County Extension

  • International year of pulses

    This is the International Year of Pulses. That’s according to the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations. The goal of this declaration is to heighten the awareness of pulses and to celebrate the role of pulses in feeding the world.
    I’m betting many of you are wondering: What’s a pulse? Hint: I’m not talking about the pulse where you can feel your heart rate.

  • Fall isn’t for planting?

     Horticulture gurus often suggest the cooler days and nights of autumn are a great time to plant trees and shrubs in our mild climate. Plants aren’t stressed as much and have a chance to develop a better root system before the heat and humidity of another southern summer arrives.

    Well, all that is true for most plants, but there are some selections of my favorite group of summer-flowering plants (crape myrtle) that are better planted in late winter and early spring. 

  • Five-second rule: Busting another myth

     Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the “Five-Second Rule.” This is a common belief in our culture that food and/or silverware dropped on the floor is “safe” if picked up within five seconds. I guess the line of thought is five seconds isn’t long enough for the food to pick up bacteria, dirt, dog hair or other pathogens.

  • Ground covers as lawn alternatives

    By Sam Marshall

    Horticulture Agent

    A popular choice for areas in your lawn, turf grass provides an attractive and durable surface for areas that receive a lot of use in your yard, but can also require a lot of upkeep. An alternative to a traditional lawn, ground covers provide a low-maintenance alternative that is beneficial to wildlife and highly attractive landscape addition. If you are searching for something different this year, consider planting ground covers as a lawn alternative to help reduce stormwater pollution and save money.

  • Don’t you hand those germs to me!

    This column is about handwashing. You may say to yourself, ”I’ve been washing my hands since I was 2. Why do I need to read about handwashing?” Even so, repeated research has shown that people don’t wash their hands frequently enough and when they do, they don’t do it correctly. The reason I’m writing about this now is because Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually Oct. 15. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the importance of clean hands 365 days a year.

  • Gardening for weight loss

    Two-thirds of the population of the United States is overweight, so lots of us are looking for ways to drop some pounds. Most want the quick fix with the latest magic pill or the 21st century equivalent of the grapefruit diet. While losing weight may be difficult, the basic concept is simple: burn more calories than you consume. If hanging out at the gym isn’t your cup of tea, try these tasks that will get your heart pumping and help your garden as we move into the cooler months of fall.

  • Buying safe local produce

    Shopping local is a very popular trend these days, especially shopping at farmer’s markets or local roadside shops for fresh fruits and vegetables.

    Not only does it allow us to get the freshest possible produce, it helps the local economy. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and can help a family farm compete in the food marketplace. Buying local food also keeps dollars circulating in the community and increases local food security.

  • Food safety month

     In recognition of September as National Food Safety Month, I have two quick questions for you. What do you think — are these statements true or false?

    1.     Salmonella is the most common foodborne illness.

    2.     More people get sick from chicken than from any other food.

  • Underrated garden workhorses

     It’s easy to get excited about the superstars of the garden: roses, crape myrtles, azaleas and gardenias. When their time to shine arrives, it’s greeted with oohs and aahs from all fortunate enough to bask in their glory.

    But what about those plant workhorses that make your garden better and ask very little in return?

  • Peeling away the vegetative layers and exploring the shrub layer

     By Sam Marshall


    We have been discussing over the past few weeks the benefits of additional vegetative complexity in home lawns and gardens. Shrubs are arguably one of the best ways to add complexity to your landscape, as they cover the spectrum of both height and spread. You also can add a greater number of shrubs to a home yard as they generally take up less space, which makes them ideal choices for smaller areas. This column will focus on shrub selections for home landscapes.


    Selecting the right shrubs