Topic areas range from forest management to woody biomass, and for anyone considering selling their timber, many resources on how to ensure the best outcome when decades of time and effort are on the line. Extension Forestry has compiled numerous information sheets called “Woodland Owners’ Notes,” which cover a wide range of topics from “Where to Go for Forestry Assistance” to “A Guide to Managing Small Woodlots,” just to name a few.

Finally, while not technically within the NCSU portal system, the NCSU Turf Files website is an excellent resource for answering questions about how to manage turf grass (whether home, athletic or golf), managing pests and diseases of turf grass, identifying weeds, and more. Pest alerts help homeowners and turf grass managers stay up to date with potential pest or disease problems so they can be proactive in management.

Whether you are a homeowner with a green thumb, a forest landowner, new farmer or a seasoned producer, the North Carolina State University portals can keep you up to date with the latest information you need to be effective and productive.

To see all the portals, go to the Richmond County Extension website and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There you will see a list of NCSU information portals, as well as articles of interest from across the state and other county extension websites.

With help from NCSU information portals, the next growing season can be the best yet! If you cannot find what you are looking for, contact the Extension office at 910-997-8255.