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County Extension

  • Now is a great thyme for herbs

    Have you ever really thought about the difference between an herb and a spice? In general, most herbs and spices are parts of plants. A colleague, Ann Hertzler from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, offers these definitions:
    Herbs are leaves of low-growing shrubs. Examples are parsley, basil, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, dill, oregano, rosemary and sage.
    Spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, onion, garlic), buds (cloves, saffron), seed (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame, berry (black pepper) or fruit (allspice or paprika) of tropical plants.

  • Merry Gold Gardeners grow a new project

    Merry Gold 4-H Junior Master Gardener Rosie Marley went home from school one day and talked to her father, Michael, about the Nature Trail project at Supply Elementary. He saw to it that the Merry Gold Gardeners submitted an application for a $2,900 grant from Home Depot to help with the expenses and labor for a new garden.

  • Eating smart and moving more

    For families wanting to prepare healthy meals and save money at the grocery store, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program’s “Families Eating Smart and Moving More” classes are the answer.
    This program teaches qualified participants to prepare and eat meals at home, while including fruits and vegetables for a healthier lifestyle.
    Myra Burgess, Extension program assistant, teaches classes on nutrition, food buying, meal planning, food preparation, portion control and physical activity.

  • New incubator farming

    North Carolina is a state rich in agricultural traditions and resources, yet the majority of North Carolina’s food dollars are spent on products that are imported from other parts of the country, or from other countries. North Carolina farmers—existing, new and beginning—have the potential of meeting many of the state’s food needs but require support in order to do so.

  • Hope for hemlock attack

    By Tom Woods
    Master Gardener

  • A few more food preservation questions

    If you’re a frequent reader of this column, you know the last few weeks I’ve been writing about food preservation. Many people think of this as just canning food, but it can be freezing, drying, pickling, making jams and jellies or drying foods. All are safe methods for food storage...if the process and procedures used are tested and researched.
    Last week I started a short quiz, so you can test yourself on how much you know about food preservation. Here are a few more questions.

  • Check your soil pH

    As a horticulturist you would think I would have done a soil test on my landscape before I planted anything. Well, I did not and on top of that I added ash to my garden as an amendment which actually increases the pH.
    As time went by a few of my prize plants started to yellow and look unsightly. It was now time to test the soil. My suspicions were that the pH was too high. I was right. My pH in several areas were as high as 7.6! Most plants prefer a pH between 5.5 - 6.5, of course it depends on the plant.  Some plant material is pH neutral.  

  • It’s time to look for tomato hornworms

    By Tom Woods
    Master Gardener
    Now is the time to check your tomato plants for tomato hornworms. These large caterpillars (up to 3-inches long) can quickly strip a tomato plant of most of if its leaves. This will not kill plants, but will definitely set them back.
    The more leaves that are eaten, the longer it will take plants to recover. Tomato hornworms blend in well with tomato leaves and can be challenging to spot. Look for missing foliage and then search the stems for the caterpillars.

  • How much do you really know about preserving food?

    People have been preserving foods for centuries in an effort to keep food from time of plenty for a time of need. The trend for home preserving is one that ebbs and flows. During difficult economic times, we tend to see more people “putting food up” as a way of helping the budget, but there are many other reasons for preserving.
    Flavor and taste: They just prefer the flavor of fresh produce that they’ve canned themselves.

  • It’s time to start harvesting potatoes

    By Tom Woods
    Master Gardener
    When the tops of the potatoes start to die down, you will know it is time to harvest. One issue you may see on newly harvested potatoes is brown scab-like wounds (see photo). This is a disease called scab. The potatoes are still fine to eat. The causes of the problem and how to prevent it in the future will be discussed.
    Common scab