DOBSON — Gardeners hoping for some way to make their growing season just a little bit longer will have an opportunity this month to learn the techniques of fall gardening through the North Carolina Extension Service.
“Yes. We can extend our gardening and grow produce for more than just one season,” said Extension Agent Joanna Radford. She said the course is set for to begin on July 16 and will be held at the extension offices in Dobson. The class is free and will begin at 6 p.m.
Radford said master gardeners will be teaching the course. Instructors include Robert Holder, Judy Bates, Joe Sloop and Bob Brummel. Subjects such as what type of plants and when, where and how to plant will be discussed. Another part of the workshop will explain when to expect harvest, pest management, techniques for raising crops in raised beds and conventional gardening.
Growing plants in raised beds is a logical choice for gardeners with heavy, poorly drained soils. Raised beds permit plant roots to develop in soil held above water-logged or compacted zones. Many gardeners insist this provides a better soil environment for root growth. Because beds are built up, compost or other forms of organic matter may be incorporated, further improving soil structure, drainage and nutrient-holding capacity.
Radford agreed better root growth from improved soils leads to higher yields for food crops and lush growth of ornamental plantings. Intensive planting in raised beds means more plants can be grown in a smaller area than with conventional row-cropping. No space is wasted between rows.
Better drainage speeds soil warming and allows earlier spring planting. In wet seasons with the correct mix of soil components, soil dries out faster, permitting planting to proceed between rains. Because plants are growing above the level of walkways, less stooping is required for weeding, watering and other chores. Intensively planted raised beds provide dense foliage cover, shading out much weed growth.
Another benefit of raised beds is gardening becomes possible on sites where growing plants would otherwise be impossible. Rooftop gardens and raised beds on top of solid rock are examples. Properly terraced raised beds turn hillsides into productive growing areas while reducing soil erosion potential.
Similar workshops have been held in the past but Radford said each new summer course contains new tips and techniques.
“We’ll even go into covers fall gardeners can use to extend the growing season and how to use them,” Radford added. “We’re seeing a lot of folks who want to know where their food comes from, who grew it and how it is grown as well as pesticides which may have been used.”
Radford said there has always been local interest in growing produce, but she has seen an increase in learning growing practices in the last several years after home garden popularity had waned. She speculated that much of the drive for local produce nationwide seems to have had an impact.
“You can save money often with even a small garden. I think home food preservation has also had an upswing,” said Radford. “People seem to be getting back into this. The taste of homegrown produce is better. There really is a big difference when produce is fresh.”
She said caring for a few plants or even a small garden does not have to be time consuming if the right plants and techniques are chosen. Another reason for taking the course is learning how to safely grow produce.
“It’s important to learn safety tip with gardening,” Radford concluded.”Some applications and processes not done correctly could result in the opposite of healthy food for your family.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.